Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"BBC's World Service"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
November 16, 2004
Podcasts

DESERT BLOOM: Kitchen Gardening

Listen

When temperatures drop in other parts of the country, the last thing almost anybody wants to do is go about gardening outside- frostbite, you know. And even here in the great American Southwest, winter can mean cutting back on outdoor gardening time. And, just as an aside, it definitely means cutting back on outdoor watering. But you already know that. Of course, people who have no yards are in the situation of not being able to do outdoor gardening any time of the year. But not having a yard, or it being too cold to go into the yard doesn't mean that there's no opportunity to grow something lovely - or tasty. In fact, there's no reason not to have a kitchen herb garden growing literally in the kitchen! Honestly! And that can be a year-round activity.

Many of the plant parts we use for herbs are the green leaves; things that'll grow fine as long as they receive sufficient light and water - sound familiar? And they are so simple! For instance, take cilantro. It's critical in so many national cuisines - from Mexico to Burma. And like so many other herbs, it's considered medicinal. The Aztecs used it to deal with digestive complaints and medieval Europeans thought it was an aphrodisiac.

But back to the plant. Buy the seeds and put them in moist potting mix. Give the seedlings at least six hours of bright light a day. Don't crowd the seedlings in the pot; thin them out, spread them into new pots. Once a plant has a dozen or so leaves, you can start picking them off and adding them into salad dressing, salsa, mashed potatoes, whatever. I mentioned once that my favorite culinary trick is to take those tiny garlic cloves at the center of the bulb and stick them into the soil, or even into other plants. The leaves that emerge are perfect to use instead of chives.

I know I've been talking about herbs, but don't forget that lettuce and spinach will both work fine in pots. Not iceberg lettuce; I'm talking about the leafy kind. Of course, these plants won't be as big as any you'll buy at the supermarket, but you'll have it fresh from the kitchen! What could be better than that?

It's important to keep many of these plants from flowering. If herbs like basil, coriander and parsley are allowed to bloom and produce seeds, first the leaves develop an off taste, and then the plant dies. Not all herbs do this, but any of them that're annuals will. It's their nature. Just like other annuals, for instance marigolds, or lettuce and spinach - once the plant produces seeds, it dies. The odds are that you're not trying to get herb seeds - unless you've planted dill or caraway, which probably wouldn't be such a great idea unless you have a very tall window with lots and lots of light - but you're very likely to be trying to continue leaf production.

So what do you do to keep the leaves going? Trick the plant! Once you start to see flowers forming, pick them off - pop them in your mouth, drop them in the salad, just don't let the plant get into seed production mode.

This little deception works with almost any annual where you want to keep the plant alive. Coleus, for instance. Who grows coleus for the flowers? Nobody, really. They're not terribly attractive. All you want is the gloriously colorful leaves. See flowers? Pinch them off!

Of course, lots of herbs aren't annuals, and for them, flower production means that the plant might go through a period where leaves will be secondary. Some of the most popular herbs, like marjoram, rosemary and sage, they create flowers and leaves with no problem. If you pinch off flowers, then you'll have consistent herb production, but it's not going to be a cataclysm if the plant throws out a few seeds. And the fact is - you probably don't have nearly enough light inside for there to be a bumper crop of flowers. That's a big reason that I've only been talking about the leafy crops. To get most herb flowers, like borage or dill, for instance, or fruiting vegetables like peppers and squash, you'd need a lot more light than most window gardens, even if it's a sunny window, could provide.

Personally, I would just love to have a warm, really sunny atrium in my house - I'd be growing different colors of cherry tomatoes in hanging pots ten months a year (not July and August). Sadly, I don't, but if you do, think about trying any miniature fruiting vegetable that grows on vines, like miniature melons. But if not, find seeds for your favorite legal herb and get growing.

For KNPR's Desert Bloom, this is Dr. Angela O'Callaghan of the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

See discussion rules.

Archives

NormSep 15, 2014 | Desert Heat
Norm describes a significant casualty of the desert heat. There's going to be a big gap in Norm's Yard and a lesson on the reality of our desert landscape.

AngelaAug 12, 2014 | Organic Pesticides
Choosing a method for ridding your garden of an unwanted guest, be it bug or weed, is not always a simple choice. But the more you know, the better it goes. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormJul 28, 2014 | Lose that Lawn
We know, it's a desert out there including every place there's a lawn. Norm Schilling reminds us all the ways he wants you to consider losing the lawn... permanently.

AngelaJul 14, 2014 | Protect Fruit Trees from Birds
If you put a good deal of care into growing fruit trees, there are likely some birds who will take advantage of your effort. Here's Angela O'Callaghan.

NormJul 10, 2014 | Palm Care, Part 2
To keep, or not to keep. Norm Schilling ponders his palm trees, on this edition of Desert Bloom.

NormJun 10, 2014 | Palm Care
Norm Schilling has mixed feelings about how we use Palms in our yards. Full grown palm trees transplanted into the entry way of a mall is a common sight that tells Southern Nevadan's "something" is nearly open for business. He reminds us that those palms come with challenges.

AngelaJun 3, 2014 | Hot Weather Plants
As temperatures across the Valley begin to climb, you might be wondering what will survive in your garden in the months ahead and what probably won't. There are some 'sweet' options. Here's Angela O'Callaghan

NormMay 20, 2014 | Desert Color
Norm Schilling just got back from Belize and has some ideas for lush leaves in your desert yard. He reflects on some well suited plants to provide color and variety in this edition of Desert Bloom.

AngelaMay 6, 2014 | Emerald Ash Borer
Raising a healthy shade tree in the Mojave is not always easy. And if one particular insect makes its way here, it could get even harder. Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormApr 22, 2014 | The Right Plants
Our current warm spell gives the impression that some plants can thrive when they aren't really suited to our desert. Norm Schilling has some examples.

NormMar 24, 2014 | Spring Garden Party
Spring is here and the garden is blooming . . . so invite some friends to enjoy the rewards of gardening!

AngelaMar 10, 2014 | Lady Banks
If you love roses, but don't care for thorns, you may want to call on 'Lady Banks.' Here's Angela O'Callaghan with Desert Bloom.

NormFeb 26, 2014 | Signs of Spring
It may be February, but if you are paying attention, signs of Spring are visible. Dwarf peach and Mexican plum trees are in bloom. Vibrant Red Spraxis can be seen among the falling Almond blossom. Watch gardening expert Norm Schilling transplant an offshoot. Check out the slide show of photos taken from his backyard.

AngelaFeb 18, 2014 | Mulch is for Winter
Rewards for using mulch in your landscape can be had year-round. Mulch is about mulch more than just "good looks" according to Angela O' Callaghan. In any climate, and certainly in a desert, mulch is an ecologically sound way to conserve our limited soil moisture and to control weeds.

NormFeb 4, 2014 | Investing for Spring
Temperatures are scheduled to stay cool this week, but Norm Schilling finds his yard is ready for Spring. He reflects on techniques to keep older trees healthy even as the surrounding yard may change. Bigger, older trees may need more water.

AngelaJan 13, 2014 | Freezing Temps
If your garden looks like it's been zapped by Jack Frost, there's still a chance that all is not lost. Delicate desert plants can suffer chill damage even when the temperature stays above freezing. Well-established plants should survive.

NormDec 31, 2013 | Leave the Leaves
Just because most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, it doesn't mean you have to rake them all up. Norm Schilling says it's better to use the leaves as mulch to protect the plants and make rich soil. Some woody plants can be pruned now, while others should wait another month or two.

AngelaDec 13, 2013 | Winter Greens
It is the season to enjoy some winter gardening. In Southern Nevada, a cold-snap does not have to mean that your garden is done for. Angela O'Callaghan gives a few cold facts.

NormDec 3, 2013 | Winter Watering
After a recent rain followed by a cold snap this week, Norm Schilling digs in to figure out how much water is needed this time of year. Touch the leaves to get a feel and don't water much at all for the next few months.

AngelaNov 18, 2013 | Herb Gardens
Our desert environment may be hard to handle for many plants, but it is possible to grow your own herbal remedy. The healing properties of some herbs are still widely recognized. Even though we rarely have to rely on them to deal with our infirmities, Angela O'Callaghan says many herbs are pretty and simple to grow.

© 2014 NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO   
Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.