Friday, September 28, 2012

Gibby's Garden Diary 2012 Entry

I've been writing in an online garden diary here on this blog since the spring. I thought I'd post my latest entry here for all to see as well as in my running Gibby's Garden Diary 2012 post. The entries are a little rough around the edges much like you'd find in a handwritten diary. Enjoy!

Here in Maine the vegetable gardening season is coming to a close. I myself don’t have much left in my gardens except my tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli and corn. Despite the slow and wet start to the season, I have a freezer full of organic vegetables to last me through til the next growing season.

I’m not sure if my popcorn is going to produce anything before the first hard frost kills it off. As of last week the stalks had formed some ears and I’m hoping they’ll fill out soon. I picked whatever sweet corn was ready, blanched and froze it.

Speaking of my sweet corn, I had one heck of a bad day last week.(It ties into the corn) The green grass in the pasture is pretty much done for the season after being eaten and walked over by the cows and horses all summer. My brother and father, when they have time after work during the week, have been chopping grass in the field and feeding it to the animals to help supplement the hay we’ve been giving them - trust me they are well fed.

Well, they worked late all last week so the animals didn’t get any chopped grass, only hay which is fine. One afternoon the big bull decided he wanted some green grass and was going to sneak out of the pasture and help himself to some in the field. 2 of his buddies decided to follow.

Needless to say I was the one charged with putting them back in the pasture because my brother and father were still at work and wouldn’t be home until after dark. If you’ve ever had to wrangle up loose farm animals you know it’s twice as hard after dark and leaving them out isn’t an option for their own safety - the coyotes might come calling.

If you can picture what I’m about to tell you, you’ll probably laugh or at least crack a smile  - I know my brother and father did. Our driveway runs parallel to part of the pasture. It’s not your average driveway, it’s long, bumpy and made of gravel. Our only neighbor lives about a quarter of a mile up the driveway from us. At the top of the driveway, the road curves going around a bend and up a hill. At the top is the neighbor's house.

Well the 3 loose cows were slowly making their way towards the curve so I needed to usher them back down the driveway towards the pasture. I tried walking behind them clapping my hands loudly, tapping them on the butt and chasing them but they weren’t having any of it. Once they had tasted that green grass they were not about to give it up and go back into the pasture.

After about half an hour I had enough of trying to coax them in so I turned to a usually fool proof plan - the grain bucket. So here I was in my flip flops running down the driveway shaking a grain bucket with a bull and 2 cows, all three who are almost full-sized, chasing after me. Well, the good cows that had stayed in the pasture heard the grain bucket as well.

Mind you I had cracked open the gate before running with the grain bucket in hopes I could run right into the pasture with the cows behind me, toss the bucket, shut the gate and call it a done deal. Well, that didn’t happen. Here comes the funny part - I’ll set the scene.

About 30 feet before the driveway curves, the pasture curves too and goes into the treeline. There are trees between the pasture and driveway after the curve. The rest of the herd was in the corner of the pasture in the area where it curves while the loose cows were close to the bend in the driveway.

Here I am booking it as fast as I can down the driveway with the bull and 2 cows hot on my heals trying their best to get a taste of the grain. Well, the entire herd was watching and must of heard the grain sloshing around in the bucket. Before I knew it, I’m booking it with 3 large animals on my heals and the rest of the herd running parallel to me on the other side of the fence.

I’m sure I muttered a few colorful words as I dropped the grain bucket and sprinted for the gate. Mind you I’m in my flip flops and there’s a giant mud puddle in the area that the open gate swings over. The gate needs some work and has to be lifted in order to move or the bottom drags through the mud. I thought it a much better idea to close the gate rather than have the entire herd of cows loose. Needless to say the 3 that were already loose remained loose and enjoyed what little grain was in the bucket.

Seeing as I had to babysit for the afternoon, I left the loose cows where they were and went back to deal with them after dinner. It took me about an hour to finally get them in using the Cub Cadet, whip and my mother to open and close the gate for me while I chased them. I thought I had the problem solved and went on with my night.

The Next Morning . . . 

