First Frost

The arrival of the first frost is always a mixed blessing, mostly sad because it means the end of the growing season, but a bit of pleasure because it brings a long list of to-do’s to an end as well.  This year’s first frost was later than usual.  Our average date is October 10, so October 24 gave us two whole extra weeks of growing.  Here at Herbal Blessings Potager, that was a good thing because I was a bit late seeding the last crop of beans.  In fact, I almost didn’t bother, thinking that it was too late.  And then I thought, “What the heck, let’s give it a try!”  So, on August 28th I sowed two 6′ rows of beans, one of my favorite “Royal Burgundy” and another row of “Red Swan.”  Both packets were old.  I know I picked up the Red Swan when I visited Baker Creek Seeds in Missouri probably 5 years ago, and didn’t promptly put them in my seed box, so they went missing.  Happily, both grew well and here’s my harvest:

bean-comparison-cropped The Royal Burgundy beans on the left weighed just about a pound.  The Red Swan on the right was nearly 3 pounds.  Same amount of seed planted, adjacent 6’rows so same conditions.  I did notice that the Red Swan beans had more bug bites than the darker purple beans which were unscathed.  I prefer the flavor of the Royal Burgundy, but next year I will plant both again (but a bit earlier just in case the first frost isn’t so late.)  Planting a late crop was definitely worth the gamble.


A Four Year Wait

brazel-berry  Many of you have heard of the much-touted new family of fruiting shrubs introduced by Fall Creek Farm called “Brazelberries.”  There are several commercials advertising them on television and ads in most major gardening magazines, claiming that they are going to revolutionize small-space fruit growing.  They offer a selection of raspberries and another of blueberries, all bred to be compact, thornless, and self-pollinating.  I was excited when I was given four of their “Raspberry Shortcake” plants to trial four years ago.  The tag and the ads show a nicely rounded plant just covered with delicious red raspberries.  I couldn’t wait to start picking!

As directed, I planted them in large containers.  They do grow rapidly and stay compact, about 2′ in height.  When freezing temperatures threatened the first year, I moved them into the basement since they were youngsters, where they would stay cool but not freeze and receive adequate light from sliding glass doors.   As soon as spring arrived, new canes began to develop and some of the older canes grew new leaves.  I waited and watched all summer, keeping them watered and only adding a small layer of compost as instructed.  Over-fertilizing reduces berry production.  Never did a bud form, so there were no berries.  I was disappointed, and felt I must have done something wrong (although I have been growing other berries for forty years with success.)  Or, possibly they just needed to be older.  So, I went on-line and reread the growing instructions provided on their site.  The only thing suspect was possibly underwatering so I was more careful the second growing season, and again in the third.  Still there were no berries.  They did not rot, they were not frosted, they were not over or under fertilized.  I was so disgusted at the amount of time, hauling indoors and out, watering, and talking to them with encouragement, that I nearly just tossed them last fall rather than messing with them for another season.  After all, third time’s charm, and they’d already had three growing seasons.  But, I hate to fail.  I hate to throw out a perfectly healthy plant (let alone four of them!)  They are green and compact, and thornless, and make a nice patio plant.  If they were just a foliage plant, they were worth growing, I reasoned, so I hauled them indoors once again last autumn.  This variety is supposedly hardy, so I debated about just planting them in the ground, but I wanted to give them as long a growing season as possible.

This spring, in addition to their “Let’s have a great growing season!” pep talk, I gave them a stern warning, having decided over the winter that the big pots could better be used to grow something with flowers, like hibiscus, or something more useful like lemon verbena.  This was their last chance.  “Produce berries, or you are going into the garage sale!”

A couple of weeks ago, a few blooms appeared on two of the plants.  Today, I have one berry.   They are supposed to be winter-hardy here in Zone 5, so I am going to plant two of them in the ground, and give the two that had a few blooms another chance.  Maybe now that they’ve figured out how to produce one berry, they will produce more?

