The "weedy" joke is on me!
I checked my seedlings today and I had a good laugh :) Because most of them are of 2 plants: Lamb's Quarter and Chickweed! Ahahhahahahaha!
Normally, most people would be ticked to find these weeds in their pots, but I was happy and smiled. Many were of Lamb's Q, so I'm guessing there's going to be lots of green juices and wild green "protein" powder ahead! Oh goody! I love both plants, they are stellar stars.
That also means that the seeds I planted (and bought from Richters) are not viable. I almost always plant a lot more seeds in 1 hole than just 2 or 3, whatever the size of the seed. I planted a lot of seeds from different plants, as you know, but fail to see seeds from these plants. I could always plant more seeds (and I just might), but I'll wait a few more days and see if others show up. I also saw a few Dill seedlings, but not in the pot for Dill, ha ha!
There are a few "true" seedlings, namely that of Basil, Scullcap, Zinnia and Wood Betony. I haven't checked every pot on the front balcony yet, but I do know that I've seen seedlings of Nasturtium, Candy Tuft, Marigold, Lemon Balm, Borage and Pennyroyal. I do hope the other seeds I planted ~I'm thinking especially of Marshmallow, Hollyhock and Malva because of their mucilaginous, medicinal property~ do show up. The weather has been just fantastic, we're actually having a heat wave now, but it's not as bad as later in the summer because the full humidity hasn't arrived yet (oh, but it will).
Good news: Mallow Zinnia and Yellow Mum have already flowered! Not all of the blooms have come in, but it's nice to see a few of them already. Some Mums prefer cooler weather and will wait to showcase their beauty 'til the fall, but it doesn't seem to be the case with this one :)
Planning on going to get Garlic Mustard tomorrow...and any other beauties I come across. Which reminds me that when I passed behind the mall, I double-checked a plant I had gathered last year but never used because I wasn't sure if she was really a type of Horsetail. The one I had seen during my herbology class was growing in wet water on a mountain, which is where my herb teacher said that equisetum arvense is usually found growing. However, when I spotted this plant and did some research, there are many other varieties of Horsetail.
Sure enough, the distinguishing feature of Horsetail, which is its knob-like stem, was found on these plants. Horsetail is an ancestral plant according to Botany, part of a class of vascular spore plants including Club Mosses and Ferns. Horsetail is high in silica and is excellent as a tea for soft and healthy skin, teeth and nails.
You see?! I am progressing in learning about the plant world...well, from a highly structured and scientific approach ;) Indeed, my next goal is to make cue cards on the different properties of the major plant families and then go about and see how many I can classify. I'd also like to do some research on different flower arrangement patterns, because I haven't seen any in my book yet. I am slowly noticing leaf patterns in some of my plants and when someone on the FB botany class mentioned the word bipinnate, my ears perked up. I know you wouldn't think of ears perking, but it was my ears that had this association, because they "remembered" the sound of the word when I was reading my botany book, hearing the word in my mind. Strange psychology you might think, I know, but while most of us are visual, it's also true that some of us are auditory learners and many are visual-auditory. The best kind of learning, of course, is when all senses (aka see, hear, touch + also taste & experience) are engaged.
FYI: here's a good resource about Poison Ivy, now that it's foraging time. My teacher used to say that where there's Jewelweed, there's Poison Ivy. To be honest, I've never worried about it, let alone thought about it. I go out and use my intuition and let the plants tell me what's what and what to take and what to leave alone! Like when I had an encounter with Baneberry. Oooh, those scary doll eyes...I'm sure there are uses for Poison Ivy, for its oil, perhaps...someone would have to sit and get to know her a lot better than slapping with her with an "evil" label. I know one of my herbology classmates said her grandfather used to take a tiny bit internally before the season started and could brush up against her without getting any rash or itching. I think he used a homeopathic dose, would have to ask her to be sure.
So, since the seeds haven't taken, that means more plant shopping time, YAY! I actually picked up a Rosemary plant today at the health food store as the seeds I planted didn't take and the one I have now isn't doing too well (due to the cold snaps we had probably). I'm thinking to also get Oregano, Marjoram, Stevia and Anise Hyssop. I might get some Basil, not sure because I planted 2 pots with Basil and one has lots of seedlings while the other doesn't. That's fine, because Basil likes a lot of space and when you buy Basil as a plant, they put in so many shoots into 1 pot that they don't actually survive long. Last year, I counted about 2 dozen Basil shoots in one little pot!! I ended up planting them in several planters, and even then, they stayed small because they were still overcrowded. Basil is one of my favorite herbs, I confess, but I'm also partial to Dill and Coriander...OK, all of the Italian herbs!!
Indeed, I'm planning on making an easy-peasy marinara sauce tomorrow using sundried and fresh tomatoes, with those Italian seasoning herbs of course. The pasta? Steamed spaghetti squash and Glucomannan noodles! You can read more HERE about other healthy pasta alternatives.
Just went to go have a look-see at the pots out front. Yep, pretty sure there must've been Lamb's Q seeds in the compost because almost every pot has tons of seedlings. While I'm amused, I told them already that they can't all stay. I am disappointed that the other seeds haven't turned up, because I do so enjoy the variety of them all. Anyway, going to add Pennyroyal to my list of plants to get and see what other goodies the flower market has. Tomorrow would be a nice day to go and have a visit :)
Think I will plant some more seeds after all. The growing season is short, June is almost upon us. I'll add the Lamb's Qs to a wild soup --- time to make more soup as I'm down to my last container. There's going to be lots of wild leaves: Motherwort, Hosta, Strawberry, Violet, Red Clover, Dandelion and I'll add fresh Garlic Mustard from tomorrow's mini foraging adventure. Think I will get some fresh Basil too. Mmmm the smell of soup! I'll add in some Carrots and some Chard, maybe some Rutabaga and the Rhubarb my neighbor gave me. I know, everyone associates Rhubarb with Strawberries, but added to a soup with tons of other ingredients, you'd never even know it's in the soup. In fact, you're not quite sure what is in the soup when it's all pureed, ha ha! Lots of goodness, that's for sure ;)
Update on the garden at work: my boss seemed stressed when we went to explore the possibilities of digging up a garden. I was teasing him and laughing inside at seeing his distress, all for a silly garden! I was planning on telling him we'll drop it, because really, he's such a stickler for the past and things staying the same, just like my OCD and autistic clients. I could see him trying to persuade me that digging up the grass was a bad idea because there was too much shade, and there was no hose (even though there is a hose in the front of the hose, just would have to get a really long one). I watched the whole scene, laughing inside, not caring whether there would be a garden or not. He suggested a tiny patch of sandy soil right close to the porch we were on, because it could be easy to water, ya know? Sure, I said, not minding at all...
