Saturday, December 29, 2012

Medicinal teas you can grow yourself





Saturday, December 29, 2012



I did an earlier blog on growing your own teas.  I recently read in Hobby Farm Home about different medicinal herbs for teas.  This is the time of year these may come in really handy.  Here is a list of what they shared.

Burdock-can be used to help with constipation and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Chamomile-used to reduce inflammation, muscle spasms, and restlessness.  It is well known for its relaxing effect.  Be careful using, though, if you have a ragweed allergy.
Fennel-used for osteoporosis, stomach cramps.
Lavender-for anxiety, insomnia, irritability, restlessness.
Lemon balm-for digestion, nervousness, skin conditions.
Plantain-for coughing, inflammation, insect/animal bites.
Red clover-menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, skin conditions.
Sage-for digestive problems, menopausal symptoms.
Thyme-for allergies, colds, cuts or scrapes, fungal infections, respiratory infections.

You can place in cheesecloth or a tea ball.  Steep for 4-6 minutes.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

Homemade lip tint



Monday, December 24, 2012

Here is recipe that I got on motherearthliving.com for all natural lip tint you can make yourself.
DIY Lip Tint 
• 1 teaspoon coconut oil
• 1/4 teaspoon beeswax pellets
• 1/4 teaspoon, plus 1/8 teaspoon, beet root juice
• 1/8 teaspoon vegetable glycerin

Melt the coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler (bowl in a water bath).  When melted, add in the beet juice and glycerin.  When well incorporated, add to a small jar and you have your own homemade lip tint with all natural, or organic, ingredients.

If you want to make your own lip dyes, here is a list I got from hobbyfarmhome.com: 
Red cabbage: pink
Onion skins: orangey-brown to green
Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and pomegranates: shades of pink and red
Blueberries, blackberries: blue to purple
Mulberries: purple
Turmeric: vivid orange
Cumin: yellow
Paprika: orange to red
Spinach: pale green to light yellow
Cherries (frozen): peach to beige
Barberry (all parts): yellow-orange

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A sweet alternative-grow your own

Baby stevia plant

Sunday, December 22, 2012

Want an all natural, zero calorie, zero glycemic index sweetener?  You can grow your own!  It is an herb called Stevia.  Stevia is 30-45 times sweeter than sugar.

It is from the sunflower family and a native of South America, Central America, and Mexico, with some found as far north as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

In our zone 6, stevia will not survive outside during the winter, but can easily be brought indoors for the winter.  I keep mine in the garage and it is happy there.
Potted stevia

You can easily grow from seed or buy at your neighborhood nursery.  Just about any big box store carries this high antioxidant plant.


The trick to using stevia is to use it judiciously; too much will leave a bitter taste.  I bought a cookbook that shares many recipes for using stevia, called “Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More.”  Of course, you can always just look up the recipes on line.

It is easy to dry.  Just cut back to about a third its size when it begins to get lanky.  Place the stems loosely in a paper bag in a dry, dark area and allow to dry.  Just remove the leaves and crush to a powder.  Store in any airtight container.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great little veggies for small spaces

Egyptian walking onion in a pot



Friday, December 7, 2012


It appears winter is here.  Before we know it, spring will be rolling back around!  Some seeds can be started 8-12 weeks before your first frost date.  This is January/February in our Zone 6 garden.   It will be here before you know it!

Winter is the time for dreaming of what you are going to plant and harvest next season.  I have already started getting seed catalogues!

If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc.  Here are some recommendations for your garden.

Greens-Pak choi or Toy Choy Pak Choi, arugula, leaf lettuce like Oak Leaf (for cut and come again harvests), Little Gem lettuce for whole heads, Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale, Orach, Dazzle lettuce, Tennis Ball butterhead, Gala mache, Space Hybrid spinach.  The list goes on and on!

Onions-I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot.  You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives.  Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.

Beets-any.  I plant these around my pepper plants.

Carrots-get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian.

Celery surprisingly does very well in a pot by itself.  It loves water so I would keep it by itself.  Chard as well.  Chard comes in beautiful colors, too, so you can plant them in your flower bed as an ornamental that you get to snack on.

Cucumber-Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Rocky, Lemon.

Eggplant-All I have tried in a pot grows well.  For flavor, I think the White Egg does very well and does not get bitter in the hot days of summer.  Other small varieties include Fairy Tale, Gretel, Hansel, India Paint, and Thai Purple Blush hybrid.

A word about hybrids.  If you want to save seed, hybrids will not come back true to the “mother” plant.  You will want open pollinated or heirloom varieties for seed saving.  The strength of hybrids is that they have been bred to withstand different common diseases.

Green beans-go for pole beans and use a trellis so they grow up.  If you don’t like removing the “string” that some green beans have, look for “stringless.”  We discovered a new variety we really liked from a Dienger Farms-an Italian flat green bean.  I looked up Italian pole green beans and I found the variety Roma, Supermarconi, and the yellow Bean Marvel of Venice, Bean di Spagna Bianco.  May have to try one of these this year!  Produces right up until frost.  The great thing about beans is that they make nitrogen so they fertilize the soil.  I plant petunias in the same pot.

Pepper in pot with petunias
Peppers-I have found that hot peppers do great in pots.  I plant one pepper type per pot.  Sweet peppers, like Bell, do best in the ground.

Summer squash - Bush Zucchini, Lunar Eclipse/Sunburst, Piccolo, Small Wonder Spaghetti squash.

Winter squash-Acorn or butternut.  Plant where you are okay with them running on the ground or train them up a trellis.  You will get about 2 per vine.

