This afternoon I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my dear friend Suzanne Hebert. I met Suzanne when she hired me as a work-study student at the University of New Hampshire in the soil testing program. Suzanne works through UNH Cooperative Extensions managing (along with many other responsibilities) the soil testing program on the Durham campus. She also has turned her life-long passion of gardening and farming into a part-time business by offering her home-grown veggies, herbs, flowers, and other natural products for sale. Her quaint little business is better known as Little River Herb Farm located in Lee, New Hampshire on 5 Cartland Road.
As someone who grows her own food, I asked Suzanne to share some of her gardening advice with us.
Me: If someone is a beginner gardener, what three vegetables would you suggest to start with?
Suzanne: When it comes to deciding what to plant I always consider what I can get the most out of and what processes well and keeps throughout winter. The first vegetable that comes to mind is peas. You can eat them raw, freeze them, eat their flowers and they are very easy to grow. I suggest waiting to plant anything until after Memorial Day to avoid late frosts, and pea seeds can be directly planted around that time without needing to be started indoors.
Next I would plant zucchini. With even just a few plants, zucchini can easily feed a family. Zucchini is easy to grow and even if you lose track and they over-grow, they can be shredded, kept frozen or fresh, and made into zucchini bread.
Although tomatoes are susceptible to disease, there is nothing better than a fresh tomato picked straight from the vine. There is so much to do with tomatoes, as well. I love to can them, make salsas, sauces, and freeze them along with eating them fresh.
Me: Do you suggest starting with seeds or buying started plants?
Suzanne: It honestly doesn’t make a difference. Buying seed packets from your local Agway or other gardening store is cheaper and yields more than buying started plants. Starting plants from seeds do require a lot of light and plants will over stretch themselves if they don’t get enough. If you don’t use up your entire seed packet you can store it in a cool, dark space but keep in mind the germination rate will go down every year which lessens the chance of a seed producing a plant.
Me: What are your favorite herbs to grow?
Suzanne: Basil because you can do so much with it. Canning pesto, adding it to sauces are some of my favorites. I also love thyme and lavender. They smell beautifully, both are perennials meaning they will grow back the following year. I love adding lavender flowers to salads or keeping them by my desk so asoothing smell.
Me: How would you suggest to dry herbs?
Suzanne: I bunch them up, tie them at the base of the stems, and hang them upside-down with a paper bag covering them and store it in a cool, dark place. The humidity and the type herb will determine how long it will take for the herbs to dry.
Me: What happens if you don’t have a watering hose?
Suzanne: I would suggest setting up a rain barrel or even using a watering can works fine, too. It also depends on how much rainfall there is that season.
Me: Where does your passion for gardening come from?
Suzanne: I have three reasons: my love of having my hands in the dirt, the joy of growing my own food and the ability to build up my freezer and pantry.
Suzanne has built her own high tunnel and raised beds where she grows numerous varieties of veggies, herbs and flowers. Come growing season she will start opening Little River Herb Farm to the public for people to visit her store front and see her high tunnel and newly built barn.
The store front and visiting hours will be on Sundays from 1pm until 4pm. Starting the last Thursday in May, Suzanne can also be found at the Lee Farmer’s Market located on Mast Road on Thursdays from 3pm until 6pm.
At both locations you can inquire about Suzanne’s home-grown and organic herbs, flower and herb bouquets, lotions, balms, elixirs, and plant starters. Lotions and balms are available year-round, however produce will be available depending on the time of the year and herb arrangements can be made accordingly upon request (I would suggest her pesto bouquet with contains all of the herbs for homemade pesto)!
As mentioned before, Suzanne over-sees the soil testing program on the UNH Durham campus. Home gardeners, commercial and non-commercial gardens are able to send samples of their soil to be tested for quality growing advice. Information on selecting the correct form, what is needed for samples, what choices and prices are available and where to send it can be found through this link:
https://extension.unh.edu/Problem-Diagnosis-and-Testing-Services/Soil-Testing or by calling during office hours (Mon-Fri 8:00 – 12:00 and 12:30 – 4:30) at 603-862-3200.
For people interested in workshops offered to the public regarding gardening, proper canning and other useful information, Suzanne suggests checking out the Cooperative Extensions Education Center for upcoming events through https://extension.unh.edu/Gardens-Landscapes/Education-Center-Information-Line .
And lastly there is the overall Gardening Recourses page that can provide you direction to any information you may need regarding events, education, soil testing, plant questions and more through https://extension.unh.edu/Gardening-Resources .
More information on Little River Herb Farm can be found through Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/littleriverherbfarmnh).
And lastly, a huge thank you to Suzanne (and all of our famers) for all of her advice and hard-work in bringing more local ingredients into our community.
We hope to see you all at the Winter’s Farmer’s Market this Saturday located at Exeter High School!