Friday, February 27, 2015

Rain Coming - Good time for transplanting

Dear Folks,

With the rain coming in this weekend, it is a good time to get your transplants in - the rain will seal the soil to the roots very well and give the plants a good drink.

FYI - I have tomato and other plants and seedling starts for sale today at the Mesa Farmers Market  9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

This time of year is also prime disturbed weather conditions for hail (warm/cold/wind), so have your frost protection available to cover young plants - I like these poor man's cloches - you can also use 2 liter soda bottles.  Always clean well, so you do not have mold issues.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cardinal Hide 'n Seek, Free shipping on books and calendar expiring soon, Transplants

Dear Folks,

Mr. Cardinal played hide and seek with me among the bare/flowering apricot and plum trees - he was quite talk-a-tive :-)

 They do not visit us often - usually around this time of year or later in spring.  Sometimes with the Mrs. and a juvenile.  Just one of the delights in the garden when you have cover for them.

All of our fruit trees are now at one point or other in bloom so I'm trying to capture these delights of the day.  Our Johnny-Jump-Up lawn is starting to bloom nicely.  This picture was taken last year at this time.  The "pansy forest" is going to be even more dense this year - I will post pictures later in March/April to give you the full effect :-)

Meanwhile, my publisher's offer of free mail shipping or discounted ground shipping expires tomorrow (February 25th) near midnight.

A reminder note about my calendar.  This is the first year I've been able to produce a desert edible specific calendar and I intend to make a new one each year, with new photos and any additional tips I add.  Having said that, I would encourage you to think of this calendar as "perpetual" - all of the information remains the same for each month and through out the year

My Publisher's Free / reduced Shipping Offer


With the cooler weather for this week, it is a great time to get more of your transplants in the ground.  I will have transplants and seedling "starts" available at the Friday Mesa Farmers Market each week for the next several weeks.  It is to your benefit to get them in the ground as soon as possible.

Have a great day in the garden,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Publisher is Offering Free Mail Shipping or Discount on Ground

Dear Folks,

My publisher is offering free Mail shipping or 50% off of Ground shipping until February 25, 2015

Don't Miss Out On Free Shipping!
Get free mail shipping or 50% off ground shipping on your order.
Cannot be combined with other offers.
Offer ends February 25th at 11:59pm
Use Code: DBS15

My page on the publisher's site.

Scroll through for pint calendar and books.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, February 08, 2015

New! MOBILE "Desert Gardening Perpetual Calendar"

Dear Folks,

Many of you know and have purchased (thank you!) my brand new Wall Calendar designed specifically for gardening with edibles in the desert.

With all of the "mobility" tech devices out there, I thought a downloadable version of the calendar would be helpful.

While the calendar is for 2015, all of the month-by-month planting information, gardening maintenance, and tips don't change. The planting and "To-Do" chores are the same next February as this February.

I do plan on bringing out a new Wall Calendar each year with new pictures from our gardens and any additional tips I can pass on to you, however both the wall calendar and the digital calendar can be treated as a PERPETUAL calendar.

So, I created a PDF version of the calendar.

See information below on PDF readers.

WHY purchase a digital edition?

Convenience!  That is the primary reason everyone has a smart phone or eReader handy.

Let's say you are out shopping and think:  "Now what plants / seeds did I need to get this month?"  Check the calendar on your device.

You are discussing things you would like to do in the garden with friends or family and you are away from home - check the calendar on your device!

Your friend or relative knows you garden and asks what to can they plant?   Check the calendar on your device!

The PDF file is $6 (the wall calendar is $16.96 plus shipping).  I think my wall calendar is beautiful and useful (and so do many of you), but something that is even more convenient for you and if it will get you growing more of your own food, I don't mind one bit if you go the less expensive way, plus have a calendar that will work from year to year.  (There is a preview under the picture on the site.)

