Posts from the “Garden News” Category

Garden update, end of August

Posted on September 1, 2017


It's a good thing the August garden can take care of herself because I did very little this month. Mostly because there was minimal need for my interference. I planted my plants so close together that only the most persistent weeds stand a chance. These I pull up with ease after they grow tall enough to poke through the canopy. After a while one of my growing season goals becomes less about getting every weed out and more about reducing those weeds that are sending out seed heads to make next year a bit easier, so I don't sweat the small fry.

Weeds aside, the garden is (dare I say) blossoming. Each plant is growing with all her might, putting out flowers and packing on the growth. I had to rip out several square feet of toothache plant to prevent it from overrunning my calendulas and the little garden path. Don't be fooled though, there is plenty of toothache plant left.

My calendulas are producing. Most plants I leave to flower for the bees and to save my sanity, but not the calendulas. I pluck every flower and they go straight to my drying screen. When I miss a day, I let those flower heads go by so I can save the seeds. How I love calendulas.

I've been enjoying those plants that you don't harvest until the second year: valerian, clary sage, echinacea (first bloom soon!), and marshmallow. It's nice to see them growing and knowing that I'll get to play with them next year. I have several ashwagandha plants that should be in this category but they won't survive the winter, so I'll be harvesting their roots this year. This will leave me with several big spaces in the beds. Thank goodness! I mistakenly planted my rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano plants too close to some of the taller plants and they get very little sun. I'll relocate these next year to the empty spaces. This is what happens when you don't know much about the plants you're planting, and you think that blue vervain will stay small and shrubby.

I'm not sure what to do about the oats that are growing. They don't look like they'll produce heads any time soon. Although I know I have most of September before me, I'm not sure anything will come of that cluster of plants. And meanwhile they are disguising all kinds of tall grasses in there. Ah well. I'll just let them go and see what happens.

That bee balm from last month is thriving. Farmer Brittany suggested I cut the plants back to encourage root growth before the winter, so I did. The plants rewarded me with another round of blooms, which I turned into flower essence this week. August is a gift from the garden. I know it will all go by soon, and I'm planning my winterizing activities already, but it sure is good to enjoy it now.

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August is for herbs

Posted on August 18, 2017

Every morning for the last week, I've woken up and thought to myself, how much will I be able to knit today? I hope it's a lot. But August has other plans of the green variety, I guess! Because when I look back at what I've done, there's been a lot more herb gathering than yarn squeezing. The garden is giving me loads of spilanthes, aka toothache plant. I wasn't sure what to do with it at first, until I learned that it makes for a quick fix for teething babies. Let them chew on a bud for 30 seconds or so without swallowing. Presto! Numb gums with reduced pain afterwards. And let me tell you, that has saved my bacon multiple times this…

Garden update, end of July

Posted on July 31, 2017

The garden doubled in size last week, seemingly overnight. Seedlings that were mid-calf are now almost waist high, and the toothache plants are creeping over the garden path. The earth sure works her magic, given a bit of sun and rain. It still feels like a miracle every year I watch it happen. This is my fourth year — will it ever get old? Probably not! Not if I'm anything like my Memere (and let's face it, I've definitely got some of her qualities).

There are a mix of things in this little garden of mine. Some are for tea, like the purply anise hyssop in the second photo down, and the catnip that's going gangbusters. Some are for essences, like the yarrow in the fifth photo. There are the ever present calendulas, which are growing from the last of my stock of Apricot Surprise seeds from years past and which I had given up hope of ever sprouting at home. They are my favorites! Then there are the plants like marshmallow (third photo), clary sage, and echinacea which probably won't be ready until next year. I have kitchen herbs with thyme and rosemary and oregano tucked wherever I had a spare bit of ground. And because I can't stop tinkering, I put some bee balm seedlings in today where a few calendula seeds had failed to thrive. It's a bit late for planting, but bee balm is in the mint family and I'm hoping its good genes will kick in and give the plants solid footing before winter.

It must be time to harvest some of these herbs. The blue vervain, maybe? The holy basil and catnip and hyssop for sure. And what do you do with oodles of toothache plant flowers? I sprung them on my mom the other day when she visited and we enjoyed numb tongues and cheeks for about ten minutes (by enjoyed, I mean we ran around with our tongues out, drooling and wishing desperately for water). They might go well in a version of fire cider. I know they have antibacterial properties. The horseradish might disguise the tingling. Hm….

What do you do with all of your garden bounty? Where do you store it? Do you share with friends?

Growing medicine

Posted on July 6, 2017

It feels like the universe, in all its goodness, has given me a garden this year wrapped with a ribbon and bow. How else could I explain that our friends Brittany and Kevin just happened to have a spare corner of land on their farm? And that it included a hundred medicinal plant seedlings, gifted from one of their friends from her own medicinal herb farm after she finished her spring planting?

Generous. That’s what the universe is, working through friends and friends of friends. 

As Seth and I wrote out our goals and plans earlier this year, with the snow knee high and a baby sleeping in my arms, I placed gardening high on my list of priorities. It may have been a bit of cabin fever. I didn’t get to work in a garden last year with the morning sickness and drought. The necessary, long recuperation from giving birth this winter made me wild for getting my hands in the dirt.  My schemes weren’t too grand; I thought I’d be ok with a few calendula plants and some herbs and wildflowers. 