Freaky Fungi

finger-fungus-2  I spent part of yesterday afternoon working in the Fairy Garden, adding additional plants and just mentally trying to decided how I want it to look next year.  Admittedly, I was wool-gathering and lazily weeding when I snapped to attention, thinking the colorful “thing” was something alive and jumped off my weeding stool with much more speed than I’d thought capable!  Once I’d caught my breath and determined that it wasn’t going to bite me, I bent low for a closer look.  Then I ran to get my camera!  Doesn’t this look like the perfect fungi for Halloween?  Brilliant orange on each end, and olive green in the middle with textured rings and pointy tops, my first thought was goblin’s fingers, or maybe witch’s socks.  They are too big (about 4″ tall) to be fairy fingers.  In over forty years of gardening, I’ve never seen anything like it before.

finger-fungus-1  If you look closely to the bottom left of this one, you can see the  beige cap-like beginnings.  They seem to grow in clusters, with not all of the “fingers” emerging at once.  There are several individuals, all growing in partial shade near miniature hostas that have been mulched with shredded bark.

finger-fungus-3 This one was a bit different, in that it looks indented at the top, like a mouth.  You can see several more beige caps around it, too.  The green seems to expand to the top gradually, and after that occurs, apparently they have finished their active life.

finger-fungus-dried  And when they are finished, they shrivel slightly and become papery.  There are two more dried-up ones in the first photo.  I spent a couple of hours searching through my mushroom field guide, and on a couple of internet sites, but could not identify it.  Anybody out there familiar with this freaky fungi?

Nasturtium Revival

It was 47 degrees this morning, the coolest temperatures we’ve had since May.  Overnight, it feels like autumn, with a brisk breeze pulling golden leaves from the black walnut trees in a continual shower.  I can feel my “end of the garden season” depression beginning to drift in as well, as I pulled on a warm sweater and actually put on socks for the first time in months.  With cup of tea and camera in hand, I headed to the potager determined to savor each of the colorful blooms while they are still available.  My normal aversion to red was abated by this cheering “Copper Sunset” nasturtium from Rene Shepherd Seeds.  I had hoped it would be more bronzed, and probably won’t plant it next year, but it’s screaming “Look at ME!” was just what I needed this morning.


I’d planted nasturtiums in the summer squash square back in late April, and they’d gotten off to a slow start, then languished in the intense, lengthier than usual heat, but now with the cooler temperatures they are bursting into bloom and expanding.  Near the broccoli rabe are the “Peach Melba” variety shown below.  Their soft yellow petals are brushed by the fairies with rosy splotches.


I think my very favorite ones of this year’s nasturtiums are these “Tip Top Apricot” which continued to bloom profusely throughout the heat, even though they were planted in a container on top of the fence railing in full sun.  I’ll plant lots more of these next spring.  I just love the color, and the subtle shading darker in the centers.


There were some “Jewel Mix” nasturtiums that I planted in a large tub containing my lemon tree.  Although the nasturtiums overwhelmed the little tree, they provided a nice visual focal point at the end of the main path as one entered the garden, although the ones on the north side of the pot thrived, while the ones on the south side faded during the heat.

dsc00479I especially liked the bright orange ones, of course, but these bright gold ones were also nice.


Much cheered by the nasturtium revival, I sat on the bench made by my father and sipped my tea, letting my mind wander to possibilities…..nasturtium vinegars, petals and leaves in salads, herb cheese-stuffed blooms, tiny tea sandwiches with nasturtium confetti….  Nasturtiums don’t mind a touch of frost and should continue to bloom for a few more weeks.  The color isn’t over yet!

And, a pickled pot!


Sadly, it’s nearing the end of the major growing season here in central Indiana.  The leaves are beginning to turn that golden green and a few are already floating to the ground.  Plants are rushing to produce seeds.  Squirrels are seriously burying walnuts throughout the lawn and gardens.  The morning air has a bit of chill, and there’s that definite feeling that the seasons are changing.

Oh yes, I’ve sown some fall crops, but very soon the squashes, tomatoes, peppers, okra, and other heat-loving crops will be gone.  Already, the cucumber vines have given way, so many of the trellises stand forlorn, empty of the flowing green vines that so prettily shaded lettuce and spinach crops at their base.  Even before the vines were dying, the quantity of cucumbers was dwindling to the point that there were not enough to make a batch of anything.

Fortunately, as I was looking at my harvest basket with just a bit of this and a bit of that, I remembered as a very small girl, helping my mother and grandmother make what they called “Last of the Garden.”  Of course, we canned jars and jars and jars of the colorful, tasty mixture, but I decided to  make just one jar, using a gallon jug normally used for sun-tea.  Into it, I put green and red cherry tomatoes, tiny zucchini and Sunburst squashes, 1″ chunks of cucumbers, tiny 2″ long okra, a few garlic cloves, red cherry and other colorful sweet peppers.  Small carrots and onions were par-boiled for 5 minutes, drained, and then added to the mixture, along with a few sprigs of summer savory.  If I’d had tiny broccoli or cauliflower bouquets, or string beans, I’d have added those, too.  Some might add hot peppers, but I prefer it without the heat.

