Planning and Prep Series:  Tools of the Trade

Planning and Prep Series: Tools of the Trade

I once read somewhere that humans tend to take better care of their cars than they do their own bodies.  My car is a wreck – it’s the one place that I let it all ‘all hang out’. So, in my case, I’d say I take better care of my garden tools than I do my own body.  And, by extension, I have a lot of tools that have been with me for a really long time. I’m not alone in this; most of my closest friends are gardeners, and all of us have one or two tools that are older than we are – your mother’s snips, your grandfather’s hoe, and even a handmade grain scoop.

The only common denominator to account for this longevity is that all of these ‘tools of the trade’ were lovingly taken care of.  Back in the day, out in the country, no one had the luxury of a Saturday errand to Home Depot to pick up the latest gizmo or cheap-as-dirt-made-in -you-know-where-thingamabob that was guaranteed to make your chore quicker, easier and more effective than anything on the market!  Your tools were not replaceable at a moment’s notice, and lots of time, you even had to improvise. Yep. Make something out of something else.

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Planning and Prep Series:  The First Step

Planning and Prep Series: The First Step

I’m going to play weather woman: the current conditions, right outside my window, is 26 degrees and clear with an overnight of 15 degrees. The ground is rock solid, leaves on my evergreen bushes are a bit limp, and the birds are covering my feeders. Some of my garden boxes still have cold weather leftovers – collards, kale, and arugula, and the paths are a patchwork of weeds.

On the farm, a heat lamp is on in the chicken coop, the cows are munching on an endless supply of hay, the horses are in every night, and the goats are unfazed. We are going through our firewood quickly and going outside isn’t the first thing I want to do each morning.

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Herbs Associated with Halloween

Herbs Associated with Halloween

Folks in my neighborhood have taken Halloween to a whole new level;  it is incredible what a bit of technology will do for a holiday. Back in my time, we’d have a Casper mask with an elastic strap.  Very hard to breathe in that thing, so you were forever lifting it up for a breath of fresh air. Moms gave away homemade popcorn balls and candy apples.  You knew who was going to have the ‘good stuff’ (Milky Way bars were a favorite) and who to avoid (the elderly neighbor who thought handing out pennies was acceptable).  Gone are those days – we’ve got big scary spiders climbing up the sides of houses, and tombstones with automated skeletons waving from the ground. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent close to 9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2018.

But, the origins of Halloween have little to do with candy and zombie costumes.  Most of the ancient festivals associated with Halloween had to do with the harvest and magic.  The Halloween that we celebrate today didn’t arrive along a single path; it is a combination of traditions that tie transitioning seasons to the thin layer between life and death.  All of these traditions, the broomstick, the apples, the witches, have ancient roots. No image of Halloween is complete without witches and broomsticks, and when it comes to witches, we need to talk about HERBS! (more…)

Herbs in Cocktail Drinks – From Mixology to Mocktails

Herbs in Cocktail Drinks – From Mixology to Mocktails

When it comes to cocktails, most people probably focus on the alcohol that goes into them. While alcohol is one of the major components in cocktails, you can take yours to the next level by adding various ingredients. Things such as garnishes, rims adornments, herb infused syrups, and bitters can dramatically change the taste and flavor of a cocktail. However, herbs remain the most underrated when it comes to mixing cocktails. The good news is that you don’t have to be a connoisseur of drinks to come up with a great herbed cocktail or mocktail drink. Here are some of the herbs you can add to cocktails and how to go about it. (more…)

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

Harvesting Herbs in the Fall

It is that time of year again. We spent months anxiously awaiting the first signs of spring – your perennial herbs emerging or warm enough weather for annuals. And, because we sell to every conceivable zone in the continental US that ‘just right time’ spans months. For us in Zone 7, we try to wait until ‘Tax Day’ but don’t always make it!

From Spring to Fall

Nevertheless, spring arrives and the fun begins – the act of planning shifts to actual planting, and more planting followed by pruning and tending and clipping. Using your herbs in all sorts of ways, because all we know, herbs are so versatile. All summer to enjoy the fresh taste of mint in tea, fresh basil on your Caprese salad, real dill on your grilled fish, tarragon chicken salad and a farm fresh chicken stuff full of fresh Bouquet Garni. We’ve done it all! For our clever DIY customers, the fun never ends while our homeopathic friends are creating all sorts of healing ointments, tinctures and teas.

But, we can all sense the change. Days are shortening, Helianthus and Joe Pye Weed are announcing the arrival of cooler nights. Fewer butterflies on fewer blooms. No more delighting in hummingbirds at the feeders. (more…)

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly with Asclepias Tuberosa, Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias Tuberosa) is a native plant that creates a wonder area of your garden for monarch butterflies. The Growers Exchange wants to encourage our gardening friends to set aside a sunny space in their gardens to help these majestic butterflies thrive and slow the decline of their population.

The bad news: there can be no question that natural habitats, areas where monarch butterflies live, are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Habitat destruction, defined as changing an area in which a plant, animal or other organism lives to the point where that species can no longer survive. The destruction is generally described as either actual destruction, degradation or fragmentation. In the case of the Monarch butterfly, the major threat to their survival is the loss of milkweed habitat, which is an essential plant in their life cycle. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the counts of Monarch butterflies are trending down sharply, and their migration is now under threat.

The good news: restoration of habitat can be achieved with very little effort on the part of concerned gardeners. You can easily offset this loss of a critical host plant in your own yard by planting milkweed, the vital host plant for Monarch butterflies. (more…)