So often, you think you're having a talk about gardening or swimming or something innocuous, but there's really so much more happening behind the scenes than what's really being talked about ;) Anyway, we'll see if he decides to actually take up the bit of grass and weeds there and buys some topsoil for it...If so, I'll probably be able to plant all of 3 Tomato plants, maybe 4, ha ha! ;)
OK, sunshine, keep you posted on future flower adventures. Keep shining bright, ya here :)
Ps. Here's a list of beneficial insects you may find in the garden. Google the names to see pics of what they look like. I learned the name of those red bugs I've seen always mating on Queen Anne's Lace flowers: red soldier beetles! They eat aphids (muhaha!), so perhaps a few might not mind a change of scene if I introduce them to my balcony garden should the need arise :)
Have been so busy lately. I started writing a blog post a couple of days ago and never got back to it 'til now. So many plant things have happened in just a few days, which means time to catch y'all up :)
I got the seeds from Richters and planted Nettle, Cilantro, Pansy, Hollyhock, Comfrey, Bergamot and Chervil. I also added the Violets I got from work to a flower box in the shade (I noticed that one of them had gotten uprooted by an unruly squirrel and had to be repositioned---all other plants not being bothered by squirrels, thank goodness!).
Speaking of that shady spot behind the balcony, when I was adding the Nettle seeds to a large basket-turned-planter, I found the basket to be rather shallow, so will have to see how Nettle fares. I'm excited to see how Hollyhock turns out and can't wait for Comfrey to showcase her big, beautiful leaves and bee-lovin' flowers :) She can be hard to germinate from seed, but I made sure to add a few extra to each hole. Chervil will be an interesting one. I've seen her growing once when I went on an herbal walk on the mountain downtown, but I'm sure she grows elsewhere. Which is why I'm hoping to spot her while out foraging and make some comparisons. She's kinda like Carrot leaves, so you know she makes a mighty fine green or veggie juice :)
I do know of another spot where Chervil can be found: at the flower market! Yep, I thought I was all was done with my balcony garden... 'til I just so happened to pass by. Actually, my intention was a simple one, just to get a couple of plants for my neighbor. And I did, I did! I got her a Mallow plant because hers from last year didn't come back (despite being a perennial, she acts like an annual, but perhaps a good mulching and she'd come back again) and a lovely Spanish Lavender. She loves the smell of Lavender, as most people do, and this was a variety she doesn't have growing in her garden.
For myself, there were so many, I wanted to get one of each! So fun to see all the colors, the smells, the textures of the leaves, the taste... and make new friends :)
I debated on Cinnamon Basil (even though I do have 2 varieties growing, maybe, just maybe, I might go back for one as the combination is really nice), Lavender (so lovely smelling, what can I say), and Mums (there are really just so many types, who can choose but one?!). Despite already having 2 varieties growing, it was the lovely striped Golden Sage that instantly caught my eye. Same story with Mint, although I think I have 3 different types, and this time I got one called Starlight. I also picked up a Lemon Thyme (yep, got the common variety growing already, she's in seedling state) and a Lovage. Lovage can be used like Parsley, and I planted her where Chive should be growing but isn't. When I poked around in the soil to tuck Chervil in, I discovered 2 Chive seedlings hiding in the soil, so perhaps she will come along after all. Anyway, they can share the same pot, no bother at all!
I did get a Mum after all :) --- too many "alls!" That was the last plant I got, and I debated on orange or yellow flowers. Both appealed to me ~but of course!~ yet I went with the yellow-flowered ones. Mums are edible, you know, and medicinal. The flowers are used in TCM to help with liver issues, and also with eye issues similar to the herb Eyebright. The leaves can be steamed or cooked and are often added to stir fries. I've had her stir fried and steamed, and of course added the dried leaves to my soup cauldron pot :)
All of the pots are now accounted for, except one. I realized that I had plunked in a marker with Sorrel, but haven't added any seeds. The Rose seedlings haven't advanced much, I'm afraid, so I'm going to give them a few more days. If they show progress, the spot is for Rose. If not...well, the flower market will be there until the end of June, so plenty of time to find some more friends. Space will of course be a problem if I bring home too many :( However, I am thinking that my neighbor might enjoy a Mum, perhaps one with orange flowers, as she does like to share her garden with me and she knows I'm an adventurous kinda eatin' gal ;)
Of course, there are other places that sell flowers, and I'm thinking of a certain hardware store as I write this where I've bought her a Hibiscus plant each year. She brings in the plant during the winter and leaves her in the basement and the plant continues to thrive and even flower. The only thing is that with the wonky weather these past few years, she's put out the Hibiscus plant too early in the season, only to have her loose all her leaves and not make a comeback :(
I've purchased Mimosa seeds from the same store and wonder if she's a hard one to germinate or if it was just the exceptionally wet and rainy weather we had last year that meant only 1 of the seeds germinated. Not only that, the plant seemed to stay young, didn't seem strong at all. Too bad, because during a stay at Cuba, I remember how tall and 'frady she was. Yes, she's also known as the shy, sensitive or bashful plant, touch-me-not, because when touched she closes her leaves (see more here). She's also in the pea family, so fixes nitrogen in the soil and is used in Ayurveda for many medicinal ailments, including kidney issues, wound healing and cancer (read more here).
Anyway, my neighbor was bemoaning the fact that the fence that borders with her neighbors on the other side needs to be replaced. The neighbors were supposed to do it in early spring, but now that time has advanced and the plants are out and about, that means she will have to rip up her plants for them to do the work. Fall would be a better time, I was telling her, perhaps they could forestall it. She shook her head no, and I could tell that she wasn't happy that her beautiful flower garden with her Peonies and Phlox would be gone (both of those are edible, FYI :) ).
