At War in My Garden ~ Why I Love Growing Herbs

These unattractive enemies have taken over my squash, and I am spending much of my time and energy in a war against them.  Squash Beetles ~ nasty little things that suck the life out of the plants I’ve been nurturinSquashBeetleg since I first put seed to soil in mid March.  You name it, I’ve tried it :  Diatomaceous Earth, Rotonone Powder, Pyrethrum Spray … even the time consuming and not so pleasurable task of hand picking these creatures off of my squash leaves.  I’ve read articles, researched remedies and honestly, felt a lot of stress that is not a usual part of my post-spring mentality.  This ‘war’ runs against all of the reasons that I love growing plants;  growing puts me back in touch with the natural rhythms and harmony of the natural world. I like working WITH nature, not against it.  But, this is an on-going war and I refuse to surrender.

This whole unfortunate situation brings me back to the reason that I LOVE growing herbs.  Although they are not 100% free of worries, herbs have VERY FEW natural ‘enemies’.  My greenhouses are filled with over 150 different varieties of herbs, but I can safely say that not much of my time is spent ‘fighting’ or ‘fretting’ about pests.  These plants are really not bothered by insects the way fruit and vegetable plants can be plagued.  Most pest issues occur when trying to grow herbs indoors, but when planted in the garden, they seem to have much fewer pest issues.  Not, the qualifier is that you provide the best growing conditions – enough light, water and make sure that there is good air flow around each plant.  You do your part, the herbs will do theirs.  On the other hand, I’ve done my part, and more, in the case of the squash beetles and all I’m getting is aggravation!  Not sure who will ‘win’ this battle ~

The Growers Exchange’s ‘Anything Goes’ with Bouquet Garni

Note:  Living on a farm means you need to be versatile.  Pork Roast in the freezer, fresh whole chicken from a neighbor or a lovely roast from one of our own.  This recipe will work with ‘Almost Anything’!


  • Bouquet Garni
  • 3 lbs. of ‘Anything’:  Pot Roast, Pork Loin, Whole Chicken (cut up)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All purpose flour, for dredging
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small carrot, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 stalk celery, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped


Pat meat dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture as meat will brown better when they are dry. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge meat in flour, shaking off excess.

In a large Dutch oven pot, heat vegetable oil until smoking. Add meat to the hot pan and brown all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.

In the same pot, add the onion, carrot and celery. Season with salt at this point to help draw out the moisture from the vegetables. Saute until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Return browned meat to the pan and add the white (or red) wine and reduce liquid by half, about 5 minutes. Add the bouquet garni and 2 cups of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Check every 15 minutes, turning shanks and adding more chicken stock as necessary. The level of cooking liquid should always be about 3/4 the way up the meat.

Carefully remove the cooked shanks from the pot and place in decorative serving platter. Remove and discard bouquet garni from the pot.

Pour all the juices and sauce from the pot over the meat. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Bouquet Garni Recipe

The French are known for their cuisine, and herbs play a huge role in that reputation.  You, too, can cook like a French chef using the fresh herbs that you have been growing this spring and summer.  Create your own Bouquet Garni, and add the subtle flavors of herbs to any soup or stew.  This bouquet combines the classic herbs: parsley, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves to create a wonderfully aromatic base to any slowly cooked meal.  You can add other herbs to alter the flavor – sage, basil, rosemary, or cilantro.  Experiment and see what works for you and your own recipes.

A bouquet garni imparts subtle herbal flavor to soups and stews we’re simmering throughout fall. The classic combination of parsley, thyme and bay leaves creates an aromatic base for savory, slow-cooked meals perfect for the season. Other whole spices and herbs may be added to the mix for additional flavor.

Easy Steps:

  • Cut a 10” square of muslin cheesecloth, rinse in cold water and squeeze dry.
  • Flatten out on your work surface, and place the herbs and spices in the center of the cloth
  • Bundle the cloth and tie off with kitchen string, making sure that there are no gaps.
  • Use the fresh bundle in your cooking, and remove before serving.

