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7/26/2009 04:46:00 PM

Back to Basics - Herbs

Digging through my library, I found one of my most used tomes. I tucked it away because the poor thing is just falling apart, its in 3 pieces now from use and research. When I bought it ages ago, I had no idea how valuable it would be. It's Jeanne Rose's Herbs and Things. The book is laid out first by the herbs themselves and it takes up the first half of the book. There is history, lore, some growing information, uses, preparations and a lot of other very useful information listed. She has sections with recipes and how to prepare. I have several books by Jeanne Rose including Kitchen Cosmetics. She is a wonderful author.

I have enjoyed growing an array of herbs. I've had many challenges here in Tennessee with growing herbs and vegetables, like any place, there are unique principles that one must learn to be successful. I think my favorite ones to grow are basil and parsley. Both are easy, quick growing and have thrived every time I've grown them. Another favorite, but it has always been a challenge, has been lavender. It seems to be the pickiest of plants. I really like growing echinacea, as well. The last one I had planted was quite tall, coming past my waist (I'm tall for a woman so the plant was amazingly tall). It eventually had a birds nest in it which was amazing in an of itself, too!

Harvesting the herbs is something else I really enjoy. There is nothing like a fresh cup of chamomile tea that you harvested yourself. Or a fresh tincture of immunity boosting goldenseal and echinacea for colds. Or that fresh basil, rosemary, thyme right out of the garden for your dinner.

I have a big list of herbs that I want to get planted and am excited about trying some new ones I've never had before (like lime basil, that just sounds good) and to help get me back into the swing of things, I found an old site with a new face that I hadn't thought about in a long time in a bookmark folder I'd forgotten. Its been a day for going back over sites I've not seen in a while and finding books that I've tucked away. I'm really feeling a little lost as so many places I used to frequent seem to no longer exist. Such a pity so many resources are gone. But Henriette's Herbal is still alive and kicking and larger than ever.

I like her site because she has a lot of good contributors, she has some seriously sarcastic wit and genuinely loves her herbs. Her site has been around for years and is one of the largest, if not the largest, herbal informational websites out there, not to mention its in several different languages.

With everything so close at hand, I'm getting acquainted with things that I have long since stopped doing and getting back into habits that I have long missed. All the new projects that we have scheduled for kick off after we purchase our new home and all the old projects we plan to pick back up seem overwhelming but we're all looking forward to the trials and work involved in becoming a little bit more self reliable. We have the fall and winter to prepare the property for all that we plan. We have set out a schedule for the next couple of years so that we can get things really moving and be where we want to be in five years or so. Time and money well spent.

On a side note, I went out to check my plants right before the storm hit and I noticed two tiny little carrot sprouts. The hydroponic idea I got from the Aerogarden Mastery site is taking off. In a few weeks, we'll have baby carrots to munch down on. Another very exciting moment. This time, we'll keep the rabbits from cleaning us out!

7/26/2009 01:16:00 AM

The Unthinkable!

My really healthy tomatoes are at this point no so healthy anymore. What I thought was fungus from everyday late afternoon rains for a while has turned out not to be a fungus at all. It isn't even the late blight that Barbara commented on (though I do thank you for the comment, Barbara). Over the past couple of days I've watched really great looking plants start withering at the base with spotted wilt virus. It's actually taken me most of the day researching to figure this one out as I've never seen it before.

I was treating the plants for fungus but that wasn't the problem at all and now the disease is spreading so quickly. Luckily, my neighbor's tomatoes and peppers are not being effected and none of the rest of the plants and trees I have in containers currently have any signs whatsoever. So far so good on that. But my beautiful heirloom tomatoes... so sad. This just strengthens my resolve for a hydroponics room. I've not really seen any signs of thirps, which is the usual carrier for this virus. The rain made it very difficult to keep any DE on the plants so I had little to no pest management at all for several weeks. This was a very serious learning experience.

Luckily, I found a lot of really awesome tools that helped me diagnose the problem, even thought I didn't want to believe it because there's just no saving my plants.

The rest of the garden is doing well. I've not lost anything else. My carrots haven't sprouted yet, but there will be a few more days before that can be expected. This method I'm using seems as if it will be a good way to do it. I skipped the clear plastic wrap part because it has been so mild lately and the self watering container keeps the mixture very evenly moist without it being wet. So we'll see if my instincts are correct.