And yes, on to foraging! I took a glance at Bellefield while I was on my bike yesterday coming back from a shopping spree at the thrift store (what treasures! what fun! got 3 big goodie bags full of tops, dresses and purses, too bad I didn't have the time to go to this other thrift store this lady was telling me about, all items just $2!!) and noticed that the earth at the front of the path leading to the field was laid ready for planting. I felt a bit of fear. I see this "no trespassing" sign, but then I shoo-shoo that away, because I've been there before. Still, it has been a concern of mine because foraging is so new that I was even thinking about asking the city for a license to go foraging in abandoned fields. A bit strange, I have to admit, because who knows who owns the land (it may be the city, it might not be), and getting arrested for picking Dandelions (which is what happened to Wildman Steve Brill and how he got famous) seems really silly.
I haven't actually done that much foraging, but then I was thinking when I was photographing the Garlic Mustard and Gill-Over-Ivy (see pics below) that I'm not much of a spring forager. Violet, Coltsfoot and Dandy flowers are all edible and can be infused in honey to help with coughs and colds, but that's not my health issue. I already mentioned not being keen on Garlic Mustard or Cresses, such as Barbara's Cress, but then I got to thinking, well, why not? They'll all be added to the soup pot, and it all gets pureed, I don't even know what wild greens are in there, so go and get 'em!
I say go get 'em because while I photographed Garlic Mustard (there was Cress in the background), I didn't collect any :( And the weather has been sunny bright and nice for the past few days, perfect for foraging! I did collect a few Dandy leaves for juice, which I added to the juicer this morning with some Cantaloup, mmm good!
I was also thinking while staring at the patch of Garlic Mustard how each year the "weed of choice" has changed in that same spot. Last year, it was Lamb's Quarter. The year before, Sow Thistles were a-plenty. And the year before that, Vetch was ruling the roost. Each year is something new and different, life is always changing, you see. And it's so fun to see what you get now, to appreciate it now, because that Garlic Mustard ain't going to be around that much longer ;) Yep, that means I'm going to bring my pruners and hope to do a little clipping come Sunday or Monday or whenever the opportunity is ripe...
Foraging did take place at work today, and oh, such beauties! I shook hands with Yellow Dock, so happy to see that there are 4 plants there. I collected several Dandy leaves (I'm thinking of you, Mr. Wilson ;) ), a bunch of Violet leaves with a tiny bit of flowers, a smattering of Strawberry leaves as big as your palm (great to add to a green juice or the soup pot, or dry and make an infusion for diarrhea), and a large bunch of Hosta leaves. Oh my, oh yes, those Hostas! I'm thinking to add to a soup. Maybe save some for tomorrow's juice. Hostas are in the same family as asparagus, so a veggie juice or smoothie would be better than a fruity one.
Noticed the Sow Thistles are starting to come out and there were a few plants I didn't recognize...but I'm slowly starting to put my botany to work. It was strange, you know that light bulb moment? I was pouring over my notes (I'm a bit behind, but that's OK) and it suddenly dawned on me to look at flowers and leaves according to their shape, to classify them according to...the patterns I've been learning. I know it seems like a duh, no kidding kind of thing, but going out in the field and not having any botany training meant I just knew what the plants looked like because of my herbology classes and any new plants got identified by "matching," by me matching them according to my ID books.
Now, I've got quite a few field guides, but I do find that ones for your specific region are really helpful. When I discovered a new plant, I'd pour over several of my books to get an ID, usually starting with the color of the flower, and then making sure the plant was the same by IDing it using several sources (i.e., several field guides). Doing the botany pattern recognition by families is going to save me a lot of time, I can see. When there is no flower, it is harder to identify, but even when there's none, I've started looking at how leaves are arranged, their shape, the pattern of veins...It's a good start, I'm seeing. Wish I had learned some botany before, but glad to be getting into it now...Thinking about getting a magnifying glass as well so I can more details than my naked eye...
Which brings me back to what I was saying about not being so much of a spring forager. Some of the plants are harder to identify because the leaves pop up first, then the flowers. Summer, aaaah...flowers abound! Of course, summer is often divided into early, mid and late summer, and by late summer, in September, it can also be construed as early fall, which is the time when roots and seeds start getting to be looked at and collected. I love Dandy, Burdock and Dock roots, but digging up roots is such a pain! Seeds are OK to collect, depending on the plant. Nah, I'm more of mid-summer kinda gal, when the heat is out, and beautiful flowers like Hibiscus, Borage and Mallow call me hither, when juicy fruits pair lovingly with greens in salads (or in juices), and when wild greens like Sow Thistles, Dock, Wild Lettuces and Dandy call my name and ask me to come and sit and appreciate them. And those wild flowers...so many! Like Yarrow, Red Clover, St. John's Wort, Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace...
Oooh, the foraging season is on!
:( and that reminds me of what happened to Apple Blossom Field, all the Queen Anne's and Crabapple trees gone, gone, gone. They still have the for sale sign up, but they completely totaled the land. All plants, trees and cement blocks were ripped out and the land is a big flat nothing. Wonder if they'll be building condos there, because it seems the last few places where I was going foraging have all become some kind of residence now. Boo-hoo. I'm thinking maybe I need to move out to real suburbia, as in, a town outside a major city. Or have two houses? Or more countryside trips? Or...We'll just stay in the present moment and enjoy the balcony garden ;)
There might or might not be a garden at work. Sheesh, seems the boss is remiss to tear up the LAWN, because how will the lawn get mowed? Um, it won't. Because there will be lovely veggies that you can eat and feed your tummy instead? I don't know what the insistence towards grass is, I really feel it has more to do with certain programs that were taught and the RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. Funny how in the past most of us were farmers and eating weeds and such was normal and now so little of us grow our own food, let alone know how to grow it or where it comes from or how long it takes for things to grow and yet so many eat crap food and have all kinds of health issues. Go figure? Nah, the link between diet and health has been well established....
Alrighty, sunshine, 'nuff blah-blabbings for now! See ya next time and keep that bright light shining :)
Don't you love those posts that start with "there's good news and bad news?"
