March Garden Update

Seed Packets

It was an unusually warm and dry February here in the Midwest. The plants have started to wake up from their winter slumber and I’ve started to plan what I’m going to grow this year. I’ve decided to focus mostly on the vegetables that I eat, with a few new ones that I’ve never grown before just for fun. While I don’t have the layouts quite figured out yet here’s what I’m hoping to grow this year.

Community Garden Plot:
Carrots
Green Beans
Tiger Eye Beans
Onions*
Celeriac*
Garlic*
Basil
Sunflowers
Marigolds
Calendula
Flax

Deck
Currant Tomato (just one this year)
Spinach
Beets
Chives
Lemon balm
Oregano
Thyme
Rosemary
Sage
Thai Red Roselle Hibiscus*
Ginger*
Lemongrass*

* denotes plants I’ve never grown before

I’m still waiting on my order of ginger to ship, and I still need to find a source of lemongrass, but otherwise I have all the seeds/plants. My spring break is next week so one of the things I want to get done during it is get my seeds started. We also have a planting day at the community garden next Saturday so I’ll find out which plot I’ve moved to. Gardening season is SO close!

What are you growing in your garden this year?

Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

Winter Lavender Calendula Salve

If you’re anything like me, winter can be tough on your skin. During my no-technology week last month I whipped up this salve to soothe skin and brighten spirits (and because I needed some last minute gifts this holiday season). I think it may be the best thing of this sort that I’ve ever made and I’m very pleased with how it turned out so I figured I’d share.

What’s in it?

Lavender – Not only does lavender have a calming scent and the ability to lift moods but it also has antiseptic and pain relieving properties.

Calendula – Calendula is sometimes known as pot marigold and is an herb that is valued for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to stimulate wound healing and soothe irritated skin. It can be used to treat burns, bruises, and injuries. Calendula also gives the salve a sunny yellow color that reminds me of the much missed summer sun.

Olive Oil – Olive oil is moisturizing and soothing to dry skin. For this recipe I infused the olive oil with herbs following the solar infusing method from the Herbal Academy of New England though the other methods would work as well.

Beeswax – This is what thickens the oil to a salve consistency. It also has a slight honey scent, which I love. I used natural beeswax for this recipe.

For this salve I was shooting for a medium hardness and used the beeswax/oil ratios from Humblebee and Me. If you’re into DIY bath and beauty products I definitely recommend her site; she makes the coolest stuff and has tons of recipes.

 

Brick of beeswax, bottles of infused oil

Lavender Calendula Winter Skin Salve

(makes 4.5 oz)

45g* Calendula infused Olive Oil
45g* Lavender infused Olive Oil
20g* Beeswax
Tins
Clean can for melting
Small Pan
Water

  1. Measure out ingredients
  2. Place ingredients in your clean can.
  3. Place can in a small pan and surround it with between one and two inches of water.
  4. Heat the pan with the can over medium heat. Stir mixture in the can occasionally to facilitate melting.
  5. Once all the beeswax has melted, remove the can from the pan and pour salve into tins (I used these from Mountain rose herbs).
  6. Allow salve to cool. Label tins and give as gifts (or keep for yourself).

*The wax:oil ratio I used was 1:4.5. This means that you can scale up this recipe and use 40g beeswax and 90g of each of the infused oils, or scale it down and use 10g beeswax and 22.5g of each of the infused oils. Just remember it is the ratio that is important.

Beeswax in a cup on a scale
Weighing the beeswax
Can in a pan with water around it
Can-pan set up. Note how the water surrounds the can.
Beeswax and oil melting in can
Melting the beeswax
Salve cooling in metal tins
Cooling in tins from Mountain Rose Herbs
Harden salve in tins
Ready for gifting

 

Gardening Year in Review

Another year gone already! It was a pretty decent year garden wise. I found a community garden run by awesome people. I was put in charge of an orchard at the same community garden. I started graduate school for a masters in horticulture with a specialization in urban food systems, and I grew a lot of yummy fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

One of my favorite things I did this year was take regular pictures of my garden plot from (about) the same spot. This has allowed me to put together a slideshow of sorts and watch the entire garden season go by in a manner of seconds, and I thought I’d share it with you.

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There aren’t any pictures from July because I was fairly sick that month and didn’t make it out to the garden.

Looking forward to next year, I’m hoping to be a bit more practical with my garden plot and focus on growing the vegetables I use like carrots, beets, spinach, and not so many tomatoes. I’ll still probably pick one or two new/fun plants to grow as well. I’ll also have the orchard to care for, which is exciting, but also a little daunting since I have no idea how much work it’ll end up being.

June Garden Update

May was certainly an interesting month weather-wise. It hasn’t quite warmed up yet and we’ve gotten at least twice the normal amount of rain. Not that I’m complaining. It’s quite nice to be able to be outside without overheating and not to have to water my plants. Speaking of plants, here’s how they’re all doing.

