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17 Mar

Not a whole lot of changes since I first posted this last year. Time to get busy and sow those seeds!

My Urban Farmscape

Pepper, Capsicum annuum, belongs to the Solanaceae family, also known as the Nightshade family. Peppers originate from the warmer regions of the Americas and are used in kitchens all over the world. You may prefer the fresh cool crisp of a sweet bell pepper, or the spicy flavor of a hot pepper. Whichever it is, peppers are easy to grow in the garden, in containers and make a great addition to your Urban Farmscape. There are even some varieties used primarily for ornamental purposes.

If you like to start seeds indoors, now is the time. Plant seeds about 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep in a shallow container of a sterile seed starting media. Once the seeds are planted and watered it is important to keep moist at all times during germination. This can be achieved by using a plastic dome or with plastic wrap. I keep a spray bottle of…

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Sage Advice

18 Nov

Berggarten Sage

After a hard frost last week I noticed how beautiful the icy crystals looked on my sage plant.  As I continued to take pictures, I reminisced about its earthy flavor and how Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete if this herb wasn’t included in the stuffing.  I also use fresh sage leaves and incorporate into any Mediterranean dish.  I am surprised at how it tastes so different from the dry powder my mom would use when I was younger and now, how  it adds the right balance when prepared properly.  I also love to make a rub of sage, salt and pepper.  I use this on a pork roast. 

White Sage

Not only is sage, Salvia officinalis, used for culinary purposes, it also has some medicinal properties.  Although I am not a practicing herbalist, or have I ever prepared an infusion of sage leaves in water to make a tea, or created any sage tinctures, I have read that sage is known for its effect in the reduction of perspiration.  I have also read that extended or excessive use of sage can cause symptoms of poisoning!  I found this information in a book by John Lust titled, The Herb Book.  White sage, Salvia apiana, is a ceremonial herb used by Native Americans.  This is the preferred herb for making smudge sticks.  The leaves are smooth and the color is a lighter shade of grey.

seed

I love growing sage, and it is the perfect herb for an urban farmscape.  Why?  Because culinary sages can be harvested throughout the season, can be dried and kept for long periods of time, and you can make useful gifts from your garden.  They also look beautiful as there is nothing else that I can think of that has that grey color or texture.  A member of the mint family, sage is easier to manage and shouldn’t spread like some of its cousins.  For culinary use, I grow Salvia officinalis ‘Berggarten’ for its large rounded leaves, as well as Salvia officinalis ‘Extrakta’ which is higher in oils and a plant that I collect seeds from each year.

There is, however, a sage that I grew this summer that does not work well in an urban farmscape.  That would be Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea.  A biennial plant that will flower in its second year, growing small the first year, and exploding the following year both in size, flowers and seeds! 

Clary has beautiful leaves, big like rhubarb but light green, bumpy and fuzzy.  I loved it earlier in the season. 

huge leaves

The flower heads hung down as they started to form, and as the flowers opened, they stood straight up as if they were shouting to the bees, “Here I am!”  And boy oh boy, did the bees come!  It flowered for the whole month of August, and I was able to collect many seeds. 

flower bud

So, here was the problem.  I planted it next to the driveway, where every time my husband came home he would have to brush against it.  He really didn’t like the smell of it.  And if you touched it, the oils stayed on you and your clothes, thus allowing its fragrance to linger.  I love the smell of sage, but many people don’t.  I grew this sage to add to my collection.  I need to find a different place in the garden where it will get a lot of sun.  That will be tough.  Clary sage is a medicinal herb, used mostly for its oils.  I have no way of distilling oils from plants; I just really like the way it looks and the bees that it attracted to my garden.

Clary Sage flowering

So, here is my “sage advice”.  Keep the culinary varieties in your urban farmscape, add some spice to your life and your food, maybe grow a little ceremonial sage to burn and cleanse the air, and save the Clary Sage for a sunny spot for a beautiful, eye-catching, dynamic bee plant….a little distance, but not too far from your walking path.