To be honest, it's mostly good news, but let's start with the ho-hum first.
The ho-hum in question was passing by the environment day event in my neighborhood. Note the word passing by, because that's exactly what I did. I went to check on the plants being sold by the horticultural society: the ones that were left weren't looking too great and there wasn't that much choice. I spotted some Iris plants and some Girl Guides helping out, did a quick tour of the other booths (yep same as last year), stopped by one booth briefly to see if they had seaweed fertilizer (nope, just worm castings), debated on the worm castings, and left.
Now on to the good news: I picked up a few more Strawberry plants and managed to find 2 coir baskets. I'm happy to say that both baskets and all lovely ladies are enjoying themselves on the sunny back balcony :)
I also did some planting: I decided to plant both Mallow plants I purchased (I'll pick up another one for my neighbor and maybe some more goodies for me, hee hee! <- once I get started, you know!! and I have a pot that I purposefully left empty "just in case" for a few other friends :) ), both Yarrows (had to remove a few yellowed leaves due to the cold weather), and the 3 Mint plants along the side of the house. All are doing well and thriving.
I also transplanted a bunch of Sweet Cicely seedlings,the seeds from which I got from Richters. She requires a cold stratification period first, so I put all the seeds from the package onto some paper towel, folded it up, wet it, placed it into a plastic bag and stored it in the fridge for 2 months. I never added any additional water and there always seemed to be moisture in the bag.
After 2 months, when I thought to transplant the seeds, my intuition told me to wait. I put the seeds into a mini seed pot with soil, added water and some plastic cling wrap to cover the earth. Another 1 to 1 1/2 months passed. I took out the seed pot, added water, and what with the warm spring temperature in the house, within 1 week the seeds started sprouting. The shoots look just like grass, very cool indeed!
Not sure of the germination rate, it seemed that all, or if not all most of them, sprouted. Richters says the germination of Sweet Cicely can be difficult and they recommend germinating the seeds within 6 months of receiving them, in other words, the viability or shelf life of the seeds is around 6 months. I'd say up to 1 year, as I bought these seeds last spring and only soaked them this year, in February. Needless to say, I was quite delighted at their appearance, and I can tell that they will grow up to be strong plants. They are perennials and Richters notes that they do come back year after year. You can read the pdf from Richters about Sweet Cicely HERE.
Leaves and stems are supposed to be used like a sugar substitute, like Stevia I'm guessing --- can't wait to try and make recipes! Ooh, food adventures and new plant friends, what delights!! Will keep you posted on how things turn out :)
Other good news is that the seeds I purchased from Richters are on their way. Don't expect to get them 'til Tuesday, which means Monday might be a good day to explore the flower market and get in a few more friends. I remember seeing Pennyroyal there. She's in the Mint family and I think she'd be a good choice for a nice shady spot beside the house.
That also reminds me that I planted a few other seeds there: Shepherd's Purse, Dame Rocket and Violet. I got the seeds from Shepherd's Purse from a wild edible plant that came to stay with me for a bit, nice friend! Same story with Dame Rocket, only she was a "home girl," having been found growing in the garden at work. As for Violet, not sure where I got the seeds, maybe the local big box store or Richters. But wherever I got her from, last year she was blooming in full sun and there were flowers and leaves galore! I spent most days picking a few leaves from her or just sitting beside her and enjoying her company.
When the flowers turned to seeds, too late I realized that in order for them to be viable they had to be black, not brown. Then the cold weather came and I was hoping some of the green seeds would turn color, but they didn't. Oh well, live and learn --- a must where gardening is concerned ;)
More about Violets: when I came to work yesterday, I had noticed the lovely white-flowered ones peeking out from behind some tall bushes and winking me on over. Today was a better day to come for a visit, and I was enthralled by all the Violets, both white and violet. It seems the violet ones flower first and then the white ones follow suit. The ones that are situated behind bushes or other taller plants end up with enormous leaves, some almost as big as my palm! They are a rich, dark green color and make an excellent demulcent tea (dry leaves and flowers first, then infuse 4 hours), especially for those with leaky gut. Instead of tea, I add the dried leaves to the soup pot, then puree everything.
If you're into honey, you can infuse the fresh flowers to help with colds and sore throats during the colder months.
Violet Syrup Sore Throat Soother
To do: Simply add the fresh flowers into a mason jar to the top (be sure there is no moisture on them, so wait 2 days after it has rained to pick them). Add in the honey to cover them and use the handle of a wooden spoon or a bamboo skewer and stir to ensure all flowers are coated with the honey. Add more honey to the top of the jar, put on lid and screw cap and let sit 6 weeks. Strain out honey using a fine mesh sieve, pushing down on the flowers in the sieve to strain out as much honey as you can. Then, store your honey in a clean mason jar and enjoy :) If you're wondering what size mason jar to use, how much flowers you have will depend on the size. The flowers are small and don't take up that much space, so I'd look to use a 250ml/1cup or 500ml/2cup mason jar. But if you have loads of flower, a 1 liter mason jar will be right up your alley ;)
Dosage: Add 1-2 tsp to a cup of warm water and drink to relieve sore throat.
Since the garden project seems to still be on at work, I gathered up a few Violet plants to take home. They are really low maintenance plants and that love the shade. Although they can be prolific as they have divide by runners, their root systems are so shallow that you can pretty easily pluck them up and transplant them where you want them to grow.
Ah, the garden project.
Digging up grass is not my idea of a good time.
With a a shovel and a pitchfork, I dug up a little patch of grass to reveal bare soil. I sighed and reminded myself why I had recommended to my boss the no-till NO WORK method!! I went to fetch the cardboard boxes I had laid aside, only to discover half of them missing. I took the ones remaining and laid them out on the edges to show my boss where HE can have the pleasure of putting muscle to bone ;) The good news is that the clients seemed intrigued, so I think a garden will be definitely be in the works :)
What will be planted? The usual easy-to-grow culprits, like Cukes, Lettuce, Spinach and Tomato. AND, I think also Potato. I have 4 Potato plants with shoots about 8 inches long growing in my cupboard. Not being a Potato grower, I did a bit of research and there were different viewpoints about whether to chit (cut) them or not and whether to remove the sprouts or not. I rather fancied the person that said to do both, plant as is and chit and compare the results, but I think I'm just going to plant them all as is and see what develops.