Desert Gardening Success - Perpetual Calendar

PDFs can be read on any device which has a PDF reader, Adobe supplies these all free as a download.  You can also store the file on all of your devices: phone, ereader and computer

Here is a link for Adobe's free mobile app for smart phones and iPad

Adopbe has a free "digital editions" app for certain other eReaders

And, if you do not the Adobe PDF reader on your computer or laptop, you can get it free here.

Mac version of the Adobe PDF reader

If you would like the wall calendar here is the link for it.

You may wish to check out the PDF version of my cookbook 101+ Recipes from The Herb Lady

There is also a preview under the cover picture.

Helping you grow more of our own food, successfully!

Have a great day in the desert garden,

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Monday, February 02, 2015

Nasturtiums and a Little Magic Moment in the Garden

Dear Folks,

Thanks to almost 2 inches of rain in 3 days we turned off the irrigation water and probably won't have to start up again for about 2 weeks!  Money saved.

While touring the gardens yesterday on a bright sunny morning I discovered this delightful image - it felt magical with the water drop magnifying the veins of this large nasturtium leaf.

During the Freeze 3 or so weeks ago, many of the nasturtiums took a hit but so many were already germinating and growing under the canopy of the dieback, it does not look like we were frosted at all.

Nasturtiums are some of my favorite edibles.  They happily reseed each year filling all the tree wells and volunteering in other places, like beside the compost cinder block bed etc.  They grow and bloom from fall into early summer.

The flowers, leaves, and immature seeds are totally edible and they are used as a pest-bug deterrent by some.

So how big is "large" -- 7 inches - some slightly bigger!!

I've used my leaves to make "dolma" aka stuffed grape leaves, substituting the nasturtium for grape leaves. On a side note one of these years I'm going to have to try and catch some of our fig leaves when young and make dolma (my research found references to the original dolma did use fig leaves).

Here is the link to my recipe for Nasturtium Leaf Dolma

Flowers and leaves are a great addition to salads.  The immature seeds are a nice bite of horseradish for salads, dressings, sauces or soups.  CAUTION:  Pregnant women should limit the amount of nasturtiums in their diet.

It is not too late to get some nasturtiums growing in your garden.

Nick the seeds slightly with a nail file or similar (don't go too deep), soak over night or for 2 days and plant half to 1 inch down.  Nasturtiums germinate in the dark.

Enjoy these edibles for their beauty and flavor!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Find my wall calendar and books on the publishers site:

You can also find the books on these sites:


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Doing The Tough Stuff In The Garden

Dear Folks,

It goes without saying that we love our garden.  We love the trees, veggies, fruits and flowers.  When we have to take put plants it grieves us.  We have an orderly garden, but not a manicured one and it has been our habit when plants we enjoy harvesting from are doing well, we let them be.

The challenge comes when the encroachment of one variety into another requires us to - finally - take action.

Strawberries and asparagus companion very well together.  But after the last couple years of dwindling asparagus harvest we finally had to address the alpine strawberries taking over the asparagus territory. Sigh.

The strawberries encompassed so much of what we call the upper garden we have been able to pick some fruit pretty much every month year-round with about 3 heavy harvesting periods a year.  Sigh again.

So, Deane tackled digging out all the strawberry plants in the asparagus territory.  I saved some for some friends and may bring a bag or two of clumps to the market it they are looking okay then.

The picture shows Deane about half-way through the digging part (dig, shake off dirt, toss in a pile), and the pile of plants which I added to one of our tree wells for composting in-place.  I couldn't add these beloved plants to the dump trailer.

I picked up some replacement asparagus plants yesterday.

I know our remaining strawberry plants will continue to fruit and reproduce.  I actually may thin a little to open up the remaining plants.  Alpines do not produce a lot of runners, but do produce a lot of seed.  We find seedlings in the most amusing places - middle of the lawn, middle of the berm (that one is a hardy one since it gets no direct water!), or tucked at the edge of a tree elsewhere.

And so it goes and grows in our garden.

Enjoy your garden too, and take time to think about what the plants need.

If you need help, I'm always happy to answer your email questions (or in person at the Mesa Farmers Market), or you can find printable help at my publisher's site.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gardening By Zone - USDA 9b / Sunset Zone 13

Dear Folks,

Gardening By Zone - Why It Matters!