Houseplants

Almost no change in the houseplants this past month. The African violet is still blooming, the lime tree seems to be mad at me for trimming it and hasn’t grown much, and everyone else is holding steady. Luckily Olive (my new dog) isn’t into eating plants.

Deck Plants

Everything is growing really well and loving the rain (and their well-draining pots). I harvested and froze the last of the spring spinach crop this week since it was starting to bolt and planted calendula in its place. The dill is growing well and the lemon balm finally sprouted. The stevia is now larger than it was when I bought it so I think it’s safe to say it successfully survived the bird attack.

Deck planters and pots with plants

The netting and wire cages have done a good job of protecting the plants from the wild life. This meant I got to harvest my first strawberry yesterday. I don’t have a picture since I ate it immediately. Although there will be no blueberries to eat this year the blueberry has grown quite a bit this past month. I actually hadn’t realized how much it had grown until I went and looked at my last update.

Community Garden

Other than a few lost bean plants (from wind and digging critters) things in the garden are going well. I planted my tomatoes in ground a few weeks ago, but since it has been cool they really aren’t growing much. The squash plants now have flower buds and the beans are blooming. The sunflowers are growing well and the marigolds are little bushes now. I had a lot or carrots sprout last week, which is exciting since I may actually have a carrot crop this year.

June Garden 4 June Garden 1 June Garden 2 June Garden 3

With all this rain I’m very glad I opted for a raised bed instead of an in-ground plot this year. The charity rows are super soggy and the plants in them are NOT happy.

Other

I did eventually hear back from the architectural committee last week about my front landscape change request and it was approved (thank goodness!). Once it stops being so soggy outside I hope to tear out the yew bushes and replace them with holly.


How has your garden been doing this month?

Lanky Lime Tree

My lime tree has been growing like crazy this winter and is now a whopping 3 feet tall (well almost). I know that this isn’t actually tall as far as trees are concerned, but since my lime is an indoor tree, if it grows much taller it’ll be a bit too big.

Lime tree and measuring tape
A whopping 33.5″ tall.

In order to halt vertical growth, and hopefully redirect growth horizontally to form branches, I’ve decided it’s time to head my lime. This involves chopping off the top few inches, which will remove the apical meristem. The apical meristem is responsible for the upward growth and also secretes hormones that inhibit certain other types of growth (like branches) from taking place near the top of the plant. Hopefully with it gone the lime starts to branch out and become more tree-like instead of looking like a leafy stick. I have no idea if it’ll work that way, but I’ll keep you updated.

Lime tree after pruning
Post Pruning

Blueberry

I’d like you all to meet my new (to me) blueberry bush. This little bush had been living in my parents’ backyard for several years where it was attacked regularly by vicious rabbits. It has never been pruned (except by evil rabbits) or fertilized, and never produced any fruit. It was not a very happy bush.

Blueberry plant in pot on deck

It came into my possession after I half-jokingly told my mom that I wanted to take it home. I had been over at my parents’ house helping prune their fruit trees and my mom, as is her habit, asked me if there was anything I wanted to take home. I didn’t actually expect her to let me take the blueberry and that day she didn’t, but a few days later when she brought over some groceries (because she’s awesome) it was in the back of her car. She thought it would be happier here, even if the sole difference is that rabbits can’t reach it on my deck. I hope she’s right. Either way, now I have a blueberry bush.

The first thing I did with it when it got here was give it a good pruning. It has some twiggy, less-than-healthy looking branches at its base and I removed one of the two (the other one will probably go too, but I didn’t want to shock the plant too badly). I also removed the three fruiting buds at the tip of the one cane, because I want the plant to direct its energy into growing instead of trying to fruit.

Close up of blueberry buds

The second thing I did was change the soil. Blueberries like acidic soils with a pH between 4.5 and 5.1 (According to Perdue Horticulture) and the potting soil it was in was not nearly acidic enough. It had also been in the soil for several years so I figured a change might be what the plant needed. I mixed sphagnum peat moss with organic soil conditioner (75% pine bark and 25% compost plus trace minerals) from Suburban Lawn and Garden. I aimed for 33% spahgnum and 66% soil conditioner (Based on this recipe which seemed to be pretty standard) though I didn’t really measure.

Now it’s a waiting game. I have no idea if the change in soil and location will have any effect what-so-ever. The blueberry hasn’t leafed out yet, but it does show signs of life, so that’s encouraging. If I haven’t shocked it enough to kill it, the next things on my list to do will be to find some mulch, a suitable fertilizer, and maybe some sulfur to further acidify the soil. If it survives this is going to be one heck of a pampered blueberry…

If it survives, I may have to get it a friend