But now I have about 200 square feet studded with all manner of plants, most that I’ve never grown and a couple I can’t identify. It’s slow growing.  I got the plants in the ground halfway through June instead of halfway through May. The frequent rainy days have delayed things a bit too. But oh, to be growing again!

I’ve been chewing on this blog post for a while, trying to think of how to introduce this unexpected garden, and even now I pause a minute. But the truth is that I’m growing again: medicine, yes, but also myself. Learning how to care for new plants, expanding the medicines I’ve been making. Squeezing in work between looking after not one but two babies. Oh goodness. These are things I never thought I’d be doing. 

The list of plants is extensive. Vervain, marshmallow, motherwort, oregano, valerian, St. John’s wort, bittersweet nightshade, echinacea, milky oats, borage, thyme, rosemary, calendula, yarrow, lemon balm, California poppy, catnip, anise hyssop, common and clary sages. Enough plants to heal your skin and help you sleep, soothe your muscles and lift your spirits. And a few things that I don’t know yet. What are these two plants? Time will tell (but I wouldn’t say no to a little friendly internet help either). 


Meantime, I’ll be out there hoeing and trying not to hoe my seedlings that look like weeds. The flea beetles have gotten to my bittersweet nightshades but we’re not down for the count yet. I planted the marshmallow and valerian on opposite ends of the garden so I wouldn’t get them confused (their leaves look alike at this size). And I got the last of my very favorite calendula seeds to sprout. Small steps in the right direction, as always. 

Seed season

Posted on March 6, 2017

We went to a greenhouse skinning operation about a week ago, full of farmers helping the farmers of Upswing, owned by Brittany and Kevin, as they venture into their first season on new land.  As always, when farm folk get together talk turns to joking about how many turnips are left in the root cellar (tons!), telling how strange it is to write yet another yearly post about CSA sign-up day, lamenting the dearth of experienced farm help, and sharing how unprepared they are for March 1, the date to seed onions in flats in greenhouses. Across Massachusetts, farmers are sowing seeds in plastic trays with 98 cells and heating their greenhouses through what is hopefully the last cold spell so they can have spring onions.  Next come brassicas and peas and…

Introducing Earth Morning v.2.0

Posted on October 18, 2014

  We decided to give up our garden plot at the community garden.  It was complicated this year with just the one car and Seth’s farm job, and I can’t imagine that will get any easier as we add a house-building to the list of factors. However, just as we decided this we came across a new apartment that fits us very well.  It’s smaller than our old place (just 2 rooms!) to help in our downsizing process, it’s on a quiet street which is better for my head, it has a backyard for the dog, and — wonder of wonders — it has a garden plot with a landlord who would like us to turn it into something beautiful. Moving?  Bah. Who cares about lifting things…

Food and No Food

Posted on September 5, 2014

I love this time of year.  The garden outperforms itself with tomatoes and green beans.  I’ve been getting a couple of eggplants, dozens of cucumbers, and several handfuls of jalapenos.  Even the endive has held on.  Enough food, in short, to make me love summer. In related food matters, I went to the allergist for some help with my recurring stomach troubles and consequent migraines.  I tested as allergic to tree, grass, and weed pollen, and the allergist says I have oral allergy syndrome.  Eating certain foods triggers an allergic reaction because the food protein is so similar to the pollen protein that my immune system thinks it IS pollen and reacts accordingly.  In my case, GI trouble. I’m pretty sure it’s a huge cosmic joke.  The…

I tied up those darn tomatoes

Posted on July 25, 2014

It took me forever.  Not because it was hard, or needed special equipment that I didn’t have.  It’s because I formed a mental block against the task.  I think we all have those tasks, the ones where it feels like you’re not making any progress because you’re mired down in it.  You know — in the weeds.  And then you put it off because you feel horrible, and the task grows to monstrous proportions in your head, and then you put it off some more. I girded my loins and tied them up, trimmed the extraneous stems, and pulled the particularly egregious weeds (I left the rest where they were until another time.  I call it casual weeding).  The tomato plants look good now, like they…

Good luck at the garden, or maybe that’s just spring

Posted on June 17, 2014

I haven’t been able to make it to the garden as much as I’d like.  This is iffy when it comes to gardening — I can’t be on the ground to monitor things.  Things like chasing off chipmunks, or pulling the weeds as they poke their heads out of the ground.  When I arrived at the garden this weekend, though, I was pleasantly surprised.  It looks as though the rainy week helped me out a ton. My broccoli thought maybe it would like to spring back.  The spinach took off, despite the leaf miner.  The tomatoes seem to be holding their own.  The curly endive is delicious, and WE HAVE PEAS. I can’t figure out what’s going on with the eggplant.  Maybe flea beetles? …

This week in the garden: pests

Posted on June 2, 2014

You know the rhyme that goes, “Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” If her garden is growing, what does she have to be contrary about?  I’ll tell you.  Pests. Something has been feasting on our vegetable seedlings.  The carrots and radishes are nonexistent, despite the steady rain we’ve had.  And take a look at the endive. These endives should be about 12″ in diameter now.  They are a measly 3″ across, with browned, chewed ends.  Most likely chipmunks. Our spinach is coming up and it looks all right, except for the leaf miner spots. And I’m guessing our broccoli currently resides in the bellies of some happy woodland rodents.   It’s enough to make anyone contrary. In some good news, we got…