Thinking to also add a few, um, wild edibles to the landscape. The soil is quite sandy in some areas, but I thought, perchance, some Mullein, Dock and Queen Anne's Lace might enjoy a sunny view? I'd to make sure they are planted quite close to the house, because the lawnmower doesn't take any notice of such plants, neither does the one driving the lawnmower ;) Yes, I noticed that the lawnmower had been passed due to the absence of the brilliant mat of purple flowers from Creeping Charlie. There were but a few close to the wall of the house, the rest....smooshed like everything else :(
3 last bits of good news to mention: besides the cold stratification of Sweet Cicely, I had the done same thing with Rose seeds. They are tiny seedlings, very fragile still, but I have a pot full of soil waiting for them to grow into big and strong plants.
Also noticed lots of tiny seedlings in the pots, just 1 week since I've planted them. How exciting! I noticed Dill, Basil, Sweet Trefoil, 1 baby Stevia, 1 baby Thyme, Tansy, Cleavers, Purslane...oh, so many! A few like Mustard and Chive had none, it might be because the seeds are too old. If nothing appears, aaaaaah! The fun of finding other plants that need a home! Some of the plants on the front balcony are also sprouting, Candy Tuft and Borage are two that I noticed just this morning.
Last great tidbit: collected a few edible goodies from work: red Tulip petals to eat with tomorrow's meal and Dandy leaves to add to the juicer in the morning. Mr. Wilson will be pleased, as there's not a speck of dirt to be found on them ;)
Alright, sunshine, off to enjoy the bright sunny day, full of promise and many delights :)
PS. And oh, the delights! Lilacs are blooming --- what scent! And yes, you can make a lovely tea with them, like this recipe or jelly, ice cream and other goodies, see Here for some ideas. Plantain, I found you! And so have the bugs, because they've left their holey tell-tale signs ;) And Hostas! Young Hostas are called hostons, but they are edible at every stage, including the flowers. I picked a good fistful full of young leaves to add to the steamer basket tomorrow :) You can read more about Hostas and other edibles, including Dame Rocket, in my article Here.
UH-OH. Passed by the flower market today. Wasn't going to, wasn't really in the mood, but boy, how fast did that change!
Me and a flower market shoppe?!
Let's just say I need to make room for a few new friends!
I was planning on getting some mint plants for the side of the house anyway, and I picked up 3 different types: Peppermint (there's really no such thing as Peppermint it's really a hybrid plant), Menthol Mint (it's a very strong, quite medicinal kind of Mint, think digestive issues like gas, bloating and spasms) and Chocolate Mint. They also had Ginger Mint and Pineapple Mint. Ginger Mint had yellow leaves and wasn't looking too good, and for the Pineapple one, I've purchased her in the past and was none too keen on the fuzziness of the leaves. I know there are TONS of varieties of Mints (Richters has a lot!) and once I get started, I'd love to have them all! Well, to be honest, I'd love to grow so many stinkin' weeds and plants, but I only have so much space ;)
I also picked up a Pineapple Sage :) I'm smiling because Sage was the first plant who decided to take the leap and speak to me. That was also the first year that she decided to go to flower in the middle of February, when it was deep winter weather outside!! Will have to find a little nook for her, as I hadn't anticipated her arrival (ahem), nor the arrival of 2 other plants: Yarrow! They are both Yarrow and there are actually many different types of Yarrow, achillea millefollium being the wild, white type that is found on many a-lawn and seen as a pesky weed, but that is actually the most potent medicinally. Then there are others that are grown as ornamentals (however they still have the same medicinal properties as the white one, just less so), will different colored flowers. The ones I got are Moonshine (yellow flowers) and Name Unknown (flowers are red but lost the tag with the name). I have seen wild Yarrow with Pink flowers growing in Bellefield and I have to say that ALL Yarrows attract pollinators and beneficial insects, as well as curb away nasty ones like mosquitoes! Definitely one to add as a companion friend in the garden :)
I've mentioned some of the benefits in Yarrow in posts from last year, but hey, always nice to review info! Some benefits:
In my previous diary post I was talking about seed saving. I didn't mention all the plants of the seeds that I've been saving for years, but it made me remember one that I have been saving: Malva sylvestris. I actually bought the original plant 7 years ago and have been saving seeds ever since. Malva is latin for Mallow and she is in the Mallow family. Although she is a perennial, she'd have to be properly mulched to come back year after year as mine (and my neighbor's) never has.
I've gotten to pulling up the whole plant in the fall, and ALL parts of Mallow are edible/medicinal. I use:
I got 2 other types of Mallows, a "Zebrina" that is striped purple, pink and white and a "Moschata Rosea" that has all pink flowers with leaves more pinnate than is typical of the usual Mallow family (see pics below). I've already planted Mallow seeds into the pots (not sure what variety she is know that I come to think of it, no not Zebrina as the flowers are all purple), so will make room for the Rosea one and give the Zebrina one to my neighbor, who will be more than happy for the pleasant addition to her garden (too bad she's not into eating the leaves and seeds, oh well, different strokes for different folksies ;) I'm a little on the adventurous, wild type, as y'all can prob tell ;)
Will wait to plant them as YES, there were actually a few flurries out and about the other day. Whoo brother is right! My cuke plants are spent and 2 of the Borage plants are hanging on...She's a hardy one, I tell ya! Speaking of which, I find that she fairs much better as an early summer bloomer, because when I've planted some later, she tends to get easily infected by aphids. Of course, I wasn't too crazy about the soil I got last year, even if was organic. I can tell the compost I added this year means the soil is strong, and I might (might not) even add some worm castings. Hoping to pick up some seaweed fertilizer at the Environment Day this weekend that my city holds each year. Um, yeah, there will also be flowers and herbs being sold there, but just how many more can I get?
Now don't get me started, because I did see a lovely lavendula angustifolia plant while I was at the flower market today. Now how come I put her back down? Ah yes, too many plants, only two hands ;) Anyway, the flower market will be there until the end of June, so plenty of time to bring home more friends! Plus, the plants get put on liquidation by June in order that they all get a better home than the small pot they're in. Yes, they do tend to be root bound by then, and you can tell they are so happy when they get out into the garden (or into a bigger pot, in my case).
