Q: This is the first year I’ve grown herbs, and they did beautifully. I have basil for pesto and sage, thyme, mint and chives, and I have put a lot of time and effort in them. Can I dry or freeze them now? How?
You certainly can! Freezing is easiest: Pick herbs early in the day for best flavor — wash in water and dry thoroughly. Portion into zip-lock bags and freeze until needed. Or place a few in each compartment of an ice cube tray, add water and freeze — the cubes are now ready to add to your favorite recipe.
Don’t expect the glorious green herbs of midsummer. When a leaf defrosts, it will be limp, just like spinach, but all the flavor will still be there.
Cleaned herbs can also be dried — place the stems on a screen frame — I use an old window screen. Or hang in bunches in a dark, airy room to thoroughly dry. Use a rubber band to hold the bunches of herbs, and the bands will contract as the herbs dries. Crumble the herbs when completely dry and store in dim light in airtight jars or cans, and use as you need them for pesto and sauces or drinks. Not quite as good as fresh herbs, but if you’re really fussy, you could grow pots of herbs on a sunny windowsill this winter.
Q: I have a really old but beautiful pink rosebush. Last year, the leaves turned a spotty yellow and fell off. This year, it was doing pretty well, then the leaves started yellowing again. What do you think the issue is, and what can I do to help this plant?
The old roses are beautiful. Hope this will help yours — I’m not too concerned about bugs, as you did not mention any sign of them in your note.
The upper leaves sometimes shade the lower leaves, and the lower leaves will yellow and drop. Ignore if the plant is blooming well or consider pruning a few of the upper leaves to stimulate growth.
Too much foliar feeding can injure the leaves, especially in our very hot weather. Heat can also radiate from the ground, particularly from dark-colored mulch, both of which damage leaves.
Stress can be a factor in leaf yellowing of any plant: heat stress, extreme weather stress.
Have you done a soil test recently? Roses prefer a soil of 6.5, pretty close to neutral.
And, of course, it could be a virus infection or bugs — I can’t tell without the aid of a photo or a detailed description of leaf damage — are there spots on the leaves? What color? Or webbing on the underside of leaves? Or ragged, bitten leaf edges? There are plenty of rose sprays on the market, both chemical and natural, for any of these problems. Don’t wait too long to take action. Try these possibilities first, then move on to a spray. And good luck to you and your rosebush.
This week’s dirt
Beware that extremely hot water from a hose lying in the sun can cook plants, or burn kids or pets that play in it. Run it for a few minutes to cool, then test it before using.
Continue to fertilize annuals for beautiful fall flowers. Annuals can be pushed with more fertilizers to use all their strength for bloom this year because they won’t be around next year and won’t need it to maintain new growth through the winter.
Adjust stakes around perennials and tomatoes as they grow larger and taller.
Water hanging baskets daily — they dry out as fast as a piece of laundry on a line in the breeze.
North Shore Gardener by Barbara Barger of Beverly is a feature of Friday’s Lifestyles section. Reach Barbara by email at email@example.com or write to her c/o the Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930. Previous North Shore Gardener columns can be found at www.nsgardener.com.