Tag Archive | Herbs

Seed Savers Exchange Just Got a Bit Cooler…


Today I was reading the various posts on my Facebook page, and one from SSE caught my eye:

We are beyond excited to introduce our NEW Online Seed Exchange, the ultimate resource for all you diversity-loving gardeners out there. Since 1975 our members have been sharing thousands of seeds every year in the seed exchange, and this new online resource is the next step for keeping diversity in the hands of many: http://blog.seedsavers.org/online-seed-exchange/
We are beyond excited to introduce our NEW Online Seed Exchange, the ultimate resource for all you diversity-loving gardeners out there. Since 1975 our members have been sharing thousands of seeds every year in the seed exchange, and this new online resource is the next step for keeping diversity in the hands of many: http://blog.seedsavers.org/online-seed-exchange/
YES! YES! YES, YES, YES!
Back in the day and age when I was employed at a seed company, our seed buyer received a copy of the Yearbook. Our company was not part of the membership, and no one there was interested in it… except me.  Between the yearbook and the Seed Inventory book, I could be content for hours.
While this website only allows members to purchase seed, it is fun to look at for non-members too. It is amazing how many different varieties there are out there!

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Content from Seed Savers Exchange from their Facebook page.

Indoor Herb Production


“I was wanted to grow my herbs seeds inside for the winter at home and i was wondering if that was possable or if they would die. Thank you!  ~H.”

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The first thing that you want have is a sunny windowsill.  A south or southeast facing window is perfect – just so long as it has at least 5 hours of sun per day and is not drafty.  Pretty much any type of herb will grow, although I have found that I have better luck with more annual-type herbs (not once that get woody stems) – basils, chives, parsley, mints, cilantro, and dill work very well.  The seeds can be planted in a container that is about 6-12 inches deep.  I use a long container like what you would normally have for a window box or hanging on the edge of a deck railing.  Individual pots work well too.

Fill the containers with soilless potting mix up to about one inch below the top edge and make sure that it is light and will have good drainage.  Plant the seeds as directed.  Water sparingly as herbs do not like to have super wet soil.  Fertilize about once a month with a product labeled for use on edibles.  Snip and use the plants often to encourage them to grow full and bushy, but never trim off more than 1/3 of the plant.

If there isn’t enough light, fluorescent lights can be used.  They need to be placed close to the lights (about 18” away) and kept on for 10 hours a day.

© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Waxing or Waning: Gardening by the Moon


“Dear Horticulture Talk,

I have heard of people gardening by the moon. Does it really work or is it some kind of Wicca or pagan thing? Have you ever done it?

Thanks,

Carrie”

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Thanks for the question, Carrie. Yes, I have used the moon cycles to plan my garden and yard work for years. It doesn’t mean that you are all about Mother Earth or anything.  Gardening by the moon phases means that you are working with nature rather than against it.

Gardening according to the phase of the Moon is a centuries old practice, practiced by ancient cultures the world over. It has been long known that the Moon has a strong effect on our planet and its’ inhabitants. Its gravitational pull guides the ocean tides as well as our own inner tides. Plants are no different, as with the sea and our bodies a plant’s water content is affected by the pull of the Moon. Same for the insect, weed, fungal, and bacterial pests that may be attacking your plants.

People long ago lived by the cycle of the Sun, Moon and the seasons. In today’s busy world many choose not to track the Moon phases and instead opt to purchase a farmer’s almanac. The Old Farmer’s Almanac and The Farmer’s Almanac both contain useful gardening sections that do all the planning for you. With these you have everything you need for growing a successful garden, flowerbed or orchard.

There are two methods of practice, one is by the Moon’s phase and the second is by the Moon’s phase as well as its placement in an astrological sign of the zodiac. I admit, I have always used the former in my garden.

