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January 2009

Invest Now for Spring Income
By The Growing Gardener

The Growing Gardener archive

The doldrums between the holidays and March are a perfect time to start thinking and dreaming about what you want to see growing by late spring. Whether your garden space is a simple window sill or a spacious acre, your early investment will surely bring hardy returns in the spring and summer—it's one investment you can count on!

What you can do now:

  • Order seed catalogs. Check out Mountain Rose Herbs, Renee's Garden, Seeds of Change, and Territorial Seed Company.
  • Buy a garden journal to record your plans and document your experience. Check out this online garden planner (also available in print) by Seeds of Change.
  • Read herb and gardening books.
  • Check places like Craigslist for FREE seeds.
  • Herbs are on my mind—for the purpose of both cooking and medicine. A friend recommended the book 10 Essential Herbs, by Lalitha Thomas, and I haven't been able to stop reading it. I'm already consuming cayenne pepper for digestion and blood circulation and am ready to tape a slice of onion to the next bruised knee I encounter. Cayenne is not grown in the Pacific Northwest, of course. I picked two of Lalitha's ten essential herbs to grow in pots near my kitchen door: comfrey and garlic. Also on my list are basil, lavender, parsley, and nasturtium.

    Comfrey – Comfrey will take over so this should be grown only in a container. Lalitha recommends internal use of comfrey if the species is Symphytum officinale. Conservative herbalists do not recommend using comfrey internally due to the possibility that comfrey might contain undesirable alkaloids. Comfrey has cell-proliferating qualities that make it good for salves and poultices.

    Garlic – Plant garlic bulbs in February for fall harvest. This herb is Lalitha's pick for a desert island favorite. She recommends eating it raw for healing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol. Make sure your container for growing garlic is at least 6 inches deep. For more information on growing garlic, see The Growing Gardener September 2008 article, Gourmet Garlic Goodness.

    Basil – Can't plant enough of this one! Keep picking it all summer for salads, appetizers, and meatloaf (try a cup of it chopped in your favorite meatloaf recipe). Basil loves sun. Small-leafed varieties such as Bush basil and bushy Greek basil can be easier to grow than large-leafed Sweet or Purple basil. Basil will grow in a shallow 3-inch pot.

    Lavender – Every herb garden needs lavender. It's a necessary foundation plant that you can plant and forget about. You don't have to harvest it, but you can use lavender as flavoring, such as lavender tea cookies. It's usually just used for fragrance. Plant lavender in pots that are 8 inches deep.

    Parsley – Flat-leaf Italian parsley is expensive to buy but economical to grow from seed. Check out the Seeds of Change heirloom variety. Parsley grows well in containers that are at least 8 inches deep. Start seeds indoors. A little more patience may be required as parsley is slower to germinate (this might mean starts for this slightly impatient gardener).

    Nasturtium – Every part of this plant is edible.The Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook by Mary Preus includes a recipe that calls for goat cheese, chopped walnuts or pecans, golden raisins, and chopped nasturtium leaves stuffed inside whole flowers. (Something to dream about for now.) Nasturtium looks great in containers and has a nice trailing effect. Check out the nasturtium variety at Renee's Garden. I love the variegated foliage of 'Amazon Jewel' and the creamy flowers of 'Vanilla Berry.' Nasturtium attracts hummingbirds, too, which is tops on my list!

    When arranging your kitchen herb pots, place the pots as close as possible to the kitchen and consider vertical or terraced arrangements to provide more interest and easy access to your herbs. I like this outdoor plant stand from Smith & Hawken.

    With a little planning now, you can get started ordering seeds, and by late spring, your investment will surely pay off.

    Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook

     

    Resources

    Books

    The Edible Container Garden, by Michael Guerra

    The Northwest Herb Lover's Handbook, by Mary Preus

    10 Essential Herbs, by Lalitha Thomas

     

    The Growing Gardener is Gina Renee Lozier, a Seattle-area resident, a landscape and container garden designer, and an enthusiastic student of horticulture.

     

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