Plants don't ask much, you know. Food, water, and some shelter like from the wind if they can't handle it, and Love. If you don't talk to them, they are happy to be as they are regardless, but if you do, they appreciate your company and that you decided to go beyond the rationalistic hum-drums of the constant chattering mind.
Just like humans. They don't need much and Love is a key ingredient :)
Looking more closely at Malva Rosea, the leaves are a bit different, but the similarity to other Mallows is still there...oopsy, that reminds me I am behind in my Botany class and better hop to it!
Last note before I go: found a bag of dirty Dandelion greens and roots on my doorstep when I came back from the mall, nice little gift from neighbor indeedy. But, oooh, Mr. Wilson is going to be having a fit come morning when he discovers it's going to be Dandy juice all week long!! Ha ha! Speaking of which, Dr. Axe was interviewed about his book by Paleo Hacks and you can watch that HERE.
Also note that he talks about:
Final note: if you're not into bone broth because of veg-head reasons, no worries, tons of other ways to boost longevity and qi! Chlorella and Spirulina are 2 of them, also used as a source of protein and good to help with liver qi...
OK, enough Chinese medicine talk! See ya next time, sunshine, when hopefully seeds from Richters will be in and I'll be having a high time planting in the rest of the balcony garden :)
Oh, my darlin', oh my darlin,' Clementine!
Must be Mr. Wilson and all that Southern jazzy talk that's gotten into my brain!!
Now on to tell y'all 'bout my front balcony gardenin' bouts.
Bout or round number 1 got done. 1 1/2 hours flew past in no time as I saw what was going to go where. So far, here's what got planted:
I ordered more seeds from Richters when I realized that the Comfrey roots were frayed (didn't make it despite overwintering in the shed), and Nettle had yet to come up. I considered what other fun plants I'd like to grow this year, so I got some:
These seeds will compromise round 2 of planting, plus there's still other seeds that need to get sown along the side of the house. Will that to be a mystery and tell you next time!
Haven't gone to the flower market yet, but I got 2 Strawberry plants from the big box store. I was reading that most Strawberry plants come from California and even the organic growers have to buy non-organic plants to then plant them in organic soil. Not sure how true this is, but I have used this technique of buying non-organic plants and seeds and then planting them in organic soil. I know some non-organic seeds are irradiated and sprayed with chemicals to make sure they grow, so that's something to keep in mind even though the soil is organic. Once the plants take and if I'm able, I always collect the seeds to use in future years. I've done this with Borage, Marigold, Mustard, Purslane, Violet and Nasturtium, to name a few. Great way to save money and the plants come back strong year after year!
Would you believe I had to go out and buy 2 more huge bags of potting soil, and some more pots too? I know! I discovered I have room for 3 more pots out on the back balcony and another on the front one, so more soil was needed because I used up all 12 bags of compost I had bought previously. Sheesh! I can't believe how much I spend on soil, you'd think I had a real garden like a lot of other folks do ;)
And what, pray tell, will I be growing in these pots? Well, the good news is that I had two kinds of seeds in the fridge for the past 3 months (aka doing the cold stratification thing), brought 'em out into the warmer weather and guess what? Yep, they've started sprouting! Now, one of them has 2 really small sprouts and that'd be Rose, so will have to see how that pan outs. But the other one, Sweet Cicely, has some serious sprout activity happening in several of the cells!
Sweet Cicely is grown in the mountainous regions in the British Isles and leaves and stems can be used as a sugar substitute, up to half of the sugar in a recipe! Suitable for diabetics and some say it has an anise-like flavoring. Seeds are hard to germinate, but once she's growing, she's good to come back year after year (strikes me that root division is a better way to get more plants). This is just some of the info I've gleaned about her so far, but I'll keep you posted when she grows up big and I get to chummy on up to her :)
Just now to wait for seeds to come and to get 2 hanging baskets. Haven't seen any at the local mall, will have to check out other stores or nurseries. Was thinking some coir baskets would be nice for the strawberries...Had to replant more Nasturtium seeds in my hanging baskets because of the cold weather. And you know what, don't you? Yes that's right, it's darn near cold again that I was wearing a thicker coat, HAT and even MITTS!
I know. It's very unusual weather for this time of the year. Many of the plants they've put out at the mall have wilted leaves. Now I know ~as I've been hearing from several sources~ that we're all supposed to wait to get planting in my area until the 3rd week of May. That would make it this upcoming weekend. That's when the Botanical Gardens and other cities start doing their plant sales, etc. etc. including in my area too.
Just wrong weather. May is supposed to be spring, cool, but not cold. Now, the reason we're supposed to wait this long is just for this reason, because there's still always a chance there might be frost. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if snow were in the forecast! But honestly, in many years past, this just hasn't been the norm, people are out gardening from mid-April to beginning of May, out wearing shorts and living up the spring fever!
Anyway, I got the seeds in the soil so now it's up to them to decide when and if they want to actually come out and play ;)
And off I go, on to the next adventurous moment. See you next time, sunshine, when the weather will be...what it will be :)
PS. Hoping to maybe go foraging this week if it's nice out. Lots of Blue and White Violet flowers I saw today, but rained yesterday so would have to wait 'til tomorrow. Some of the Tulips are already spent and some Dandy heads have gone to white cloud heaven. I had fun gathering up their white seeds and blowing them from my palm into the wind. Mad, people might think, but so much fun!
Balcony Gardening Ideas, Eating Dirt to Rebalance Gut Flora (soil based probiotics) &Spring Planting
Lots of goodie news, not sure where to begin!
