Herbal Essences and Michigan “Spring”

Thanks to Michigan’s ever changing moods it’s been more than a little nuts the last few weeks. My planting schedule has been moved back because of the ice, snow, and cold, cold, rain. Last weekend was lovely, though, and I had the added benefit of being off Friday and Monday.

Friday I took delivery of two cubic yards of garden soil.

I’m building another no-till bed in the yarden, and I had planned to use that dirt for that bed and to finish up two no-till beds that I started last year. I barely had enough to do 3/4 of the newest no-till bed. I’d put down straw, thinking that it would kill the grass without the cardboard layer that I usually put down first. It didn’t.

I kicked myself for half-stepping it, and then I scurried around to lay cardboard over the straw. Of COURSE I ran out a third of the way through it. Thank goodness for a packrat pal in Paw Paw who had more than enough for me to finish the job. I laid the rest down as the sun set on Friday night. It’s going to be a pain in the rump to cut through to plant, but by the end of the summer it will be broken down pretty well. Had I planned better earlier this spring, this wouldn’t have happened. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so say the scribes, and they’re right. Saturday morning the BSE and Gadgetron came over to help me spread the dirt out onto the hastily cardboarded bed. There was enough dirt to do 3/4 of it to a depth of about 3 inches. Gadgetron dreamed up the idea of moving the dirt in my recycling curby bin, and that made it go a lot faster.

The BSE is going to help me move all of my hosta out of the backyard to a spot under the walnut, likely along the fence row. This will soften the look of the new bed, and allow me to have all grass in my backyard again. Hosta don’t mind juglone from walnut trees, and I know I’m going to lose some to predation by deer, but I have a ton of them, and I expect they’ll be fine in the long run.

That new bed is going to be home to Mardi Gras bean teepees closer to the street. It’s a fun seed mix of purple, yellow, and green beans, and I think it will look nice to folks passing by, as well as provide me a ton of fresh green beans for pickling and eating up over the summer. I love love love dilly beans, and if I can make Mardi Gras dilly beans, well, how cool is that?

I’m also going to have squash and watermelon sprawling around out there as well. I’m doing both a red and a yellow watermelon because I think it will look wonderful in a watermelon, feta, and mint salad. Yes, I know that sounds like a strange combo. Some years back, on the only cruise I’ve ever taken, that was on the dining menu and I ordered it. It is a terrific combination.

The squash is another tri-color mix, green, yellow, and variegated. I want it to be pretty to people passing by, as well as delicious for me.

Monday I put some seed tape down, finally, in the raised beds inside the garden. I did one row of bunching onions, one row of beets, two rows of radishes, two rows of turnips, a very long row of romaine, four rows of spinach, and salad bowl lettuce in my Coleman cooler curbcycled planter. I made notes as to when I planted, and I’ll note when I’ve got germination and how long to harvest. I will share here too, if anyone’s curious.

In the next couple weeks I’ll get my potato and onion sets in the mail, and I’m looking quite forward to that. I bought 10 bags of good dirt to fill the containers, and they will be set up in the back east corner of the yarden. When the season’s over, I’ll leave all that dirt back there for planting something else next year. That section was the second no-till bed I did, and I started it early last spring. It is very likely full of worms and a joy to dig, but I’ll hold off one more year and be certain of it. The onions are going in front of the hosta, hoping that they’ll hold off the deer somewhat.

This weekend I’m likely going to start my herbs. Yes, I know, I should have planted them on Friday, being 4/20 and all. As you’ll note below, I really enjoy cooking with fresh herbs. I do my best to encourage native pollinators to come hang out at the NSSL. I’m also interested in exploring the medicinal properties of herbs, with the help of my good friend Angie Jackson. Check out her blog at Elixir House!

Anise hyssop – This is a perennial herb.  I had never heard of it till I toured Mike Hoag’s permaculture garden here in Kalamazoo, Lillie House. He gave us some to taste and oh, my gosh, it was delicious. Pollinators love it, and I think it’s lovely with its purple spires.

