Growing Garlic- 5 Reasons Why You Should

Is it possible to have a favorite herb? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to choose one yet. BUT, Garlic is definitely one herb I won’t ever be without.

How to grow garlic and five reasons you should.

A- garlic- bulb- that -has- been- harvested -and -is -ready- to -be used. -Garlic- has- a -dry -paper-like- skin -once -it -has- been- harvested- and -dried
A garlic bulb that has been harvested and is ready to be used.

Five Reasons to Grow Garlic:

  • Garlic is an anti-bacterial– there are many studies that show how garlic combats harmful bacteria. You can read one study done on the effectiveness of garlic against bacteria in food that would cause the consumer to get sick. The extract of the garlic kills and/or inhibits the pathogen from multiplying.
  • Garlic is anti-viral– long before the Coronavirus became national and global news, there were and are many virus that attack the respiratory system as well as all the systems of the body. As you may know, a virus cannot be killed by an anti-biotic. Also, by nature a virus will mutate as it spreads making vaccinations largely ineffective. So, with studies showing naturally occurring compounds in garlic to be effective against the respiratory diseases, garlic an incredibly valuable herb.
  • Garlic is anti-fungal– when it comes to fungus, there are few that we really welcome into our lives. Mushrooms being the most popular. There are also fungi that wreak havoc on our bodies and Candida albicans is one of the most common. The natural compound Allicin is a powerful compound and can neutralize the fungi.
  • Garlic is delicious- When it comes to bringing flavor to the party, garlic is a heavy hitter. The more the merrier, I always say. It goes great with lots of food, one of my favorite dishes is a French dish of scalloped potatoes.
  • Garlic keeps Vampires at bay- Now, I know vampires are lore, but after the previous two years- why not just cover all our bases? For centuries, garlic has been said to have supernatural powers. This stems from the fact that during the plague, garlic mongers did not get sick. So, folks deduced that it must be the garlic and they began to wear bulbs of garlic around their necks to ward off the evil spirits that made you sick. We now know that it was all those anti-microbial qualities of garlic that we discussed above that kept the garlic mongers from getting sick.
a-beautiful-garlic-bloom
Nothing Prettier Than A Garlic Plant In Bloom

As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic.  When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic.  How marvelous!  Just one problem…

If you want to grow garlic in Texas or anywhere in the South, you need to plant is in September or October, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox.  Once planted in the early fall, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest.  Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow.  But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.

How To Grow Garlic

To get started, you will need something to plant- right?  Garlic can be purchased in the store as a bulb.  In that bulb are many cloves.  Each clove when planted will produce another bulb and the cycle just keeps going.  So, once you purchase your garlic you will not ever need to purchase more, just save some cloves from your harvest and you will be good to go.  You can plant the garlic from the grocer or you can order from a seed company.  If you order from a seed company you will know exactly what variety you are getting and in the supermarket you will have no idea.  I have planted plenty from the grocer and did just fine but ordering from an organic grower means you know what you are getting.

Two suppliers that I like to order from are:

Baker’s Creek

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

The looser the ground, the better for growing garlic.  However, I have grown in clay and done fine.  Just dig a little whole twice as deep as the clove is long and plant the clove pointy end up.  Then wait.  You can inter plant with something like lettuce that has a shallow root system to make use of the open soil and double your harvest from the same square footage.  For the best harvest, you will need to water- but no more than you would for any other crop. One inch once a week is perfect.

Laying- Out- the- Garlic- cloves -in -prepared -soil.
Laying Out the Garlic cloves in prepared soil.
bright- green- leaves -of -the- young -garlic- plants
Young Garlic Plants

You will know when to harvest by the fact that the stalks have bloomed and now are beginning to turn brown.  Use a pitch fork or something similar to loosen the soil.  Gently pull the garlic up.  Spread the stalks on a dry and flat surface and let the cure (dry out a bit and the outer “paper” will dry).  Garlic can by stored for the better part of the year easily meaning that if you plant enough you will never need to buy garlic again.

Some-varieties-of-garlic-have-beautiful-purple-stripes-like-these-pictures
Gorgeous- inside and out!

