Monday, February 18, 2019

Grow the Garden From Seeds

Read packets of beans, root vegetables, greens, and other plants for seedling spacing. Sca-er seeds of greens and root vegetables about an inch apart in the garden soil, otherwise plants will be overcrowded and will not thrive.

Although we are experiencing bone chilling temperatures and wind, the soul of the gardener is stirring and thoughts of the coming season slip into our dreams. A useful publication of interest is The Home Garden Seed Association. The Association is but ten years old and promotes the advantages of growing from seed.

Cornell’s Vegetable Varieties for Gardeners, a citizen science program, describes 562 pepper varieties, 365 lettuces, and an astonishing 853 types of tomatoes. Only a fraction of these can be bought as seedlings. You will find it difficult to find the delicious and highly rated ‘Carmello’ tomato in a pot, or one of the great tasting new container tomatoes, or ‘Topepo,’ a sweet Italian heirloom all of which are available as seeds.
Even if you are lucky enough to find your desired tomato,pepper, and flower varieties as plants, should you buy them? The answer depends on how well you know the grower. Seedlings that have dried out at some point in their lives or become root bound will not perform well in the garden. When you grow your own you will know that they have been well cared for until the time is right for planting, and that they have been grown without unwanted chemicals. Seedlings started indoors will thrive when provided with sunshine through a window and enough moisture to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Give them half strength fertilize when two sets of leaves appear… full strength is too strong for them as they are still babies.

It is a gardening fact: many plant varieties are more successful when grown from seed sown directly in the garden. These include root vegetables, herbs in the carrot family such as Cilantro and Dill, baby salad greens of any kind, and flowers that are best sown very early in the season, such as Larkspur, Bells of Ireland, and Love-in-a-Mist. Warm weather flowers such as zinnias, marigolds, and celosias will do better in the long run if planted before they bloom—yet another reason to buy and grow from seed.

A productive vegetable garden can feed your family all year for a fraction of what you would pay for equivalent produce at your local grocer or farmers’ market. An added advantage of buying seeds rather than plants is the fact you may be able to sow succession plantings of greens, beans, and other crops for a second harvest. They may be planted two to three weeks apart for continued harvests.

*Think seeds! The catalogues have begun arriving so order some to stave of the winter blues… the run to the mail box is much more exciting whilst you wait for an order.  

All the flowers of tomorrow are in the seeds of today.
~ Ancient proverb

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Cup of Tea


This year consider the legendary uses of herbs and perhaps select a few to include in the scope of your garden. Selection should include herbs for making tea. Tea is second only to water as the most consumed beverage in the world. Herbal teas made from dried fruit, flowers or herbs that have been collected from the garden are lighter and more flavorful than traditional tea.

Legend says the Chinese Emperor Shen Nung was boiling drinking water one day in 2737 B.C. when some leaves from a tea plant fell into the water. The emperor drank the mixture and declared it gave one "vigor of body, contentment of mind, and determination of purpose."  In 400 B.C. the Greeks included herbal teas in their regime of wellness. By 50 B.C. the Romans were collecting and cultivating herbs and by 200 A.D., Galen wrote the first classification system that paired common illnesses with their herbal remedy. In 800 Monks had taken over the care of the sick and herbal gardens were found at most monasteries. By 1500 herbalists were promoted and supported by Henry VII and the Parliament as apothecaries (drug stores of the time) were accused of giving substandard care. Charles Wesley gave his endorsement in 1700 when he advocated sensible eating, good hygiene, and herbal treatments for healthy living.


In 1800 pharmaceuticals become popular and herbal treatments were designated for the poor. However as the side effects of drugs began to be documented, herbal remedies came into favor again. The National Association of Medical Herbalists was formed, and later renamed the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH). By 1900 and the first World War, lack of availability of drugs increased the use of herbal medicines again. After the war pharmaceutical production increased and penicillin was discovered. Herbal practitioners had their rights to dispense their medications taken away and then reinstated. The British Herbal Medicine Association was founded and produced the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. People began to express the concern over the large number of side effects and environmental impact of the drugs of the 1950s so herbs once again gained importance. Herbs are an outdoor pharmacy provided to us by the Almighty. Lovely simple-to-grow plants will produce leaves and flowers which provide an herbal tea that is a natural health drink.


Spearmint would be a lovely addition to the herb bed. Used in ancient Rome, the ensuing drink made from dried leaves was said the ‘stir up the mind’. Since it is caffeine-free, an afternoon cup could be savored as valuable ‘pick me up’ that has no side effects.


Chamomile is another lovely plant. Originally from the Nile region of Egypt, it was believed to cure almost any ailment. It has remained a favorite as its true properties relieve anxiety and promote calm. It was the tea Mrs. Rabbit made for Peter as she gently tucked him into bed following his harrowing escape from Mr. McGreggor. In these stressful times a sweetly scented evening cup would be a wonderful way to end the day. The list of herbs and their medicinal qualities is endless… and as close as your garden.  

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Garden of Five Senses

Babur Gardens in May

Throughout history mankind has been enamored with gardens. With the increasing complexity of today’s world, the garden becomes a perfect place to unwind from rather taxing and demanding lifestyles. And the popularity of public gardens, which are supreme examples of gardening perfection, allows each and everyone to experience the joy a garden affords.

Sensory gardens call to the five senses... sight and smell, hearing, touch and taste. Recognizing the need for relaxation, Delhi Development directors in India created the Garden of Five Senses for a weary public. Open in 2003, the garden is called Khas Bagh and was inspired by the ancient Bagh-e Babur Gardens in Kabul, Afghanistan which were built to house the shrine of Muhammad Babur. Babur who died in 1528 was a descendant of the infamous Genghis Kahn and was responsible for the expansion of Persian literature and artistry. He was particularly fond of gardens and the one in Kabul was painstakingly restored and opened for visitors in 2005.

Unlike American theme parks which excite, Khas Bagh was created to create a calm and peaceful experience for visitors. It contains extraordinary examples of both common and exotic plants, supreme collections of water lilies, wind chimes which tinkle and charm, sculpture, and delicacies to taste. Visitors leave relaxed and uplifted.

Here we celebrate the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, which opened in June of 2007. It took dedicated visionaries and volunteers 16 years of planning, planting and building to complete this magnificent project. The original directors purchased 128 acres of pristine land with tidal shore frontage in Boothbay, using their owns homes as collateral. In 2005, an additional 120 adjacent acres were donated, making it the largest botanical garden in New England.

Part of the garden was the privately financed by the Lerner family and their ‘Garden of the Five Senses‘ opened in June of 2009. There is an abundance of features designed to appeal to each sense, however the garden is truly respectful to those who have a limited sense of sight. To assist the visually impaired, striker stones border the paths, a map of the garden is in Braille and large pictorial representations are located at the entrance arch. The plantings, sculptural elements, water features, bridge, and classroom pavilion are arranged to appeal to the 5 senses.

For those of us with small gardens, planning a sensory garden might help ease winter boredom a bit. Plan on some fragrant, colorful flowers, some sort of trickling water and tinkling wind chimes... then remember to taste the tiny first-drop nectar from the Honeysuckle blooms.