Learning to Garden from the Herb Lady

Herb Gardening 101

For the last 3 Sunday afternoons I had the chance to attend a class at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  The class was called “Herbs from Garden to Kitchen”.  Our teacher was Catherine Crowley, also known as “The Herb Lady” (this is a link to her blog) and wow does she know her stuff!   I got a notebook full of tips and useful information.
We also toured the Herb Garden on site at DBG and had a chance to touch, taste and smell some unique herbs that Catherine brought in from her own garden.  Have you ever seen Chocolate Basil?  How about Cinnamon Basil?  My favorite was Lemon Basil.  Actually pretty much anything with lemon smelled delicious.  There’s also Lemon Thyme, Lemon Grass, Lemon Verbena and even more.

We learned about shopping for plants & seeds, as well as planting, location, watering, sunlight, fertilizing, insects, etc.  I always thought it was nearly impossible to grow anything but cactus here in the desert, but I’m learning that there are actually quite a few plants that will thrive here.  The most important thing is WHEN you plant and how much sunlight the plants will get.  Even though our days a quite warm, Catherine says that EVERY edible plant needs at least 4 to 6 hours of sun each day.

For the grand finale of the last class Catherine brought in several samples of recipes that she had made with herbs, plus we watched some video of other recipes that she had created.  You can see 4 different kinds of tabouli in the photo above. We got copies of the recipes to take home too.  Oh, by the way, in case you don’t know…everything tastes better with fresh herbs!

We’re pretty much at the end of our range for springtime planting now, so I wanted to pick up a few things before it was too late.

On Saturday Terry and I did some shopping.  Here’s what I planted today.

Yellow Pear Tomatoes, Strawberries, Alyssum, Lavender, Basil, Lemon Basil, Parsley, Rosemary, and Chives.  We also picked up these yellow flowers that I thought were Euryop daisies, but the tag on them says some kind of Butterfly something or other…oh well, they look similar, so we’ll see how they do.

We picked up a nice Star Jasmine vine for the atrium in the back yard too.  I hope it does o.k.   The area doesn’t get a lot of sun, so it’s iffy.   But, I love the scent of star jasmine, so I’m hoping we can make it work.

This last photo is what the front entry area looks like now with our humble little garden…or maybe I should call it my humbling little garden (depending on how it does).

I tried a few things that weren’t recommended, but we can’t really afford to buy a bunch of big flower pots right now, so I had to use what we had.  The Herb Lady recommends that you use pots at LEAST 2 FEET across if you do container gardening in Phoenix, in order to insulate the plants from the heat.  Most of the pots we have are smaller than that, so I tried to keep them away from the edge.  We’ll see how they do….

Eventually we need to extend the water drip lines so we can run one into each pot, but for now we’ll hand water them.  And the long term plan is to fill the plant shelves in the front of the house with pots as well.  I think it will add some nice color, scents and even some goodies for eating too.

I really love having God’s amazing creation around.  My grandmother made her living as a farmer, but the knowledge wasn’t passed down to my generation.  I always thought it would be great to have my grandmother come and live with us for a year or so and teach us how to garden, but unfortunately, that never happened.  Terry did pretty well with a garden when we were in California, but so far he hasn’t had the time or inclination for it.  Hopefully this will get us started and eventually our yard will be overflowing with little bits of God’s glorious beauty.

Herb Lady Class at the Desert Botanical Garden

I just signed up for this class at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and I’m so excited!  I’ve heard that it’s relatively easy to grow herbs here in the desert climate, but they surely don’t last on my window sill in the kitchen.  I’m looking forward to finding out the secrets of planting them (and keeping them alive) outside.  I will mostly plant in pots to start with, if that’s workable.  When I’m finished with the class and my herbs are thriving it will be exciting to use them for cooking.  Fresh herbs are SO much better than dried ones!

Herbs from Garden to Kitchen

Take your herbal knowledge to new heights–from growing herbs in your garden to dazzling your senses in the kitchen. In three sessions you will learn herb gardening for success in the desert, herb varieties and their uses, and delicious herb-inspired recipes and menus for healthy cooking. Open your senses to the bounty of herbs that grow in the desert. Also included is a wonderful informational and instructional manual prepared especially for this series by your instructor Catherine The Herb Lady. Limit 20.

Session 1: Edibles in the Desert – Learn to garden for success in this introductory session designed to get you growing.  From planning to planting, ‘The Herb Lady’ will teach you about our ‘flip- flop’ planting times, give you the scoop on soil, and why “location, location, location” is as important in growing herbs as in buying real estate. You will also learn about one of  most important tools for desert gardening, bugs both good and bad, and more.

Session 2: Herbs – Anise to Zahtar – Discover the incredible variety of herbs that can be grown right here in our desert. While some are used to beautify, others are aromatic and flavorful, and many are “multitaskers”, fulfilling many roles. Learn about gardening with themes, plants that play well with others and some that do not. This session includes an interpretive guided tour of the Herb Garden.

Session 3: Beauty on the Table, Delicious on the Dish – Treat your taste buds in this savory session by sampling some herb inspired recipes prepared by ‘The Herb Lady.’ This interactive session will lead you, step-by-step, through a wide range of healthy, mouth-watering menu ideas. All are tasty, some unique, and all guaranteed to put more real food with real flavor on your plate, while minimizing fat and salt.

Wow! Check this out if you’re looking for ways to help save the planet.

I saw these clever recycled bags in a magazine, went to the Terracycle website and was amazed at all the cool recycled products that they offer.

They started out making liquid fertilizer from worm waste and now, among other things they have bags made out of recycled grocery bags & drink pouches, flower pots made out of old crushed computers and fax machines, rain barrels and compost bins made from old wine barrels , cork boards from wine corks and even more.

You can even pick up some extra cash for your local charity along the way if you’re really diligent and want to send them your old wrappers. It could be a great fund raiser and awareness raiser for groups of all ages…

Check it out. Their prices seem pretty reasonable too. Sadly, I don’t find the rain barrels on their online catalog, maybe because the shipping would be too much. Apparently though, they have some items in stores in the area…we’ll see what we can find.

I’m thinking of ordering one or two of their bird feeders.

Southwest Gardner in Phoenix just released their new class list for spring. I’d love to go to the Mosaic Birdbath class… This picture isn’t from the class, but just my vision of what it might look like, based on their description.

They’re also offering a 5-day tour of gardens in Southern California. If you’re an avid gardner or even a photographer, this is a dream tour. I’ve been to a few of the spots that they mention, like the Huntington Library and the Getty Villa in Malibu (before it was remodeled).

The image below is one I took of the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library a few years ago. They are both amazing places to enjoy God’s creation., some magnificent artwork and beautiful Southern Cal. If the other locations are anything like those two, the tour could be breath-taking.