Regardless of why you grow garlic- for use as a natural medicine or to create culinary masterpieces- Happy Planting!

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5 Reasons Rosemary Should Grow In Your Garden

Upright Rosemary

“What’s your favorite herb?”

This is probably the question I am asked most often.  I couldn’t pick a favorite herb- possibly a Top 10 list, but never a favorite.

Rosemary is an herb that would ALWAYS be on this list and very likely in the #1 spot.  The reasons are many- from ease of growing to the powerful medicinal benefits- but for sake of time, I will narrow it down to five reasons you will love Rosemary.

5 Reasons To Grow Rosemary

#1 Rosemary loves heat.

I have always gardened in Texas and it is ALWAYS hot in the summer.  Rosemary doesn’t care, in fact- it likes it!  Because Rosemary hails from hot, arid conditions in Northern Africa and the Mediterranean, its DNA makes it perfect for Texas gardens and the great majority of the United States. This is definitely an herb that should be a foundation of your herb garden.

#2  Rosemary Protects Against Alzheimer’s

Rosemary may also become useful in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease in the near future. Researchers have discovered that certain phytochemicals in the herb prevent the degradation of acetylcholine, an important brain chemical needed for normal neurotransmission. A deficiency of this chemical is commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients.  See full article here

I, personally, am not waiting for all the test results, I have started including rosemary in our family’s diet on a daily basis.  An easy way to use rosemary medicinally is in a tincture.

#3 Rosemary Makes A Great Hedge

Rosemary can be utilized as a shrub.  If you are feeling creative, rosemary can be shaped into topiary.  But more simply, plant as a hedge and trim like any other landscape hedge- except save the clippings and make a tincture!

Rosemary is heat and drought tolerant so it saves on water usage.  Very few pest or fungal problems exist with rosemary.

It blooms!  Very pretty light blue flowers appear in spring and continue for several weeks.  Some years, rosemary will bloom again in the fall.

#4 Bees LOVE Rosemary

Its becoming common knowledge (THANK GOD) that our bee population is in trouble and if the bees go, we go.  Two of every three bites we eat are pollinated by bees.  As we have said, Rosemary needs little care and won’t need spraying of any kind to look beautiful, so it is a great choice for feeding bees, butterflies and a whole host of beneficial insects.  So, plant some rosemary for the bees.  Don’t worry about getting stung, the bees have way too much work to do to worry over you.

#5 Rosemary Will Make You A Great Cook

Well, I may be over-selling rosemary’s abilities just a bit. However, it can’t hurt.  Rosemary can transform a dull chicken or homely sweet potato into something fantastic with very little effort.  Just sprinkle the chopped rosemary in the pot and – VIOLA!

Not only does rosemary taste great, but by adding it to your food you are taking advantage of the health benefits and those are many:

“Indigestion

Rosemary leaf is used in Europe for indigestion (dyspepsia) and is approved by the German Commission E, which examines the safety and efficacy of herbs.

Muscle and joint pain

Applied topically (to the skin), rosemary oil is sometimes used to treat muscle pain and arthritis and improve circulation. It is approved by the German Commission E for these purposes.

Alopecia

Historically, rosemary has been used to stimulate hair growth. In one study of 84 people with alopecia areata (a disease in which hair falls out, generally in patches), those who massaged their scalps with rosemary and other essential oils (including lavender, thyme, and cedarwood) every day for 7 months experienced significant hair regrowth compared to those who massaged their scalps without the essential oils. But the study was not well designed, and it is impossible to say whether rosemary caused the hair growth.

Neutralize food-borne pathogens

Several studies show that rosemary inhibits food-borne pathogens like Listeria monocytogenesB. cereus, and S. aureus.

Improve memory or concentration

Rosemary is often used in aromatherapy to increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress. One study suggests that rosemary, combined with other pleasant-smelling oils, may lower cortisol levels and help reduce anxiety. Another study found that the use of lavender and rosemary essential oil sachets reduced test taking stress in graduate nursing students.