Protect Your Garden… Naturally


You have put a lot of hard work into your garden, and now it is time to protect it!  The biggest pest problem you face is insects, and the easiest way to prevent insect damage is to create an ‘unfriendly environment’.  Your best defense is a HEALTHY GARDEN.  Here are a few tips:

Clean up:  make sure that you keep your plants clean by picking off any dead or dying leaves and stems.  Make sure to get rid of weak plants and take all of the plant material away from the garden area.  You want to keep weeds and debris out of the garden as that is a perfect spot for insects to breed.  Keep your tools clean, and disinfect if you have been working with infected plants.

Dry Foliage:  We want you to provide your plants with water, but it is important that you water in such a way that you keep the foliage dry.  Wet, soggy foliage encourages fungal growth, as well as insect infestation.  The best time of day to water is in the early morning, as that allows the foliage to stay dry for the majority of the day.  Drip irrigation is a great method to water the root system while leaving the foliage dry.

Feed Them:  We recommend a diluted feeding of seaweed fertilizer once a week.  Although it is a bit smelly, seaweed contains trace elements of iron, barium, calcium, sulfur, zinc and magnesium to encourage healthy growth and give them the strength to fight any potential disease.  Our favorite product is made by Neptune’s Harvest:

Use Them:  The more you use them, the better.  Spending time pinching back, pruning or harvesting is time well spent.  Routine inspection of your herb plants is a good means of not letting anything get out of control, and it is also a great way to relax.

Plant Based Insecticides:  In the event that you need use an insecticide, we recommend using a plant based product.  Plants actually produce many powerful chemicals to defend themselves against insects.  Pyrethrum is a safe and natural insecticide made from certain species of chrysanthemum, has relatively low toxicity and breaks down quickly.

How to Repel Insects Naturally


Throughout history, man has been plagued by insects.  And, man has fought back.  But, not with DEET or OFF, but inventive uses of plants.  Native Americans would pound the roots of Golden Seal, mix it with Bear fat and smear on their bodies to keep mosquitoes and black flies at bay.  Or, during the Middle Ages, herbs were an integral part of keeping a home both fragrant (well, as fragrant as you could back then) as well as fighting invasive vermin.  These plants are still effective, and a natural means of keeping modern man comfortable from the bites and annoyances of insects, especially in the summer months.

HER-FEV01-2TFeverfew works well to repel mosquitoes and other flying biting insects.  It is best planted outside along paths and close to windows and doorways and around patios.  It is especially effective when planted with citronella geraniums, lemon grass and lavender.

Pennyroyal, also known as Fleabane, works to repel ticks and fleas, as well as mosquitoes and gnats. Crushed pennyroyal leaves can be rubbed onto the skin as an effective insect repellent.  Additionally, you can also rub the leaves on dogs to help repel fleas and ticks.  Pennyroyal is often used in commercial natural insect repellent creams and sprays. Pennyroyal is great to plant in the garden, but it is best utilized as a topical insect repellent applied to the skin.

Mints, including Catnip and any member of the Mentha family, is known to deter mice and ants if planted around the foundation of the home.  It is recommended that you identify the ‘trouble spots’ where the pests are entering the home, and plant 3 – 7 plants at each entry point. Shallow bowls of water filled with mint leaves placed in the pantry is also known to keep mice away.

lemongrassLemongrass is a great mosquito repellent.  Planted in large containers on a deck, patio or by the pool it does deter most flying pests.  In the landscape, it makes a lovely grass with the same repelling qualities.  It is especially effective when planted in combination with Feverfew and Lavender.

Lavender is most useful for repelling mosquitoes and gnats when planted in the garden; it can also be planted in pots and placed by doorways and windows.  As with feverfew and lemongrass, lavender is best planted in the garden around seated and eating areas and also around windows and doors.   You can cut and dry lavender and place on windowsills to stop mosquitoes entering the house. Put dried lavender in closets to repel moths and keep clothes smelling fresh.

Citronella - Scented GeraniumCitronella Geranium has a mixed reputation and it is hard to say whether or not this LOVELY and EASY TO GROW geranium is actually effective at warding off mosquitoes.  It has the citronella scent, which leads one to believe that it has the active ingredient used in so many commercial products.  However, there are those who say that it is as far as it goes, fragrance.  In our own ‘tests’ we think that when the leaves are crushed and rubbed onto the skin, there is nothing better nor more fragrant at fighting those buzzing nuisances!

