Book Review: Homegrown Herb Garden

Amazon Cover - Herb Garden

Book Cover from Amazon

As you know, some of my arts include gardening and cooking. I really enjoyed this book.

Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses by Lisa Morgan and Ann McCormick

BOOK BLURB ON AMAZON

Take your home cooking to the next level by incorporating fresh homegrown herbs! You don’t need lots of space for a huge herb garden, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on fresh herbs at the grocery store or farmers’ market. With Homegrown Herb Garden, you can choose the herb or herbs you will use the most and build your herb garden around them. Start with an overview of how to grow, harvest, and store herbs. Then, learn how to handle each herb and what flavors they work well with. The culinary section includes how to prepare and use your herbs, plus savory and sweet recipes to feature them in. Choose your favorite herbs, learn to grow them successfully, and never be at a loss for what to do with them!

 

MY REVIEW

Book comes in two parts 25% herbs and 75% recipes for those herbs. Total herbs covered 15; total recipes provided 62.

This is exactly what I’ve been looking for in an herb book! Each of the fifteen herbs are given height/width growth, water needs, and harvest instructions. The instructions for growing in containers are real instructions instead of the normal “appropriate size container and water regularly” – root depth is covered for instance. Whether the herb is a candidate for early start in house and transfer out to the garden or if it is best just to directly plant it in the garden (tranplantability). Etc.

Ms. McCormick lets the reader know when best to harvest and why (in case you ever wondered why you need to harvest early in the morning). Everything you need to set up an herb garden is here. It is amazing. Why more gardening books don’t do I don’t know. This changed how I was going to set up my garden – now I am going to split it into the “wet” and “dry” sections. Five stars all the way.

I don’t have herbs yet (still setting up the garden), so haven’t tried out the recipe section. The recipes are complicated, created by Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef Morgan – beautiful, but complicated. I may eventually attempt one or two (the rosemary chocolate chip cookie recipe is very tempting). At the beginning of each herb recipe section (at least three recipes for each of the fifteen herbs), includes best pairings with the herbs – what types of cheeses, meats, fruits & vegetables. I don’t see myself using that information very much, but new cooks working toward mastery of the kitchen may find it useful. More helpful is how to chop/use each herb in a dish – but I got most of that from the herb section. I found Chef Morgan’s sectioning herbs into woody and grassing completely unhelpful for my purposes – but I totally can see another cook getting an “a-ha” moment and running with it.

So for the recipe section, I would give two stars (Goodreads – it was okay) or three stars (Amazon – it was okay). But the herb section was so exactly what I have been looking for – and I have gone through a lot of online searches and gardening book reading, I know how rare this is and would have bought the book JUST for the herb section (in fact I did buy it just for the herb section) – I had to give this manuscript Five Stars.

Art Projects: Gardening 2016

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Rose Garden Delivered – Herb Garden Taking a Bit Longer

As mentioned in March, I’ve been working on my yard.

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Rose GardenROSE GARDEN

The Red Roses came in nicely, but my white rose bush (the center one) succumbed to black spot. I had to completely cut it back to the base. It is trying its best to make a comeback, but the challenge may be too great for the poor thing.Poor White Rose I am debating just pulling it because of the black spot risk to the red roses.

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I mentioned my second goal for the yard for the year is getting the rose garden leveled. A drop of three to six inches happens between the edge of the driveway and the sidewalk, creating a low spot within the garden for spring rains to accumulate, likely contributing to the black spot issues.

.Rose Garden before leveling

So I attacked it, adding several bags of dirt and using the area as a dumping ground while I was digging up a metal rod from the garden. I think everything is level now, but in the past two months I have seen the ground settling. I expect I will need to continue to build up the area over the next couple of years, but the worst of it should be done.

.Rose Garden Leveled

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HERB GARDEN (NORTH SIDE)

IMG_0530Digging the bed up took a long, long time. The previous owner had laid down a landscaping tarp, let it grow over with grass again, and laid down another landscaping tarp and let it grow over with grass a third time. A shovel wouldn’t break the surface. I ended up having to completely herbicide the whole thing, then rip the weeds out, then remove one layer of tarp, then rip the root out then remove the other tarp.

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Metal pipe dug outIn one area I ran into a pipe. I continue to dig down for a while in the hard clay dirt, but finally succeeded in getting the monster out. Final pit was close to eight inches deep and I have no clue while the pipe was to. You can see it laid out lengthwise in the pit I had to dig for it.

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IMG_0528I am finally down to dirt and my present task is digging up the well-compacted clay. I was working on that this weekend with my new tiller-cultivator – my first time using the machine! And my left shoulder “gave”. A week later, I am nearly recovered, but this task is going to take the rest of the year. I don’t think I will get anything into the ground before winter.

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Tomatoes coming inExcept for the tomato-mint containers which I planted in June. I had three small tomatoes from the Juliet tomatoes and more are coming. Everything is having problems because of the recent drought. One of my two mint is struggling on the point of death, while the other is going great guns but the tomato it shares a container with is only beginning to think about maybe making one tomato.