Lemon balm – This is a new one for me. It’s perennial, so I put it in the mix for 2018. It’s got medicinal properties similar to some of the ones I value in sage, below. It’s also an attractive plant with a strong scent.

Spearmint – Mint is foremost in all manner of cuisine. It’s also more than perennial, it’s a ridiculous spreading weed. It’s also great muddled in iced tea or adult beverages. I already have chocolate mint and pineapple mint that I’ve overwintered the past couple years, and spearmint will be a good addition. I’m thinking I’ll plant the spearmint in the concrete blocks that border the iris bed out front. Passersby can get a nice whiff, and it will stay relatively contained.

Organic oregano – Oregano! This kitchen workhorse is a perennial. I cook with a LOT of oregano. I am also deeply envious of the absolutely beautiful low oregano hedge at Mike Hoag’s garden. My longterm plan is bordering my beds with oregano hedges. It will make the beds look a bit more finished, and the scent will keep the deer guessing for a minute.

Organic sage – Sage is a perennial, and all my Wiccans know about smudging a house with lit sage to cleanse it of bad spirits. My house was smudged before I moved in, and I’ve been pretty happy here. I enjoy cooking with sage, and it’s also supposed to have medicinal properties.

Dill – Dill is allegedly a “self-seeding annual.” Hardy-har-har. Sheer poppycock.  It comes back voraciously wherever it drops seeds, so I’m treating it like a perennial. Why dill? See also dilly beans above. 🙂 I also like the taste of dill in fish as well, and it’s a beautiful plant that goes well with brassicas like broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.

Lemongrass – Lemongrass is a tender perennial, and we live too far north to have it come through the winter safely, so for Michigan it’s an annual. I have been exploring Thai cooking the last year or so, and this is one of those ingredients that’s better fresh than dried. I’m looking forward to not buying it.

Roman chamomile – Chamomile is perennial, with cheery little daisy-looking flowers. Of course everyone’s heard of  (or enjoyed!) a relaxing cup of chamomile tea, and I’ve read that it can also reduce inflammation.  Pollinators lose their tiny buzzing minds over it.

Parsely (Krausa) – Parsley is perennial, and I guess it’s supposed to be a good companion plant to asparagus. I’m thinking about another asparagus bed, maybe purple this time. Because really, spring tastes like asparagus. Anyhow, I’m thinking there has to be more to parsley than garnishing a plate.

Cilantro (Calypso) – Cilantro is an annual, so I grow it every year. How much cilantro do I go through in my house? Too much. I like Calypso because it’s very slow to bolt.

Thyme – Thyme is a perennial. I don’t cook with it much, but I understand it’s also got medicinal properties, including arthritis relief. I’ll be consulting with my apothecary folks.   It smells awesome.

Basil (Genovese) – Basil is an annual, so I replant every year. I’m planning to make my entire barrel planter basil. I’ll do successive plantings by level and ideally have more than I need so I can make pesto for the freezer! Genovese is my favorite, and I consider it to be the best for pesto.

That’s what’s up in the yarden!  My plants should be coming in a few weeks, and there will be a joyous post at that time.  I’m steadily conditioning the straw bales for tomatoes and peppers, and I’m praying for a little more rain.  What’s going on in your gardens?

Author: Amy Crabtree Campbell

figuring it out as I go, since 1967

2 thoughts

  1. Holy crap we’re not worthy. We’re trying to get our chicken coop finished up so we can get our chicken’s. Our bees have been delayed again cayse of freezing weather. Pick them up Monday for our 2 hives. We have not got anything planted so far except for tomatoes and flowers no other vegetables yet but that will be going in this next week hopefully. Enjoyed your blog.


    1. Our bees are coming in a couple weeks too. I’m excited to have my own hive over there this year! I’m impressed with the chickens! Fresh eggs are the best!!


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