Tomatoes-look for patio or container types.  Varieties like Balcony Patio Princess, Balcony, Tumbler, Lizzano, BushSteak, Tumbling Tom to name  a few.  Bush types are also great for small spaces-Early Girl Hybrid Bush, Big Boy Bush, Baxter’s Bush Cherry.

Couple of seed finding tips-you can do a seed search at Mother Earth News.  Here is the link:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/find-seeds-plants.aspx 
You can also get a listing of seed companies at Mother Earth News to see where they are located and what they sell (organic, biodynamic, heirloom, etc.).     

Friday, December 7, 2012

How do you decide what to grow?



Friday, December 7, 2012


Deciding what to grow can be exhilarating and overwhelming.  The varieties are endless, the options infinite.  Where do you begin when you are deciding what to grow for the first time or for the tenth time?

First, grow what you love to eat!  Make a list of your favorite fruits and veggies.  The caution for a new gardener, start small.  From your list of favs, pick your top 5-7 to start with.

I would start with plants that you get from your local nursery for first time gardeners.  Nurseries will get plants that are proven to do well in your area.

If you have made it through your first season and are ready to branch out, I would head to your Farmers Market.  Most farmers are happy to share their knowledge.  

Many veggies that you buy at farmers markets, you can save the seeds to use for your own garden!  Examples-tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, any pepper, just to name a few.  Be sure they are not hybrid varieties as they will not grow up to be the same as the parent plant.  Most organic farmers prefer open pollinated or heirloom varieties, both of which grow true.

Ask around at work; you may be surprised at the number of people that are backyard, or front yard gardeners.  They may even have seeds they would be happy to share with you so you can get started!

When you start purchasing seed, you can look for seed companies that are located in a similar climate/zone as you are.  Seed companies do trials of all the seeds and plants that they sell and choose the ones that do the best in their trials.  So, if you pick a seed company in your zone, you have a great chance that they will grow well for you.

If you are like we are, space is also a concern (and who wants to till up more than they have to even if you do have the space??).  Key words to look for in varieties to grow-prolific, produces until frost, vigorous.  I know I want to get the most from my effort and my space!

So, if I were to share the easiest to get started with, what would I grow my first season?  I would start with plants and grow lettuce, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and peppers.  If I loved beets and green beans, I would plant these as seeds.  Beets can be planted all around your eggplant, peppers, and zucchini and are ready to harvest well before the summer lovers are.  I would plant pole beans on a pretty trellis or arbor.  If I liked to cook with onions and use chives, I would get Egyptian walking onions because they are perennials and can be harvested year round.

Hmmm.  I said 5-7 didn’t I?  I just counted and I did pick 7 plants, but then threw in seeds for beets, pole green beans and an onion.  See how hard it is to keep it manageable?

The next question many ask, is how many do I plant?  There is just my husband and I.  For us, I plant 3 Earthboxes with greens, 1  eggplant, 1 zucchini, 1 cucumber, 3 tomatoes (but I can or freeze the extras).  I would plant a small type tomato (like yellow or red pear) and 1 or 2 large tomatoes as they are not as prolific as the smaller ones.  For peppers, it depends on the type you like.  1 hot pepper plant will produce a lot in a pot!  I have found I need 3 sweet pepper plants to get even close to what 1 hot pepper plant will produce.

After your first year, you may decide you are ready to try seeds.  I highly recommend the Aerogarden for seed starting.  For me, I get a 90+% germination rate using this system.  I have found it amazingly effective.

Happy dreaming!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Organic, natural lawn care





Sunday, December 2, 2012


Have you ever noticed that every time a lawn care company treats your lawn, they post warning signs to not have pets or people on the grass for 24 hours?  That doesn’t sound like something that is good for you or your family.

Chemical fertilizers and weed killers kill the microbes in the dirt as well.  These microbes are extremely important to supporting the plants growing.  They help provide the nutrients your turf needs to be resilient through all seasons.

So, what are the options?  You can go all natural and organic.  It takes 2-3 years for the microbes to rebound and your turf to get the full benefit of going all natural.

The system we like is from Organica.  It is applied 4 times a year.  The cool thing about organic, natural fertilizers is that they do not burn the lawn.  You don’t have to worry about applying too much, like you do with chemical fertilizers.  Don’t be concerned either that the NPK numbers on the bag are lower.  Natural products don’t get washed away like chemical fertilizers so you don’t need the high numbers. 

In late fall and early spring, they have a Lawn Booster that you apply; it is 8-1-1.  It contains corn gluten meal, steamed bone meal, sulfate of potash and natural soil bacteria. It simultaneously promotes turf growth & enhances biological activity in the soil profile.  This is really important-having microbes in the fertilizer to repopulate your lawn.  It also contains corn gluten.  This is a pre-emergent weed killer.  For the spring application, apply when the forsythia bushes start to bloom.

Late spring and summer, they have a Kelp Booster Plus.  Kelp Booster has plant growth hormones to give plants added resilience. It provides essential nutrients to promote cell division, root development and growth. 

They used to have 4 different types so if you see these, they are great to use as well.

You will have a lush, green lawn in 2-3 years using this system.  You won’t have the thatch that you see in chemical yards either.  Make sure that you are reseeding to keep the carpet thick to crowd out weeds.  

I would say this is the hardest part of organic-the weeds.  Options are using vinegar on hot days on the weeds, using a propane burn torch, or good, old fashioned pulling.  If you do resort to chemicals for weeds, try to spray as local as possible and do so close to when you are going to apply your next round of fertilizer to help with repopulate the microbes the chemicals killed.

A natural, organic lawn needs much less watering than a chemical lawn and stays green almost all summer with no watering.  This past summer was an exception with the high heat and drought we had.  It has now fully recovered and looks great.