Spotted wilt virus. *sigh*

7/20/2009 08:28:00 PM

Garden Update

Aside from running around and helping to tend to other gardens, my little container garden is doing well. I'm excited that I've been able to start a new project. I got the idea to do this from the archives of Aerogarden Mastery page. It is very easy and very basic so I hunted down a self watering pot, a big one, the one I have is 20" around and perlite and vermiculite. I thoroughly mixed the two bags of medium together, watered it thoroughly and then planted my carrot seeds straight into the moist medium and then gave it a nice spray of water with a spray bottle.

The medium and the bottom reservoir held nearly two gallons of water without overflowing. The reservoir was only about 1/2 full. It will be very interesting to see if this little experiment will work. The link above actually have pictures of how it worked out over several weeks and so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The kids had a great time!

My tomatoes are doing fantastic!

The sauce tomato came up first, but isn't producing as fast as the black plum tomato below. Both are doing very well except for some expected fungal problems that I expected after it rained nearly every day in the late afternoon for three weeks. I handled the fungus problems and we've been doing pretty good ever since. Though, there are just a ton of suckers that I'm having to remove.

Black plum tomatoes are a lot larger than I thought they would be. They are actually a nice good size. I've see blushes of color on the sauce tomatoes, but nothing as of yet on the plums. But very excited because there are just a ton of flowers.

But they will be red and ripe.

The tiny little banana's I got have exploded into these beautiful long wide leaves. It's amazing how much growth they have! Right next to them is the orange and it has tripled in size itself.

The blueberry (left right beneath the orange) took a pretty serious hit in a storm, losing half the plant to hard winds, but it has finally come out of the shock and is starting to grow again. The lemon is the only one that doesn't seem to have bushed out, the very light green one in the middle, but the leaves are just growing large. The pomegrante in the red container, has a lot of blooms and has long branches. The lime on the other side of the large carrot container, has also tripled in size and has a lot of new growth.

Everything is growing so well and there have been no set backs so far. I'm just waiting for my cherry tree to come in this fall so that the last empty pot that doesn't seem to want to stay up right anywhere can be filled with its own tree, too!

7/16/2009 07:45:00 PM

Labor of Love

It's exhausting! I've been helping a couple of friends out with their gardens due to circumstance and it is amazing how much work goes into large gardens. While one friend is down with a broken leg and grumbles about only being able to sit an observe and not do all that much and the other is out of town, I've got my hands full! Both declined to have photos of their properties posted on the blog, but that is ok, I'm having fun anyway.

I've learned a lot of what not to do from these two vastly different garden plots. At one, there is a tangle of hoses and plots that do not allow for easy watering. Not that it is bad garden design, just poor garden position. On the flip side, the other garden I'm helping to tend has the T-tape type soaker hose. Very nice stuff, very easy to maintain.

Raised beds are your friend. But we knew that already. I've noticed there is less soil borne disease, even with beds that are a few years old. And if disease does take a foothold, it is more difficult to spread. In ground gardens do not necessarily have that benefit. Its easier on the back, too, at least once it is installed.

Make sure you keep a good schedule. I didn't know when to fertilize. When were they all watered last? How much tomato food did you give these guys last time?

The vast differences in techniques and set ups from two close friends that have the same ideas is just amazing. Both are good set ups, and both have good yields, but the small problems that each combats are vastly different.

Anyway, I'm off to go pick some peas and tomatoes.

Happy gardening!

7/08/2009 07:50:00 PM

Birthday Present

I went out to look at my tomatoes today, my birthday, and found just tons of little tomatoes everywhere on both plants. Couldn't have gotten a better present. I'm looking forward to the ripe red tomatoes right off the vine. Provided the make it that far. My husband and children are threatening to go right out there with a salt shaker and demolish the lot!

I like the fencing I put up around them instead of the cages. They seem much more stable and there isn't a problem with reaching the berries. Very good buy on the fencing.

The fruit trees are doing very well. The blueberry took a serious hit in one of the very serious storms that we had. Half of the plant was ripped off, but the rest of it survived and there is new growth. The banana's have tripled in size and all the citrus has a lot of new growth. Very awesome to see it.

I do have one fear. The citrus greening disease and the insects that carry them are spreading. South Carolina and Georgia both have recently been put on the infected list. Keep your eye out on that for your area. There is a link at the top!

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