The Moon’s month long cycle can be separated into two halves, the waxing and the waning. The first half of the monthly cycle is from just after the New Moon to the Full Moon. The Moon grows larger and brighter and it is this lighter half that stimulates growth in a plant. One common practice that has been used for centuries is to plant just after the New Moon as this gives the seed, plant or transplant two weeks of increasing, moonlight and gravitational influence to encourage germination and growth. Plants that flower and/or bear fruit above ground are best planted during the first quarter which is roughly a one week period from the day after the New Moon (or so) to the first quarter Moon. The first quarter to the Full Moon is the ideal time to plant brambly fruits such as blackberries, raspberries and the like. This first half is also the best time to water your plants. As the Full Moon nears harvest any juicy berries, succulent leafy greens or other veggies for their optimum water content. It is also best to harvest herbs at the Full Moon as their essential oils are strongest, fragrant flowers will have stronger scent too.

The waning Moon is the period from the day after the Full Moon to the New Moon, when the Moon grows smaller and the night skies are darker. This half of the Moon’s cycle discourages growth in plants. The third quarter, which is from just after the Full Moon to the last quarter, is the best time to plant trees, vines, as well as flowering bulbs and plants that bear fruit under ground (root vegetables). This phase of the Moon is beneficial to those plants which rely on strong root systems like trees, root vegetables and strawberries. The last quarter is best used to weed, till, thin seedlings and rid your garden of pests, take this last week to mulch your garden and get a handle on those weeds. By following this method you will find that once the garden is established you will be spending less time in the garden having to water and weed.

The second method of gardening involves planting and tending the garden according the zodiac sign that the Moon is passing through. For anyone unfamiliar with the astrological zodiac it consists of twelve signs/constellations in which the Moon passes through and spends a day or two in each sign during the lunar cycle, or month. The four elements each rule four zodiac signs. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are considered “water signs” and are the best time to plant most seeds and plants. While Cancer is the best, above ground plants put in at the time the Moon passes through any of these three signs will yield the best results. Air sign Libra is said to be best for planting flowering plants. The Earth signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are the second best choices for planting. Plant your root veggies when the Moon is in Capricorn or Taurus, Virgo is best left for weeding and tilling. Fire signs Leo, Sagittarius and Aries are also ideal for weeding, tilling, cleaning and ridding your garden of pests. Air sign Aquarius is good for harvesting and Gemini is also good for working the soil.

If all of this makes your head spin, then you can do what many people over the last two centuries have done. Pick up a copy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac and head to the Outdoor Planting Table section. Right there, at your fingertips, is a handy chart that tells you when to plant what. This method is also a great science experiment for you or your children. Plant two plants or seeds one at the ideal planting time and the second at a more “undesirable” time. Watch to see how these plants grow in comparison over the season. Will your plants wither and die if you plant them at the “wrong” time? Probably not. Your garden will still plug along, but you will lack the abundant harvest and lush growth that you could have had planting by the Moon.

Waxing

  • Sow plants that flower or bear fruit above ground (1st quarter)
  • Plant blackberries, raspberries and other caned plants (during 2nd quarter)
  • Water Plants
  • Feed Plants
  • Transplant
  • Nearest the Full Moon-harvest juicy fruits and greens. Herbs for optimum essential oil content, flowers for strong fragrance.

Waning

  • Sow root vegetables (3rd quarter)
  • Plant Trees and Saplings (3rd quarter)
  • Plant strawberries (3rd quarter)
  • Weed
  • Mulch
  • Thin seedlings
  • Divide plants
  • Harvest
  • Pruning
  • Hoe
  • Pest Control

© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growing Great Parsley!


“Dear Horticulture Talk,

Are you guys still answering gardening questions? Just wondered if you were. If so, what can you tell me about parsley? I love to eat it, but am just starting to garden and what to know everything about it. Please help if you can!

Thanks,

George”

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Dear George,

Thanks for you question. Yes, I am still here, but have just been busy with some different things in my life and have not been blogging much.  However, spring is almost here (if you scrape off the snow that keeps coming to Wisconsin) and things have panned out so that I have more time to devote to my blog.  So let’s talk about parsley!

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a member of the carrot family and fits in well to its family as it is a lot more than just a decorative green on your plate. In fact, it is one of the most nutritious of all herbs. An excellent source of vitamins A and C, it also contains niacin, riboflavin, selenium, and calcium. It is rich in chlorophyll and essential oils that freshen your breath.