So, the past few days have been sunny and nice. Typical 20C spring weather, not humid at all, just lovely, bright, sunny and gorgeous weather for...foraging and gardening! As for the former, I tinkered with the idea of visiting Bellefield, for which as far as I know they will be tearing up the land and putting up condos. I had seen some Garlic Mustard whizzing past on my bicycle to work, but I was thinking more about...Nettle! May-June is the time to harvest Nettle, BUT if you continue to prune Nettle so that she doesn't go to seed, you can potentially harvest her all summer and fall long. I wish I knew my Botany better (yes, yes, I'm taking the course now and there are A LOT of plants in the world, as I'm sure you must know) because I'm not sure which species of Nettle she is. Oh yes, she does sting, but I think there are several that do... Sigh, botany is a work in progress ;)
Now, getting to gardening, hot diggity, have I been busy! I spent a couple of days mixing the old potting soil with compost and then filling in all the pots. I have a back and front balcony and I have pots lining the side of the house on a small plot of land behind the front balcony.
Update: remember how I had the idea to make a little garden there? Scratch that! My landlord, whom one of on my neighbors sarcastically calls Mr. Smiley was quite put out that I left my pots to overwinter under the balcony. There was just a few bags of compost left and one planter and then I was going to clean the area, when mister decided to take things into his own hands and haul all the bags to the shed out back and clean it up, leaving me a posted sign to KEEP IT CLEAN, LADY. Clearly, the man has control issues, as all my neighbors are aware of his antics, including his obsession of spraying the house for spiders, spraying the Rose bushes against bugs and spraying the lawn against weeds. Just a little psychology here, but when you meet someone who is constantly grumpy, you have to wonder why. It's not that he's a mean person, actually, but when you dig a bit deeper and find out that the man has several health issues, including knee pain and hypertension, you start to understand that pain can translate as negativity. Company, however, does not like misery!
Long story short (too late), I decided to not even bother to ask about a garden and remembering all those chemicals in the soil made me not even want to plant anything there anyway, so I just did what I did last year and put out all my pots alongside the house. I added 2 bamboo baskets, lining them first with mosquito netting (yep, the kind you buy from hardware stores that fit on your screen door) before adding the earth. And I also added this really long basket that would be so wonderful to use in the garden to collect herbs and produce, but as I don't have an actual garden, I lined it with mosquito netting, added soil, and it and all the other pots are waiting for seeds to go in.
Well, not all. Yesterday I got to planting seeds on the back balcony. Really, I don't know why I bother to make these charts of what I'm going to plant on the back balcony and where, and the same thing for the front balcony and side of the house, because when I got the sowing seeds yesterday I just stayed in the present moment and let the seeds dictate where they wanted to be planted!!
I have 3 large pots and 1 pot that fits onto the railing that need potting soil~ so I can plant even more goodies in there~ but so far here is a list of what's been sown and expected to grow up big and strong on the back balcony:
Each one of them has their own pot, but the thing about balcony gardening is that everything will be in miniature. Rosemary, for example, is a small shrub, but just a tiny thing in comparison in a pot! Seems like a lot of plants, I know, but I use the concept of vertical gardening to my advantage: I use a table to grow food on top and under the table, and I also use a kitchen cart that has 3 shelves, which holds about 4-5 pots on each shelf, for a total of about a dozen pots. I also use pots that fit on the balcony railing (6 in all ) and I have a stackable planter with 3 tiers that fit on top of one another, each tier being able to house 4 mini plants, so able to hold up to a dozen plants. In short, when you're growing in a small space, you want to think about how you can create "levels" or ways to use the space vertically, and there have been a few creative ideas out there: re-purposing an untreated wooden pallet, hanging up a shoe rack against the wall, using an old bookcase.
I'll probably take some pics later on in the season, no point now as there's nothing but bare soil ;)
SCORE! Saw my neighbor who happened to be weeding today. Guess what goodies I got to bring home? A big bag full of dirty Dandelions! You bet I'm NOT going to wash them! If you're thinking, ew, that's gross, then you should be aware that soil based probiotics are known by herbalists and are now being sold for a pricey bit of money in health food stores. Why bother when you can eat dirt for free from your garden? If you want to read more about it and you have digestive issues (in the form of leaky gut), I'd recommend you check out Dr. Axe's book Eat Dirt. Good read, highly informative.
Also got to try some red Tulips, yum! Made my neighbor try and she was surprised at how sweet it was. Yes, I was telling her, I told my botany teacher about Tulips too and he didn't know they were edible either!! But they are! And different colors taste differently and they are oh-so YUMMERS! I like to stuff mine like squash blossoms, but you can add the petals to salads or even soups and stews. PETALS, NOT the inner STAMENS. The inner stamens you need to remove. Go ahead and try it (just not store-bought chemical-laden ones, OK?).
Also had a nibble of Forget-me-nots flowers. Eh, nondescript taste, just OK. Gill-over-ivy, aka Creeping Charlie had my adenoid glands tingling, never been fond of the antiseptic taste, but as she is a mint, I'm sure she'll be just fine once I add her to the soup pot.
Now to get to my front balcony and the side of the house. Tell you what I planted next time, sunshine, because the soil and seeds are beckoning me to come and play :)
So the weather is being finicky again! Luckily, I was able to peruse the scene when I got to work. Baby Dandelions, 2 baby Yellow Dock, some woolly lettuce (can't remember her name at the moment and I even checked my blabberings here on the diary but it seems I didn't mention her name, zukes!), Violets (of which I collected a handful), Strawberry leaves (not many, but I took a small pinch's worth to add to the soup pot later on) and tons of Creeping Charlie. I had to relook over that creeper, such pretty flowers! Delicate and small, but showy too somehow. OK, I figured, I can add her to the soup pot. So I collected a big bunch and took off the leaves and flowers from the stems (too much fiber in those stems for me!).
I'm sure my neighbor won't mind at all if I come plucking out all her Ground Ivy ;) Last year I was helping her do just that, as well as Forget-me-nots. She told me last year she had such a fierceness to rid them all of her garden, and this year, looking down at three small clumps of them, she said, "What pretty flowers!" I told her you could add the flowers to salads, but we both feel it's still more soup kinda weather. Anyway, I'm sure her "how cute" attitude towards the flowers will change when she sees how much they've spread in her garden!
Today, I indulged in my first wild pickings of the season:
Simple Dandy Juice Recipe
To do: Juice 2 small Dandy plants, 1/2 kale and 1/2 honeydew melon. Serve and drink on up!