After jumping in the Cub Cadet, I drove past my corn on the way to the barn to clean the chicken coop. On my way, much to my chagrin, I noticed that half my sweet corn had been completely leveled and the ears eaten and low and behold the bull and a cow were loose once again. Now I was mad. Screw the whip and the Cub Cadet - this was personal. I put way too much time and work into my gardens for an animal or person to come along and do what they please. (I don’t hit the animals with the whip, only the ground next to them)

I was pissed. I cracked open the gate over the mud once again and wearing my sneakers this time, ran after that bull like there was no tomorrow. I got him and the cow back in the pasture. I went to the barn to clean the coop and a few minutes later the bull was loose again. Time to fix the fence.

I got a hammer and some U-shaped nail things in the barn, hopped in the Cub Cadet - I found out I really like driving this thing - and headed up the driveway. There the bull stood once again in the center of the driveway just looking at me. In the two minutes I was in the barn, he had walked right back out through the fence where the barbed wire had become loose.

Arg! I decided to fix the fence and then put him back in and that’s exactly what I did. Once it was fixed I set my sights on the bull again. By this time he was in the field across from the barn. As I made my way towards him I noticed the same cow that had been loose that morning trying her best to go through the fence.

Since I had just fixed it she only made it halfway through; she got her front legs through but not her back. She was stuck with the barbed wire cutting into her teats turning them bloody. I couldn’t leave her there so I undid all the work I had just done to fix the fence and finally got her free. This time she stayed in the pasture. I fixed the fence again.

By this time the bull must have had a full belly cause he ventured over to the open barn door that the chicken feeder was sitting in front of in my earlier attempt to clean the coop. He managed to knock the top off the feeder and gobble down all the grain. Eventually I got him in a fenced in area that the animals hadn’t been allowed in since a new steer going through the weaning process had managed to jump several times. (This is in a previous entry)

The fenced in area happened to have green grass. I gave him a bucket of water and there he stayed until my brother and father came home and could deal with him. The cows and bulls have been penned in for the past week. They get hay on week days and chopped green grass on the weekends when my brother and father aren’t working and have time to chop some.

Last weekend my brother went around the perimeter of the fence in the pasture making repairs. This weekend we’ll probably let the cows and bulls back into the pasture until hunting season when they’ll be penned until spring. We’ll see how that goes.

Feel free to read my entire Gibby’s Garden Diary 2012. I hope you get inspired to keep one of your own the next growing season. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Average Frost Dates for the North (2012 – 2013)

There’s a reason why people look for the first and last frost dates in their area. Many gardeners, including myself, plan their gardens around these dates. In the north, the spring frost signals the beginning of the growing season while the fall frost signals the end. These dates are also called the first and last average frost dates with the last occurring in the spring and the first in fall.

List of Average Frost Dates in the North

Scroll down to find your state and the city nearest you for the average first and last frost dates in your area. The first date listed is the average frost date for the spring and the last is for the fall.

Average New England Frost Dates


Augusta: 4/27/13 – 10/8/12
Bangor: 5/7/13 – 10/7/12
Portland: 5/2/13 – 10/6/12
Presquile: 4/21/13- 9/20/12

New Hampshire

Berlin: 5/20/13 – 9/21/12
Concord: 5/20/13 – 9/21/12
Keene: 5/13/13 – 9/26/12
Nashua: 5/7/13 – 10/3/12


Burlington: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Montpelier: 5/11/13 – 10/1/12
Rutland: 5/13/13 – 9/28/12


Boston: 4/7/13 – 11/7/12
New Bedford: 4/13/13 – 11/2/12
Worcester: 4/26/13 – 11/14/12


Burlington: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Montpelier: 5/11/13 – 10/1/12
Rutland: 5/13/13 – 9/28/12

Rhode Island

Kingston: 5/8/13 – 10/3/12
Providence: 4/16/13 – 10/22/12


Danbury: 5/1/13 – 10/9/12
Hartford: 4/26/13 – 10/9/12
Stamford: 4/29/13 – 10/17/12

Average Frost Dates for the Mid Atlantic (North)

New York

Albany: 5/2/13 - 10/3/12
Buffalo: 4/24/13 - 10/19/12
Elmira: 5/9/13 - 10/3/12
Lake Placid: 6/7/13 - 9/11/12
New York City: 4/1/13 - 11/15/12
Syracuse: 4/28/13 - 10/13/12

New Jersey

Atlantic City: 3/31/13 - 11/11/12
Cape May: 4/6/13 - 11/6/12
New Brunswick: 4/20/13 - 10/20/12
Newark: 4/3/13 - 11/7/12


Erie: 4/29/13 - 10/29/12
Lebanon: 4/27/13 - 10/13/12
Philadelphia: 4/6/13 - 11/4/12
Pittsburgh: 4/29/13 - 10/17/12
Wilkes Barre: 4/26/13 - 10/16/12

Average Frost Dates for the Midwest (North)


Appleton: 5/4/13 – 10/7/12
Eau Claire: 5/7/13 – 9/29/12
Madison: 5/10/13 – 10/2/12
Milwaukee: 4/27/13 – 10/14/12


Evansville: 4/3/13 – 11/3/12
Indianapolis: 4/18/13 – 10/18/12
South Bend: 4/26/13 – 10/19/12
Terra Haute: 4/20/13 – 10/15/12


Chicago: 4/20/13 – 10/24/12
Mount Vernon: 4/14/13 – 10/14/12
Quincy: 4/10/13 – 10/22/12
Springfield: 4/13/13 – 10/13/12


Cincinnati: 4/13/13 – 10/23/12
Cleveland: 4/30/13 – 10/23/12
Columbus: 4/26/13 – 10/13/12
Toledo: 5/1/13 – 10/8/12


Cheboygan: 5/18/13 – 10/10/12
Detroit: 4/26/13 – 10/17/12
Grand Rapids: 5/5/13 – 10/8/12
Marquette: 5/11/13 – 10/13/12


Jefferson City: 4/13/13 – 10/18/12
Kansas City: 4/7/13 – 10/28/12
Poplar Bluff: 4/4/13 – 10/28/12
St. Louis: 4/7/13 – 10/29/12

North Dakota

Bismarck: 5/14/13 – 9/21/12
Fargo: 5/10/13 – 9/27/12
Grand Forks: 5/10/13 – 9/27/12
Minot: 5/9/13 – 9/28/12

South Dakota

Hot Springs: 5/16/13 – 9/20/12
Pierre: 5/2/13 – 10/3/12
Sioux Falls: 5/3/13 – 9/28/12
Watertown: 5/10/13 – 9/25/12


Baudette: 5/16/13 – 9/21/12
Duluth: 5/15/13 – 10/17/12
Minneapolis: 4/30/13 – 10/5/12
Willmar: 4/30/13 – 10/1/12


Grand Island: 4/26/13 – 10/8/12
North Platte: 5/5/13 – 10/4/12
Omaha: 4/21/13 – 10/12/12
Scottsbluff: 5/3/13 – 9/27/12


Cedar Rapids: 4/25/13- 10/6/12
Des Moines: 4/20/13 – 10/12/12
Fort Dodge: 4/29/13 – 10/4/12
Sioux City: 4/26/13 – 10/3/12

Average Frost Dates for the West (North)


Boise: 5/5/13 – 10/8/12
Idaho Falls: 5/27/13 – 9/20/12
Moscow: 5/25/13 – 9/20/12
Salmon: 5/25/13 – 9/20/12


Billings: 5/8/13 – 9/27/12
Bozeman: 5/26/13 – 9/19/12
Glendive: 5/2/13 – 9/29/12
Great Falls: 5/17/13 – 9/22/12
Helena: 5/19/13 – 9/18/12


Casper: 5/22/13 – 9/19/12
Cheyenne: 5/12/13 – 9/26/12
Gillette: 5/18/13 – 9/22/12


Anchorage: 5/8/13 – 9/23/12
Fairbanks: 5/15/13 – 9/8/12
Juneau: 5/8/13 – 10/4/12
Nome: 6/11/13 – 8/31/12


Olympia: 5/5/13 – 10/6/12
Seattle: 3/10/13 – 11/17/12
Spokane: 5/2/13 – 10/3/12
Vancouver: 4/20/13 – 10/15/12


Baker: 6/3/13 – 9/13/12
Eugene: 4/22/13– 10/19/12
Klamath Falls: 6/7/13 – 9/18/12
Portland: 3/23/13 – 11/15/12

Farmers Almanac 

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Cook Acorns

Image: Dakota/Wikimedia Commons

Recently I stumbled upon a recipe on how to cook acorns while perusing the internet. This past weekend I decided to give cooking these abundant and free nuts a try. They actually came out pretty good so I thought I’d pass along the recipe to you.


