Fresh from the drying racks I now have organic dried Catnip, Peppermint and Motherwort available to sell. Click on the links for info on why you need them in your/your families life, you might be surprised.
Man, what a crap summer! I should be looking at my jandal tan marks not bloomin snow on the ranges. Check out this photo I took on Friday in Levin.
Perhaps my wish for less flies got misconstrued by Mother Nature, though I’m going to count it as a silver lining! The only silver lining mind.
I have learnt an important (painful) lesson though, if you’d read an earlier post of mine, I had said I was trying to keep blight at bay by nipping off the infected foliage. Well that was a losing battle and I ended up pulling 18 tomato plants out and harvesting my main crop potatoes early, therefore they won’t keep. So my lesson is to pull out the plants as soon as you see infection, it will move onto the fruit and/or spread onto other susceptible plants. I’ve lost two seed lines due to this nasty lesson (Sweet Raima and Moonglow). For the next three years no tomatoes nor potatoes will go in those now empty beds. I’m going to fill them with lettuce and what not for now.
Keeping a regular seaweed spray routine is said to help keep your plants strong against blight. I must admit that I do spray with seaweed but I often forget… I won’t anymore! You can use copper as a fungicide, a lot of organic institutions say it’s ok, some say only if there’s a real risk of infection (it’s a preventative not a fixer), some say not at all. There’s an article here if you’re interested. Personally I’m not sold on the idea. I’ll just work on getting my soil stronger as a preventative and remember to regularly apply seaweed.
Hope your gardens are growing strong and healthy!
P.S. Raumati is Maori for Summer
So the chickens drove me to the point of near insanity, digging up what gardens I was unable to net, eatting seedlings I couldn’t protect, doing Houdini escapes from the chicken coop I made them as a last resort… Free range is all good and well, does mean their eggs range free far and wide who bloody knows where though! Their disadvantages were starting to strongly out weigh their benefits, so we sold them.
Now I miss them…sort of…they were beautiful to look at, when we located their eggs they were good and now what do we do with all the childrens leftover scraps??!!
I don’t like putting cooked food in my compost, we have enough rats lurking around I don’t want to go and make a cafe for them. But now a worm farm could deal with that and I’ll get goodies out of it too. Vermicompost, called “black gold”, looks like rich chocolate mousse..made with black beans! Compared to ordinary soil this stuff contains five times more nitrogen, seven times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium. Hoo-wee! I’ll have some of that. Seems like it’s best to use the vermicompost diluted 1:20 in water and vigorously stirred (aerated) rather than using the liquid “worm wee” which can go anaerobic and contain bad bacteria. Though I’m no pro and could be all fine as long as it’s diluted enough. I use a splash of worm wee in my hand crafted potting mix and nothing has died!
Yesterday I was given a bucket of this black gold along with a handful of worms, a tour of a working worm and all other critter farm and inspiration to get cracking to make my own, thanks Richard!
So in true me style I scoured our property to see what I had to be able to make one for free, I found… an old power meter door, a recycling bin, some shade cloth, a plastic netted tray, a broken baby bath, tyres, polystyrene boxes. Hmmmm. Then I googled and found what would fit, made a few adjustments, blended a few ideas and came up with something that I’m sure someone has done before! This website here had lots of different ideas and was useful.
I use polystyrene boxes to transport my seedlings to market, after three years of use a couple are getting beyond use, but then what do you do with the awful things? I’m pleased to find a use for them here, almost dare I say perfect for what’s going to be my ramshackle project.
So in between rain spells I cleared an area where it will go. A shady spot (so the worms don’t cook) and not in a too awkward place too far from the house, nor too close. The bin there is where I put our kitchen scraps, when it’s full I make compost. Near there made sense~
First layer is a polystyrene box that has no holes, this is where the liquid stuff will go, I think! To harvest I’ll be able to lift off the other layers and tip it out, that’s the plan anyway.
Then I put broken tray down and quite broken polystyrene box lined with shade cloth.
Another box on top. My plan is that once the worms are doing their business and this top layer becomes full I can swap those top two over and start again but with a head start and things drip into the bottom one whilst the one in the middle matures? Yeah, I’m not entirely sure but in my head it’s a terrific idea!
Then I put in ripped up newspaper for bedding material.
See the stripes on these worms, they are tiger worms Eisenia foetida. These are the worms you’re after, ye ol’ common earthworm just doesn’t cut the mustard.
I put kitchen scraps on top of the newspaper then the worms. Then remembered that these worms hang out at the top of piles rather than the bottom like earthworms, so put more scraps on top like a worm sandwich!
That sludgey stuff is the “black gold”. I probably should’ve put some of my half worked compost in first. Oh well, live and hope!
I then tucked the whole shebang in with some newspaper and put rolled up bits of newspaper round the outside to secure it all in and keep it moist and hopefully the flies away.
We watered the newspaper then put a feed bag on top secured with bits of timber. It aint pretty but hopefully it will work as it’s meant too! I’ll keep you posted
It’s been well worth the wait…Clary sage, Salvia sclarea doesn’t flower til its second year but when it does it’s most dramatic and for plant geeks most exciting!
Let’s start from the start in how to grow these magnificent plants as there seems to be a lot of interest in clary sage.
Seeds can be sown from early spring to mid summer. The seeds germinate pretty reliably and don’t require any special teasing or molly coddling to come up and grow (unlike some other sages I know, S. Apiana I’m refering to you..) just light and water.
Don’t let the cute little seedlings fool you though.
When you plant them out these puppies need quite a lot of space, they grow huge! You want to give them a radius of about 80cm, particually if you have any low growing plants in the area. As they tend to say in gardening books for big tall plants – “best to grow in the back of the border”. With the flower spikes they grow to a height of over a meter.
The other consideration of course when planting out is that it’s in a nice dry position with a fair amount of sun…in summer AND winter. Once established they need the bare amount of watering. Then the wait begins for the flowers to come out next summer.
The colours range from pink, purple to white. The scent ranges from delightful lemony fragrance to smelly socks, dependant on the nose of the beholder!!
Side story; I came across a gardenia flowering the other day, I love its perfume so I excitidly told my daughter to take a whiff, she leant over and poooh! instantly screwed her face up and held her nose saying “Eurghh! What is that?!” Oh.
Now, apparently, S. sclareas’ first claim to fame was as an adulteration in various alcohol concoctions from Rhenish wines infused with elder flower to beers which “produced an effect of insane exhilararation of spirits succeeded by severe headache” (Mrs M. Grieve) Is that what they put in Beer Chang??
If you go to earthnotes website there’s a recipe for Clary wine amongst other fabolous/interesting herb and fruit based wines..
It’s the use of the seeds that gives clary sage its other name of “Cleareyes”. When soaked in water the seeds create a mucilage coating which can then be used to clear debris from the eye.
The most common use nowadays of clary sage is in its essential oil form. Which is kind of out of my jurisdiction but here’s a website that will tell you all about it!
It’s been so long I almost don’t know where to begin, but it’s the end of the year in a matter of hours so I better just begin to end the year, now!
It’s been a busy couple of monthes, always is during market time and I’ve been working on extending my season (I usually wrap up by Xmas, market wise). In the new year I’ll be selling Thai Basil, Sacred Basil/Tulsi, Red Russian Kale, green cabbage and Red Treviso Early Chicory. All organic of course~
I’ve been dealing with the pleasant effects of so much rain.
The herbs have been going off and already I’ve harvested my peppermint twice.
Got a beauts crop from my sage and my catnip is just about ready for cutting, amongst others.
Let my lemon balm be a warning to you, DO NOT plant it (or any harvestable herb) under a tree frequented by birds!
I’ve also been dealing with the unpleasant effects of this wet spring… Rust on the garlic, early blight through one of my tomato beds (I bagged up and disposed of all affected foliage, they seem to be all doing ok still if not a bit naked!) which caused a paranoia induced lifting of my urinika patch, silver leaf in one of the apple trees. Weeds galore, mainly grass. And the freakin chickens drove me insane, despite netting they dug up my borlotti fire tounge bean patch, got into a tomato bed and ate the seedlings (that weren’t affected by blight) and made me doubt my vegetarian heart! Note I’m talking in the past tense, we sold them just before Xmas! Looks like I’m going to have to get a worm farm cracking so the wastage that the kids create won’t go to complete waste!
Anyhoo, happy new year everyone, may your herbs grow strong and your heart ring true!
Catnip. Cats. Cats on high. General thought pattern when thinking of Catnip (Nepeta cataria) eh, but oh there is so much more to Catnip than another cats fun…
Now is probably a really good time to know about Catnip. Especially if you have children that are nervous about these earthquakes, as any cat worth its whiskers will tell you catnip has a sedative action on the nerves giving it relaxant properties. Catnip was actually the tea of choice in Britain before the tea from China came along…
Catnips’ most common and valuable use though is for fevers. Catnips’ brilliance lies in its ability to induce sleep and produce perspiration without increasing the heat of the bodies system. If the fever is part and parcel with a cold blend it with Elder and Yarrow, it makes for a pleasant tea that children might even drink (can sweeten with honey if desired).
Catnip can also ease sore tummy’s, diarrhea, nervous headaches and colic.
So how to, how to…. The leaves and flowering tops are the parts used. It is best prepared as an infusion which is near enough like a tea. Two teaspoons of the dried herb (or 4 teaspoons of fresh) with one cup of boiling water poured over, cover and leave for 10-15 minutes. Dosage wise children may have 2-3 teaspoons frequently, adults in doses of 2 tablespoons. A tincture of the herb can be made but I must admit it’s not incredibly palatable (personal opinion). Mrs M. Grieve tells me that “The young tops made into a conserve, have been found serviceable for nightmare” Catnip jam on toast before bed? And if you’re feeling particularly wealthy but poorly with scarlet-fever, small pox or colds and hysterics a tea made with equal parts Catnip and Saffron is said to be excellent. You’d better bloody hope so with the price of saffron!
Growing wise Catnip is not fussy with soil but likes to moderately moist if it’s hot. Can be grown in full sun or partial shade, take note though that it can get quite tall and bushy so plant it where it’s got room to groove and won’t overshadow anything more dainty. Catnip is considered a perennial, some say a short lived perennial with a life of 4-5 years. If cats are a problem throw a dishrack over the top of it until it’s big enough to withstand the feline loving.
In our last place I never saw the culprit but I knew it was a white cat from the ring of white fur around my squashed catnip! Always sprung back up though.
Now, Catnip is different from Catmint (Nepeta musinii), where Catnip is tall Catmint is low growing with a trailing habit. Catnip is the preferred plant for medicinal use.
I best state here that I am not a qualified herbalist and all information here is not professional medical advice and for anything acute and or serious please go see your local qualified herbalist or doctor! But I do grow and sell the plant!
Southernwood. Lad’s Love. Boy’s Love. Maiden’s Ruin. Old Man. Appleringie. Artemisia abrotanum…..This plant has such a cool history!
In Roman times one of its prescriptions was for balding. When it got introduced to England in 1548 pubescent country boys must’ve got wind of this and started making an ointment out of Southernwoods ashes, that they would then smear on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.
They must’ve been pretty chuffed when it eventually worked because it was also used in bouquets to give to their lasses they were a-wooing… St Frances de Sale says
“To love in the midst of sweets, little children could do that, but to love in the bitterness of Wormwood is a sure sign of our affectionate fidelity.”
Hence (apparently) why it was used in their flower arrangements. Or more heathenly, perhaps it was used because it was once considered an aphrodisiac and was an essential ingredient to make a love potion!
Paganism aside; many people planted Southernwood by their front gate, men would pick a sprig for their lapel buttonholes on their way to church. Haha! Whereas it was customary (a bit more conspicuously) for women to carry large bunches of this plant and (Lemon) Balm to church on the premise that the keen aromatic scent would prevent drowsiness. What does that tell you huh?!
Artemisia abrotanum is the southern wormwood, indigenous to Spain and Italy. It has feathery grey-green leaves (Wormwood Artemisia absinthium has silvery foliage with pinnated leaves) and very rarely if ever flowers, hence it can only be grown by cuttings or division.
It likes a nice sunny situation and handles drought conditions like a champion (’tis best kept on the dry side). Tends to die down a little in winter but comes back lush in Spring. It’s when Southernwood is in this flush of growth (about now) that it pays to give it a little trim to keep it nice and bushy.
You can use those trimmings to strew wherever you don’t want moths, hang in you closet or in those boxes of clothes you’re going to re-invent sometime soon! The scent is disagreeable to other insects including the bee so don’t plant it in your “bee garden”. Wonder if it would work against flies??
Medicinally it is used as an emmenagogue, take note it tastes a bit nicer as a tea than a decoction. Apparently the branches are said to dye wool a deep yellow, oooh natural dye, I know a few people who would be interested in that aspect!
So, naturally I have these plants for sale all ready and waiting for your garden!
Next time you’re going to Komodo Island (to see the komodo dragons of course) make sure you take some French Tarragon (Artemisia drancunculus). The name tarragon is a corruption of the French Esdargon, derived from the Latin Drancunculus (a little dragon, and it’s botanical name)…. “was ascribed the faculty of curing the bites and stings of venemous beasts and of mad dogs.” (source; Mrs M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal).
It is a herb that is more known for its culinary value than medicinal- in fact it doesnt actually have much, if any medicinal action going for it these days. But is an absaloute must, quite obviously, for tarragon vinegar. which in turn is the only correct flavouring for sauce tartare (and a whole lot of other french sauces that this obviously un-cultured chick has never heard of!).
According to the authors of “The Cooks Herb Garden Revisited” Tarragon butter is the bees knees.. 150g of softened butter with 1-2 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, served with asparagus, potato and/or salmon (sounds like my perfect dinner!).
French Tarragon doesn’t produce seed so can only be propagated by cuttings or divisions, I like how Edgar Anderson a famous botanist put it when he said in 1936 that “when we take a plant of true tarragon into our gardens and grow it, and at length divide the root, we are the last link in a long chain of such people”.
French tarragon grows best in full sun with moderate watering. The young tender tips are best used in the kitchen so keep your plant well trimmed to get more shoots. The plants dies down in Autumn/Winter, keep your roots on the dry side (they rot easily) and up she’ll come again in Spring. Autumn is the time to divide the roots if you want to establish more plants, see my post here for more info on dividing.
Now don’t be fooled into Russian tarragon (A. dracunculus subsp. dracunculoides) which is nothing in flavour compared to the “true” tarragon. When you chew on a leaf of tarragon it should be really aniseedy and make your tongue feel a little funny. Russian tarragon can be grown from seed whereas french cannot.
French Tarragon is obviously a popular herb as I’ve nearly sold out of my plants available this year! Be in quick or if you’re heavily into pre-planning order for next year….
Finally I have updated my website with the herbs I have available this year and oh la la it’s so exciting to have this many! They’re all listed under the “Herb Plants” drop down menu. See it? It’s just up there ^ Goes all the way down to White Sage… I’m going to start doing blog posts on the individual herbs for more information on their uses and how to grow them well.
And I’m all set to go for the markets on the 15th, yippee!!
The flies are circling getting ever closer to the house..apart from living in a chemical fog what else can we do to keep them out of the house..
Join me in my research…
Here is proof that last year was really bad for flies (and it wasn’t just our house!) and some tips to not attract them from stuff,co.nz
Did you read that idea about Peppermint and Mint plants being helpful? Got those! (And you can too.. )
Ach! These are just a bit glam, I really like them…
Good for when you’re cooking outdoors with your outdoor cooker or pizza oven! (Gotta plug the hubby!!)
Lemon and cloves seem to be a popular idea, I did actually try this last season…perhaps I needed more than just one half of a lemon!
Or you could get one of these!
This image is from a Fly Trap Care Forum. ‘Aint it a beauty!
It seems the old water in a plastic bag is a common one too, we happen to have hooks around our doors so I’ll try this one this year.
What do you do? Got any great ideas to share? ‘Coz every little bit helps if they’re going to be as bad this year as last year!