Parsley’s taste appeal is a world-wide crowd pleaser. Japanese deep fry it, Greeks mix large amounts with tomato sauce to create moussaka flavoring, and Spaniards use it as the primary ingredient in salsa verde. Both the common (curly) and Italian (flat-leaved) parsleys are ideal for garnishes and for flavoring soups, stews, salad dressings, and sauces; however, culinary experts (and cooking enthusiasts like me) will tell you that Italian parsley has the best flavor.

Parsley is so attractive that it also integrates easily into ornamental plantings. Its fine-textured foliage is attractive as neat edging or foliage fillers in flower beds.  Its rich green color setting off the bright blooms of pansies, petunias and other annuals.

Parsley leaves are comprised of 3 leaflets on short stems, that branch in threes at the tips of 8 inch long bare stalks. Leaves of common parsley are dark green with divided tips which curl tightly. Those of Italian parsley are a lighter green and more deeply divided and feathery, resembling celery foliage. A common parsley plant typically grows 9 to 18 inches tall and spreads about 6 to 9 inches. An Italian type may grow to 3 feet tall.

Although parsley is a biennial–its life spanning two seasons–it is usually treated as an annual and is pulled up at the end of the first season. That is why its flowers, which appear in early summer of its second year, are seldom seen. They are flat clusters composed of tiny, greenish yellow florets, and resemble Queen Anne’s lace. As with most herbs, flowering tends to make the foliage bitter and less useful for cooking. However, parsley flowers host many beneficial insects, including butterfly larvae, so it may be worth allowing some plants to overwinter and flower the next season.

Soak seeds overnight prior to planting to improve germination and use moistened seed starter mix or other sterile, soilless medium. Sow seeds about an inch apart and cover with a ¼-inch layer of the moist medium. Keep evenly moist and maintain soil temperature of about 70F. Expect sprouts in 14 to 21 days. Set fluorescent lights two inches above the newly opened leaves, adjusting them to maintain this distance above the top leaves of the seedlings as they grow for 4 to 6 weeks.

Parsley grows best in all day sun in cooler areas of the country, but appreciates some afternoon shade in warmer climates. The ideal soil is moderately rich, moist, and well-drained, although parsley plants tolerate poorer soils having less organic matter as long as drainage is adequate. Soil should be loose to accommodate parsley’s taproot and mildly acidic (pH 6.0 to 7.0).

To direct sow, dribble the seeds into indented rows ¼ to ½ an inch deep. After 3 or 4 weeks, when sprouts are a few inches tall and show their first true leaves, thin them to allow 8 to 10 inches of space between the remaining ones so they can grow freely. Depending on the variety, parsley plants will grow to maturity and set seed in about 70 to 90 days.

Plant seedlings on an overcast day or late in the day to minimize transplant stress. Dig holes about 10 to 12 inches apart and about the size of the containers the seedlings are growing in. Gently pop each seedling from its container and set each one in a hole. Firm the soil over the rootball and water immediately. If you have added granular slow-acting fertilizer to the soil, do not feed the plants further. Shield newly planted seedlings from bright sun the first day or so while they adjust to the shock of transplanting.

Parsley grows happily in a container alone, with other herbs or with flowers, as long as it gets enough sun. Use one that is 12 inches or deeper. Fill with moistened soilless potting mix to within 2 inches of its top. Mix in some granular slow-acting fertilizer or plan to water plants once a month with a dilute general purpose liquid fertilizer. Water often to prevent container plants from drying out during hot summer days.

Begin harvesting parsley when it produces leaf stems with three segments. Harvest the larger leaves at the outside of the plant first, leaving the new, interior shoots to mature. To encourage bushier parsley plants pick only the middle leaf segment of each main leaf stem.

Store freshly picked, moistened sprigs in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. Chop leaves and blend with water or stock then freeze in an ice cube tray for up to 6 months. Parsley also dries well in a regular or microwave oven, although it loses some flavor. Store dried parsley in an air-tight jar for up to a year.

 

© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Getting the Bang for Your Buck! Eight Crops to Jumpstart your Horticultural Business


“What is the best farming crop in terms of high profitability, low maintenance on a less then 10 acres of land?   I was thinking of growing oil palm, but I would like to have some alternatives from you folks.

Second of all, I new to farming, just that i have some empty land hence the interest to grow crops, if you guys know of any materials that could shed some valuable information about farming, let me know.

Thanks,

Eric”

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Growing plants for profit is a great way to turn your gardening skills into serious cash. While most of us immediately think of tomatoes or salad greens, the most profitable plants are specialty crops that are not always found in a home vegetable garden. Many specialty crops can bring as much as $90,000 per acre, and are quite easy to grow.

As a person that is looking down the road to starting my own business, it just so happens that I’ve done a bit of research on this.  There are eight basic crops that would be a great step for you on the road to getting into the market:

1. Bamboo. Landscapers and homeowners are paying as much as $150 each for potted bamboo plants, and many growers are finding it hard to keep up with the demand. Why is bamboo so popular? It’s a versatile plant in the landscape, as it can be used for hedges, screens or as stand-alone “specimen” plants. Bamboo is not just a tropical plant, as many cold-hardy varieties can handle sub-zero winters. Using pots in a bamboo business, it’s possible to grow thousands of dollars worth of profitable plants in a backyard nursery.

2. Flowers. If you are looking for a high-value specialty crop that can produce an income in the first year, take a look at growing flowers for profit. A flower growing business has almost unlimited possibilities, from bulbs to cut flowers to dried flowers – often called “everlastings”, for their long life. It doesn’t cost much to get started growing flowers for profit either – just a few dollars for seeds and supplies. Most small growers find lots of eager buyers at the Saturday markets held in most towns.

3. Ginseng. Nicknamed “green gold”, the value of this plant is in it’s slow growing roots. Asians have valued ginseng for thousands of years as a healing herb and tonic. Even though growing ginseng requires a six year wait to harvest the mature roots, most growers also sell young “rootlets” and seeds for income while waiting for the roots to mature. Over the six year period, growers can make as much as $100,000 on a half-acre plot from seeds, rootlets and mature roots. That’s why ginseng has been prized as a specialty crop since George Washington’s day, when ginseng profits helped finance the Revolutionary war against the British. Ginseng production is only possible in areas with cold winters.

4. Ground Covers. Due to high labor costs and water shortages, ground covers are becoming the sensible, low-maintenance way to landscape. Growers like ground covers too, as they are easy to propagate, grow and sell. Bringing profits of up to $20 per square foot, ground covers are an ideal cash crop for the smaller backyard plant nursery.

5. Herbs. Growing the most popular culinary and medicinal herbs is a great way to start a profitable herb business. The most popular culinary herbs include basil, chives, cilantro and oregano. Medicinal herbs have been widely used for thousands of years, and their popularity continues to grow as people seek natural remedies for their health concerns. Lavender, for example, has dozens of medicinal uses, as well as being a source of essential oils. Lavender is so popular, hundreds of small nurseries grow nothing but lavender plants. So to start your herb business, focus on popular plants.

6. Landscaping Trees and Shrubs. With individual plants bringing as much as $100 in a five gallon pot, many small backyard plant nurseries are enjoying success on a small scale. Those that specialize in unique or hard-to-find tree and shrub varieties can charge premium prices and still sell out each year. The secret to success is finding a “niche” that you enjoy, and then growing the varieties that simply can not be found at your average plant nursery.

7. Mushrooms. For those without space to garden, growing mushrooms for profit can produce a great return in a small space. Exotic mushrooms, such as oyster and shiitake, make sense, as they can be grown indoors without soil. Oyster mushrooms, for example, produce around 25 pounds per square foot of growing space in a year’s time. At the current price of $6 a pound, that’s $15,000 worth of mushrooms from a 10’x10′ space! Exotic mushrooms do not travel well, so small local growers will always have an edge over distant producers. At our local Saturday market, the oyster mushrooms are also the first items to sell out.

8. Ornamental Grasses. Because ornamental grasses are drought-tolerant and low maintenance, landscapers are using more and more of them, as are homeowners. Because there are hundreds of shapes and sizes, they can be used for everything from ground covers to privacy screens. It’s easy to get started growing ornamental grasses, as you simply buy the “mother” plants and divide the root clump into new plants as it grows. Using pots, it’s possible to grow thousands of plants in a small backyard nursery.

