Grow Your Own Herbs

So many herbs, so many uses

  
Herbs are no doubt among the easiest plants to grow in your garden. Many of them are fairly drought tolerant and have a blooming period albeit short. In addition, herbs lend a delicious fragrance to the garden.

While most herbs are easily grown in containers which is a major plus, if you have space, consider planting an entire herb garden. It needn’t take that much space. A plot of land measuring approximate 200-400 square feet should do you quite nicely. Find out the diameter of a mature plant; obtain some graph paper and sketch out your garden before you dig a single hole. Remember to allow at least 1 foot of space between mature plants for ease of weeding and pruning.

One of the most fragrant herbs to add to your garden is lavender. The scent of lavender in bloom is heavenly and is wonderful for making scented sachets to hang in your closet or place in your dresser drawers. This is the only herb I would suggest you plant as many as you have space for as those sachets make wonderful gifts.

As the song goes, 4 great savory herbs to add to your garden are Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Fresh chopped parsley is a wonder addition to potato and pasta salads, not to mention a lovely garnish for many other dishes. Try drying sage leaves to add to many dishes including stuffing for turkey and chicken. And, both rosemary and thyme are excellent accents when roasting poultry and lamb among other savory dishes.

Tarragon is a wonderful addition to soups and vegetables. This herb is also good in tuna, egg, pasta and green salads. Add when making sauces for fish or chicken, it’s a must for béarnaise sauce.

If you intend upon canning pickled vegetables from your garden or making pretty vinegars for gifts think about planting some dill. While its true you can purchase dried dill weed very cheaply, there is no way you can get a full stalk of dill unless you grow it or pay rather dearly for it when needed in quantity.

In my opinion, no herb garden is complete without chives. In fact, if I could plant only one herb, it would be chives because they are so very useful. While I love green onions, by the time I get around to using them, alas they all but lifeless. No problem with chives growing right outside my door. They not only add that touch of needed green, they also have that subtle onion flavor which is perfect for salads and potato toppings.

Unfortunately, another one of my favorite herbs is not worth planting. Cilantro tends to bolt so quickly you would be lucky to retrieve a leaf or two. Obviously those that grow cilantro commercially know something we don’t know and they aren’t telling. If you figure it out please let me in on the secret. I will let you in on my secret for preserving store bought cilantro, however. Place the bunch of cilantro in a glass of water and cover with the plastic bag it came in. This way, the cilantro will stay fresh and crisp for up to 2 weeks in your fridge.

On a final note, let’s talk about mint. A favorite of mine is pineapple mint. It has a wonderful fragrance and taste and makes a lovely tea and garnish. However, there is a real problem with mint. It’s tangled roots go deep and it tends to try to take over every other plant in the garden. Spray it with Round-up and it comes right back again. Once planted, you simply can’t get rid of it! So, if you want to add mint to your garden, plant it in a container and move the container often enough to insure it doesn’t take root in the ground through the drainage hole in the container.

Kids Love Gardening

Children’s Vegetable Gardens: Introduction

Apparently, we can see how nature is treated these days.  It is a sad thing to know that people do not pay attention so much anymore to the environmental problems.  What can we do about this?  It’s as simple as starting with the children.  It is good to see the children’s involvement with environment-friendly activities. One such nature-loving activity that children could easily get their hands on is gardening. Why should you consider gardening for your children?

Here are the benefits that gardening could easily provide the children with:

1.  Science
In planting, children are indirectly taught the wonders of science like the plants life cycle and how humans intervention can break or make the environment.  They can have a first hand experience on the miracle of life through a seed.  This would definitely be a new and enjoyable experience for the kids.

2.  Life
Watching a seed grow into a tree is just as wondrous as the conception to birth and growth of a child.  In time, kids will learn to love their plants and appreciate the life in them. Gardening could actually help simulate how life should be treated — it should be with care. The necessities to live will be emphasized to kids with the help of gardening – water, sunlight, air, soil. Those necessities could easily be corresponded to human necessities, i.e., water, shelter, air, food.  By simply weeding out, one could educate how bad influences should be avoided to be able to live life smoothly.

