Summer seems to be on the fast track in my part of the country. The days are not only getting longer, they're getting hotter, and fast. To be honest, I prefer a long spring, but that doesn't seem to happen much anymore. The weather it is a-changin' -- or so the experts keep warning us.
I was out in the garden earlier than usual this morning. I'd forgotten how slumberous a garden can seem when it's blanketed with dew. I'll have to make a habit of getting up at dawn more often.This is an odds and ends day here at The Herb Gardener. I'll start off with a simple but useful tip I've already shared on Twitter:
Keeping invasive herbs contained - If you want to keep plants like mint, lemon balm, comfrey and even grasses like bamboo under control, it pays to install an underground enclosure. Invasive plants will have trouble penetrating it and taking over a flowerbed -- or even an entire garden. For herbs, it's an easier chore than with some large, aggressive plants.
As a rule of thumb, the enclosure should surround the plant on all four sides, be relatively even with or slightly above the soil line, and penetrate as deep as the plant's roots are likely to burrow. Check plant descriptions for how deep to dig planting holes. That measurement will give you a good idea of expected root depth for most herbs and other plants.
Here's an example of how it works: One quick method is to take a plastic pot or other container, remove the bottom with a sharp knife, saw or craft drill and bury the pot in the soil. (I'm not proud. In the past, I've used plastic kitty litter tubs, old plastic wastepaper baskets and anything else that looks like a good size.) Fill the interior with quality potting mix and plant the interesting but greedy herb variety inside. Its roots will remain largely contained this way, but you might have to watch out for the occasional creeper. You can also mulch liberally around plants to keep runners from getting a good grip. If you're into harvesting herbs, keeping top growth under control shouldn't be much of a problem.
Watch your knees - Gardening can certainly cause back twinges, but another often neglected area of the body you should protect is your knees. If the terms and "hamstrings" and "quadriceps" are Greek to you, they're the thigh muscles that help protect knee joints from injury. If you're out of shape, discuss thigh strengthening exercises using these muscles with your doctor or wellness practitioner. Here's a general knee friendly tip: When you're gardening, remember to squat for short periods only and keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet.
GMO seeds - If you haven't weighed in on topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) like garden seeds, maybe you should. I wrote a basic primer a while back; you can find it here: What Are Genetically Modified Foods And Organisms? The subject is complex, though. If, like many of us, you have concerns, the folks at Eat Local Grown have published a list of companies that sell Monsanto free seeds. Monsanto is to agribusiness (and GMO development) what Microsoft is to software. It may be a bit late to take advantage of the list this year, but bookmark it for next spring: Monsanto Free Seed Company List
While we're on the topic of GMOs, there was an interesting article about exploding GMO watermelons you may want to look at. If it wasn't so scary, the whole thing would be funny. GMO Watermelons Exploding Like Land Mines in China
Food poisoning is on the rise - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning that foodborne illness is on the rise, largely due to two types of bacteria: Campylobacter, which is found in livestock (14 percent increase), and Vibrio vulnificus, found in seafood ( 116 percent increase). To help avoid foodborne illness of all kinds, it pays to follow some simple CDC guidelines:
- Don't leave prepared foods at room temperature longer than two hours - less time when the temperatures soar.
- Make sure your refrigerator is set below 34 degrees F.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after preparing food. (You're probably not scrubbing your hands long enough. The rule is to scrub for the length of time it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice (silently, please).
- Cook meats to a safe internal temperature. You can find the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and lots of other useful information here: Safe Eats - Meat, Poultry & Seafood
Vertical gardening video - If your herbs aren't in the ground yet, you might want to consider adding them to a vertical garden near your porch, deck or patio. There's a very interesting video at HomeDepot.com that offers specific instructions on how to build and plant a small vertical garden. They use flowers for the demonstration, but the process would work equally well for your favorite herbs -- and keep them close by for easy access. If you're handy and decide to give this project a try, please come back and let us know how it goes. How to Create a Vertical Garden
That's all for now, folks. Have a great day, and if you haven't explored your landscape just after sunrise in a while, give it a try. You'll enjoy waking up with your garden.
CDC. "Estimates of Foodborne Illness." 2/6/2013. http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/
Fox, Maggie. "Food poisoning on rise in US, survey finds." NBC News. 4/18/2013. http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/18/17813283-food-poisoning-on-rise-in-us-survey-finds?lite
Krans, Brian. " CDC: Certain Food Poisonings on the Rise, Improved Prevention Needed." 4/19/2013. Headline News. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/public-cdc-food-poisoning-rising-041803
Photos - Courtesy of Morguefile.com