2 Little Limes were Sitting in a Tree…

…G.R.O.W.I.N.G! 

Maybe anyways. An unfortunately timed heat wave here last week stressed the key lime so out of the ~15-20 flowers only two turned into limes that stayed on the tree, and it is quite possible that it’ll drop those soon as well. That’s okay though, the flowers were exciting and lovely themselves and now I know to be ready for next year.

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Lime Tree Blossoms and a Brief Update

Hello, it’s been a while. I’m still here, still making things (and selling them on Etsy here and here), still growing plants, and still learning. I’m also still sick and looking for treatments that help (so far not much luck). I do hope to start writing a bit more or at least sharing my projects sometime soon, and the format of this blog will likely change but I’m not sure how yet.

Anyways, that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about my Key Lime tree. Remember it? I started it way back in 2013 (four years ago) and shared updates about its growth on a fairly regular basis. Well, it’s time for another update: there are flowers! My key lime tree is flowering!

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I’ve been pretending to be a bee and pollenating the flowers with a paint brush and doing a bit of reading to see what I need to do to help the tree set (and keep) the fruit, so we’ll see what happens!

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Herb of the Month: Lavender (Lavandula sp.) Part 1

March’s herb of the month is lavender.

grosso lavender plants

This growing information is for Grosso lavender (the variety that I planted in my front garden last year), but other lavender should have similar growing requirements. Grosso lavender is hybrid of cold-hardy English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and heat-tolerant Portuguese Lavender (L. latifolia). It is the primary commercial variety for the production of lavender oil.

Grosso Lavender Care

Size: The Grosso variety of lavender can get up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall and wide.

Water Requirements: This lavender prefers soil that is kept between dry and moist.

Soil Requirements: Grosso lavender grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil that is well drained.

Light Requirements: Grosso lavender does best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: This lavender grows well in USDA zones 5 to 8, though may not survive the winter if the temperature gets below 0F and there is no snow to insulate the plant.

Nutrient Requirements: Lavender actually prefers a soil with somewhat low fertility.

Pruning: For continued blooming, remove faded flowers. About every three years, prune back to 8 inches (20 cm) tall in the spring.

Pests: This lavender is susceptible to root rot and leaf spot.

Blooms: The blooms of this lavender are lavender in color and very fragrant. Blooms appear from June to August.

Sources

Missouri Botanical Garden
Pantry Garden Herbs – Lavender, Grosso 
Mother Earth News – Herb to Know: Lavender ‘Grosso’ Plant 

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?

Herb of the Month: Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Part 1

Sweet basil, (Ocimum basilicum) is the most common variety of basil sold in the United States. While there are many other basil varieties, some closely related and some not, I chose to focus on sweet basil since I’m the most familiar with it.

basil cuttings in water

Sweet Basil Information 

Size: Sweet basil can range from 24 – 38 inches (61 – 97 cm) in height depending on conditions.

Water Requirements: A lot of water is required to grow basil. Soil should be kept damp, but not soaked.

Soil Requirements: The soil that sweet basil is planted in should be fertile and well drained. Basil prefers a soil that is very slightly acidic (pH 6.4) but can tolerate a wide pH range.

Light Requirements: Sweet basil likes to be grown in full sun (at least 4-6 hours of direct sun).

Temperature Requirements: Sweet basil does not tolerate cold temperatures well and should be kept above 40°F (4.4°C).

Nutrient Requirements: A fertilizer with equal amounts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium with additional nitrogen supplementation later in the growing season is recommended for sweet basil.

Pruning: Many people who grow basil cut off flower buds, as they believe it causes leaves to become bitter. Nipping off the top set of leaves can encourage the basil plant to become bushier. Regular pruning is recommended.

Pests: Although sweet basil is relatively insect repellent, it can still be bothered by pests such as whiteflies, cutworms, and nematodes as well as fungal and bacterial diseases.

Companion Planting: Basil is often planted along side tomatoes.

Growing Indoors: Basil is well suited to growth in containers, both indoors and outdoors. Pots need to be at least 8 inches (20 cm). The best growing medium is a soilless mix and the light, water, and nutrient requirements are similar to those of an outdoor plant.

