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.

Steps to a Better Lawn

Lawn&Garden

Lawn&Garden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr. Mom,

If you’re lucky enough to have a lawn with a good topsoil base, much of the hard work of keeping a lawn beautiful is already done for you. But many of us do not have this luxury, and besides, even with a good topsoil base, you still have to work hard to keep a beautiful lawn and garden.

1. The best time to mow a lawn is when it is cool and dry. Wait for the morning dew to dry off, and before the afternoon heat takes hold. Alternatively, late afternoon or early evening following a watering in the morning is also a good time.

2. A hedge is a much better boundary divider than a fence. It will provide better privacy and keep pets and children in – or out. It will attract birds to its shelter, and provide a great backdrop for plants and flowers.

3. Bring the beauty of your garden to you; plant hyacinths near walkways and doors. Their magnificent perfume will swamp the spring air and make your garden really come alive.

4. Add your garden to non-garden items, such a lampposts and mail boxes. Surround these items with flowers planted to take advantage of the earliest to the latest flowerings. You could have white snowdrops, purple and gold crocus, blue hyacinths, and various colored tulips. You could also surround the posts with rocks to provide added interest.

5. Simple, but effective weed control can be achieved on your lawn by mowing often during spring. This will prevent dandelions spreading by eliminating the yellow blossoms and preventing seed formation. Mow high during late spring and early summer. This will allow grass blades to shade the ground, and will help prevent crabgrass from sprouting.

Your lawn and garden should be a source of pride and beauty. You don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive fertilizers and herbicides, or fancy lawn furniture and ornaments. A little commonsense and thought can go a long way to making your lawn and garden a much better place.

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.

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.

Hand Hugs

English: Canine Massage helps relieve minor te...

English: Canine Massage helps relieve minor tension and pain while improving circulation and the immune system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Dr. Mom, The kind and loving touch of a mother or father is invaluable to the health of every family member (and even friends). Massage takes it a step further.

There are two fluid systems in the body that need to circulate throughout the body on a regular basis. The blood, which feeds the cells, and the lymph, which takes the garbage away. The blood is moved around the body by the beating heart which pumps the life-giving blood to the far extremities and back again. But the lymph has no pump system. The lymph relies on the pumping action which results from the stretching and contracting of the muscles and tendons to move it around the body during movement or exercise. Or, it can be moved by massage! If the lymph is not moved on, it can pool and the “garbage” goes bad and creates toxins that make pain, burning, and other problems resulting from the stagnation. And the muscles can go into a spasm which locks the lymph into one place. – Simply put. But, when you give someone a massage, you are actually getting the payback of moving your own lymph as you actively impart the massaging movements.

The basics of massage is to move the lymph towards the lymph glands (find out where they are) and the blood towards the heart, and to gently rub the muscles spasm till the warmth relaxes the knots of pain. Use coconut or olive oil or a health cream as a lubricant to prevent skin irritation.

The benefits of massage are endless. Relaxation and rejuvenation are valuable tools involved in combating increasing stress levels. Just like babies need the comfort of human contact, so do each one of us need loving human contact. It brings about sharing and unity.

Relieving tight muscles is an effective and holistic approach to decreasing pain and discomfort acquired by everyone on a daily basis. Then why is it that most people choose to overlook massage therapy as a viable option for body maintenance? Many concerns involve not knowing exactly what massage entails and not trusting someone with your most prized possession – your body. Or just plain modesty (you have to find someone you can share with and trust).

If you have never had a massage, it is an understandibly formidable challenge. Do a little research so you can be empowered by this powerful healing resource. Practice the knowledge and body image attitude so that you can employ the tremendous benefits of massage therapy into your own life an for the family.

Modesty is a natural defense system that should be treasured and preserved, especially in children. We can define modesty as keeping within bounds of proper behavior; displaying appropiate methods of respect and privilege before, during, and after the massage.  Knowledge and kindness also play a key role in maximizing the benefits of the massage experience.

As a first time client of a professional therapist, it is extremely important for your therapist to walk you step by step through the procedure before you get to the table. Your therapist should allow you complete privacy to disrobe by leaving the room. You can keep your underwear on. You are fully covered by a sheet the entire time of the massage.
“Draping” is the technique of using the sheet to maintain your sense of
security and create the boundary between therapist and the
person receiving the massage. You can relax knowing that your safety and modesty are highly protected by your therapist and never discussed with others. The professional therapist should also let you know:

  • Where you put your things
  • What the massage will entail
  • How to get on the table
  • How to breathe and relax
  • Allow you to ask questions

By preparing you with the knowledge of what to expect, you are more able to let down your guard and relax. That’s why you’re here! A skilled therapist should stay in good contact with you about your comfort, warmth, and pressure of massage strokes. This is a time you have set aside for yourself. Utilize it!

Body image is another subject worth addressing. It deters people from enjoying the fullness of a massage experience. Massage is for everybody. Every shape, every size. There is no need to be self conscious. Massage therapists are admirers of the body’s form and function, and work professionally to achieve developed goals for the session such as body sculpting or relieve of specific painful areas.

This sheds some light on some of the lesser discussed aspects of massage so you can be empowered as a mom or dad to provide kindness and physical comfort to your family. It is important to preserve modesty, knowledge and appropriate body image attitudes. And most of all, to remember the endless benefits that massage therapy can provide.

The Food Theme Diet

This is a very interesting diet concept that I think may work for many people. It is known as the “food theme” diet and allows you to eat the foods you like, while losing a good amount of weight naturally. The diet is centered on eating less overall rather than eating the healthiest and natural foods you can find, although this does help as well.

The basic concept of the diet is to choose a theme of food and to stick to that particular theme for a day. For example if you choose a theme of lemon, you should only eat foods with lemon in them for that day. Why? The concept behind this new diet is actually quite simple. Many people eat a lot because they are not completely full, even if they are not hungry. The body naturally likes to eat many different types of foods. This is one of the main causes of overeating. Even though you have eaten enough of a certain type of food and are no longer hungry, you still want to eat more of a different type of food. This new diet forces you to stick to a certain group of foods so that you cannot eat different types of foods and thus, you eat less and lose weight. This diet has been tried in many scientific case studies and has proven to be effective.

Now, if you choose this diet, just because you eat less, you still have to be aware of what you are eating and keep track of the amount of calories you are consuming daily. If you choose food categories such as “chocolate” or “cake”, this diet is obviously not going to be effective.

The Bottom Line of this Diet : Choose healthy foods that you like to eat as your daily “food theme” and make sure that you alternate your theme daily to get some variety in your diet. If you choose the same food group day after day, the diet will get very bland and mundane, and chances are you will not continue with it and it will not help you lose weight. Also, every now and then, you may want to take a break from your diet to eat some desert or a somewhat unhealthy food, but still try to make it correlate with your theme for the day. For example, on a day when you want to eat pizza, make your food theme “tomatoes”.