Basil: How to Grow, Harvest and Store

Basil is a very aromatic and flavorful herb used in cooking and medicines. Basil is native to India, Asia and Africa but can now be found growing all over the world. Basil is part of the Mint plant family; some may … Continue reading

What are we going to do with all that spinach??

How to harvest and freeze spinach… This year we planted two rows of spinach, each row is about 30 feet long. This has provided enough fresh spinach for about six weeks. Spinach likes cooler weather (not hotter than 80 degrees … Continue reading

* Updated* The Grounded Gardener: French Marigolds (Tagetes Patula)

There are many kinds of Marigolds; today I am going to write about French Marigolds (Tagetes Patula). Marigold can be a lovely addition to any garden and can be planted in flower beds or pots. They bring a beautiful range of bright color into your life. I have noticed that my marigolds change color with their bloom cycle, first is normally a bright orange then once the orange blossoms die off, a deep red with yellowish orange stripe blossom blooms. I say my marigolds are now 3 generations old. Basically I haven’t bought a marigold seed or plants in 3 years. You 20150901_091151can easily collect seeds from your plants. It is good to continually collect your marigold seeds because commercially bought plants have neonicotinoids sprayed on them; which kills bees. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love the strong aroma and bright color of marigolds.

It is best to plant marigolds after the last frost. When planting marigolds you want to sow the seed about an inch into the soil of the pot or bed, making sure they are covered with dirt. I’ve gotten my best results when they are planted 3-4 inches apart. The seeds sprout fast, within 2 weeks; you will see budding and blooms in 6 to 8 weeks. They are perfect for edging walkways and driveways. They can bloom from late spring and can continue to bloom well into the fall. French marigolds can grow very bushy.

They are a very hardy flowering plant. Marigolds are so easy to grow; they don’t have a preference on soil. Actually, they will bloom more in poor to average soil, and grow larger foliage in very good soil. They enjoy drying out between watering which makes it a great plant to grow in high drought areas; but they grow well in any climate if they have enough space.20150901_091124-1

Since marigolds keep away many harmful bugs they make great companion plants. Planting marigolds between and around your vegetable garden will help keep an insect free crop; they deter many bugs including whitefly, cockroaches, and mosquitoes. After about 3-4 months of growth they start to secrete an insecticide from their roots, which is effective against nematodes and keel slugs. Marigolds not only deter bugs they are also not likely to suffer from many diseases.

Seed collecting is super easy with marigolds, the blossoms produce the seed. As the flower dies off the seed20150901_095926 forms inside the blossom; you just need to break open the dried flower head and you will see the long black seeds. There are many individual seeds in one blossom. At this point you can either sow more marigolds into another open space in your garden or store them in a cool dry place for next year.

My research about French Marigolds suggested they can be used for many different herbal remedies and are edible. I would suggest you do some research before you start just eating them. Some of the things I found they can be used for are; refreshing drinks and salads, their leaves and oil can be used for flavoring food, and the dried flowers can be used for coloring of food (alternative to Saffron) or dying eggs and fabric. Marigolds may even be used to treat indigestion, colic, severe constipation, coughs and dysentery. You can also use it externally to help sore eyes or rheumatism and in bug spray. The leaves should be used fresh and the flowers can be dried for later use. Remember; ALWAYS do your own research before using any herbal remedies.save the bees

So collect your seeds and save the bees.

Namaste <3

JEM

The Grounded Gardener: Snapdragons

Since we are preparing to get out of the army and move at the beginning of the year, I am preparing to garden for as cheap as I can. Gardening keeps me well grounded. So there is no way I can skip it. One way to garden cheaply is to collect seeds from your own plants. Collecting seeds from plants you have already purchased makes next year’s plants and seeds free…you can’t beat free!

I have been doing this with marigolds and morning glories for a few years now. If you plant enough seeds something will grow. (sometimes over grow) 20150601_085604

This year I found out that snapdragons can go to seed, if you don’t “dead head” them. They create this AWESOME seed pod, which looks like a skull.

20150601_082856If you gently pinch off the seed pods from the plant, it is safe and will keep blooming. You can also collect them after the plant dies off. If you wait too long to collect the seed pods they will start to drop seeds into the soil under your already growing plant; which will make your snapdragon plant look fuller but hinder your seed collecting progress. After you pinch the seed pod off you want to let the pod dry some in a container. As the20150601_084509 pods start to dry they will drop very tiny dark colored seeds. You can crush or shake the seeds out of the pods as well. Use a sifter to separate any unwanted plant pieces out of your seeds.

 I use an envelope, ziploc or paper bags to store my seeds and always label them with the plant name and year I harvested them. Store your seeds in a cool dry place.

I think collecting seeds is an important part of gardening, especially if you are an organic or chemical free gardener. Collecting seeds from your own plants can help you save money and keep your healthy plants growing for many generations. If you end up with too many seeds you can pass them to a friend or neighbor, set up a seed swap or even sell them online.

Do you collect seeds from your garden?

Namaste <3

JEM

Gardening: With Less Space

I love the idea of gardening; I grew up with flower beds and gardens all my life. My parents still garden. Since we joined the army we have moved around a lot and we rent, so there are not always spaces that we can dig up and plant a garden. We live in military housing right now; which means we cannot dig up the yard. There are rocks around our bit of grass so I wouldn’t want to dig too much anyway. So I have had to get pretty creative over the last 10 years. Containers and raised beds were my only option most of the time. I do not have tools to build raised garden beds and buying the pre-made raised beds and pots can be pretty costly, so I decided to use recycled containers and flower pots.IMAG2497

I took our old plastic kiddy pool and drilled a few holes in the bottom of it for drainage (well my husband did and he drilled more than a few). The base layer is of loose rock. Next I filled the pool with dirt and viola you’ve got yourself a small garden. Here are some other ideas.

There is an art to container gardening, though. These amounts of water, space and dirt are important.IMAG2508

Dirt:

You want to make sure you fill your pot up with dirt. This will give your plant the space its’ roots will need to grow deep and wide, which in turn makes your plants taller and stronger, so it can produce bigger fruits. Having enough dirt also helps provide the nurturance the plant needs to grow. I am not saying pack the dirt in and stomp it down, then your plants will have a hard time breaking through it, you just need to fill the pot to the rim.

Space:

I don’t mean space, as in you need a large area for planting. That is the great thing about container gardening. You can do it on your patio, or that super sunny area of your yard that seems to only grow weeds. When I say space I mean the amount of room your plant has to grow. I talked about this a little about this when filling up your pots with dirt. The deeper the soil the deeper the plant’s roots can grow. For plants that you want longer or larger produce from you might only have one or two plants per container. For tomatoes and peppers you’ll want very few plants in large pots. For carrots you want a container that is deep.

Save your small containers for flowers and herbs.

 This also means make sure the plants are compatible with each other. Tomatoes and cauliflower do not get along. This will make your cauliflower not produce, which is very saddening when they grow and grow without producing any cauliflower. Check out this  for compatibility of plants.IMAG1423

Watering:

 When container gardening you have to make sure they get watered enough and have adequate drainage. Too much water sitting at the bottom of your pots will produce fungi and molds. It also brings unwanted bugs. On the other hand containers soil will dry out faster. They are more exposed to the climate around it. It does not rain much here, which is why I have a reminder set on my phone to help remind me to water them every day at the same time. Experimenting with your area’s climate is important. If you have a more windy and dry area, water more. If you live in a more humid area you’ll want to water less.

This is what I have learned over the last few container gardening seasons. It is definitely a trial and era process. Do you have any gardening tips? What kind of containers will you try?

Happy Planting,

Jem

 

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