The pickling mixture was simply 2 cups of cider vinegar, a cup of water, and a half cup of sugar all heated and stirred until the sugar dissolved.  Any number of herbs or pickling spices could be added, too, but I decided to keep it simple.  I added a ball of waxed paper under the lid to keep all the veggies submerged.  Any that stick above the liquid will develop mold, which should be avoided.  The colorful jar sits on my counter, where I can nibble a bit while I’m cooking, or easily pull out a few goodies to add to a salad or appetizer platter.  When I have a few more tiny veggies, I add them, and give it a good stir.  If the liquid gets low, I add a bit more, or if we’ve eaten a jar of sweet pickles, the leftover liquid from that can be added.  When the garden season has ended, and I’m no longer continually adding and removing veggies, I’ll stick the jar in the refrigerator for the winter.  That’s when we’ll really, really appreciate the “Last of the Garden.”


As the summer garden season draws to a close, it’s a good time to take stock and evaluate.  Considering that I grew 197 varieties, not counting all the bulbs purchased, perennials and herbs that I moved from the farm, or varieties that were already growing from prior seasons in the house gardens, the number of disappointments is surprisingly small.  Or, maybe I am just easily pleased? The hours spent pouring over seed catalogs, and then checking unfamiliar varieties on the internet paid off, I think.


The biggest disappointment was Zinnia “Zinderella Peach,” shown above.  They were touted as a puffy ball surrounded by a single row of petals, all in a luscious soft peach, so I planted them liberally throughout the gardens as a mid-height filler.  As you can see, they are just small (the size of a quarter mostly, with some 2″ across) single-flowered, mostly in an ugly pink fading to off-white.  Generally before that happened, the petals got spots or were nibbled off by insects.  I only left them because by the time their color showed, I really didn’t have anything left to replace them, and pulling them out would have left big holes.  Besides, the butterflies loved them.  Needless to say, they won’t be in my garden again.


The second disappointment was again a color issue.  Celosia Amor “Salmon” turned out to be a glaring red.  Visitors to the garden were impressed by the large heads and brilliant color, and the fact that they didn’t topple over with their weight.  They are short, growing only about 10″.  However, they set my teeth on edge, and they certainly won’t be returning.  I see in the new catalogs (Yes, they are already arriving for next season!) that a Armor “Orange” is listed, but can I really trust them?  That will be a winter debate and research.


Another color issue was “Queeny Salmon” Hollyhock.  They are tidy, growing to about 28″ and producing numerous blooms in late July through August and now into September, which is wonderful.  Probably they are  softly “salmon,” which is just pinker than I want.  Since they were actually good performers, I’ll just switch to the yellow or white version, which will fit my color scheme better.


Fourth on the “Darn It” list is “Sweet Pickle” Pepper, which was listed as “thick-walled, delicious eaten raw and excellent pickled.”  Admittedly, they do have thick walls and an “okay” flavor…..if you can chew the amazingly tough skin!  I’ve tried pickling a few, but it doesn’t soften the skin.  I should try roasting some or charring the skin off.  They have been beautiful in the garden since planting, supplying a colorful accent of yellow, orange, and maturing red, and they were certainly bountiful and tidy.  Next season, I’d like to find an ornamental pepper that matures orange and is actually edible!

Fifth is “Homemade” Pickle, a small cucumber that was planted to grow on the trellises, and to hopefully produce enough finger-sized cukes to make my grandmother’s famous crock of sweet pickles.  Six vines did not come close to producing even a dozen small cukes at a picking.  I’ll be looking for a replacement.  There’s no photo, because the vines quit blooming so long ago, that I pulled them out.  “Parisian” produced much better, and over an extensive period, so I’ll grow those again, but I’d still like a second variety as well.


Swiss Chard “Orange Fantasia” was beautiful for the beginning of the season, although the stalks were more yellow than orange to this date.  And, a few weeks ago, brown spots began appearing all over the stems, making them ugly and unusable.  I keep removing them, but the new stalks soon develop them.  I’m not sure if it is a disease or caused by insects, but it is very disappointing.  I’m leaving them to see what happens when the weather finally turns cooler, since they can take light frosts.  “Bright Lights” never showed this problem,  so I may just have to return to “Bright Lights” and only plant the orange ones in the potager.

No photo of the blue potatoes I planted, because I didn’t get any.  The “Norland Red” and the white ones did well, but I won’t waste space for the blue ones again.

tomato-mint-julep-compressed  This is tomato “Mint Julep,” which I was eager to try.  I’m not a big raw tomato fan, finding most of the red ones too acidic for my sensitivity.  However, “Mint Julep” will not be returning to the potager because it had no flavor, nearly always developed these splits, and were just generally unappealing.

tomato-polbig-compressed  Tomato “Polbig” was planted because it was supposed to be one of the earliest, most reliable, full-sized tomatoes, tolerating cooler weather, etc.  It is a nice size, and fairly productive, but it did not ripen until after we were already harvesting “Cherokee Carbon” and “Park’s Whopper” tomatoes.  They are still producing a few nice tomatoes and the flavor (according to others) is good, but I’ll be searching for a different “Early” tomato for next season.

So that’s it….only 9 losers out of 197 trials won’t be returning to the potager next year!  Still, I’ll spend lots of time this winter scouring the catalogs for interesting, new varieties to try.  Isn’t that a great part of the fun of gardening?



Mouthwatering Melons


One of the true delights of the potager has been the melon crop.  If you read the post discussing melons when I was mulling over seed orders, you may recall that I chose 4 varieties of melon, plus 1 watermelon.  Three (“Sugar Cube,” “Tasty Bites,” and “Green Nutmeg”) were picked to climb the trellises, 2 (“Minnesota Midget” and the “Gold Crown” watermelon) were “bush” types that would fill empty spots in the interior border.  All did not go quite according to plan, so I’ll be tweaking some next year, but all in all, I’m thrilled with the melon crop.

I seeded 6 seeds of each variety, but gave 3 of the “Tasty Bites,” 2 “Green Nutmeg” and 3 “Minnesota Midget” plants away. It was right on schedule, according to my winter-laid plan, when I put the first melons into the ground.  The weather did co-operate, and our normal “frost-free” date of May 10th had arrived amid a stretch of lovely, soil-warming weather.  Happily, the hardened-off seedlings of “Sugar Cube” and “Tasty Bites” went into the ground May 11th. They need 80 days and 77 days to harvesting, respectively, so I penciled a note on my calendar to keep  watch by July 20th.  “Minnesota Midget” is listed as requiring 60 days, and “Green Nutmeg” is also 80. Those plants went into the ground on June 2nd, along with the “Gold Crown” watermelon.


The first melon picked was a delicious 5″ Sugar Cube on July 28th.  It was an exciting moment, and the sweet aroma of the melon was apparent with the first sniff.  To tell the total truth, for all my eagerness for the first melon, I entirely missed picking the first one.  It actually fell from the vine, fortunately landing in a rather soft bed of carrot tops to prevent bruising.  It was absolutely drop-dead, mouth-watering, sweet as honey delicious.  I was definitely hooked at the first bite.

The first watermelon was picked on July 31st. “Gold Crown” is a lovely melon, with bright gold skin and rosy-pink, sweet melon flesh.  I only planted two vines and harvested 6 melons, 5 of which were delicious.  One came off the  fence, and I assumed it was ripe and took it to a family dinner.  The flesh was barely pink, and although it was not awful, it definitely was not as sweet as we expected.  The next 5 were fine, although at that point the vines were already nearly dead and ugly.  The jury is still out regarding next year’s plantings.  They didn’t take a lot of space and many visitors had never seen a gold-skinned watermelon. This one, picked this morning (Aug. 31) is fully ripe and delicious, although slightly smaller than the earlier ones.


The timing issue definitely didn’t work out as I had so meticulously planned.  Although planted at different times, and having different “days to maturity” nearly all the melons were ripening at once as August arrived, beginning with 1 or 2 every other day, and increasing as the heat of summer continued.  I picked this crop on Aug 27th


And this batch on Aug/ 29th


And these were harvested Aug. 30th!  Plus 1 gray zucchini, don’t be confused by it.


It seems as though all the plants waited until the weather was just right, and then they all celebrated and produced melons at once!


My absolute favorite melon as far as flavor is “Green Nutmeg,” an heirloom dating from the 1830’s.  Think folks, that’s 30 years before the Civil War.  Scarlett O’Hara might have eaten this melon’s forebears.  As you might guess, it has a green flesh and the flavor has a wonderful “nutmeg” spiciness that differentiates it from any other melon I’ve tasted in the past.  I adore it, and will include many, many more plants in the potager next year, because I didn’t get many melons per plant.

Probably the most prolific melon was “Minnesota Midget,” which I grew in the 6′ x 6′ beds once the garlic came out.  I should have recorded the number harvested, but I kept gifting visitors with a melon or two, and failed to record the number (or the poundage.)  I took a few to my mother (plants earlier and ripened melons later) and gave several to neighbors, failing to record any of them.  Next year, they will go into the ground first, hoping that needing only 60 days, I’ll get melons earlier and they will be nearly done producing when the others start ripening.

I should have kept better records on the “Tasty Bites” and “Sugar Cube” which were both grown on trellises.  Frankly, they were both delicious, but the “Tasty Bites”vines are already dead, while “Sugar Cube” is still ripening a few fruits.  Maybe I’ll eliminate “Tasty Bites” and give that trellis to “Green Nutmeg.”  Just to prevent worry, the trellises will be moved to the center path next year, so melons won’t be growing in the same places.


It really doesn’t matter to me which I grow, because I love them all.  Slice a tiny one in half, and it’s perfect for breakfast (or a hungry gardener who just happens to have a spoon in her pocket as she weeds!)  A larger (5″ diameter) is halved to share as dessert, sometimes with a scoop of sherbet in the center, and sometimes just plain.  Either way is divine.  I’ve served slices of these tiny melons on antipasto trays, and whether plain, wrapped in prosciutto, or skewered with other fruits and a mint leaf, they were a hit.

Right now, the fall red raspberries are ripe, so I’m combining melon cubes with those, chopped mint, and a bit of orange marmalade as a dessert alone, or with shortbread cookies, or poured over poundcake or ice cream.  If you haven’t tried growing miniature melons, I encourage you to plant them next year.  I’m absolutely delighted that I did, and I’m wagering you will, too.


Orange you just loving it?

I just got a new camera, and I’m trying to learn to use it.  One of the reasons I decided I needed a new one (besides the fact that D & I were constantly wanting to take the single one we had in different directions) is the frustration in trying to capture the REAL colors I see, so you can see them, too.  As you know, my color palette is apricot, oranges, golds with touches of blue, purple and white.  The old point-and-shoot camera just didn’t do them justice. So, here are photos I just shot of some of the oranges in my garden.

Zinnia Lion 2 compressed  Zinnia “Mighty Lion”

Zinna Prof Apricot compressed  Zinnia “Profusion Apricot”

Tritoma Vanilla Orange compressed  Tritoma “Vanilla Orange”

Apricot dianthus compressed  Dianthus …wish I knew, I came without a tag, but it’s been blooming non-stop since I purchased it in early April!  I’d love more!

Butterflyweed compressed  Asclepias tuberosa, better known as Butterflyweed

Celosia Fresh Look Orange compressed Celosia “Fresh Look Orange.”  Very happy with this, and have it everywhere in borders and containers.  Not so happy with Celosia “Armour Salmon,” which turned out to be red.  UGH! I won’t even take its photo.

Coneflower Cantalope compressed  Coneflower “Cantalope”

Daylily Dbl Or compressed Daylily “Double Orange.”  I have lots of other orange, orange bi-colors, and apricot daylilies, but this is my favorite.

Lily Tiger compressed Tiger Lily….forget the name but it’s not the standard orange.

Marigold Hero Orange compressed Marigold “Hero Orange,” the workhorse of the potager center path borders.  Blooming constantly, and definitely in the garden in future years.

Nast Tip Top Apricot compressed Nasturtium “Tip Top Apricot.”  Has performed well despite the heat!  I had some darker orange ones, but they’ve languished.

Rudbeckia Chim var compressed A seedling from last year’s Rudbeckia “Chim Chiminee.”  Surprises are always nice.

Snap Liberty bronze compressed  Snapdragon “Liberty Bronze.”  Probably the most-commented upon plant in the gardens this year.  Definitely on next year’s list.

Tomato Orange Sun compressed  Not a flower, but these “Orange Sun” tomatoes have been large, delicious, and showy along the fence.

Tritoma 2 compressed  I have four varieties of tritoma…think this one is “Elvira” or maybe it’s this one…..

Tritoma compressed

Chard Orange  The Orange Chard is not as orange as I’d hoped, but maybe it will darken as the temperatures cool.

Rail planter compressed  The “Sedona” coleus from Proven Winners is always a success.  Here it adds height to a rail planter on the deck.

Pepper Orange Sun The “Orange Sun” peppers have been a great success….bags and bags already in the freezer and lots more to pick.

Lantana, coleus compressed  An orange lantana, which blooms despite our lack of rain, causing the butterflies to rejoice.

