Midsummer is the perfect time to begin using all of those herbs that are at their peak! Almost any culinary herb that is currently in your garden will work, and the combinations are absolutely endless.
Basically, you are creating a flavored sweetener and how you use it is up to you. A few of our favorite uses for an herb-infused simple syrup include:
- Sweetening iced tea, lemonade and coffee
- Added to any cocktail or mocktail (e.g. The Ultimate Mojito)
- Drizzled over yogurt or ice cream
- A substitute in any recipe that calls for water
Spring is such a frenzied time for a gardener, and so many of us, tired of the dreary winter, tend to jump the gun and live to regret it. Yes, even veteran gardeners give into emotion when we see all of those bright annuals luring us into the garden center in March. What we don’t see, however, is their weary staff trying to hustle carts back into the greenhouses in the evening after a snap frost has been forecasted. Or, planting early when the soil is still cold, being frustrated by no growth. Do you expect your cake to bake when the oven is off?
Ah, Spring ~ the fickle season. Bringing us out on a lovely day then slapping us back inside with an unexpected snowstorm. “Cover the “ – you can fill in the blank! And on the other side of spring, another lovely day followed by a scorcher – “Water the “ and fill in the blank! (more…)
If you’re familiar with permaculture principles, you might also be familiar with herb spirals. Herb spirals are essentially highly productive and efficient garden beds and are often considered the crown jewel of any sustainable yard.
Herb spirals are water-efficient, space-efficient, productive, and nice to look at. Spiral patterns are often found in nature, from pea tendrils and fiddleheads to snails and mollusk shells. So why not incorporate a spiral into your garden design? Let’s take a look at the inner workings and many advantages of herb spirals:
How Does an Herb Spiral Work?
Permaculture is all about developing spaces in a way that makes sense and works with the systems of nature that are already in place. Herb spirals follow these principles as well. They’re a great starting point if you’re interested into delving further into the world of permaculture.
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…)
Inhale something lovely, a sprig of lavender perhaps. What happens? Better yet, open the bottle of perfume your mother always wore. Memories flood in. Why?
Our sense of smell has been vital to our survival. We, in 2018, may not rely on that sense as we once did, but think about it: sniffing food to see if it is still edible, smelling the smoke of an enemy’s fire, detecting the healing properties of herbs through smell.
Our minds are a creation of the inputs coming from our five senses, and our sense of smell has the power to both heal as well as awaken memories. It is the most enduring sense, and it can take us back in time and flood our brain with memories, both good and bad. (more…)
Although some would argue that ‘mindfulness is the new black’, for most gardeners, we’ve been practicing mindfulness since the first moment we connected to the soil.
Don’t get me wrong guided meditation, in the classic sense, is an important I’d argue; a vital technique in which we are able to align our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. I’ve come away from a weekend retreat feeling more grounded, more peaceful, and more ‘at one with the world’ thanks to the guidance of world-renowned Sharon Salzberg. But, that experience, as impactful as any I’ve had short of the birth of my 3 children, doesn’t happen every day. (more…)
In this case, ‘good’ means attracting pollinators to your garden. In case you have forgotten, pollinators are essential to our survival. That sounds pretty dramatic, but when you recall your elementary earth science class, you remember that almost ALL of the world’s flowering plants rely on pollinators! According to the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, ‘pollinators provide service to over 180,000 plants and more than 1,200 crops … 1 out of ever 3 bites of food you eat is available because of pollinators’. Without pollinators, our food supply would be in peril.
There is GOOD SCIENCE that clearly shows that pollinator populations are in decline: habitat loss means that this vital population is losing nesting and feeding habitats. Pollution, climate change, disease as well as the misuse of chemicals have all contributed to this worrisome state of affairs, and the need for action is clear. (more…)
Although it won’t be official until mid-March, when the Mexican government releases the winter’s population count, ‘unofficial’ reports are anticipating a rather small migrating population. These unofficial reports are coming from the El Rosario Sanctuary in Mexico (see video example from 2016 at the end of this post); a site that can sometimes be the winter home for over 50% of the entire monarch population in Mexico. Reports and photos show butterflies densely covering approximately 18 trees. That’s good news, but last year, reports were that 50 trees were covered.
That’s not good news, but it is a call to action: PLANT MORE MILKWEED!
We’ve written a lot about pollinators, monarchs, and natives. We think that they are really important, so forgive any redundancy! A few things to keep in mind:
- All Milkweed plants are Asclepias
- Milkweed is the required host plant for monarch butterflies
- Any loss in the population of milkweed means the loss of the monarch population
- We are losing both at an alarming rate
- The biggest threats come from urban development and agricultural intensification
I’ll be the first to admit it: growing herbs indoors is not as easy as growing them outdoors. But, rest assured, it can be done. Since I have a lot of greenhouse space, plenty of light and water and 24/7 attention, I never felt the need to grow them indoors, at home. But, over the years, as your questions about indoor growing became more numerous and specific, I began to grow more and more of them in our bright little ‘life of it’ room (named by my then 6 year old son, who on a cold wintery day, proclaimed that our warm sunny haven was ‘the life of it’) – not sure where that came from, but it stuck. Twenty -three years later, it’s still bright and sunny and filled with herbs ferns, gardenias and a lot of citrus trees and bushes. (more…)
As much as I love growing herbs, I really love talking about them. And, believe it or not, I get lots of nice invitations from lots of nice folks who don’t mind listening to me ramble for an hour or two. My last show was for a group of truly dedicated gardeners at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden. So, if you remember your American history classes, right around my farm is the birthplace of our nation. Jamestown! We even have a little competition going on about the site of the first Thanksgiving; in theses parts, we claim it was at Berkeley Plantation, a mere 20 miles down the road. But, I digress…
Bottom line: if you are speaking to a group of gardeners in Williamsburg, you better be prepared to toss in a bit of history so here goes; as the early settlers began to colonize these shores, herbs were among the most important cargo. Herbs for healing, herbs to improve the flavor a what would be considered a very bland diet, and herbs to disguise the smells that were a part of poor sanitation as well as spoilage. Herbs were vital to the establishment of a thriving colony. (more…)