Calming Ways to Use Chamomile

Chamomile is widely known and used for mild insomnia. But did you know you don’t have to drink it? If you feel restless or anxious before bedtime, you can also use chamomile in a bath or footbath to enjoy the calming effect.

Chamomile likes to grow in full sun

Chamomile likes to grow in full sun

Chamomile is also an anti-inflammatory, due to its essential oil, azulene. This may also help to lower fever. To use a gargle for sore throat, make a double-strength tea.

A cup of chamomile tea is also a digestive aid, both through calming and the bitter compounds in it.

For some individuals, chamomile has an immediate calming effect. (That would not be me.) For others, chamomile needs to be used a few times a day over several days to help. (My hand is raised on that one.)

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Chamomile is considered safe for children.

How much? 1 tsp dried herb to one cup water for tea.

Prepping chamomile to dry in the dehydrator

Prepping chamomile to dry in the dehydrator

My experience with chamomile out of our garden: Dried and fresh taste very different. Fresh has almost no taste. Dried chamomile has a mild sweet taste.

Resources: Medicinal Herbs - Rosemary Gladstar. The Simple Book of Herbs - Lisa Bedner, R.N., Herbs for Stress and Anxiety - Rosemary Gladstar.

How to Harvest Sweet Potatoes (aka Treasure Hunting)

It is my favorite time of year. Not just because of time with family and friends - but because the sweet potatoes have cured and are ready to eat!

A few years ago when we started our garden we were somewhat intimidated by the mass of vines and not knowing how potatoes would be found under the soil. How deep would they be? How far would runners go? What are the ways to get them out? Just pull or get rid of the vines first?

Before you watch the video of the steps we took, here are a few other tips:

  1. Dig what you cut that day. We had sweet potatoes in three beds. We cut down only the beds we could harvest that day because all of the experts say potatoes will rot in ground if the vines are cut off and left for days. We’ve not tested it. We just go with it.

  2. For the size bed we have in the video (4X8 feet) it took about 6 hours for two adults to cut, dig, set up to cure, and clean up the mess.

  3. Curing? Directions say “warm” place and then after 2-3 weeks to cool storage. We’ve never created an ideal environment for curing. We just lay them out, not touching each other, on cardboard in the garage. If it is September, it might be warm. If it is October, it is cool, especially on the garage floor. But they’ve always cured beautifully over 3 weeks.

Happy Hunting!

Critical question for gardening plus our garden updates

I get asked what we are planting in our garden, so I decided to show you here.

This year was different. As we continue to develop our medicinal herb garden, we had much less time this year for our vegetable garden, so we used what we have learned to decide what to plant.

We asked ourselves, which plants are most important to us, because every plant has its unique pests and challenges. This summer we decided to not grow some of our regulars.

Beans require a lot of harvest and processing time. Squash is quick and easy to harvest and process, but the squash bugs are beyond description. I won’t even go there. Melons and cucumbers are nice, but there is not a great way to save extras.

So, tomatoes (easy to grow, harvest, and freeze), peppers (the same), and sweet potatoes (the variety I like are only sold at a store an hour away) were it for us this summer. Spring and fall include a lot of beets and radishes, as their pests are easy to control.

Next year our medicinal herbs should be established and we plan to get back to our regular vegetables. As you garden, for that matter as you live, there is a continual re-setting of priorities.

Enjoy your harvest!

Patience Pays Off

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These simple pictures don't reflect the emotions they evoke in me. This is an "oh, my" step in a personal journey. We planted this chamomile and coneflower this weekend.

SO?

Have you ever had something that you worked (and worked) toward and no matter how hard and long you worked it seemed to get further away?

Two and a half years ago Doug Traxler and I decided to turn our side yard into a Medicinal Herb Garden. With the help of Nashville Foodscapes and Lisa Bedner, RN and certified herbalist, the soil was prepped, the plants selected, and the garden designed. But then ...

All of 2017 was spent re-weeding. (Ok, not all. We did go to a friend's wedding in CA.) We would weed a section, then by the time the next section was weeded, the bermuda grass would reappear in another area. Evenings. Weekends. Over and over.

This spring we started weeding again.

But you know what happened? Enough of the deep roots were out that there were fewer and fewer weeds and grass. As fewer weeds came up, there were fewer to go to seed.