So, I’m still learning to use the camera, but you can see that there is lots of orange and apricot in my gardens, which makes me very happy.  Orange is a color for energy, vitality, and power.  If you have a favorite orange flower or veggie that I haven’t shown here, let me know and I’ll look for it for my garden next year.



cipollini compressed

These are cipollini that I grew last summer, in a window box, because my potager had not yet been started, but I’d already given possession of the Cook’s garden at the herb farm to its new owners.  I fell in love with these heirloom, small, flat, very sweet onions in Italy.  We had them there as an appetizer, marinated in balsamic vinegar.  As soon as we returned home, I planted a white variety from Seeds of Italy.  You can read more about cipollini, and making marinated cipollini on my website ( by clicking on the November 2015 E-Newsletter.  We’ve grilled them (parboil for 5 minutes first) and because of the high sugar content, they carmelize beautifully.  My daughter (who lived in Puglia) sent me a recipe for Cipollini Crostata, which is really delicious as an appetizer, or with a salad for a luncheon, or as a side dish for supper.  It’s good picnic food, because it’s yummy at room temperature, too.  Look for that recipe in the August 2015 E-newsletter.


They are very easy to grow from seed, so I planted both  white “Bianca di Maggio” (95 days) and “Red Marble” (80 days) varieties this spring.   I sprinkle the seeds in rows in flats, then transplant the tiny grass-like plants into four-packs shown above.  When they get a little size and seem stable they go from 4-packs into a row in the garden.


The white seedlings seem to be a bit more robust than the red, so I planted them first.  I just made a small trench and put the cubes from the 4-packs edge to edge, pulling soil up around the cubes and sprinkling a bit of mulch lightly between the plants.  You can space them closely, because they only get about 2″ in diameter.  Another row goes right beside them, staggered to provide ample space.  Here’s some of this year’s crop, growing happily about mid-June.  I have little rows and patches here and there in the potager, tucked in where early crops of spinach, mini-napa cabbage, pak choi and mustards came out.

Cippolini compressed

Knowing how much we love them grilled, and planning to make jars and jars of the marinated ones for antipasto platters over the winter, I actually seeded a third variety, “Red Amposta” about a month after the first sowings went into the potager beds.  They are now ready to plant into the beds as other crops come out. Supposedly, they are a good variety for storing over the winter.  Fingers crossed.

The first variety planted are now ready for harvest, indicated by the tops falling over, so I’ll start pulling a few of the larger ones to grill, and marinate all the cute small ones.  Even if you only have space for a windowbox, grow some cipollini!

Calendula harvest


As an herb lover, it’s always hard to pick a favorite.  Mine varies from week to week, but during the spring and early summer months, it has to be calendula.  I would hate to live without calendula.  First of all, they are just absolutely beautiful.  Available in cream, through yellows, apricots, deep orange, and bi-colors, they also range in height from 8″ to 24″ and come in singles and doubles.   Calendulas are annuals, although they often self-seed.  They prefer cool weather, and as the heat of summer arrives, the flowers become smaller and fade more quickly.  If you look at the yellow flower on the very bottom left, you’ll notice that it is starting to fade.  There are a couple of orange ones closer to the center and center right that are fading, too.  That’s when I harvest them, when a few petals begin to shrink.  First pull the petals free, and then snip the head from the plant’s stem.  Snipping off the head helps the plant use its energy to produce more flowers. I drop the petals into this handy drying trug, or spread them on screens (keeping them out of direct sunlight in a dry, airy location) until they are totally dry.

Calendula petals drying  Then I store them in an airtight jar like this one  Calendula jars compressedon the right.  The dried petals can be added to tea for sore throats, added to homemade soap, stirred into sugar cookie or scone batters, or any number of projects or recipes.

Often, I simply take a jar out to the potager and fill it with plucked petals.  When it is full, I add enough olive oil or sweet almond oil to cover and store it in a dark place for at least a week.

Calendula in oil compressed  Here’s the first jar of the season, but I’m making more.  You can see the second jar in the prior photo behind this first jar.  The oil can be applied as is to scratches, bug bites, scrapes, minor cuts, rashes, dry skin, and other skin ailments, or it can be the main ingredient in healing salves and lotions.

Right now, I have a monstrous case of chiggers, a gift from helping weed a neighbor’s garden.  From neck to knee I am covered with red spots (sorry, a photo would be just too embarassing!) which would be itching terribly if not for the liberal application of calendula salve.  So, obviously, right now calendula is definitely my favorite herb!  In fact, I think I’d better go pick some more petals!