Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Home News Newsletters May 2019 Newsletter
May 2019 Newsletter Print E-mail


 May E-Newsletter 2019

May whizzed along at an alarming rate!  Maybe because the entire first half felt more like March than May with cool, wet weather that made the early spring crops in the potager very happy.   We’ve had all the radishes, lettuces, pak choi, spinach, various salad greens and green onions we can eat, and given lots away.  Now the first strawberries are swelling, the fava beans and peas are blooming, and the beets and kohlrabi will soon be ready to harvest.  Thank goodness for the potager’s raised beds.  However, the in-ground crops have not fared as well.  Some of the perennials have drowned in the excessive rains, and few annuals have been planted yet.  However, some of the old reliable flowers, like the “May Queen” shastas shown above in my Deck Garden bloomed right on schedule despite the cool, wet conditions.
      Like all the area farmers, little can be done until the ground dries out for planting.  I’ve edged and weeded what I can reach, but for the first time ever, no mulching will be done before June!  There’s no way to get a truck of mulch close to a garden without getting stuck!  If I were a farmer, I’d panic.  I can’t recall (and neither can my 93 yr. old mother!) a year that planting wasn’t nearly finished by Memorial Day, and this year hardly a bit of planting has been started!!!  We’ve had some late years before, the most recent being brought to mind by this paragraph from my May 2017 E-Newsletter:
     “As May draws to a close, recall for a moment all the beautiful flowering trees, spring bulbs, and gorgeous wildflowers that had their fleeting hours in the sun.  Now the canopy of trees shade many areas, the ephemerals disappear, and the summer sun takes on a bit of a glare….on the few occasions that it chooses to appear.  Mostly, May has been a gray, wet month.  Gardeners and farmers have prayed for those few days when fields and gardens could be worked and planted.  As we watch the pooling rain form into lakes and flooding streams and fields, we mumble pleas for it to stop, and hope that we won’t find ourselves wishing for it, praying for it to begin later on during the blasts of summer heat.  Everyone is hoping June will be a better month.”
     However, in 2017 there was intermittent planting between spells of wet weather, not the continual, daily deluges we’ve experienced this year.  And it’s not just the inability to plant that will plague farmers (and eventually everyone as they shop for food or fuel) but the facts that:  1) nearly all the alfalfa drowned and rotted over the winter and that combined with the inability of farmers to make hay yet this year will lead to high feed prices.  2) many of the migrant workers that plant, work and harvest Indiana’s tomato fields have had to return home since there was no work due to rains.  If/when the fields are ready to plant (and that’s assuming the tomato plants will not have grown so large they no longer fit into the planters) there will be no experienced workers available  3)the early corn crop that hog farmers rely on to save having to purchase expensive stored grains does not exist  4) the usual crop insurance is not available for crops planted after June 5  5) many of the long-season corn seeds farmers have already purchased will need to be replaced by a shorter term seed, or a different crop altogether  6) none of the pre-planting work has been finished, so even when the ground dries out enough to get machinery in, planting can’t begin   7) many farm market vendors have yet to be able to till, let alone plant their usual crops, so there will be shortages of locally grown produce  8)  the almost constant rains have prevented much pollination from happening   9) after a very difficult winter, bees are being forced to remain in their hives, and when they are able to be out, much of the pollen has been washed away by storms.  We pray that all the farmers get their crops planted, that there is a good growing summer and a LATE frost so the harvest can be abundant!

Upcoming Events:  (on a happier note!)
Cincinnati Garden Tour with Friends of Holliday Park:  June 13-14.  Join Friends of Holliday Park on June 13-14 for this unique opportunity to visit some of the most spectacular gardens in Cincinnati. Horticulturist Chris Turner will lead an unforgettable tour of historic gardens, specialty nurseries, and eight exclusive private gardens rarely open to the public. Highlights include Krohn Conservatory, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and Spring Grove Cemetery. Contact Adam Barnes (Friends of Holliday Park Executive Director) at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 317-475-9482 for cost and more information.

Garden Walk and Plant Sale:  Saturday, June 22  10:00-1:00  This annual event is sponsored by the Allen Co. Master Gardeners and held at the Purdue Extension, 4001 Crescent  Ave., Fort Wayne.   There are lots of family friendly activities and games (with prizes while they last!) and local vendors in addition to the plant sale.  This is a FREE event.

Garden Walk:  Sunday, June 23  1-5pm.  Sponsored by the Delaware Co. Master Gardeners.  Tickets are $7 and available at each garden location.  Visit their website for more information.
Bees, Butterflies & Blooms!  Saturday, July 27 9-3:00
Held at beautiful Matter Park, Marion IN.  More info upcoming.  Sponsored by the Grant Co. Master Gardeners.