Best of all, most specialty crops can be grown without a full-time commitment. If you have a few extra hours a week, then you can be a specialty crop grower.
Before I start to fill you in on the particulars of each crop, think about it.  Once you figure out what you want to do, then we can take the next step of how to get you from there to harvest. 

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Planting after RoundUp


“I am having alot of problems with weeds in my garden, so I am considering nuking my garden with RoundUp this fall. Can you offer me some advice about this? Do you know how long after using RoundUp I have to wait before setting in transplants if they are not RoundUp ready transplants? Thanks. ~N.”

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Thank you for the email regarding RoundUp.  In general, you can plant 1 to 14 days after applying RoundUp to your soil/weeds depending on what it is that you are planting.  Each crop/plant type is a little different, so it is best to check with the label (PDF version:  http://www.umt.edu/sentinel/roundup_label.pdf ).  The important thing to keep in mind is that no matter what you are planting, you want to make sure that the RoundUp has enough time to get to the root of your weed and do its work before you begin disrupting the weeds.

Two things to keep in mind:

  1. If you are using RoundUp on Johnson Grass, Water Hemp, Ragweed, and others in regions that are resistant to RoundUp and other Glyphosate-formulation chemicals, your weeds will not die.
  2. If you are having problems with annual weeds, RoundUp will have no effect on them.  You would only be killing the weeds that grew this year (which are likely dying by now anyway).  The seeds that are in the ground for next year will not be killed by the RoundUp.

Before you do use the RoundUp, I want you to consider something.  The potential harm of Roundup is extensive. Spraying RoundUp can resulting in soil changes that promote root rot and an increase in numerous crop diseases (depending on what type of crop you are growing). The chemical can remain in the soil for up to 140 days, which means that it can be found in the plant, including parts used for food. Those who handle and/or apply the chemical are three times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer. They experience more low birth weight babies, infertility, and miscarriages. Roundup is known to cause deformities in amphibians. It causes low sperm count in rabbits and cell death in human embryos.

If you really want to do the right thing for your garden, then put a little effort into it by hand or with a tiller and dig the weeds out.  I realize that this may sound horrible, but look at it this way:  use RoundUp and have the potential for many problems.  Do the work by hand or with tools and have an outcome that will be lasting and provide you with the health benefit of exercise in the process.  It is your choice, but I think the best choice is rather clear: forget the RoundUp!

 

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Removing Unwanted Company: Woodchucks in the Garden


(This post is the second portion to the previous posting.)

As for the woodchucks, you have a few different options.  The most common one that I have heard is people taking out the .22 and doing some target practice.  However, there are a number of more-humane measures that you can use.

–As you plan your garden and maintain the area around it, keep a lot of open space around it — remove any nearby bushes or tall grass and any keep it away from buildings that could be burrowed under. Woodchucks avoid open spaces because of predators.

–Frequent the garden often especially in the afternoon and early evening, as these are popular times for woodchucks to feast.

–Throughout the garden and around the perimeters, place garden ornaments, pinwheels, balloons, beach balls, or shopping bags that move with the wind and make noise. This MAY scare the woodchuck away. Notice that I emphasize the word MAY. Some woodchucks are pretty smart.  If you chose to go with this method, regularly move the items (every couple days) to keep them on their toes.

–You may try ammonia soaked rags hanging from posts, spread dried urine or bloodmeal, mothballs scattered around the outside, or cayenne pepper spray throughout the garden and perimeter. Of course all of these require upkeep on a regular basis or after irrigation/rain in order to be effective at keeping the woodchuck away.

–There are commercial sprays like Liquid Fence that have some success deterring the woodchuck. Again, these sprays must be continuously used.

–If you can’t get rid of the woodchuck, your best bet is to put up a mesh wire fence, 3-4 feet high. Do not attach the wire to the very top of the fence posts. Woodchucks do not like unstable fence. Fold 6-12″ onto the ground to discourage the woodchuck from burrowing under the fence. As for the gate, post some of the moving deterrents (listed above) to keep them away so they don’t come in under/around it.

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© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.