Tap Water


Bucket for Gathering Acorns
2 Stock Pots
1 Cookie Sheet

Instructions for Cooking Acorns

1. Rinse the acorns so they are clean
2. Fill the sink with cold tap water and let acorns soak for 1 hour
3. Pick and discard any acorns that float in tap water - floaters may contain worms
4. Shell acorns (I used lobster crackers and a pick)
5. Fill 2 stock pots with tap water, about 3/4 of the way
6. Bring 1 pot to a boil, dump in acorns, and bring second pot to boil
7. Let acorns boil until water turns brown, strain and transfer to second pot of boiling water. In the beginning, it takes about 15 - 20 minutes for the boiling acorns to turn the water brown. Acorns contain tannins making the nuts bitter which is why they need to be boiled. Repeat the boiling, straining and transferring process until the tap water remains clear. When you think all the tannins have been boiled from the acorns, let one cool and taste it. If it’s still bitter, continue the boiling process. (This took me a couple of hour to do)
8. Pat dry and bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool, salt to taste

I thought this was a fun recipe to try. Remember, boiling the acorns before cooking them is absolutely necessary to remove their bitterness. I tried a raw one, and let me tell you, it tasted like chewing a couple of aspirin. After they’re toasted, they make a pretty tasty snack. Try adding them to cookies, muffins or salads for an extra special treat.

Have any ideas for adding flavor to cooked acorns besides using salt? Let me know below, I just may try your idea and report back here on how tasty (or not) it was.

Additional Recipes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Grow Radishes and Carrots Indoors this Winter

Image: MartinKozák via Wikimedia Commons
Don’t let winter thwart your love of gardening, especially if you live in a cold climate like the north. Try growing something new in a window box or container like radishes or carrots, both of which are easy to grow indoors. In a few simple steps you can provide your family with the taste of summer while the snow piles up outside.

Choose an Indoor Container

There are a few rules of thumb when it comes to choosing a container to grow radishes and carrots indoors. First, it must have drainage; your root vegetables will thank you. Radishes and carrots grow best in well-drained soil. Soggy soil often leads to root rot.

Secondly, the container needs to be at least twice the depth of the root vegetables when they reach maturity. For instance, if the variety of carrot you choose to grow matures at 4", your container should be at least 8" deep.

Thirdly, the container should be a proper fit in your home. Think about where you’ll be placing your containers - remember they need sun. Will you go with a window box or pots to line a sunny stairwell?  

Preparing the Soil for Indoor Growth

Radishes and carrots both prefer a light, well-drained sandy soil. Stay away from heavy soils like clay and loam. Think about the soil in your outdoor garden bed where you grow radishes and carrots. The soil in your indoor containers should mimic that soil.

Radishes and carrots don’t need to be fed quite as much as other heavy feeding vegetables. A little compost or man made fertilizer goes a long way. When fertilizing, keep the amount of nitrogen you introduce to the soil to a minimum. Too much nitrogen will cause your radishes and carrots to focus on growing foliage rather than developing their roots.

I prefer to grow organic vegetables, so I either use composted manure or finished compost. If you choose to buy a man made fertilizer, opt for one with a low nitrogen ratio. Look at the three numbers on the bag # - # - #, nitrogen should appear first.

Great Indoor Radish and Carrot Varieties

While there are some jumbo varieties of radishes, many have short, round roots making them great to grow in a container. The same can’t be said for carrots because some varieties can grow 10 - 12" in length. I’ve put together a list of varieties that will do well in an indoor container. If the local nursery is closed for the winter and the garden center doesn’t have any seeds in stock, check online. You can order from online seed catalogs at any time.