 

Sources

Bonnie Plants – A good basic introduction to Sweet Basil. The plant I took the cuttings from was a Bonnie Sweet Basil plant.
National Gardening Association – Basil Plant care guide
Herb Society of America Guide – Basil  In addition to basil, the Herb Society of America has good guides to many other herbs.

Garden Journal

** Warning, this is a photo heavy post. **

FoxyFix wanderlust

Today I want to talk a little bit about garden journals. Keeping a garden journal is something I try to do every year, and somehow by the middle of the growing season I completely forget about it. This has left me with a bunch of partially started notebooks and horrible records of what I’ve grown. Clearly the old system wasn’t working for me, so this year I decided to try something new.

Enter the traveler’s notebook. It’s essentially a cover (mine is a Wide Wanderlust Butterscotch from Foxy Fix) with elastics which hold notebook inserts. It’s highly customizable and has a huge fan base. I stumbled across them while looking for ideas for setting up my grad school Filofax (a post for another day) and though that maybe, just maybe, here was a system that would work. So I thought about it for a few months, came up with a plan, got some inserts to try out, and ordered my notebook.

It arrived a few weeks ago, and so far I’m definitely a fan. It feels like a nice cohesive book, but the inserts seem to give me the flexibility I’ve been craving. Here’s how it’s set up right now.

Insert 1: Calendar
Purpose: Mostly for recording weather and planting dates, but other garden events like classes are included too.

Calendar (Midori brand)
Calendar (Midori brand)

Insert 2: Garden Log
Purpose: To record what goes on in the garden (planting dates, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 3: Orchard Log
Purpose: Essentially the same as the Garden Log, only for the orchard: To record what goes on in the orchard (tasks, harvest quantities, pest problems)

Grid insert (Midori brand)
Grid insert (Midori brand)

Insert 4: Garden Resources/Ideas
Purpose: This insert gives me a place to write down helpful books and websites as well as any ideas/information I come across that seems useful.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And lastly…

Insert 5: Orchard Resources/Ideas
Purpose: In addition to being a place to record similar stuff to the Garden Resources insert, I’ll also use this to keep my notes from the steward training classes for the orchard.

Lined insert (Midori brand)
Ruled insert (Midori brand)

And there you have it! Five inserts in total, and hopefully enough space to record everything I want to. Again, right now I think this system will work, but then again I’ve thought that about the other notebooks too. Here’s hoping.

Do you have a garden notebook/journal? How do you keep from forgetting about it halfway through the season?

Herb of the Month: Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) Part 2

[Please note that this page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.]

Bay leaves in a mason jar with oil being poured over them
Image source: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1479642/infused-bay-oil

Today we’re going to take a brief look at the culinary and medicinal uses of Bay Laurel leaves. 

Medicinally Bay Laurel can be taken as a tea to soothe stomaches and relieve gas. The leaves also have diaphoretic properties and can induce vomiting when taken in large quantities. The oil of bay laurel can al be applied externally as an antiseptic and to treat sprains, bruises, and arthritis.

In the kitchen, bay leaves are typically used dry as fresh leaves contain bitter tasting compounds that drying removes. Leaves are added to soups and stews to flavor the broth and are removed before eating. Leaves may also be used in pickling, marinades, and baking.

Around the home bay leaves are used to make fragrant wreaths and garlands, and to repel insects from the pantry.

Recipes*

Infused Bay Oil 

Bay Leaf Tea–  It’s a little unclear what type of bay she uses, but it looks like any variety will work.

Bay Leaf Tea/ Gripe Water

Braised Bay Leaf Chicken

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Fresh Bites Daily has recipes for bay leaf custard drinks and desserts. I can’t try these because of my food allergies, but they look interesting.

Bay Laurel Pound Cake

Gluten-free Dairy-free Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Blueberry Bay Leaf Quick Jam

* I have not had a chance to try any of these recipes yet. If you do try them, let me know how they go!

Sources

Flower Power: Bay Laurel by Jacqueline Soule on Rodale’s Organic Life

Garden Plant of the Month of October – Bay laurel (Bay Tree) on Agora

Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra

A Modern Herbal Volume II by Mrs. M. Grieve