Living in the desert and loving to garden here is my passion, but also my inspiration to help others garden successfully.  Much of it is based on my/our trowel and error experiences of what worked and how.

It is a serious challenge when a would-be gardener moves here from New Jersey or Minnesota  – where the gardening season is 90 to 120/140 days.  Even Southern Californians have trouble understanding our climate.  They are used to gardening year-round, but get caught up with the heat issue.

In 4-season climates like the Midwest or northeast, you basically looked to your local nursery for when to buy and plant things.

While some of that is true here in the desert, it is also true that nurseries here:  1) carry plants grown elsewhere, and 2) carry plants that people request, which are not always seasonally appropriate.  This is particularly true of the chain nurseries, although they do try to have regional nursery selections available.

I'm not knocking the nurseries - it is a business fact of life - your customer wants a tomato plant in late September or Early October - you give them the plants, even though the production going into fall and winter is either severely limited or non-existent.  Tomatoes like their feet warm and need long, warm/hot all day sunshine to thrive.

So it becomes really important to understand what zone we are in, and to make use of planting data that I or some of the organizations in the Valley (like the County Extension Service) provide.

It is vitally important to understand our zone because ordering plants outside of Arizona may give you very poor results.

For example:  For years Starks Brothers Nurseries, who are known for the quality of their fruit trees, listed the Valley as USDA Zone 8 (I believe they have since corrected this).

The problem became apparent when folks ordered fruit trees (we had a very early experience with this) that their catalogs "said" would grow here, and we watched the trees die, quickly, and never fruit.  Their customer service was spectacular –  they replaced the trees and even offered to give us a 3rd round of replacements, but it was apparent they simply would not thrive here - it is a matter of chill hours.

Deciduous fruit trees that will grow and produce here in the valley are desert adapted bred specifically for our climate.

The Zones

We are in USDA Zone 9b and Sunset Magazine Zone 13.

The Sunset Zone 13 is the more important of the two as Sunset had researched the details of how elevation, microclimates and cold impacts regional gardening.  In Zone 13 we can literally garden year round, with a climate which is 'subtropical' (specifically “subtropical hot desert) and very like the Mediterranean (Jerusalem) and other parts of the world (Alice Springs, Australia – except Alice Springs’ year is reversed from ours).

Move into Sunset Zone 12 and your gardening is reduced to about 300 days of the year instead of 360.

Successful Gardening

Based on the number of gardening days here, the specifics of seed germination, amount of day light hours, and soil and air temperature, gardening successfully here in the desert is about when to plant.

Fruit Trees, for example, do best if planted in the cool fall (October-ish), which allows the roots to get good and strong before summer temperature impact the soil surface temperature.

Chill hours are important for choosing deciduous fruit trees here.  Choose one with more chill hours than your backyard has, and you will likely never get fruit except in those rare winters when we have multiple days of below 30 temperatures - say every 5 or so years!

Even in the Valley here we have microclimates which can create a range of chill hours and frost from as low as 250 hours (some parts of Mesa) to 900 hours (Queen Creek).

It is important to understand the chill hours of your backyard.

Other perennials such as herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano etc. also do best if planted in the fall.  They will not do much growing the first year because of the limited winter day light hours.  But the plant is busy putting down healthy, deep roots.

Varieties of vegetables and other herbs are divided into cool and warm weather categories.

Cool weather varieties are the root crops (beet, carrot, radish etc.), the cabbage family, all the greens, sugar peas, and herbs such as cilantro and dill.

Warm weather varieties are the beloved tomato, along with eggplant, peppers, tomatillos and herbs such as basil, chives and epazote.

What all this means.

If you get a case of spring fever in early March and start planting brussels sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes and basil, the first two may come up but will stall or die and the last two will do some growing, but should have been planted at the beginning of February, to take advantage of the warming soil, but not the galloping temperatures.

Basil is always the surprise for new-to-the-desert gardener.  In the middle of July, basil planted at the right time in late winter (early February), can turn into a 3 x 3 foot (or bigger) bush!  It loves the heat, but it has to have a deep root system to thrive.

Sunset Zone 13 is not just for the Valley of the Sun.  Below are other cities which are in Zone 13 and gardeners there can benefit from our resources.  (I also, for the sake of ease of finding cities, listed both the Phoenix Metropolitan area as well as the Yuma Metropolitan area.)

My Wall Calendar for gardening in this zone gives month-by-month planting information along with monthly to-do helper tips.

The Maricopa County Extension Service has helpful links for the backyard gardener.

The Valley Permaculture Alliance offers a free question and answer forum and classes for a low fee.

These listed cities and communities (I couldn't resist adding the "ghost towns" as I figure some intrepid souls may be giving a homestead a go there) are based on Sunset's Zone Maps.

Folks who live in the Valley here and have friends or relatives in any of the listed cities, can reliably share gardening tips and information.  I personally consider sharing the love of gardening one of the best connections to family and friends.

I did my best to be accurate here.  If I made a mistake whether including one or excluding one, please let me know.

Phoenix Metropolitan Area:
Apache Junction
Cave Creek
El Mirage
Fountain Hills
Litchfield Park
Paradise Valley
Queen Creek
San Tan Valley
Sun City
Sun City West
Sun Lakes

Yuma, Arizona area Cities and Communities which may also be in Sunset Zone 13
Arizona City (Ghost Town)
Avenue B and C
Castle Dome Landing (Ghost Town)
Castle Dome (Ghost Town)
Cocopah Indian Reservation
Colorado City (Ghost Town)
Dome (Ghost Town)
Donovan Estates
El Prado Estates
Fillibusters Camp (Ghost Town)
Fort Yuma Indian Reservation
Fortuna (Ghost Town)
Fortuna Foothills
Gila City (Ghost Town)
Hyder (Ghost Town)
Kofa (Ghost Town)
La Laguna (Ghost Town)
Martinez Lake
Mission Camp (Ghost Town)
Orange Grove Mobile Manor
Owl (Ghost Town)
Padre Ranchitos
Pedrick's (Ghost Town)
Polaris (Ghost Town)
Rancho Mesa Verde
San Luis
Wall Lane
Wellton Hills

Other Cities in Sunset Zone 13
Alamorio, California
Bagdad, California
Bard, California
Blythe, California
Bonds Corner, California
Borrego, California
Brawley, California
Cadiz, California
Calexico, California
Calipatria, California
Citrus View, California
Coachella, California
Cross Roads, California
Curlew, California
Danby, California
Date City, California
Desert Springs, California
Desert Center, California
Dixeland, California
Earp, California
Edgar, California
El Centro, California.
Fuller, California
Havasu Lake, California
Herber, California
Holtville, California
Imperial, California
Indian Wells, California
Indio, California.
Mecca, California
Meloland, California
Moss, California
Needles, California
Niland, California
Ocotillo, California
Orita, California
Palm Desert, California
Palm Springs, California
Palo Verde, California
Parker Dam, California
Plaster City, California
Salton, California
San Isidro, California
Sandia, California
Seeley, California
Vidal, California
Westmoreland, California
Wiest, California
Winterhaven, California

I hope you find this information helpful.  I hope everyone grows some or more of their own food.  The reward is far more than excellent food.  The process of nurturing plants to healthy growth, flower and fruit is almost unequal to the overall sense of satisfaction.

There is peace within a garden,
a peace so deep and calm
That when the heart is troubled
it’s like a soothing balm
There’s life within a garden,
a life that still goes on
Filling empty places
when older plants have gone
There’s glory in the garden
every time of year
Spring, summer, autumn, winter,
to fill the heart with cheer
So ever tend your garden,
its beauty to increase
For in it you’ll find solace,
and in it you’ll find peace.

– Rosamond, Lady Langham

I was truly blessed to have a copy of the book in which this poem appeared from Lady Langham's family.  A true reminder of the pleasures of gardening.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady