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The Equinox And Your Herb Garden

March 18, 2002

Runs Sunday, March 17

THE EQUINOX AND YOUR HERB GARDEN

The Romans sensibly assigned the beginning of the New Year to March when you can actually see a new beginning. We, too, might profitably begin our new garden year at the spring equinox, March 20.

This should be the time to chronicle last year's successes and failures and lay plans for the coming season. Let me take you on a mini-tour of our herb garden so you can see what I mean.

We'll need a stack of 3"x5" index cards and a ball point pen to make notes.

Keep your eyes open. Look. There at the corner of the house, some deep purple crocus are coming up through a plot of caraway thyme. The rosemaries (four kinds) are blooming and the sage is flourishing but will want trimming back when the weather warms. This bed, in the front of the house, was new two years ago. It is bordered on one side by a concrete walkway and backs up to the brick foundation of the porch. To give thyme, rosemary and sage the good drainage that they crave, I dug in sixteen bags of gravel then mulched with gravel as well. The work has paid off. Two years ago the thyme filled a three inch pot. Today it covers a square yard.

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Last year the rabbits nibbled every tender stalk of emerging echinacea to the ground. Last fall I cut the echinacea stems down to twelve inches to provide a stalky fence that I hoped would protect the new growth from rampaging rabbits. It seems to be working. Will it work with other bunny favorites? Might be worth a try.

The Rosa rugosa "Alba" behind the echinacea needs a bit of pruning. I'll have to check on how to do it. In fact I'd better check on the proper way to prune all of the old roses. That's a priority job.

The globe thistle and sweet alyssum seem to have re-seeded abundantly. There will certainly be extra seedlings of both to use in the new butterfly garden. The dwarf sage has weathered the winter nicely. Sage gets woody very quickly and dies out. I'll create new plants by selecting a low growing stem, pull off three inches of leaves about four inches below the tip of the stem. Then I'll open up a paper clip, bend it into an arch and use it as an anchor to hold the stem in place. The naked part of the stem is then covered with dirt. Before summer is over it should have rooted.

The meadow sage is gamely struggling up though the madder's tangled stems and there are lots of seedlings. Some of them can certainly go with the globe thistle and alyssum to entice the butterflies and humming birds.

You see how it works? This early spring survey gives me a chance to evaluate my garden while the season is still young. And it's saved money. I've identified a dozen or more plants for a new garden and won't be tempted to buy duplicates in the nursery.

Even though herbs are pretty tough, a severe lack of winter moisture means this will probably be a tough garden year. Gardeners who think and plan now can assure their garden's survival.

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