Indoor Radish Varieties

  • Cherry Belle
  • Champion
  • Black Spanish Round
  • Easter Egg
  • Rover

Indoor Carrot Varieties

  • Atlas: Matures at 2"
  • Baby Mokum: Matures at 4"
  • Caracus: Matures at 4 1/2"
  • Scarlet Nantes: Matures at 6"
  • Danvers Half Long: Matures at 6 - 7 ½"

Sowing for a Winter Crop

Sowing radish and carrots seeds is easy in a container. Simply follow the directions on the back of the seed packet remembering to thin the root vegetables once they reach a height of 2". To eliminate the thinning process and make sowing easier, make your own seed tapes.

When you grow radishes and carrots indoors during the winter, you’ll have a nice supply of fresh, crunchy vegetables that you’d normally have to buy at the grocery store. To make sure all your radishes and carrots aren’t ready for harvest at the same time, sow your seeds at different intervals. Growing vegetables indoors during the winter makes a great project for kids and is one that can be turned into a learning experience.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How to Clean Garden Tools

Image: Gibby's Garden

With summer drawing to a close, most of us are diligently collecting our garden tools and placing them in the shed to be stored over the long winter months. Before hanging each tool in its specified slot, it’s important to make sure they are nice and clean. Cleaning garden tools removes dirt and debris,  prevents rust and helps them to last longer.

Benefits of Cleaning Garden Tools

  • Last Longer
  • Prevents Rust
  • Stay Sharper
  • Prevents Disease from Spreading
  • Stops Eggs/Weed Seed from Transferring

Cleaning Supplies

  • Wire Brush: Scrub away rust
  • Garden Hose: Wash away dirt/debris
  • Cotton Rag: Used for drying
  • Motor Oil: Prevents Rust
  • Mill File: Sharpen tools
  • Honing Stone: Sharpen tools
  • Safety Goggles: Eye protection
  • Work Gloves: Hand protection

Cleaning Dirty Garden Tools

Set the hose to a strong spray and rinse away all dirt and debris. This should be done after each use if tools are dirty. For stubborn, heavier soils like clay, use a wire brush to scrape the tools first and then the hose to wash away any remaining dirt.

After each cleaning wipe down the tools with a dry cotton cloth. After cleaning steal garden tools, wipe them down with a little motor oil dabbed onto a clean, thick cotton cloth. Motor oil helps prevent rust, making tools last longer.

Cleaning Rusty Garden Tools

To clean rust from garden tools, use a wire brush. Put on a pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying rust particles and with strong, swift strokes, brush away as much rust as you can. Rinse away loose rust particles with a strong spray from the hose, pat dry and rub down with motor oil. A thin coat of motor oil is all that is needed to prevent rust.

Sharpen Garden Tools

Sharp garden tools make working in the garden a more productive and efficient experience. You can sharpen your own tools at home with a hard file or honing stone, both of which can be found in hardware stores.

To sharpen tools like spades and axes, use a mill file. Use a vice to hold the garden tool or get a good grip on it with one of your hands. Wearing your work gloves, hold the file at an angle and push it away from you along the edge of the tool.

To sharpen garden tools like shears and loppers, use a honing stone. Firmly hold the gardening tool or place it in a vice to free up both hands. Going in one direction, slide the honing stone along the tool’s edge until sharp. Always sharpen in the same direction for even results.

Store Garden Tools Properly

Always tuck your garden tools away in the shed or garage between uses and especially during the winter. Keeping tools out of the elements such as rain and snow extends their life span, prevents rust and keeps them in better shape.

With a few supplies that can be used over and over again, cleaning garden tools is easy. Taking some time at the end of the growing season to clean and sharpen your tools will keep them in good working order for use next year. Plus, it’ll save you some cash from having to buy new gardening tools. 

Reference: "Clean, Sharp Tools Work Better." - Fine Gardening Article. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2012. <>.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Decorating Ideas for the Garden

Image: Flominator via Wikimedia Commons

As flowers and vegetables begin to dwindle, they often take with them the beautiful and eye catching splashes of color they once provided. Instead of gazing over a sea of dismal looking plants, spice up the garden with a few fall decorations that please the eye. After all, fall is a wonderful time of year to sit in the garden and relax. The bugs are gone and the sun is still providing enough warmth to warm the chilled air.

Types of Fall Garden Decorations

  • Garland
  • Signs
  • Flags
  • Solar Powered Lights
  • Decorative Containers/Planters
  • Fall Blooming Flowers
  • Door Hangings
  • Wreaths
  • Pumpkins
  • Cornstalks
  • Sunflowers
  • Square Bales
  • Chimes/Spinners
  • Yard Art

Fall Decorating Themes

  • Country
  • Whimsical
  • Autumn
  • Halloween

Tips for Taking Decorating Ideas to another Level

  • Drape garland along fences and railings, over doorways and arches and around light posts
  • Place themed flags and signs in and around the garden
  • Line walkways with solar powered lights
  • Scatter colorful containers/planters around the garden and trailing stairs
  • Fill containers/planters with bright fall blooming plants
  • Hang wreaths and decorative signs on doors, garden gates and along fences
  • Place pumpkins of varying sizes on stairs and doorsteps
  • Use cornstalks, sunflowers and square bales to add a touch of autumn inspired decorations to the garden and porches and decks
  • Hang chimes and spinners from trees, posts and along hooks in the garden
  • Scatter themed yard art to add a pop of color and draw the eye

Decorating the garden for fall should be a fun experience. Mix and match different decorations and experiment among varying themes. There are lots of ideas to draw inspiration from. Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy the crisp days of autumn around your very own home.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Zucchini Pickle Recipe

Image: Simon Speed via Wikimedia Commons

Do you find yourself swimming in a sea of zucchini? I know I did the first year I grew it. I had so much zucchini I didn’t know what to do with it until I stumbled upon a recipe for zucchini pickles. While I don’t usually care for zucchini, the only time I’ve liked it was in my grandmother’s zucchini bread, I can say I do like these zucchini pickles. They are crunchy and great eaten alone or in a sandwich.

Zucchini Pickle Quick Facts

Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Marinating Time: 4 Hours
Makes: 1 Quart Zucchini Pickles

Ingredients for Zucchini Pickles

  • 1 Pound Zucchini (about 2 medium-sized)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 3 Cups Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Salt (pickling or kosher)
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Mustard Seeds
  • ½ Teaspoon Celery Salt
  • ½ Teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 ½ Cups Cider Vinegar

Supplies for Zucchini Pickle Recipe

  • Paper Towels
  • Cutting Board
  • Utility Knife
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Wooden Spoons
  • Strainer
  • Saucepan
  • Pot Holders
  • 1 – Quart Jar w/ Sealable Lid

Steps for Making Zucchini Pickles

  1. Rinse zucchini and slice thinly discarding the ends. Place slices in mixing bowl.
  2. Halve the onion and then cut into thin slices. Place slices in mixing bowl.
  3. Add water and salt to mixing bowl and stir. Let sit for 2 hours.
  4. Strain zucchini and onion mixture. Return to mixing bowl.
  5. Place sugar, mustard seeds, turmeric, celery salt & vinegar in sauce pan. Stir to mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When mix comes to a boil, pour over zucchini and onions. Let stand for 2 hours.
  6. Pour content of mixing bowl into sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Ladle zucchini pickles into quart jar. Pour hot pickling liquid into jar leaving ¼” of headspace.
  7. Remove air bubbles and seal jar with lid. Refrigerate after opening.

Recipe Credit: Coyle, Rena. My First Cookbook. New York: Workman Pub., 1985. Print.

I always give credit where credit is due. This recipe is not my own, you probably deciphered that after seeing the credit. My mother has had My First Cookbook since I was a kid. I remember leafing through it to see what I could make on snow days. I loved it as a kid; it’s full of great recipes and it’s one I’d recommend for your kids. Happy cooking!

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Dry Herbs in 5 Steps

Drying herbs straight from the garden is a tasty and cost effective way to preserve them. All you need are a few simple things that can be found around the house and a cool, dry, dark place to dry them. Here’s what you need:

Herb Drying Supplies

  • Fresh Herbs
  • Paper Bags (lunch bag size)
  • Rubber Bands
  • Newspaper
  • Jars with Lids (small or large)
  • Labels

Drying Herbs in 5 Steps

Step 1: Choosing Herbs

As you snip fresh herbs from the garden, choose ones that are mature and disease free. Pick them at the height of their flavor. Shake loose any bugs or debris before bringing them into the house.