Cancer

Several studies suggest that rosemary extract may inhibit tumor growth by preventing cancerous cells from replicating. One study found that rosemary, on its own and in combination with curcumin, helped prevent breast cancer. A second study found similar effects of rosemary on colon cancer cells.” Article here

So, you see, Rosemary should really be in your garden or at least in a pot on your patio!

I am also sure that you understand that I am NOT a doctor nor have I tried to diagnose or treat any of your ailments.

Bee on the Rosemary Bloom herb
upright-rosemary.jpg

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Dividing Perennials- Now Is The Time

Fall- the perfect time to divide perennials in the South.

Gorgeous- pink- crinums- in -Galveston- Texas- in- front- of- a -beautiful -front -porch -
Pink Crinums blooming in Galveston Texas

Fall is a great time of the year to thin out perennials that grew over the summer season.

In the lives of perennials, there comes a time when division is needed.  The plant has gotten too dense for the area in which it lives and it is time to make more plants.  These are often referred to as “pass-along plants” because they are easy to pass a division on to a friend.  

Dividing Perennials

To divide a perennial it is best to dig the plant out of the ground.  This way you can make more cuts producing more plants with far less damage.

Once the plant is out of the ground, clean as much dirt off as possible and cut the vegetation back by at least half.  Take your knife and cut down through the crown (the point at which the root system and the vegetation meet) and then separate the roots and continue cutting.

You can make as many cuts as you like, but cuts with a good thick part of the crown, plenty of roots, and vegetation will recover quicker.

To divide a cluster of bulbs or rhizomes, you simply dig up the bulbs or rhizomes and pull them apart.  The dug bulbs and rhizomes can be transplanted to another bed or spread around the existing area.

Materials Needed:

  • Sharpshooter Shovel or Other Shovel
  • Knife
  • Pruning Shears
  • Water
  • Pots (if plant is to be potted)

Now you have more plants to expand your gardens or to share. To share with a friend, simply bag them up and send them along.  If your friend lives far away, wrap the bulbs and/or rhizomes in damp newspaper to keep the plant material from drying out.  Just drop them in the mail and your friend will be happy to check the mailbox.

If you are new to gardening, you might like learning about herbs and about choosing plants for the shade. Often times, designing gardens for shady areas can be a challenge. New gardeners are often interested in knowing how to make trouble spots work. Choosing the right plants for shade is a lot easier when you have some basic information to start with in the beginning. Herbs are also a subject that a lot of new gardeners ask about, they are such fascinating plants.

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Books for 2021

Some people have one genre or a couple of authors that they love and that is all they read. Some folks only read non-fiction, others have certain genres that they will NOT read- never ever under any circumstances. Not me, I love reading and will read just about anything. Of course, I do have favorites in both genre and authors. I have read quite a few books this year- these are a few worth owning:

Non-fiction:

Beautiful Outlaw, Fathered by God, and Moving Mountains by John Eldredge

Without Rival by Lisa Bevere

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

Fiction

Naked in Death, here, by J.D. Robb

AND, of course,

Out of the Shadows and Compliments to the Chef by Holly K. Ross

Out of the Shadows and Compliments to the Chef book cover photo

How To Compost On a Small Scale

Composting on a Small Scale

Spring flowers in a container garden fertilized with compost

We’ve talked about composting before, but compost is so vital to healthy plants and beautiful gardens that we are going to talk about it- again.

This time, however, we are going to talk about composting on a small scale.  Many of us in Galveston do not have a large yard, if any, so a large composting bin or pile will not work.  At my home on Winnie Street, there is no soil to dig in, it is all concrete.  So, I have container gardens and a container compost bin. So, if you find yourself in a small gardening situation or even an apartment, this method will work for you.

The average kitchen produces plenty of green matter for a compost pile.  Green matter is fresh vegetation that is high in nitrogen.  Fallen leaves and old newspaper or boxes provide plenty of brown matter.  If you are using paper or cardboard, the smaller you tear or shred it, the better.  The brown matter is dried vegetation that is high in carbon.

