Category Archives: Herbs

Taking Care of House Plants

By Judy Bernard, Master Gardener

An interesting question came to me through our website about caring for houseplants. This person had A LOT!

Whether you have 3 or 4 or 3 or 4 dozen, my suggestions will apply. A little research is needed to identify all of your plants. Once that is done, group them as to light, moisture, and fertilizer needs. Then you can care for them in groups instead of individuals.

What I’ve done is to make plant labels for all of my plants. I’ve stuck the labels into each pot. On the labels I’ve written the plant name, water requirements, light requirements, and fertilizer schedule. Once that is done, it is easy to put the plants where they will get the best environment for their growth and health. Grouping them with plants of similar needs will make their care easier.mini-cactus-755542_640

You can then make a watering schedule for the different groupings of plants. Also check the pots to make sure you’re not overwatering. One of the most common things people do is overwater. The symptoms of too much water are very similar to too little. You have to check the soil.  If it’s damp to the touch, you likely don’t need to water!

Space them so that there is good air circulation around the pots.

Some of the plants will need to be in a more humid environment than others. You can put a tray filled with stones for the pot to sit on and add some water to the stones. They will provide moisture to the plant without the roots being in the water.

These suggestions should help you to have healthy plants for a very long time.

The Importance of Plant Labelling

By MJ (Mary-Jane) Pilgrim, Master Gardener

Why should we label the plants in our gardens? The answer is simple–so that we know their names & can then give them the correct care. For herbaceous plants, the labels act as placeholders over the winter, so that we don’t accidentally disturb them, or try to plant bulbs too close to them while they are dormant.

Figuring out how to handle labeling is one of the trickier parts of perennial and vegetable gardening. Do you keep the tags your plants come with, filling your garden with dozens or hundreds of bits of plastic? Do you tape them into a special garden notebook, so you can keep track of where all of the information for your plants? Or do you simply toss the labels in the recyling bin as soon as you get the plants in the ground?

For me, the answer to all of these questions was ‘no’ simply because most of my first plants came from local plant sales and were probably pretty common (and invasive?) plants. The white paper address label from the sales were usually blank the following spring so I was no further off than when I started. Then, I started buying more unique perennials at garden centres — the real money kind of plants. It seemed a shame to toss those beautiful tags full of information, so I buried them close to the plant which worked well — but the tags did crack and disintegrate after a couple of seasons. Tags created with my simple Dymo labeller were often blackened by the sun after a similar amount of time. Then, I listened to a speaker at my local horticultural society discuss his approach to labels — one of those portable labelling systems that could take a special kind of tape: “high temperature/low temperature”. He reported that his labels were lasting 10 years and counting. Being a “techy” kind of person, I bought one from Brother/Staples about 5 years ago and I’ve been pretty happy with it. I also record plant information and cultivar names into my mobile phone’s “notes” feature in categories such as ‘hostas’, ‘coneflowers’, ‘sedum’, ‘trees’ so that if I forget to create a label, or the label goes through the chipper in the spring (yikes!), I still have something to go back to. Keeping a list of plants I’ve purchased on my mobile device also helps but doesn’t prevent me from purchasing duplicates. Sigh. (Been there, done that, too many times to count).

My last reason for labelling is that any visitor to your garden will ALWAYS want to know the names of your plants! They may already THINK they know what it is, and they are happy to have their knowledge confirmed with the presence of a tag.

Downside of Plant Labeling

  • The amount of time it takes to check the plant, produce the label, and attach it, not to mention regular checking and replacing of broken, moved and missing labels
  • The cost to purchase the labeller ($100 ish) and the label tape ($30 per roll)
  • Labels can be easily be mistakenly moved from one area to another at cleanup time — and a wrong label is worse than no label.
  • Labels can sometimes detract from the beauty of the garden.

