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Sustainable Gardening: Herbs For Fall Planting
By Ann Lovejoy
Thursday, October 9, 2008
As the rains arrive, we can take advantage of soil that still is summer warm and plant pretty much anything except tender tropicals. Among my favorite fall planting candidates are combinations of hardy herbs and minor bulbs. The bulbs bloom early and fade by the time the herbs start producing their billowy foliage and flowers. Almost all herbs are best planted in fall. The exceptions are annuals such as Sweet Annie, an annual artemisia with intensely fragrant and lacy green leaves. This is a great time to harvest Sweet Annie, adding the frilly foliage to potpourri to refresh the house in winter.
Another terrific potpourri plant you can plant now is costmary, or Chrysanthemum balsamita. Sometimes sold as Tanacetum balsamita, this hardy herb has broad, long leaves that look rather like French sorrel. Costmary foliage has a warm, enticing fragrance that persists long after the leaves are dried.
To use costmary in potpourri, dry the leaves in a dim, warm place (perhaps a closet or kitchen cabinet). When dry, crumble them gently and combine with dried lemon balm, dried lemon thyme and fresh rosemary for a natural room deodorizer.
Worried about West Nile Virus? Try growing your own natural mosquito repellent. Research has proven that catnip is more effective than harsh, dangerous chemicals such as DEET at repelling mosquitoes.
Give your catnip plenty of sun and grow it in lean, well-drained soil. To keep cats away, cover each plant with a bowl-shaped cover of chicken wire. To keep the essential oils of high quality, don’t fertilize catnip and don’t water unless you really must.
In general, drought tolerant herbs such as catnip will sail through their first summer without much water as long as they are planted in fall. Fall planting gives their roots time to reach deep into the soil, making the plants better able to withstand dry soil and summer heat.
To make your own repellent, cover 2 cups of catnip foliage with 2 cups of mild rice vinegar. Let stand for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain into a clean jar and use as a skin spritz when you go outside.
You also can make catnip oil by covering 2 cups of catnip with 2 cups of light body care oil (grape seed oil is great). Let stand for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain into a clean jar and rub on exposed skin before going out of doors.
If you have questions, direct them to: Ann Lovejoy, 8959 Battle Point Drive NE, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.