3.  Relaxation
Studies show that gardening can reduce stress because of its calming effect. This is applicable to any age group.  More so, it stimulates all the five senses.  Believe it or not, gardening may be used as therapy to children who have been abused or those who are members of broken homes.  It helps build one’s self-esteem.

4.  Quality Time with the Family
You can forget about your stressful work life for a while be soothed by the lovely ambience in the garden.  You can play and spend quality time with your children.  You can talk while watering the plants or you can work quietly beside each other.  The bottom line is, always do what you have to do, together with your kids.  You might discover a lot of new things about your child while mingling with them in your garden.

Let kids become aware of their environment’s needs. And one way to jump start that environmental education may be through gardening.  It’s hitting two birds with one stone — teach them to respect life while you bond with them.

Zucchini Overload?

USDA summer squash

USDA summer squash (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

Dating back to 7000 B. C., zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is native to Central and South America. Sometimes called by the nickname “Italian Squash,” zucchini was brought to North America by its southern neighbours. Early European explorers introduced zucchini to Italy and other countries in Europe. Italians initially grew zucchini for their sweet, edible blossoms, later the hearty fruits were experimented with producing the delectable dishes that resulted in zucchini being dubbed Italian squash. Up until the 20th Century, most Americans considered zucchini a treat reserved for eating on special occasions and were store-bought instead of grown in gardens.

Part of the summer squash family, zucchini is an excellent source of manganese and vitamin C, a very good source of magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, iron, folate, copper, riboflavin, niacin, and phosphorous. Many of the nutrients have been shown to be helpful for the prevention of atherosclerosis and diabetic heart disease. Summer squash’s magnesium has been shown to be helpful for reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Together with the potassium in summer squash, magnesium is also helpful for reducing high blood pressure. All summer squash are perfect diet foods – low in calories, sodium, fat-free, and provide a source of fiber. All parts of the zucchini are edible.

How To Grow

Zucchini is probably the best known of the summer squashes. It is a type of narrow squash that resembles a cucumber in size and shape. It has smooth, thin skin that is either yellow or green in colour and can be striped or speckled. Its tender flesh is creamy white in colour and features numerous seeds. Its edible flowers are often used in French and Italian cooking.

Zucchini can be planted by direct seeding or by transplanting young plants that have been started indoors. Seed directly into the ground as soon as the soil reaches temperatures of 60°F/16°C. for vines. Fill the holes with compost and mound slightly. Plant seeds 1in/2.5cm deep.

Zucchini is a member of the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, melons, gourds, and squash, all particularly sensitive to frost. Select a sheltered spot, and prepare holes about 12in/30cm in diameter and 12in/30cm deep. Measuring from the centre, space the holes 36in/90cm apart for bush types, 6ft/1.8m apart for vines. To conserve space, squash can be trained over a sturdy trellis, in which case 2ft/60cm between plants is enough.

Zucchini grows best when exposed to 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Regular watering is essential for summer squash. Feed the plants with a high-potassium organic liquid feed to produce a higher yield. Thick mulch added after planting will preserve moisture and keep the fruits from touching the ground where they will become soiled and be exposed to insects and diseases.

Harvesting

The flavor of zucchini is best when it is less than six inches long. They should be firm, but not hard. Zucchini are prolific producers and regular harvesting will promote continued yield throughout the growing season. Harvest by cutting the stems from the plants gently with a paring knife. As they are composed mainly of water, summer squashes dehydrate rapidly. Harvest just before cooking and keep in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag until cooking. Don’t forget that squash blossoms are delicious to eat.

Small summer squashes are used skin and all. Larger squash need their skin and seeds removed: slice lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Wash summer squash under cool running water and then cut off both ends. You can then proceed to cut it into the desired size and shape for the particular recipe.

In the kitchen, zucchini can be steamed, sautéed, boiled, baked, fried, grilled, and stuffed. Some ideas include: serve raw as an appetiser with a vegetable dip or salad dressing, grate and sauté with thinly sliced garlic, add to breads, muffins, cakes, stews, casseroles, soups, sprinkle grated zucchini or other summer squash on salads or sandwiches. It can be preserved by canning, freezing, and drying.

In the garden, some gardeners let the squashes ramble through the corn patch, where their sandpapery leaves deter raccoons. Good companion plants for zucchini are: corn, marjoram, and nasturtium. Don’t grow zucchini and Irish potatoes together as they are incompatible.

Tips for Container Gardens

My lovely container garden

My lovely container garden (Photo credit: staticgirl)

Dear Dr Mom,

Here are several tips for creating a wonderful hanging basket or container this summer. The first is to use an artificial soil composed mostly of peat moss. Good soils such as Fafard or Pro-Mix use perlite, peat, and other ingredients to produce a soil that will not compact over the summer. Real garden soil compacts and turns into concrete under the pressure of regular watering. And when it does, plant roots stop growing because they require good open spaces to move into and absorb nutrients. Hard, compacted soils do not grow good plants so do not use real soil in your containers. I re-use my artificial potting soil from year to year. I dump it out of the pot. Chew it up with a shovel to cut up all last year’s roots and add approximately 10 % by volume of compost. The compost increases air spaces and gives plants a boost in healthy nutrition.

Feed your plants weekly. Nitrogen, the engine of plant growth, is water soluble and as you water your containers from the top the dissolved nitrogen is leaving from the bottom. I use a fish-emulsion liquid feed with seaweed to provide all the trace nutrients my plants require and recommend it highly. You can use any liquid plant food (like Miracle Grow or Shultz) to promote growth. Compost tea is the Cadillac of liquid plant food and if you make your own compost tea, your plants will respond with bigger and better blooms as well as increased vigour.

And finally, no matter the size of the container, it is important to soak it all the way to the bottom at each watering. Continue watering until water emerges from the pot bottom. This ensures the roots can reach all parts of the container and grow properly.

Money-Saving Gardening Tips

IMGP0854 - vege garden

IMGP0854 – vege garden (Photo credit: RaeAllen)

It’s easy to spend a fortune every year creating a beautiful yard. These five tips can help save you money in both this, and future gardening seasons.

1. Plan your vegetable garden according to what your neighbors are planting so you can share your vegetables when they’re ready for eating. Often I’ve had too many of one kind of vegetable I couldn’t give away because my friend’s were ripe at the same time.

2. Select perennials rather than annuals for your flowerbeds. As they multiply each year, cut them back and exchange with your friends so you both have lovely gardens and save money at the same time.

3. Compost your kitchen scraps, as well as your coffee grounds.  The end result is much better than any potting soil you can ever get buy from a nursery or hardware store. The price is right, and this is definitely recycling!

4. Instead of using mulch, try pebbles or small rocks in your garden as ground cover.  This will save you lots of cash since you won’t need to buy mulch in the spring and fall of every year.

5. Spend more money now by purchasing better quality gardening tools and you will save in the long run.  They will last for years, saving you dollars because you don’t need to replace them every planting season.  Same goes for gardening gloves- make sure you buy the best you can afford so they last all season.

Happy Gardening!

Worm Wee For Luscious Gardens

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste...

English: Freshly bedded worm bin, garden waste mixed with finished aerobic compost Category:Vermicomposting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr Mom,

One of the best ways to improve your garden is to stop throwing out your garbage. That’s right, your used coffee grinds and banana peels can help your tomato and cucumber plants grow larger and stronger. When that same garbage is eaten and digested by a worm it becomes a powerful plant supplement known as worm castings. Starting a worm compost bin is a great way to create a steady supply of worm castings for your flower and vegetable gardens.

First thing you’ll need is a bin. You can buy a commercially made worm bin but where’s the fun in that. Those plastic or rubber storage bins make great worm bins. Drill a few holes in the bin so your worms get plenty of air. Just be sure to cover those holes with small pieces of window screen or something else that will keep the fruit flies out. And if you have any plumbing experience, why not add a hose spigot near the bottom of the bin to take advantage of worm tea. Worm tea is even better than compost tea for your plants. All you have to do is add a cup or two to a large watering can and fill the rest with water. Then water as normal.

Next you’ll need some worm bedding. Most commonly used worm bedding for home bins is shredded newspapers. The bedding must stay moist but not water logged. Use a spray bottle to keep the bedding just right for your worms. When your order worms in the mail they will usually ship in a container filled with peat moss. Some people have stopped using peat moss as a political statement. You see peat is not a replenishable resource. Peat takes centuries to develop in swampy regions and it’s just being used up too quickly. Other’s argue that Peat is now created in a safe quick way and what’s all the fuss about anyway. The two sides contradict each other so it’s up to you to decide if you want to use it. Newspapers are readily available and you probably have a stack of them in your house already. So why not avoid the whole controversy and go with what’s on hand.

And don’t forget to put some dirt in the bin too. Worms don’t have teeth, so they need some grit to help grind up their food. You can also use rock dust or powdered limestone instead of dirt if you like, but regular dirt from your yard will work fine.

And of course, let’s not forget the worms. Digging up some worms from your yard will not work in a worm bin. Worms that come from the soil, like to live in the soil. For worm bins, you’ll need red wigglers. They’ll love the environment that you’ve created in your worm bin. How many should you buy, that depends on the size of your bin. Let’s assume that you’ve created your worm bin for the worm castings and not to have tons of worms for your weekends fishing. That means that you’re going to leave the worms in the bin until they’ve turned most of the bedding and food waste into vermicompost. The worm to garbage ratio is usually 2:1. That means that if you’re going to put a half pound of garbage into the bin on a daily basis, then you should start with a pound of worms.

Check your bin everyday to ensure that you get off to a good start. Keep the bedding moist and the bin should stay in a spot that’s about 60 to 70 degrees. Leaving the bin outside in the summer sun is a good way to cook all of your worms. And remember if the worm bin starts to smell, then you probably need more bedding.

Starting a worm bin is a fun project for everyone in the family. Get your kids involved, they’ll love watching those little worms wiggle around your bin. And if you’re lucky, you may see one of the kids chase your mother in law around the house with a handful of worms. Like I said, worm bins are good times for the whole family and great for your garden too.

Treasure In A Coconut

English: Coconut oil in solid state

English: Coconut oil in solid state (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suffering from CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff)? Some incredible hope shared below:

Guest post by Lynda:

When we consider brain function and brain health I think I can speak with the authority of experience. When I was 8 years old I had Polio. The Polio I had is called; ‘bulbar polio’, [polio of the brain]. This polio affected my general mental function, causing ADHD type symptoms as well as chronic fatigue, squinting of one eye, slight paralysis of the muscles in my neck and right lung. The paralysis improved after a few months, being especially visible in my eye improvement.

BUT as I reached my late 30’s I found symptoms recurring, especially with ataxia, [interrupted messages from the brain to the muscles causing weakness], in my neck, and my right lung was basically not functioning when I slept.

This problem has got worse with age, and as I found out this is common with Polio victims and is called, ‘Post-Polio Sequel’. Because of these problems I have had to find every trick in the book to keep healthy and alive.

From my early 20’s I have been studying the brain and ways to improve its function through; DIET, SUPPLEMENTS, EXERCISE.

In my early 40’s I went all out studying brain injury with related problems, especially pertaining to short term memory damage, ADHD, and Autism, and have basically never stopped in my quest to understand this traumatic disability.

The information I gleaned strengthened my belief that neurological function and cell structure in general could be altered or improved by, DIET, SUPPLEMENTS, EXERCISE. BUT it seems just as I start to get one problem in control, another symptom raises its ugly head.

According to the Post Polio Sequel Support Group’, this is the case with all the old polio victims; they either try every trick in the book, or die early.

TO GET TO THE POINT

I think of ENERGY this way; if I was rushed to hospital now, the guys of the emergency services would give me a drip, glucose and saline, and as I have seen happen, it’s almost like the paramedic gives me new life. So subsequently I “drip” some energy into myself – in my morning green tea I have; 1 teaspoon SOLE` made from Himalayan Salt and a bit of lemon for the Vitamin C, and I also have pure fruit juice for the sugar. [my morning drip]

About a year ago I however felt I needed more, possibly protein or a ‘good fat’, but without eating a meal and getting even fatter, so I thought I would try coconut oil. [Obviously only the very best quality]. [I use Extra Virgin]. I now realize that coconut oil in my morning tea helped with energy I so desperately needed with the added benefit of feeding up my brain.

It took me a long time arguing with myself trying assure myself – “was this only in my head”, to actually realize and accept that the coconut oil in my tea not only helped the ataxia in my neck, [head shaking], but it also helped my right lung to breathe better at night. I was blown away and being busy, I had no time to check the internet for backup results. I told whoever would listen about my findings, but now feel I am obligated, as a result of the article I have just read in the Saturday Newspaper, to share this knowledge.

Here is the article I read; ‘Hope stirs for dementia man’. The article tells of 68yr old man who had Alzheimer’s so badly that he could not dress himself nor go to the toilet alone. This article is the story of how Dr Mary Newport had been treating her husband with virgin coconut oil (VCO) with incredible results. She claims it got his SHORT TERM MEMORY back and functional, and helped his DEPRESSION, and that MRI scans had showed his brain had STOPPED SHRINKING. The son of the 67 yr old also contacted Keiran Clarke, professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford University, and head of the Cardiac Metabolism Group, who gave favorable comments on Dr. Mary’s report.

This caused him in July to start giving his father one teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day and today the old man gets dressed himself and takes a minibus to a recreation center where he spends the day and returns home, through London, by himself.

The ‘experts’ believe it is the action of the tiny molecules of energy in the coconut, called ketones’ BUT I believe there is more to it.

So, anyone with SHORT TERM MEMORY DAMAGE, ADHD, AUTISM, ALZHEIMERs, DEPRESSION, ATAXIA [head bobbing up and down], would be silly not to try this.

By the way, I had my bold tested for cholesterol before I started with the coconut oil about a year ago and it was very good. Good cholesterol high and bad cholesterol low. A year after starting the coconut oil I again took my bold and it was the same, still very good. Actually my doctor said that if I was an astronaut wanting to go to the moon, this blood test would say they should let me go.

They might be right, I suppose I could make it to the moon, but the damage from the polio to my brain and nerves can never be restored, only controlled to a degree. I will still always be fighting the polio related symptoms, but possibly with a better chance of survival than those who do not know, nor try all the natural remedies available.

This information is not only for the improvement of your own health, buy also so that you can perhaps pass it on to someone else who can use it to improve their quality of life.

About Lynda:

Linda McGregor lives in South Africa with her family and shares her incredible knowledge of nature’s bountiful remedies every chance that she gets. She has made an impact on so many lives with her vast knowledge and experience and by the information that she so readily shares. When you meet her you are inspired by her determination and kindness.

Raw Food Diet

Eating raw foods is natural. Our bodies thrive on all that is fresh and vital. A raw food diet (or increasing the amount of raw food that you eat) is bound to bring a feeling of increased well-being.

Raw food diets are based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, preferably organic, such as a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit, fresh juices and purified water.

Why Raw Foods?

Basically a vegetarian diet, the raw food diet promotes eating and drinking ‘living’ foods. Living foods and juices contain the maximum amount of fiber found in raw produce, fiber that can be lost in processing. Such foods are easily metabolized and tend to be lower in calories than the average diet.

Heating food above 116°F destroys enzymes in food that aid in digestion and in absorption of food, diminishing its nutritional value.

Benefits of a Raw Food Diet

A diet of at least 75% raw food offers numerous health benefits, such as increased energy, improved skin appearance, better digestion, weight loss and reduced risk of serious illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

A raw food diet contains little or no saturated fats, is low in sodium, high in potassium, magnesium, folate and fibre. 

Raw food diets are also excellent detox diets. Different combinations of raw, living foods and juices can be used for colon cleansing, liver cleansing, kidney cleansing and skin cleansing.

The Basics of a Raw Food Diet

Any fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, beans, nuts, legumes, young coconut milk – even seaweed – can be menu items of a raw food diet. Your choice of foods may depend on your reasons for dieting, for example: 

  • sprouted brown rice slows glucose absorption and improves the metabolism
  • cabbage supports healthy cellular function; radish leaves act as an anti-oxidant, as does Shitake mushroom 
  • carrots are a great source of vitamin A as well as encouraging healthy vision and a healthy cardio-vascular system

You can use a sprouter such as the Easy Green automatic sprouter to sprout seeds, grains, beans – even wheat-grass  Sprouts could be called a ‘super food’ – organic sprouts contain enormous levels of proteins, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, chlorophyll pigments and enzymes, and are the ideal natural supplement.

Sprouts can be used in salads and soups, or can be juiced. Fresh juices are a great ready energy supply and a good quality juicer, such as the Kempo Greenpower juicer, produces living juices that are full of essential nutrients.

A great juicing recipe to complement a raw food diet is carrot juice with potato, fennel and apple. Simply juice 4 medium carrots, 2 apples, 1 small potato and 1 small stalk of fennel.

Fennel has been shown to reduce and control inflammation of arthritis, it evens mood fluctuation and depressive states and has the rare nutrient called manganese, plus zinc and vitamin B complex.

The nutritional value of grains and seeds is impressive. They contain most of the vitamins – particularly A, B, and E. They’re also fantastic natural sources of unsaturated fatty acids and lecithin, and an excellent source of proteins.

You can even use soy milk makers (such as SoyQuick) to make non-dairy drinks from different beans, rice, nuts, seeds and grains to have with breakfast. If you want something a little more substantial than soy milk you can make your tofu (or, of course, visit a good health food shop).

Essentially, the idea of a raw food diet is to eat unprocessed foods for at least 75% of the time. If the idea of raw food isn’t very appetizing to you, you can warm the food a little as long as the food isn’t heated above 116°F.

Cautionary Note

As with any major change in diet, it’s wise idea to consult your doctor before beginning a special diet. This is especially true for children, pregnant women, anyone with anemia and anyone with a pre-existing medical condition. 

Even natural foods can conflict with certain medications, so please ask your doctor or pharmacist if you’re taking any medication.

Because a raw food diet is detoxifying some people suffer a mild detox reaction including mild headaches, nausea and cravings. These symptoms may last for several days and you’ll get more enjoyment out of your raw food diet if you cut down on things like meat, sugar and caffeine a week or so before commencing the diet.

Last But Not Least…

A raw food diet is certainly a good way to improve your overall health and well-being  Like anything worthwhile it takes time, energy and commitment. Because many of the foods for this particular type of diet are made from scratch there is some preparation time involved. There are many great products on the market that can help you prepare your own living food and save you some time as well. 

Combined with regular exercise, a raw food diet is also an excellent weight loss method. If you’ve been feeling ‘a little off’, or just need a pick-me-up and some extra energy, then a raw food diet is certainly a good way to go.