What I use for my container is a large plastic pot that housed an ornamental tree from the nursery.  When I first began the compost bin, I layered leaves 2-3 inches thick with kitchen scraps about 1 inch thick then topped with another layer of brown matter.  You want a lot more brown matter than green matter.  I wet this down and left it alone.  In a few days, I stirred it.  If it got dry, I watered it.  My pot does have a few holes in the bottom so that it drains.  Given time, the ingredients break down and look like black soil.

There are a lot of myths about compost.  If your compost smells, you are doing it wrong.  Add more dry brown matter to the pile to correct the smell.  Rodents are not attracted to a compost pile unless you are adding meat scraps or cooked food- which you shouldn’t do.

Regardless of the size of your garden, compost is essential. Feeding plants is crucial to their health, all soil can be depleted regardless of the type of gardening that you are doing. In a container, the soil can be depleted much faster than in a garden bed. So, adding compost is a great way to feed the soil in a container garden.

Composting also keeps garbage out of the landfills. By converting your kitchen scraps such as vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and egg shells into black gold for your flowers and plants, you are helping the environment in so many ways.

There are many other ways of composting, including vermicomposting, but a simple bucket and some old leaves will get it going. You can also turn your compost into the best liquid fertilizer- compost tea.

As I have created gardens and grown all manner of plants for over a decade, people always ask how I get the great results.

COMPOST is the answer.

Here are some of the results:

Do not spread the compost on the weeds.”

William Shakespeare- Hamlet

Compost does make things grow, but thankfully weeds detest fertile soil. So, the more compost you use the more fertile your soil and the less

weeds you will have. Beautiful!

Here are some common kitchen items that make GREAT compost:

  • eggshells
  • vegetable trimmings
  • coffee grounds
  • old coffee
  • old tea
  • newspaper
  • paper towels
  • tea bags
  • old lettuce from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • any old veggies from the drawer of your refrigerator
  • banana peelings
  • paper egg cartons

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Holly K. Ross, where happily ever after is a way of life. Writer on Galveston Island
, ga

What To Do With A Critic?

I have known for a good many years that you had to have thick skin when raising children. You know the saying, “Three things don’t lie: drunks, children, and yoga pants.” Kids will speak out the truth as painful as the listener may find it.

Then I became a writer and published my first book. I KNEW I would not be everybody’s cup of tea. I like strong southern women who love Jesus but cuss a little. I also believe that sex is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated. I do not write about premarital sex or glamorize sleeping around. And I knew, having spent my entire life in the Bible Belt, that plenty of people believe that even mentioning sex or sexual attraction makes your book smut. I would like to point out that by this definition the Bible is smut. But, I digress- that is another post.

By and large, the reviews I have had have been very favorable. But a few, have stung! Its funny how the one bad review sticks in my head so much faster and securely than the ten good reviews I read before it. I talk to myself a lot. I have had many conversations explaining how I can’t believe my own press, good or bad. Those bad reviews should be taken, improvements made on parts I can, and then flushed. I am not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay. As a matter of fact, my peeps probably don’t drink cups of tea. They, more than likely, drink sweet tea by the gallon or Jack and Coke.

Then I ran across this quote:

“The only just literary critic,” he concluded, “is Christ, who admires more than does any man the gifts He Himself has bestowed.”

— J.R.R. Tolkien

http://www.goodreads.com

This man wrote the book that has defined the world of fantasy ever since. I should hope to write something so spectacular and deep in my life time. And, by the way, it did take him a life time to write Lord of the Rings. And even he dealt with critics.

So, on this day I remind myself of what Tolkien said and let Christ be the only critic that matters.

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It’s National Homemade Soup Day- Recipe!

I am a huge fan of soup. It is the first meal I made solo at the age of five. Yes, I was five- you can read all about it here. My mom made this soup frequently and she taught me how.

Soup comes in so many forms ranging from extremely difficult to super simple. What we called homemade soup is super simple. Because I only know how to make soup in a large quantity, I often freeze portions in quart size freezer bags. This soup reheats well making it a great option for daily lunches. This recipe is very flexible making a great way to repurpose leftovers such as pot roast or pinto beans.

