How Does Your Garden Grow?

Since I had spent the past year kicking cancer’s butt, I didn’t grow as much fresh produce or herbs as I once did last summer. However, I did grow a few of my beloved San Marzano tomatoes (plants from the Carbondale Farmer’s Market,) basil, a bit of oregano and rosemary– and a lot of mint. This gave me some flavorful options: salsa, pestos, gazpacho, and more.

Above: San Marzano Tomatoes and Thai Basil

Below: Herb Pesto and a bit of Pico de Gallo sauteed with mushrooms.

So far this season, I have a little lettuce, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil cilantro, and an expanding mint patch. I still need to finsish areas for tomatoes, peppers, onions, lots of basil, and hopefully even watermelons…. and more flowers. I am a fan of edible landscape.

Mixing herbs and flowers and veggies can be a good thing. Consulting a companion planting chart might be wise if they will share soil. Essentially, some have researched the Native American practice of planting certain plants together that support each other’s growth. Tisquantum, also known by many as Squanto, acted as a lifesaving liaison to the pilgrims. Without his assistance and sharing his knowledge of companion planting and organic fertilization, food would have been much more sparse. What is referred to as the Three Sister’s Method involved planting corn, beans, and squash together for successful growth. Squanto also taught the new immigrants to plant fish with corn as natural fertilizer. People now also may use other organic material when planting such as egg shells and shrimp shells.

Above: Cayenne peppers

Below: Japanese Eggplant

Listed below are some common companion planting groupings:

Tomatoes/basil

Corn/squash/beans

Mint/peas

Onions/garlic

Garlic/roses

Some No-No’s/Plants that Don’t Play Well Together:

Dill doesn’t go by tomatoes, rosemary, sage, onions, peas

Tomatoes don’t go by corns, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash

Fennel doesn’t go with onions, parsley, asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, nasturtiums, marigolds

There are also some functional benefits to landscape gardens beyond beauty and food. Marigolds have been used for many years as a detourrant to wildlife eating gardens as well as mosquitoes when used as a border.

Below are a few plants and what they are known for repelling:

Marigolds- plant lice, mosquitoes, rabbits.

Above: Marigolds

Chrysanthemums- Ants, Japanese beetles, roaches, bed bugs, spider mites, silverfish, ticks, lice

Mint- spiders, ants, mosquitoes. (Will spread and take over an area quickly. Planters or separate patches are best.)

Below: Fresh Mint

Below: Basil-mosquitoes, houseflies

Citronella grass- mosquitoes and flying insects

Lavender-Gnats, mosquitoes

Chives-Japanese beetles

Petunias-beetles, leafhoppers, aphids, tomato worms

Above: Petunias

Bay leaves- flies, roaches

Garlic-beetles, root maggots, carrot root flies, moths,aphids

Rosemary-bugs

Above: Rosemary

I’m also a fan of repurposing or using unexpexted items as planters. A few things, usually at least tomatoes, tend to go directly into the ground when possible, but that also increases the prospects of weeds. I have previously turned old door frames and box springs into raised garden beds for more shallow-growing plants like my oregano, lettuce, and green onions.

In Southern Illinois, we are blessed to have a climate that allows us to grow many things. I am thankful for that opportunity.

Corn & Salad Dressing

One of the go-to condiments in our house is a really quick corn dressing–mayo, Southern Illinois honey, and Sazón– to spread on corn of the cob. Sometimes I also sprinkle either parmesan or a cheese like feta or cotija onto it once it is on the cob.

When I couldn’t decide what to put on my chef salad for lunch one day, it hit me. I could easily use the corn dressing on my salad. I added the juice of a lime to thin it a bit, and that was it.

I love it when I can have homeade things all set to go that pull double duty. I’ve been using the homeade salsa fresca in my salad for other meals as well. My lettuce was already washed, chopped, and ready to go in a bowl in the fridge. The longest it took me to do anything was tear some thinly slice ham and turkey into pieces. That’s only because I’m still dealing with the chemo-induced neuropathy. Otherwise, it was a pretty quick and tasty chef salad.

Here is the basic recipe:

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

1 packet of Sazón

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together. Adjust the thickness by adding more mayonnaise or honey.

Optional:

Add the juice or zest of a lime for variation.