I'm Marcy Lautanen-Raleigh growing herbs is a passion I've had for more than 20 years now. The Backyard Patch is my own herb business started in 1995. I specialize in fresh, amazing, organic blended herbs. Those for cooking, tea and bath -- and they are all home-grown and hand-blended. In the last 20 years I have gained a knowledge of herbs and their flavors that I share here.
One of the last steps to prep the garden for winter is to
mulch the herb beds.You must wait until
after a good hard frost, which usually means in Zone 5, waiting until
November.Once you have a hard frost you
can cut out dead stems of your chives, costmary, lovage, mint sorrel, tarragon
and sweet cicely. Then apply a layer of mulch.Do not do this too soon because you do not want to promote mold growth
in the damp fall months or create homes for field mice or other little pests
would borrow into the mulch.Waiting
until frost those pests have found other homes.This is also a good time of year to test your soil pH content and if
correcting is needed.pH is a measure of
the soil’s acidity to alkalinity.Knowing the pH allows you to amend the soil to expand the range of
plants a soil can support.
Plants before the trim
For winter mulch, I shred leaves, grass clippings, vegetable
garden compost, pine chips, mixing in a bit of peat and lime for acidic
areas.By using this highly organic blend
you add humus to the soil each year, and utilize the wastes from my property.
Hills covered with leaves
Here is a raised bed covered with grass
The silver maples along the back of the property gave
mountains of leaves to use this way.After years of doing this coupled with spring mulch of bark or peat, I
ended up with a rich dark soil that is sweet and friable.
Herbs prefer a pH neutral to slightly above neutral soil, so
if you tests come back below 6.5 pH sweeten it up.That means adding lime and working it into
the soil so it can do its work before spring.
To have your soil tested check with your local garden
center, or purchase a test and do it yourself.A mail-in test will provide more details and is probably worth doing,
but in a pinch knowing the pH will help you to work with your soil.pH test strips are similar to litmus paper
that will change color based on the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.They use a scale of 1 to 14 1 is acid, 14 is
alkali, 7 is neutral.Nutrients dissolve
best when soil is 6.5 to 7.0 which will affect what plants will thrive.When purchasing a test choose one that has 2
to 5 blocks of color for more accurate readings.
To test with a purchased kit, what you will get is a package
of strips and a color chart for determining the results.
Steps for using:
1. Gather soil, remove organic matter, twigs from the top
and dig down into the dirt.You can
collect and mix samples from various locations to get an overall pH.Make you’re your digging tools are clean and
not brass or galvanized as this will leave minerals in the soil.
2. Put 1 Tbls. soil in a glass bowl and add enough distilled
water (not filtered) water to create a mixture with the consistence of a milk
3. Leave mixture alone for one hour, but add water as needed
to retain consistence.
4. Place a drop of the mixture on a test strip and wait one
5. Rinse strip with distilled water.
6. Match test strip color with the accompanying color chart.