At War in My Garden ~ Why I Love Growing Herbs

These unattractive enemies have taken over my squash, and I am spending much of my time and energy in a war against them. Squash Beetles ~ nasty little things that suck the life out of the plants I’ve been nurturinSquashBeetleg since I first put seed to soil in mid March. You name it, I’ve tried it : Diatomaceous Earth, Rotonone Powder, Pyrethrum Spray … even the time consuming and not so pleasurable task of hand picking these creatures off of my squash leaves. I’ve read articles, researched remedies and honestly, felt a lot of stress that is not a usual part of my post-spring mentality. This ‘war’ runs against all of the reasons that I love growing plants; growing puts me back in touch with the natural rhythms and harmony of the natural world. I like working WITH nature, not against it. But, this is an on-going war and I refuse to surrender.

This whole unfortunate situation brings me back to the reason that I LOVE growing herbs and making an herb spiral. Although they are not 100% free of worries, herbs have VERY FEW natural ‘enemies’. My greenhouses are filled with over 150 different varieties of herbs, but I can safely say that not much of my time is spent ‘fighting’ or ‘fretting’ about pests. These plants are really not bothered by insects the way fruit and vegetable plants can be plagued. Most pest issues occur when trying to grow herbs indoors, but when planted in the garden, they seem to have much fewer pest issues. Not, the qualifier is that you provide the best growing conditions – enough light, water and make sure that there is good air flow around each plant. You do your part, the herbs will do theirs. On the other hand, I’ve done my part, and more, in the case of the squash beetles and all I’m getting is aggravation! Not sure who will ‘win’ this battle ~

February Is For The Birds…Literally!

 

February is National Bird Feeding Month, and though we’ve had a fairly mild winter, here in zone 7, our feathered friends still need your attention. No matter where you reside, the birds in your area could use a helping hand during these cold, dreary months where weather may be harsh or unpredictable and food can be scarce. Here are a few tips to ensure that your bird buddies are well fed and warm until springtime arrives:

Water Through The Winter. Birds need a fresh source of water, so make sure to break and remove any ice that may accumulate in your bird baths, and replenish the water regularly. Our Bamboo themed Mini Oriental Bird Bath makes the perfect compact addition to your garden and gives birds plenty of fresh water to drink and play!

Cleaning is Key. Routinely clean debris from bird baths and old seed from bird feeders to prevent fungus and disease from developing and making the birds sick.

Home Tweet Home. Give your birds plenty of dry, protected places to nest for the winter. Hang birdhouses in areas that are out of the wind and weather to provide a great winter home for birds that don’t migrate. Looking for a cozy country-inspired home for your birds? Our Red Wooden Birdhouse compliments your country garden with a rustic look to give your birds the best place to nest year round!

Treats For Tweets. I have vivid memories of my mother placing halves of too-far gone oranges, apples and pears; mushy bananas, dried nuts and other edible compost out along the snow covered railings of our porch, for the mockingbirds. Songbirds LOVE fruit! Giving your birds additional nutrition keeps their diet balanced while giving them something new to instigate, while giving you a great natural show to watch from indoors.

Feed the Flock. Don’t forget to regularly refill your bird feeders and inspect them for winter damage. Replace cracked or broken feeders as needed with new ones.Our Glass Bamboo Feeder is made of thick, hand-blown  glass and brass so it’s sturdy enough to withstand winter’s worst!

Out Smart the Squirrels. Other critters may be competing for food sources during this time of the year. Try to hang your feeders in areas that squirrels can’t get to, or attach guards or cages to keep them from stealing all of your birdseed.

Select The Right Seed. Suet cakes are a great “hodge podge” of high calorie seeds that come in different varieties to attract specific types of winter birds. Peanuts and Nyger seeds are other high calorie nuts and seeds that will ensure your birds stay plump and warm this winter.

 

From Seed To Sprout: Our Herb Plants Are Getting Big!

 

Thyme, Patchouli, Rosemary, Lavender and more! Here’s an inside look at some of our herbs that are big enough to be repotted into their new homes! We’ve been growing our crops for months now, starting from seeds that sprout in our germination chamber, and eventually grow big enough to replant into larger pots. ( If you read our previous blog, “Tis The Season To Plant Seedlings“, you’ll enjoy the before and after pictures of some of our plants! )

They’ll continue growing in our approximately four inch pots until they ship directly to your door! Do you see any plants that you’ve ordered for your spring garden in these pictures? We’ll begin shipping in Mid March, starting with  zones 8-11, so they’ll be arriving before you know it! Wondering when your plants will ship? Click here!

Here’s a close up of our little Patchouli plants. At about two inches tall, they’re ready for to be repotted this week. Such beautiful, green growth! The process of growing plants is still an amazing experience to me. It’s truly a proud moment when you see your finished product, a lush, healthy herb plant, that you’ve known since it was a tiny seed, and you know that it will really make a difference in someone’s home or garden because of the care you’ve given it. We feel like proud papas down in the greenhouse when we begin to ship these little guys!

Our New Catalog

We are VERY excited to announce that our 2012 Catalog is coming to a mailbox near you! We have a polished new look, and some great new features to help you save this year!

Full of great growing tips for your favorite culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs and flowers, as well as interesting facts, high quality pictures and more! We’ve also added more pages this year to include even more of our Potted Herbs and Potted Herb Garden Kits, Tools and Garden Accessories to give you the best selection possible. And, just for requesting a catalog, you’ll get multiple discounts found inside and even some additional savings  for referring your friends. This is definitely a resource worth holding onto for reference while planting.

Request a catalog today and start planning your spring herb garden early — if you haven’t signed up for your free copy, click here!

Forget The "Vapor Rub" — Grow Your Own Cold Remedy!

Thought Eucalyptus was just a delicacy for koala bears?  Think again!  It’s actually a potent medicinal herb with a myriad of benefits. We were overjoyed a few years ago, when we discovered “Silver Drop” Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii), which is a much more cold hardy version of this Tasmanian native herb. After planting it throughout our farm, here in zone 7, it now thrives in our gardens and towers over us.

 

Used medicinally to relieve respiratory and chest congestion, ease coughs and soothe burns, Eucalyptus has long been used by Aboriginal tribes for its healing properties. Antiseptic components in the plant’s oil, like cineole- a chemical found in the herb’s oil that gives the plant its camphor-like, pungent aroma adds the active ingredient that makes Eucalyptus an expectorant. Often compared to Vick’s Vapor Rub, Eucalyptus has a strong, piney smell that aids in decongestion when inhaled.

 

To create your own decongestant, forget about the artificial drugstore remedies like Vick’s, and opt for the grease-less, natural source. Just boil some water, crush a cup of fresh ‘Silver Drop’ Eucalyptus leaves. Remove the water from the stove top, wait for it to stop bubbling, and toss in the leaves. Hover over the hot concoction with a towel over your head to collect the steam and breathe deeply until the water cools. You can then use the cooled Eucalyptus water as a fragrant hair or skin wash, to infuse your body with the plant’s fresh fragrance. I like to add lots of freshly crushed leaves to a satchel and place it in the floor of my shower where the hot water will release the essential oils into the steam. It’s a great way to open up your lungs if you’re asthmatic, clear a stuffy nose if you’re sick, or just relax and treat your body to a fresh fragrance after a long day.