From Soothing the Body and Mind to Bringing Pollinators to the Garden, 10 Ways to Use Lavender

Lavender is one herb that many will find instantly recognizable, either by its soothing aroma or the distinctive purple blooms that grow in upright spears and bring droves of bees into the garden. While lavender can take a little longer to get established, this classic herb is well worth the effort. From aromatherapy treatments and topical applications for skin irritations and burns to a versatile potpourri and novel ingredient in recipes sweet and savory, lavender has a wide variety of uses around the home.


1. Treating Insomnia and Agitation: Aroma therapists have long touted lavender’s superior power to soothe nerves and aid in getting a sound night’s sleep. These treatments typically involve breathing in a lavender-laden vapor, drinking an infusion made from the dried petals, or dabbing a bit of the essential oil under your nostrils. A recent clinical study has also shown that lavender oil taken in capsule form can help to relieve anxiety and insomnia.

2. Relieving Headaches: Rubbing the essential oil of lavender on your temples or using a lavender-based aromatherapy treatment is also said to help provide quick relief for headaches. Drinking a warm infusion of lavender petals can also help to relieve flu and cold symptoms.

3. Topical Treatment for Skin Irritations: As a potent anti-inflammatory, lavender infusions are also helpful for treating bee stings, burns, and other topical irritants. Some people find that lavender honey, which is made by bees feeding primarily on lavender nectar, to be more effective than the essential oil for treating uninfected wounds. In addition to anti-inflammatory agents, lavender also has a natural antiseptic quality that makes this herb a useful addition to the herbalist’s medicine cabinet.

4. Healing Acne and Eczema: As an astringent and anti-inflammatory, lavender oil extracts are often used to treat fungal infections, as well as skin issues like eczema and acne. Oils or extracts can be diluted with water, witch hazel, or rose water, or added to lotions to give relief to chafed, irritated, and over-dry skin.

5. Joint and Muscle Pain: Infusing a hot bath with lavender is said to be an effective method for reducing muscle and joint pain. Add a little essential oil or some freshly crushed buds to create a soothing bath that will have a lasting effect.

6. Bring in the Bees: Honey bees love to feed on lavender, making it an excellent plant to complement your vegetable garden. Planting bee-attractive plants like lavender can help to increase the traffic of pollinators in the area, improving your overall yield. Lavender flowers produce high amounts of nectar, making them the perfect complement for any beekeeper. Honey made by lavender-feeding bees is highly prized, and marketed worldwide as a premium culinary product.

7. Natural Insect Repellent: While bees love lavender many insect pests do not. Try rubbing a little crushed lavender onto your skin before your next cookout to keep the bugs at bay. Placing dried lavender sachets in your drawers and closets can also help to repel moths — and keep your clothes and linens smelling amazing.

8. Therapeutic Shampoo: In addition to smelling lovely, rinsing your scalp daily with a steeped lavender tea can help to relieve itchy skin and clear up dandruff issues.

9. Alternative to Dryer Sheets: Dried lavender sachets can also be used to freshen your laundry during the dryer cycle. Simply gather bunches of dried flowers and bundle into a clean cloth bag that can be thrown in with bed sheets, linens, or any articles you would like infused with lavender’s soothing scent.

10. Lavender Recipes: There are an incredible number of novel recipes that incorporate dried or fresh lavender, as well as lavender honeys and sugars. The herb gives a slightly bitter and slightly sweet floral note that pairs well with everything from savory goat’s milk cheeses to tart lemonades and sweet scones. Most recipes use dried lavender flowers, but syrups and extracts are also available. A few drops of the extract can be used to flavor anything from cakes and cookies to frosting, fruit salads, and dressings.


Whether you are looking to start your own patch of lavender, or you would like to experiment with the dried blossoms and liquid extractions, you should keep in mind that there are several distinct types of lavender. When choosing a variety for a home garden, you should do a little research to find out what species will fare best under local soil and environmental conditions. When starting from seed you will often have to wait a season or two before harvesting your first blooms, but this versatile herb is well worth the wait!

We carry multiple varieties of Lavender, including Grosso & Hidcote. Buy now.