Grow some for you, some for the beneficial insects
Rosemary is flowering now. The herb is super for
cooking all kinds of dishes. The sturdy stems also
are great to use for barbecuing meat
or vegetable kebabs. (Photo: Kathy Morrison)
While planting that spring and summer garden, don't forget to tuck some herbs in and around the vegetables and annuals.
The best herbs to grow, I believe, are the ones I think of as "double-duty" plants. They can be used in cooking and teas, but they also serve as enticements for beneficial insects.
"Beneficials" include some pollinators, such as bees, but they also include good bugs that fight the nasty ones. These include lady beetles, hoverflies, damsel bugs, green lacewings and parasitic mini wasps. (There's a full UCCE master gardener Garden Note just on beneficial insects .)
My focus here is the herbs to plant now, before the weather warms up and the bad bugs go to town on your young plants. Other than basil, which grows easily from seeds, I've found that transplants work best when starting these herbs.
Two important notes:
-- You have to let some of the herbs flower. The insects want the pollen and nectar from the blooms, though flowering ("bolting") turns some herbs bitter and unusable in cooking. Decide which plants will be for the insects and which ones for your use -- say, two varieties of basil for the bees, one Genovese basil for your pizzas and pesto.
-- Though this is unlikely if you're planning to consume the herbs yourself, pesticide use is not recommended on the plants. All the insects, good and bad, could be killed. Use a blast of water on the plant if the aphids get too thick. Otherwise, let the lady beetle and her buddies handle the job.
Top double-duty herbs:
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For week of Sept. 24:
This week our weather will be just right for fall gardening. What are you waiting for?
* Now is the time to plant for fall. The warm soil will get these veggies off to a fast start.
* Keep harvesting tomatoes, peppers, squash, melons and eggplant. Tomatoes may ripen faster off the vine and sitting on the kitchen counter.
* Compost annuals and vegetable crops that have finished producing.
* Cultivate and add compost to the soil to replenish its nutrients for fall and winter vegetables and flowers.
* Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.
* Plant onions, lettuce, peas, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, bok choy, spinach and potatoes directly into the vegetable beds.
* Transplant cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower as well as lettuce seedlings.
* Sow seeds of California poppies, clarkia and African daisies.
* Transplant cool-weather annuals such as pansies, violas, fairy primroses, calendulas, stocks and snapdragons.
* Divide and replant bulbs, rhizomes and perennials. That includes bearded iris; if they haven’t bloomed in three years, it’s time to dig them up and divide their rhizomes.
* Dig up and divide daylilies as they complete their bloom cycle.
* Divide and transplant peonies that have become overcrowded. Replant with “eyes” about an inch below the soil surface.
* Late September is ideal for sowing a new lawn or re-seeding bare spots.
Taste Spring! E-cookbook