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RAISED BED (BASEMENT DOOR)

Empty containerThe raised bed by the basement door had a very determined holly bush in it. Every time I cut it back, within a month it was blocking the keyhole again. I couldn’t get out the stump because of angles. In the end a friend helped me yank it away from the cement block and cut out most of it. Here’s hoping it stays dead after a winter. I am thinking of replacing it with Spring Iris and Summer/Autumn Mums.

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TURTLE

The Turtle for the herb garden made it out of my van and is now guarding the patch of garden which will eventually be it’s home.

The Turtle

Art Projects: Gardening 2016

I Never Promised A Rose Garden – but I am going to deliver it!


This month has both a fifth Tuesday and fifth Thursday, making the blog a little more challenging. I want the “fifth’s” to be special. The fifth Sunday is a 2,000 word story (as seen in January). The fifth Thursday will be a blog of my own … but what to do for the fifth Tuesday.

Decision made – I will be posting an “art” project I am working on. I’ve talked about my embroidery and calligraphy before. Last year I started learning the art of mosaics. But for the first fifth Tuesday of 2016 I thought I would touch on the gardening.

In between taxes, I have been using my one hour of sunlight per week to work outside. I’ve always wanted to garden to play with. Twenty months ago I got it when I bought my very small house. The yard is big enough for tons of fun, in between being too busy.

My first goal was a rose garden. Which I arranged October 2015. I moved bushes from around the house. The previous owner for some reason had three bushes – one behind the garbage cans, one where it could grab a skirt every time a passenger left a car, and one slowly being overtaken by sunflowers and weeds. I dug them up and combined them in one area.

Since the roses wouldn’t bloom until summer, I added crocus, tulips, and pansies for springtime. The crocus popped up in early March for two weeks. Now tulips are reigning with support from the pansies.

Yes, the garden is completely overgrown with spring weeds as well. That needs to get fixed. But my first attempt at putting my mark on my house has worked out well.

The red leafed bushes along the cement should have a continuous display of red and white roses come June. Fingers-crossed!

The major problem is the curved corner dips low and constantly floods. I need to get that fixed along with the weeding sometime soon.


The next thing I concentrated on was the ornamental grass in the back of the house. I worked on this most of February and March during the odd moment of free time my day job allowed during daylight hours. As you can see below, I trimmed the tops off.


But reason work was needed on the grass was the entire center had rotted out. Took me three weeks of digging and fighting to clear everything out. One online website on the care and maintenance of Pampas grass recommends trimming with a chain saw, then burning what is left to the ground and let it grow back. No, really – the blog instructed to trim grass with a chain saw while wearing leather to keep the razor sharp leaves from cutting you.

I just went out it with a shovel, hoe, shears, and while wearing a denim shirt and jeans with heavy gloves. My wrists still were slit to heck and back where the fabric gapped, but I did get the center cleared out.

This is what the grass looks from the other side after all the rot was removed.


I hope it will recover. The grass is beautiful and hides my neighbor’s shed which is falling down and covered by a tarp.

The original idea for this post was to tell you all about the herb garden put in near my kitchen … the one I was going to work on in March. I got everything together two weeks before this post so I could show pictures and brag about how accomplished I am.

Yeah, no. The next two weeks have been working late every day I had a chance of getting home before sunset … or rain. Spring rains. Lots of them.

So what I have to-be-assembled pictures:


The plot which the previous owner covered with the oh-so “effective” weed tarp. I somehow need to dig through the weeds to the tarp. The problem is the weeds have grown through the tarp. To get this up will require removal of four inches or more of weeds, tarp, and roots at one time. I didn’t realize how involved until I started the first “easy” lift off of the tarp. Nothing moved.





On one of the rainy days I went shopping for the assembly kit. The brick borders, new soil, and a turtle big enough to sit on while working the little plot.

Last year I dug out the dead bush by the front door. I had really hoped to have a full herb garden this year.

We’ll see what happens.





The other big goal this year is remove as many stumps a possible. The house came with close to a dozen stumps everywhere. I have dug two up so far. The previous owner was an older lady who took care of her yard for a while, but it just got away from her the last few years she lived there. So I have inherited a yard with lots of potential, but to reach that potential, I need to first clear the slate.



From the azalea bushes gone wrong. These should have been blooming by now.







To the ever present stumps.


And more stumps, plus the bushes which now run the entire fence.



Oh, and the trees growing THROUGH the fence.


Anyway, one of my ongoing art projects is getting my yard in shape. A multi-year project, obviously.


The goals for gardening in 2016 are as follows: 

(1) Get the ornamental grass fixed – COMPLETED late March
(2) get the rose garden fixed
(3) get the herb garden in
(4) get as many of the stumps out of the yard as possible.

I think that should be enough. The other fifth Tuesday will show off other art projects. I am thinking covering an embroidery, a calligraphy, and a mosaic project.

I will post pictures to the facebook webpage as this year’s gardening projects are completed.