Q. What do you recommend for growing thyme? Ours dies off after we plant it. A. Thyme is a cool weather herb. Plant it in October and expect it to die off about May. Q. Can garlic be grown in Florida? A. Garlic will grow here, but does best in the cooler months from October to May. Q. I have two problems with potted chives and parsley on my balcony. Tiny oval black bugs attack the parsley and then it turns brown and dies. A white dusty coating develops on the stems and leaves get variegated and die. I fertilize all my plants with Miracle-Gro and I recycle the soil and bake it in the oven at 225 degrees for one hour. I wash the pots with bleach and clean them. Is this a waste of time? A. Use fresh sterilized potting soil. The old soil probably contains a lot of soluble salts, which can do a plant in. The salts make unglazed clay pots turn white. This could be the film on your plant stems. Or the film may be powdery mildew, a fungal disease. Water your plants only in the morning to avoid fungal problems. Mealy bugs also can give stems and leaves a whitish cast, but they are solid and usually fuzzy. Safer’s insecticidal soap should take care of them. The little black insects you mentioned may be fungus gnats that feed on roots. Again, a soap drench of the soil should cure that problem. Repeat the soap treatment in seven to ten days to kill hatching eggs. 

Q. I have tried growing basil inside and outside with poor results. I buy good looking plants, and within a month the leaves get brown spots or white wiggly lines appear in them. What can I do for better results? A. The brown spots mean your basil has fungal leaf spot. Water the plant in the morning only and keep the foliage dry. Locate the plant in an open place with good air circulation to minimize fungal problems. Basil is used in cooking, so I do not want to recommend any pesticides. If insects attack the basil, spray with an organic pesticide (some cayenne pepper and two teaspoons of liquid soap to a gallon of water). This should take care of most bothersome insects. The leaves are fine for cooking if you rinse them well before using. Another problem with basil is leaf miner. A small worm tunnels inside the leaf and often leaves a wiggly trail on the leaf. Spraying is not practical as the caterpillar is inside the leaves. Grow the plant on a screened porch or windowsill indoors where the leaf miner moth can’t reach them to lay eggs. Pick off and throw away all bad leaves. Dispose of any old leaves lying on the potting mix. Sanitation should break the life cycle of the moth and prevent the leaf miner. Q. I have difficulty growing lavender here. Do you have any tips? A. Lavender is a cool-weather plant that is not permanent here. Plant it in October and enjoy it over the winter. It will fade away in April or May when the weather warms up again. It can get powdery mildew. Take care to water in the morning only and spray with a fungicide like Daconil. Q. I grow basil from seed and the plant grows only to a foot tall and then wilts and dies. I fertilize once a week with Miracle-Gro and use a potting soil to which I add some cow manure. The plant grows on my screen porch. A. I would clean the pot out with Clorox and rinse thoroughly. Use new potting soil mixed with 1/3 perlite or vermiculite to promote drainage. I would skip the cow manure. Q. What herbs can grow on a screened porch in pots? A. Most herbs will grow nicely on a porch as long as they receive sun for 4-5 hours a day. The herb season starts in October and ends about April-May. Some herbs like rosemary can continue from year to year but most die off from the heat and humidity during the summer. Q. Does curly parsley like sun or shade? My plant in the sun does not look good. Should I fertilize it when I water it? A. I would locate the plant in bright indirect light and fertilize every two weeks with Peters 20-20-20. The plant should last till late spring before it dies off.
These are the two recipes for the “Tuscan Picnic” we brought to Channel 6, on “Today in Florida” with Jill Beach.   Add them to your Diary and enjoy!Pesto Sauce2 cups fresh basil leaves1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil1/2 cup Parmesan cheese2 cloves garlic1/3 cup pinion nutsSalt and pepperIn food processor, process basil, freshly grated Parmesan and pinions (also known as pine nuts). Slowly add oil, with processor running until smooth, pasty consistency is reached. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve with pasta.___________________________________Tuscany Roasted PotatoesSelect small red potatoesDrizzle with olive oil and Balsamic vinegarSprinkle with salt and Fresh Rosemary Roast in the oven until soft.  Serve with any meat or fowl.

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