Reasons to Label:

  • You’ll remember your plants’ names, and can give them the correct care.
  • You’ll remember which heirloom veggies are which for reordering next year.
  • You’ll know which very expensive perennial you purchased LAST year did not show up at all this year.
  • The labels act as placeholders so that you don’t accidentally plant something new in the space being held by another, but dormant, plant or bulb.
  • “Oh, I’ll remember what this is.” Oh no, you won’t; trust me.
  • Plants are worth WAAAAYYY more at plant sales if you know the cultivar name — we normally know the genus and species, but the cultivar name is much more tricky and often impossible to determine after the fact.

labelling optionsPlant Label Materials:

  • Simple white plastic labels for seed-starting are available at many landscape supply stores, but what to use for the actual marking?
  • Copper labels – use a ballpoint pen to make a true inscription on the thin copper — although these are sometimes difficult to read years from now.
  • Paint the plant names on both sides of hand-sized smooth river-style rocks.
  • Cheapest option: plastic mini-blinds or wooden popsicle sticks but these often fade or disappear.
  • Strips of galvanized “duct hanger” metal strips, cut to length with a plastic label.
  • Metal hairpin-type labels with a plastic label: sturdy, but easy to step on or pull out with a rake.

According to my research, the following will work on plastic, wooden and/or metals tags: pencils, ballpoint pens, paint pens, Sharpies, and supposedly fade-resistant nursery marking pens. According to some articles I’ve read, the unexpected hero is the ordinary pencil on plastic or wood: it’s perfect for all but the shiniest materials. A great suggestion is to include the plant information on the back of the marker, too. If the front fades or is damaged, the info on the more protected back side will hopefully still be readable.

brother-labeller low-resMY Preferred Labeling System: hairpin-type label stakes (Lee Valley), pushed more than halfway down with white “live forever” plastic label tape (Amazon) printed on a small Brother labeller (see picture).

One last suggestion for plant record-keeping is the digital camera. It’s so easy to take a picture of the label right against the plant in the garden — you’ll then have a visual record of the name and where the plant is growing.

Hope this helps to save some time, energy and frustration for someone!

 

Herbs: Humble & Useful

By Vince Picchiello, Master Gardener in Trainingherbs-2523119_640

Perhaps one of the least celebrated plant family in our gardens is the herb.  Many gardeners show their prize possessions of roses and hydrangeas, yet others will speak endlessly of their succulent tomatoes and robust peppers and of course others will offer baskets of pears and pints of raspberries. Few however, honour the forgotten herb.

Herbs are among the oldest cultivated plants. Their early domestication was due to their aromatic, culinary and medicinal qualities.  Herbs are attractive plants and some even bear lovely flowers — such as lavender and chives to name but a few.  For the home cook, the ease from garden or container to the kitchen provides the tastiest and freshest example of ‘local shopping’ and sustainability.

Maintenance and Care

  • While most herbs will survive in virtually any soil, a well prepared soil amended with mature compost and organic material virtually guarantee success.
  • Most are easily started from seed indoors and can be planted as  seedlings in spring (or you can purchase from the nursery).
  • Mulches help to retain moisture and prevent weeds when planted in the garden.
  • There is no need for fertilizers as this may encourage ‘legginess’.
  • Most enjoy full sun with moderate moisture requirements. Others though, may require more moist conditions such as dill, mint, and parsley to name a few.
  • Many are also hardy, which make them tolerant of successive frosts.  Some, however, are tender and don’t do well in frosty conditions.  Examples of these are basil, marjoram and parsley.

Uses for Herbs

chives-3418953_640CULINARY : herbs are used in pesto’s, soups, salads, and flavours for vegetable preserves. Mint can be used as garnish in a drink or tea , parsley or cilantro on fish dishes

HEALING : Valerium and Chamomile are used as calming sedatives and for anti-anxiety, there are herbs for digestive issues, liver cleanses, anti-inflammatories, breath fresheners (mint or basil), first aid (plantain is great for scrapes and insect bites) and if you get industrious one can learn to make slaves, tinctures, and infusions all with many backyard/ container plants.

AESTHETICS: Lavender, lemon balm, roses, and lemon grass make great aromatics – Lets not forget their sheer beauty as some become lush with green foliage others provide lovely flowers

PRACTICAL: Many plants can be grown indoors or outdoors and in containers or in the yard.

In the coming days and weeks as you find yourself plotting and planning your garden/containers for an upcoming season, don’t forget the humble herb.