Trowel & Error Plant Sale
     Happily, one of the few rainless days was during our local garden club’s annual plant sale.  Like other members, I grew several plants especially for the sale and also divided some of my favorite perennials, although with all the rainy days not as many of those were potted as I’d hoped.  However, 366 plants were loaded on my truck to contribute to the sale.  There was a good turnout, and it was great to see many of my “old” customers and share hugs that day.  Nearly all of the plants were sold, which means we’ll be able to continue supporting our local scholarship program for another year.  Thanks to all of you who came to our sale, and for supporting your own local garden club or Master Gardeners’ plant sales.  Your purchases help make good things happen!

1)  Keep the hummingbird feeder cleaned and filled…they’re feeding heavily as they raise new families.
2) Plant sweet alyssum and mignonette close to seating areas now to enjoy its fragrance, and let it self-seed, so you can enjoy it again later.
3) Keep pansies deadheaded to prolong bloom, and remember they are heavy feeders, so fertilize when you water.  Move containers of pansies into partial afternoon shade when the days get hot.
4) Dead head daffodils and other spring bulbs, but allow the foliage to ripen and turn brown before you remove it.  Mark clumps that need to be divided or moved this autumn.
5) Prune spring flowering shrubs right after they bloom.  It’s a good time to shape lilacs.
6) The first feeding for the lawn needs to be done around Memorial Day
7) Enjoy the Dames Rocket, Columbines, May Queen Shastas, Lungworts, Forget-Me-Nots, Hellebores, Bleeding Hearts, and all the other bloomers that are filling the garden with color after the bulbs.
8)    Plant some containers with annuals in your favorite colors to pop into the     garden areas close to patios and decks, if nothing is blooming there.  You can move them around as needed, or collect them into a grouping for parties.
9)    Scissor mums every two-three weeks, so they will get really bushy and sturdy.  Stop trimming July 4th.
10)  Check lilies, peonies, and other tall perennials for staking needs—it’s been a windy Spring.
11) Harvest those beautiful chive blooms and pop them into salads, or steep the blooms in white vinegar for two weeks.  They will turn the vinegar a lovely shade of pink, and add a wonderful light onion flavor to salad dressings, marinades, and stir-fry.

Herb To Know:  Apple Mint
     The month of May is when I appreciate apple mint the most.  This is the time of year when many of the mints are victims of the five-lined beetle, which makes tiny black spots on most varieties of mint leaves.  It’s not a tragedy, because the mint plants are not really harmed, but it makes the affected leaves unattractive.  Fortunately the beetles’ destructive period is short, so a quick scissor trim can remove the spotted leaves and the plant will quickly regrow.  Happily, the fuzzy gray-green leaves of apple mint are apparently unappealing to the five-lined beetle so the plant remains beautiful all season.
     Apple mint (M.  suaveolens) is one of the taller members of the mint family.  Along with Silver Mint and Woolly Mint, it is one of the few true mints that are not dark green-leaved.  And its leaves are fuzzier than most mints, making it less appealing to eat fresh for some sensitive people’s palates.  However, I find when it is finely chopped and added to apple salads it is totally acceptable.  I also loved it steeped as a sun tea, with a bit of cinnamon added and served hot or cold.  Apple mint is a wonderful addition to baked apples or apple pie.
     Fresh or dried, it’s lovely as a filler in floral arrangements, especially when its tips are filled with white flowers later in the summer.  I like it so much that I’ve let it ramble through parts of the cutting garden, where it’s handy to snip and add to bouquets, lending its light fragrance to the pleasure of the flowers.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Fool
     In Victorian times, a charming English dessert of pureed fruit combined with whipped cream and whole fruit, called a “fool”, was all the rage.  The “Fool” first appeared in print in 1590 and has been popular since.  The name came from the French word “fouler”, which means “to mash”.  Originally made with gooseberries, it’s a simple, comforting dessert with unlimited variations.  Here’s my updated recipe, and it’s delicious with spearmint or apple mint!
     In saucepan, cook, covered over med.-low heat until fruit is so tender it is falling apart:  2 c. fresh or frozen diced rhubarb; 1 c. sugar; ½ c. water.  Cool.
     Stem and quarter enough strawberries to make 2 cups, reserving 8 whole berries for garnish.  Puree an additional 1 c. quartered berries in a blender (or mash by hand.)
    Whip ½ c. whipping cream with 1 T. sugar until very stiff.  Fold in 4 T. finely chopped mint, the rhubarb sauce, and the mashed berries.
    In 8 tall glasses, alternate quartered berries with whipped cream mixture, forming four layers.  Top with a fresh berry and a sprig of mint.  Serve immediately, or cover and chill for up to 2 hours.

Just in under the wire for the hectic month of May, but I promise to be more timely in June. Until next month, have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.  And don’t forget to visit my blog for even more gardening info, humor, and ideas.  You can access it from the website by clicking on “Garden Journal” in the bar under the header, or go to  I hope June is kind and gentle for you and your gardens.

Herbal Blessings, Carolee