Mmm-mmm! There was a slight bitterness at first from the Dandy greens, but then I realized that the green juice was sitting on top of the melon juice, so I popped my finger in there and swirled...aaah! Tasty good! I really like juicing melons because they offer up so much juice and water in the morning :)
Have been progressing along in my Botany class :) We're in week 4, taking it nice and slow, and just getting to the good parts now...the plant families, eek! That was where I had gotten last time, during the wintertime, when I figured I should actually get myself more embedded into the plant world than just sticking in a toe or heel ;) Yep, and I got that far, looked outside at the snow, and closed the book back. Nuttin' out there but lots of trees and more trees!
Honestly, it's true: I feel much more interested in herbs and plants when it's foraging time. Even when it's cold out, I realized I don't much enjoy gardening! Although I must say I spent several hours the other day getting the pots ready for planting, and just the front balcony too. I used about 6 bags of compost in total, mixing in 1/3 part compost to 2/3 part old potting soil. Some of the pots had really awful soil, so for those I mighta added a touch more.
All the pots in the front are on the stairs, ready to have some seeds added! No squirrels have come digging into my pots, those clever rodents. They must know there's no food added to them. And my one plant that I do have out, dear sweet Wormwood, has remained unscathed. Hm, wonder why ;)
I gave a good pruning to Sage and Rosemary. Sage was growing topsy turvy and they both just need to get a pruning to grow more prolifically from time to time. I believe I have some Rosemary seeds, not for Sage though.
Anyway, when I was out doing that putting-in-the-earth-in-the-pots thing, I saw my neighbor and she seemed keen like she wanted to start planting. She knows I usually start some plants indoors and then give her some, although I confess that they seem like they are hovering in baby stage and I have yet to move them to bigger pots with fresh earth. Yep, on my to-do list, as well as redecorate the bottom of a ferret cage I've been using as a huge planter, redecorate another urn-shaped planted and then add fresh soil to all the pots on the back balcony. I know, I can hear the hours whiling away ;)
I've been hemming and hawing on my Permaculture class, just been busy with other things. Life can get so hairy sometimes, especially when you get bogged down in research. What I'm referring to is that I've been doing research on lighting, audio equipment, cameras, video recording, etc. Asoka gave it a go by answering a question and making notes on a whiteboard behind her. Ooh boy. The audio wasn't the best quality and the let's just say the words "B movie" came to mind.
This type of equipment can get pretty expensive, and just when I thought I'd figured out to attach an external mic onto the DSLR camera, turns out that the model I have doesn't have a jack for an external camera. And when each piece of equipment costs a few hundreds dollars, things can add up pretty quickly!! Long story short (too late, I know), Asoka's going to have to record the audio and video separately and then put them together. Good luck with that Asoka!! Sigh, I know, I'll prob be helping her to figure it out all ;)
Anyway, that's it for now, sunshine! Seems bright weather lies ahead :) My neighbor's son was saying to wait 2 more weeks still, that's when the Botanical Gardens does their big plant fest, and there's a local one in my area too. Well, I'm still going to get to plantin' and let the seeds decide ;)
Stay bright, sunshine, because your light is always appreciated :)
Ps. Here's some pics of Coltsfoot and that Garlic Mustard I was telling you about last post. The Garlic Mustard this time around had no flowers, but don't you worry, I saw a whole bunch growing at Bellefield with flowers. Speaking of which, will be time to pass a visit to old friends, such as Nettle :)
Aaaah! SPRING! Yes, there is definitely a change in the weather :)
I've been in a rabbit hole for the past several days researching about filming and lighting and it's been rather cloudy, but today when I stepped out...oh, how lovely :) I noticed the local big box store has put out their garden plants and the flower market is now back again in front of the supermarket. Sweet...
Time to get to planting for sure! That's what's on my to-do list for this weekend, you bet!
And while I was out and about, of course I was noticing what plant allies my eyes did meet :)
Tiny little blue flowers were peeping up at me from my neighbor's lawn: Creeping Charlie! She's in the mint family and has an antiseptic taste. I suppose I could add her to the soup pot (free food, after all), but I've never been attracted to that taste. Still, that taste test was how she tasted raw, thrown into the soup pot and all becomes a bit medicinal puree!!
Dandelion flowers are out! Not quite at their prime just just yet, but I did see a lawn littered with several yellow flowers. Most of the flowers, due to the weather, have very short stems, but I suspect the taller ones will be along soon enough. I caught sight of a few Dandelions from last year, sans flowers, but didn't feel tempted enough to forage them for juice. Nah, they've got to be big and dark and greeny green. And bitter, loads of bitter, because why else would I be juicing them? ;)
Violet seems to be spent already, can you believe? I saw but a few dried up ones...I'll check at work to see how they are faring over there.
Passing behind the mall what did I see but the Compositae flowers of Coltsfoot! I find Coltsfoot is just a great example of a ray flower, and these ones were shining their yellow rays right at me! Some of them were tinged with purple --- how fascinating and marvelous! No leaves were to be seen at all, which is exactly when you want to forage Coltsfoot, before the leaves appear. Anyway, the flowers don't last long at all. Just like Dandelion, you've got maybe a window of 2 weeks to pick 'em. I collected a few handfuls just in case, for someone else, because to be honest, I don't have lung issues, which is what she's used for. Coltsfoot flowers are edible, but I'm not hankering for salads these days.
Garlic Mustard!! I saw this spidery, kidney-shaped leaf and for some reason I was thinking Violet. I don't know why, because there was nary a flower to be seen. Perhaps that's why, because Garlic Mustard is often seen with this 4-petalled flowers, and that's a tell-tale sign she's in the mustard family and edible. Anyway, once I had a whiff and put a leaf in my mouth, I knew... good ol' Garlic Mustard. I'm not one to use heating garlic in my cooking, but on one of the FB foragers group the other day, there was mention about drying it, grinding it and using it as a garlic powder substitute. Garlic Mustard has a mucilaginous quality, good to add to salads for a bit of pop and to soothe tender digestive mucosal linings. There were quite a few plants out, and I collected about 2 trays worth in the dehydrator. Garlic Mustard does get more bitter as she grows, and you can also freeze her for later use in soups and stews. Want to know more about her? She Here and Here :)
Alright, sunshine, leave you with that for now...'til next time, stay bright :)
Curiosity Got The Cat: