White Sage Wisdom

White Sage is one of our most popular perennial herb plants.  Native to Southwestern United States, the whitish leaves contain oils and resins that become released when rubbed.  Bees love this aromatic herb and its flowers so much, it is sometimes called Bee Sage.

We’ve been thinking about white sage here in the greenhouse for months!  One of our slowest-germinating plants, we started sowing these guys all the way back in November.  We’ve nursed them all winter, and we are proud to say they are finally ready to graduate to your garden!

White Sage is a water-conserving plant and therefore does not require a lot of water.  Water only when dry, and be sure to provide well-drained soil and full sun.  The hardiness and low-maintenance of this plant makes it a great player in stabilizing degraded areas.

White sage is pretty easy to prune.  Remember that it should grow into a bush, and not a trailing plant.  To encourage your plant to grow up, and not out, pruning trailing vines will encourage new, bushier growth.

Growing Stevia Yields Sweet Results

The Stevia plant is native to South America, and has long been grown for its sweet leaves.  Stevia extract contains up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar!  This beautiful little plant is quickly becoming a popular natural sugar substitute.  Although it is sweet, stevia is also known to contain natural insect-repelling properties, bypassed by aphids, grasshoppers, and other harmful pests. (The production of their super sweetness found in the plant’s leaves, is actually a deterrent to insects who can’t stand such an overdose of sugary flavor!)

Stevia is difficult to grow from seed because many places do not carry stevia seeds and it can be difficult to germinate them at home- so let us do all of the hard work for you!  Our stevia plants are well-established and ready to be added right to your garden.  Stevia is relatively sensitive to cold climates, so be sure any threat of frost has dissipated and soil temperatures are above 50 degrees before you plant outside.  Stevia likes well-drained, rich and loamy soils.  Add some compost to the top of your beds– the shallow roots will soak the nutrients right up.

Are you a container-gardener?  Stevia is quite versitile and will grow great in pots on your porch, balcony, or windowsill as well.

Meet the "Seedy" Side of Our Nasturtiums!

'Alaska Mix' Nasturtium

*Our Marketing and Social Media Director, Caroline has been attempting to turn her brown thumb green since she began working here, and it looks like she may be getting the hang of it!*

This past fall I salvaged some ‘Alaska Mix’ and ‘Empress of India’ Nasturtiums who were at the end of their season and growing closer to being composted. I decided it would be a great winter project to try to keep these creeping beauties alive in my kitchen for their culinary value (their leaves, blooms and seeds are all edible!) and it would be a great test to see how green my thumb had grown since joining The Growers Exchange team. Though light is a little scarce since neighboring buildings block it for most of the day, and my cats terrorize the curtain-like foliage by using it as cover (and as a snack), I’ve managed to keep the majority of these guys green and somewhat healthy! It’s been interesting to see how at different points of the day the foliage will crane their stems to follow the sunlight as it moves across my kitchen, like these herbs have a mind of their own!

'Alaska Mix' Nasturtium variegated foliage

While watering the other day, I readjusted some of the variegated, viney leaves to allow more of the ‘Alaska Mix’ to get more light and two, hard, green little nodes fell off! At first I thought this was some kind of pest or bug that had invaded my little indoor oasis, but after some research and thorough poking with my finger, I realized that my plant had started to go to seed. These light green seeds are rounded on one side and sort of pinched and puckered looking on the opposite side, and can apparently be prepared with hot vinegar to create “poor man’s capers”. These pretty annuals have been trying to go to seed all season and thus, end their life cycle. Keep yours blooming by continuing to prune dying foliage back and to deadhead them which will prevent the process of going to seed and keep them vibrant for much longer. I’m going to try to plant these alien-looking little seed pods and see if I can sprout some more of these awesome spiller herbs!

'Alaska Mix' Nasturtium seeds

I also recommend growing these indoors to any novice or brown thumb, like myself, or to anyone who has kids. The Nasturtium‘s non-toxic, edible leaves make a beautiful contrast to their bright, continuous blooms, and because they grow quickly and can take a little abuse or neglect. Though I need to repot mine, as they’re getting too big for their britches, I’d recommend a hanging pot or container to hang them in a sunny window. This way, their leaves and tendrils can have room to stretch and grow, and they’ll be out of the way of little furry monster who may try to dine on them. These Nasturtiums, along with a few Calendula (which I haven’t been as successful with) have been a true delight during these dreary, cold months. Just a little green around your home can make a huge difference in picking up your spirits while it’s gross and gray out. Try growing some today– they’re a great first time herb plant!

Planting Lavender

Most herbs require well drained soil. Many grow in rocky or sandy soil and are adapted to dry conditions. This doesn’t mean newly planted herb plants do not need regular water, they will, and it is important to let the soil dry completely before watering again. The same is true for fertilizing herb plants, they only need a little bit. Herbs are like wine grapes, they are better when they struggle. Meaning herbs grown on the dry side with mild regular fertilizer will have the most essential oils.

Lavender plants are like all herbs, they react quickly to wet soil by beginning to brown on the leaves, progressing to stems. Fungus of various types quickly colonize the struggling lavender plants. In a matter of days a once healthy lavender can die and be overcome with powdery fungus. They really hate wet roots!

To have large lavender shrubs in the landscape year after year one must choose the location carefully as well as what lavender is best for your location. Full sun, a minimum of six direct hours. Protection from winter winds. And a site that allows rain water to drain away quickly. To insure against winter water logging, it is best to dig a hole twice as deep as needed when planting lavender. Back fill to proper depth with sand or gravel under the new plants. This keeps even the wettest winter from killing the plants. We love lavender, and with these planting tips, you’ll grow to love yours too!

This Week in the Greenhouse…

Our seedlings are growing strong to ship to your door!

Our seedlings are growing strong to ship to your door!

Temperatures are dropping outside and everyone is gearing up for the holidays, but here in the greenhouse, we’re thinking only of spring!  Our slow-growing seedlings have been germinating and getting ready for weeks, and they’re just about ready to transplant and stretch their young roots.  With help from our flat filler, thousands of new seedlings will soon move on up to their bigger pots!

Ino working hard!

Ino working hard in the greenhouse!

Slow-growing plants like Chives, Feverfew, White Sage and Vervain can take weeks, months, or even years (if it’s Bay) to mature enough for transplanting.  Here at the Grower’s Exchange, we take our time with our young seedlings, patiently watering and waiting for the day when they can ship out to your door.

These little plants will be waiting and ready to be added to your garden in March.  Stay tuned for growth updates!