Welcome gardening enthusiasts! Hope your summer bounty of fruits and veggies filled some tummies.
We here at Sunshine Care, A Community of Assisted Living Homes in beautiful Poway CA, have nothing to complain about regarding the recent weather this year. All in all, the summer had no blistering hot stretches of over 100 degrees as in years past. In fact, all the landscapes of native wildflowers around our country-style homes, are full and rich with flowers- just waiting for a fall flush and of course the big burst in the spring. Roses are still popping and sunflowers are filling many of vases for the houses.
We are still harvesting lots of tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, green beans, bell peppers. This September, because of the use of black shade netting , we also enjoyed a couple hundred lbs of lettuce for the first time. Absolutely no complaints here!!
We have planted many rows of broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and lettuce since mid-August, and heads are just starting to form. As the spring/summer crops die out, we will continue with the cole crops.
Last blog, I touched on the use of culinary perennial herbs, for both eye appeal in your landscaping and kitchen menu appeal. Thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano all are low water users, easy to grow and yield beautiful blooms for your eye and the eyes of bees and birds in the area.
I would like to take the thyme (LOL) to talk about another set of culinary herbs. These would be what I call the “seeded -crop herbs”. Parsley, cilantro, dill, chervil and chives are all very easy to grow and add that fresh blast of flavor for your taste buds. All these cultivars can be started by just tossing some seed into a container, raised bed or anywhere in your garden. Other than chives, you probably won’t get any visual pleasure in your edible landscape from the others, but a little green here and there can’t hurt. Letting your cilantro or parsley go to flower is not the goal. That is unless you are going for seed production, which is a bit silly since seed is so cheap. Flowering chives is a different story. Their big white blooms can be very attractive throughout your edible landscape, as well as the aroma.
I try not to turn my nose up at most dried herbs, there definitely is a place for them in the kitchen especially the perennials BUT, I personally have no use for dried seeded herbs. Their freshness is what adds that pop to your menu items. Dried cilantro-UGH!
Let’s dive into some of these tasty treats!
ITALIAN FLAT LEAF PARSLEY - (Petroselinum neapolitanum) This is by far the most flavorful parsley variety. It is easy to grow and related to carrots, dill and fennel. It is a hardy biennial but usually treated as an annual. Growing parsley from seed is the only real way of propagation. Sow the seed outdoors in rows 10”-12” apart and cover with ½ inch of soil. Later you might want to thin to 6” apart. Parsley likes rich, well drained soil. Full sun is preferred. Seed takes much longer to germinate than cilantro. One tip is to make the first irrigation with hot water. This should give the seeds a little kick start to germinate. They should sprout in 2-3 weeks. Like cilantro, transplanting of parsley seedlings may cause early bolting. Sowing and thinning is a far better way to get a crop. To avoid flowering, cut parsley when ready to use, close to soil surface. This would be a good time to fertilize. Anything high in nitrogen is all you need because all you want are green leaves. Fish emulsion fertilizers work great.
You can get seeds usually at any home and garden center but I would recommend going to Johnny’s Selected Seed web site or pull out their catalog and order Giant of Italy. The huge, dark green leaves are very flavorful and the strong stems make it a favorite in the culinary world. Plants can get to be 12-20” tall. A packet of 200 seeds will set you back $3.45. Expect delicious parsley in about 75 days. That’s a lot of fresh parsley for your pasta dishes.
CILANTRO - (Coriandrum sativum) The name comes from the Greek word Koris, meaning bed bug, referring to the odd odor of the foliage. The seeds are more commonly referred to as coriander. For 3,000 years it has been known for its medicinal properties for stomach aches and nausea. It is another biennial herb usually grown as an annual. As most herbs, cilantro likes moderately rich soil with good drainage. Start your cilantro from seed and it will germinate quickly, usually 7-10 days. Sow in rows 12”-18” apart. Cilantro like full sun but can handle some shade. It grows quickly and can reseed itself. Try to pinch it back to avoid the delicate white to lavender flowers that will go to seed. If it does go to seed, expect a fuller garden of cilantro next year. Again fertilizers high in nitrogen can be used occasionally, watch for yellowing of leaves. As with parsley, make your cuts low to the ground. Plants can get to be 24” in height.
Again, every home and garden center has cilantro/coriander seeds but I prefer to acquire my seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Santo is a standard variety which is extra slow to bolt. Expect delicious leaves in about 50 days. For a continuous supply of fresh leaves, seed a little every 2-3 weeks. Again a packet of 200 seeds will cost only $3.45. Like parsley, store in a glass of water and place it in the refrigerator.
What would salsa and guacamole be without fresh cilantro?
DILL - (Anethum graveolens) Another easy herb to grow in your garden or container. Toss out some seeds in rows 12”-24” apart. Cover with ¼” of soil, and the seeds will germinate in about 7-10 days. It is another biennial usually grown as an annual. Its bitter seeds are usually used in the making of dill pickles. Used fresh, it goes great with salmon and potatoes. Dill prefers full sun and again likes rich, well drained soil conditions.
“Bouquet” is the variety I grow from Johnny’s Selected Seed. In about 50 days, you can have a leaf harvest and in 85-105 days a seed harvest. Plants can get to be 38”-42” in height. $3.45 will get you 200 seeds
GARLIC CHIVES - (Allium tuberosum) Also known as Chinese leeks, are a favorite at my dinner table. This tasty herb is unlike the previously mentioned seeded-crop herbs , because it happens to be a very hardy perennial. Seed once and you should be well supplied for years to come. As a member of the onion family, garlic chives not only give you that onion flavor but also have a hint of garlic. Start from seed, in rich, well-drained soil in the full sun. They may also be propagated by root division after a couple of years. They demand little care other than having to be divided when overcrowded. They make very attractive border plants for your herb garden, especially when flowering. Chive seeds will germinate in the soil in about 10-14days. They attract bees and repel deer. They have beneficial qualities when planted near your cole crops. They help to repel or distract cabbage loopers, carrot fly and aphids.
Garlic Chive/Chinese leek seed can be easily purchased through Johnny’s. In about 90 days you will be able to harvest thin, flat leaves with that delicate garlic aroma. Attractive white flowers will pop in the midsummer. The flowers are also edible and can be added to bouquets. Again, $3.45 will get you a packet of 200 seeds.
A baked potato is nothing without a sprinkling of fresh chives.
That should be enough to keep you flooded in fresh seeded herbs. Spring is the best time to get started but here in Southern California, these delicious additions to your menu can be grown all year, especially on the coast.
I welcome any and all to come to visit our organic gardens and greenhouse here at Sunshine Care, a Community of Assisted Living Homes in sunny Poway CA. Just
give me a call or shoot me an email and I’ll gladly show you around. We also offer monthly garden lectures covering different horticultural topics by great speakers on the 3rd Saturday of the month. These start at 10:30 am and are free to the public with refreshments and door prizes. Our next lecture is on October 19th when Dr. Gary Bender, San Diego County Farm Advisor, will talk to us about the Minor Subtropical Tree Crops of Southern California. Come learn about mangos, bananas, macadamia nuts, cherimoyas to name a few. He is also the expert in avocado and citrus in the county. If you are interested in more information check out our website www.sunshinecare.com and get a hold of me to RSVP.
Good luck in your garden and hope to hear from you soon.
Please contact me, if you have any questions or would like to tour our gardens.
Roy Wilburn, Director of Horticulture at Sunshine Care- 12695 Monte Vista Rd, Poway CA 92064