(Is anyone seeing a life lesson here, too?)

So, this weekend, after making the final layout of one of the herb beds, I was able to plant my first herbs in this garden.

As I sat listening to the rain, I felt such a sense of wonder and hope. "Wow. Something I had begun to feel discouraged over, finally has a tangible proof that IT CAN BE DONE." (Yes, there is still much more to do, but I have hope.)

If you are struggling to make something happen, drink a cup of chamomile tea (not from my garden yet, though ... it's not grown enough) and remember IT CAN BE DONE.

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What to plant in your fall garden

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It's spring

again, kind of

Thanks to one of the ViREO Life readers for asking what to plant in a fall garden.  The answer is "Like spring, almost."

The cool weather (spring/fall) crops will germinate faster in the fall, due to the warmer soil.  And some spring pests (cabbage worms, especially) I have found less of an issue in the fall.  The real difference for me is have available floating row covers for when killing frosts begin, to extend the harvest into November and December.

What I plant and why:

  • Beets - the green leaves to blanch and freeze; the beet root to store in the fridge through the winter
  • Lettuce - but much less, since we eat fewer salads in the fall
  • Greens - kale, swiss chard, spinach, as many as the beds will hold, to be able to freeze for the winter (or if a mild winter, cover and eat out of the garden in December).
  • Radishes - I can get two batches of radishes in because they grow quickly.  I won't eat as many radishes as we grow, but I blanch the radish greens with my other greens for freezing.  We get a lot of food grown in a small space because of the 30 days maturity time.  (This means if you live near me and like radishes, you may end up "gifted" with a few.)

Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts - I do not plant these in the fall, simply due to space.  In the spring I plant them in the same bed where sweet potatoes are started.  By fall the bed is covered to overflowing with sweet potato vines and there is no room.  If you have the space, plant them again as you would in the spring.

Plants I have tried unsuccessfully to "over-winter" are leeks and onions and garlic.  If you want to try planting them in the fall, do so.  If you are successful, let me know what you did so I can try again.

When to start your fall garden?  Late August and early September seem to work for us to sow seeds.  By the time seeds have germinated the weather is cooler.  If I was planting broccoli and cabbage plants, I would not plant them in August, due to the heat.  Other gardeners plant in August, in a shadier spot.

One last note about fall gardens:  if you are planning to plant cover crops (oats, vetch, winter rye, etc.) where your summer crops were, let me know and I'll blog separately about cover crops.  That has been a study-then-learn-by-oops experience for us that I'm happy to share.

Happy and healthy gardening!

Duct Tape and Chocolate

Growing up we all heard, "Duct tape fixes everything."  And as an adult I learned that any meal (or day) that was a "disaster" could be fixed with piece of dark chocolate.  (Not a bag of chocolate...that just creates another "disaster"...but that's another topic for a post.)

Well, we recently learned the BEST use for duct tape ever!  Gardening!  Seriously.  Take a strip of duct tape to collect bug eggs off of leaves...they typically pull right off, sometimes with a little pressure on the opposite side.  And flying insects and small grasshoppers are easier to catch, too.  I can't grab them fast enough with just my (gloved) hand, but I can slap duct tape on them and they don't move!  This week alone we've removed over 10 sets of squash bug eggs...so our squash plants are not getting eaten this year!  Plus, the duct tape makes the removal of bugs and eggs quicker.

Chocolate?  Well, I've not figured out how to use that in the garden.  Except savoring a piece while watching the garden grow.  If I hear of anything, though, I'll pass it along.

Health eating and happy gardening!

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Help is on the way!

The lettuce/herb salad and kale/leek frittata pictured here is 70% from our garden.  If our leeks were finished growing, it would have been 90% from our garden.  Organic gardening in your backyard is worth it!

This past year has been a time of trial and error, but with a lot of success, too.  Why?  We got help!  If you are looking for help, check out the books and links below.  These have proven to be the best help for organic gardening.

  • http://www.gardenguides.com/
  • http://whiteharvestseed.com/
  • http://nashvillefoodscapes.com/
  • Book - "Organic Garden Basics" by Bob Flowerdew  (love the last name as the author of this book!)
  • Book - "The Edible Garden" by Sunset Books

Hope these help you in your organic gardening and healthy eating!