Recipe for Homemade Soup

1 lb. of ground meat or ground turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 medium potatoes peeled and chopped
2-3 cups of mixed veggies- any kind you like
1- 13 once can of stewed tomatoes
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium skillet, brown the ground met with the onions. 

In an  8 quart stock pot or Dutch oven (you can use a larger stock pot- then you don’t have to worry about over-filling) bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Add enough water to boil the potatoes, but not so much that you have to pour a lot off, because the water does have lots of nutrients in it.  If you are using fresh or frozen veggies, add them now.  Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.  Add the ground meat, stewed tomatoes  and veggies- if you are using canned or leftovers.  Add seasonings and more water or broth as needed to achieve the desired consistency.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes then let  cool a bit.  This soup is great with cornbread or crackers.

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Herbs: An Overview

When thinking of gardening, cooking, eating healthy, one cannot get away from the beauty and necessity of herbs.  Regardless of your goal- to grow healthy food for you and your family, to attract butterflies, to make your gardens beautiful or to simply delight your senses- herbs fit the bill.

For the most part, herbs are perennials and hardy.  Even in our erratic weather patterns in Texas, herbs have performed very well for me and have brought me much satisfaction and joy.  As with most fresh food, when you have tasted the flavors of fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and more- you can never go back to the herb dust you can purchase off the shelves in the supermarkets.  The taste is just so amazing.  And by fresh, I also mean the herbs harvested and dried by your own hands.

And just to clarify a few terms:

Herbaceous– means that a plant dies back to the ground in winter, but comes back each spring.  You can have plants that are not herbs but are herbaceous and Herbs that are not herbaceous!

Perennial– a plant that returns year after year, can be evergreen or herbaceous.

Below is a tip sheet that will help you get stated in the wonderful world of herbs.

Many more articles on particular herbs and gardening are located in the Herb Category and in the Organic Gardening Category.

basil in the crate

Herbs- From Garden to Table

What To Plant Where

A large majority of herbs are perennials and biennials, so they will be with you for quite a while when choosing herbs:

  1. Consider their origin- did they come from wooded areas, desert areas, wet areas etc. and group like plants together.
  2. Consider water requirements of each plant
  3. Consider growth habits: height, cold hardy, heat tolerant, upright or rambler, etc.
  4. Consider their function:
  • For culinary use- what and how do you cook
  • Attract pollinators or repel insects
  • Or just for looks
  • Medicinal

Each of these points will help you determine where in your garden to locate the plants.  Obviously, a water loving herb does not need to be planted with Rosemary and Lavender as these herbs prefer a very dry climate.  If you consider these aspects before you plant everyone will benefit.

What Herbs are good for our area of Texas

  • Thyme- creeping lemon*
  • Sage- Salvia Officinalis*
  • Italian Oregano*
  • Lavender- English and Fern Leaf*
  • Parsley
  • Citronella
  • Basil- all kinds
  • Aloe Vera
  • Lemon Balm*
  • Mints*
  • Salad Burnett *
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Grass
  • Catnip
  • Stevia
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • Garlic (plant in September)
  • Roses

The list goes on as there are so many, but these will get you off to a good start!

*- good for planting in fall as they grow all year long

 Now To Table

  1. Use Fresh- simply snip and use- sprinkle chopped herbs in your dishes while cooking or on top as a garnish.
  2. Dried
  • Cut and tie in bundle (rubber bands work great!)
  • Hang to dry or dry in oven on low or a hot car
  • Grind and store- chop in blender, store in jars in a cool dark place like a pantry.

Herbed Oils or Vinegars-  place herbs in clean jar and cover with oil or vinegar and let steep for 3 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark place.

Island Life & Ice Cream

One of the BEST things about living on the island is that we can pick up the grandkids and head to the water.

We don’t have to stay long, but it always refreshes my soul.

Did you know that ice cream trucks come to the beach? When this one heard that music, she got right up in my face and said ” Do you hear that?!”

My G is still waters but she runs deep.

No worries, we’ll just wash off in the gulf.