Step 2: To Hang or Not to Hang

To Hang: If you have herbs with long stems such as lavender, it’s easier to hang them to dry. Wrap a rubber band about 2 - 3" up from the bottom of the stems to secure the bunch together. Slip a paper lunch bag over the top of the bunch so the 2 - 3" of stem are sticking out. Hang the bunch of herbs upside down in a cool, dark and dry place. The paper bag will catch any herbs that fall from the stem as they dry. The rest can be removed from the stem by hand.

Not to Hang: Some herbs, such as basil, can be dried by laying them flat on newspaper. Lay sheets of newspaper in a cool, dry and dark place. Place individual leaves or sprigs of herbs on the newspaper so they aren’t touching. Give them time to dry.

Step 3: Shred, Rip & Dice Dry Herbs

What do the herbs look like that are already in your kitchen cupboard? Are they shredded into small pieces that fit nicely into your measuring spoons and cups? Think about how you’re going to use them the most and shred, rip and dice your dried herbs accordingly. For herbs like bay leaves, keep them whole.

Step 4: Choosing Containers

You can buy spice containers or save the ones already in your cupboards as they empty. I use Mason jars, both small and large depending on how many dried herbs I have to store. Always label your containers with the name of the herb and the date.

Step 5: Storing Dried Herbs

You may want to proudly display your collection of dried herbs along your stove top or on a shelf in the kitchen, and hey, who could blame you, but too much exposure to light can diminish the flavor of your prized herb collection. The best place to store them is in the cupboard out of the light.

Additional Tips for Drying Herbs

  • Check herbs weekly as they dry
  • Remove dried herbs from the stem over a sheet of paper, bend the paper so it’s almost folded in half & dump into the container
  • Cut small vents in paper bags to increase airflow & drying times
  • Instead of newspaper, use drying racks to dry herbs without hanging

Planning Ahead for the Next Growing Season

As the herbs that you dried begin to dwindle, keep a list of which herbs you used the most and which ones you wish you had. Use this list as a guide for which herbs to grow next year. P.S. A jar full of dried herbs straight from your garden makes a great gift.

Related Articles

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

4 Gardening Tips for the Month of September

Gibby's Garden
You've been diligent. You’ve worked hard all summer long pulling weeds, watering, carefully tying wayward plants to their supports and implementing the best organic pest control you know how. September is here and there’s still much to do. Here’s a list of tips gathered from my own experience to help your garden go out with a bang.

Tips for Gardening in September

Tip #1: Harvest!

You worked hard nurturing and pampering your organic vegetable garden all summer long. Now it’s time to reap your final rewards. Get out and harvest and continue to do so as vegetables mature. Keep in mind that the harvest will slow during the month of September as the nights turn colder and plants begin to die off.

Tip #2: Preserve Your Bounty

You’re bound to have excess vegetables from your harvest. Don’t let them go to waste! Freeze, preserve and dehydrate your vegetables so you can enjoy them all summer long. 

Tip #3: Continue to Weed

Weed? Yes you read that right. Though your vegetable garden is coming to an end, those pesky weeds are still striving to have their say. Continue to pull them, especially before they go to seed. This will help set you up for fewer weeds during the next growing season. Weed seeds will have no problem ingratiating themselves into the soil of your garden where they’ll snuggle quietly over the long winter months while waiting for spring.

Tip #4: Remove Dead Vegetable Plants

As your vegetable plants begin to die off, pull them and toss them into the compost pile. If any are diseased, tomato plants with blight for example, bag those and put them by the curb on trash day. Whatever you do with your plants, don’t leave them piled up in the garden over the winter. These piles provide welcoming homes for pests to nestle under over the winter.

Winding Down for the Season

For those of us in the north, the gardening season is starting to wind down. What we do now, in September and October, influences our gardens next year in terms of a preemptive strike against pests, weeds and disease. My best tip for the month of September; get outside and enjoy what’s left of the season and take a moment to remember why it is you love to grow your own organic vegetables. Was it worth it?