Urban Farmscape: Florida Style

21 Oct

Just because gardening season in Michigan is about to end, it doesn’t mean that I will stop gardening.  Like I said in previous posts, my mind is always in the garden.  Not because I want to dig in the dirt, but mostly because I love nature and the beauty it offers.  I feel in total awe and hold a true appreciation for how plants grow, providing us with their delicious fruits, roots, and leafy flavors!  I guess I mostly garden for the love of food.

I took a long weekend trip to southern Florida to visit my daughter and her family.  I thought I was taking a vacation from the garden, enjoying the sun, a little swimming, playing with my granddaughter.  Both  my daughter and son-in-law work and don’t have much time for gardening, but wanted to offset the cost of their grocery bill by trying to grow more of their veggies.  Today, my daughter wanted to plant her garden.   She had already bought seeds and started some plants in peat pots. She had been gardening in containers and decided it was time to expand her growing space.  Now is the time to plant in Florida, so we headed to the local box store to buy lumber, topsoil, and a few other supplies to make a veggie garden.

After following directions from the post I wrote on March 18, 2012 Contained Chaos, my daughter and her husband decided on the best location to build their raised bed.  The morning is the sunniest on the southeast side of their house and it is totally shaded by 2:00 p.m.  Perfect for Florida when the afternoons are really too hot.  This will be good for working in the garden later in the evening with their daughter.  It didn’t take long before my son-in-law had the bed put together, trellises up, and then both he and my daughter filled them up with topsoil and potting mix.

 

They planted pole beans, zucchini, and cucumbers today as time was running short.  My granddaughter planted the plants she picked out this morning, along with a little tropical bird she fell in love with that adds a little garden whimsy.  Ha!  My daughter said she would never have one in her yard.  Funny what parents (and grandparents!) do for their kids.  There should always be a little fun in the garden.

It was a good day building and planting as a family.  Now I will go home to Michigan, where the leaves have probably fallen off the trees, and where I will finish some garden chores, pruning, cleaning and putting away my garden tools.  Next time I visit my daughter and son-in-law may be around the holidays, when I will expect fresh green beans for dinner!  As well as the amazing risotto that she makes.

Have you planted your garden yet?

How to Propagate Succulents in 5 Easy Steps

14 Oct

 

With all the rage about creating frames or terrariums filled with  succulents, I am often asked where one would find affordable solutions to this plethora of plants.   Even though putting the garden to bed seems to be my primary task at hand, it is  a good time to take cuttings too.  These tips will also work for succulents purchased at a greenhouse or garden center, thus allowing for an endless supply of little succulents to use for indoor growing projects.

 

Succulents are probably one of the easiest plants to propagate.  Slow growing, these plants usually thrive in warm sunny locations and require very little care.  Unlike a cactus that barely needs to be watered, succulent plants should be watered anywhere from  ten to fourteen days depending on their growing location.  Keep in mind more sun = more water.   I have found a wide variety of sedum (stonecrop) and sempervivum (hen and chicks) that make great succulents for propagating and growing and using for plant crafts.  Look for a wide variety of colors and textures.  The groundcover sedum varieites in your garden also work great.

To propagate, follow these 5 easy steps:

1: Pinch off the tip portion of a stem only.  You don’t want to use another parts below this, as the newer growth at the tip of a stem will produce better roots.  You don’t need any more than one inch of stem, depending on the plant.  Cut between two nodes, which is the part where a leaf meets the stem.

2: Remove lower leaves, leaving only a few on the tip.  Set aside for at least a day to allow the stem to callous, or heal over.  This will allow better root formation.  You can also use the leaves to make new plants.

3: I like to stick the new cuttings in a flat when allowing for time to grow roots.  I use a traditional peat/perlite potting mix for houseplants.  I never use cactus mix as it is too sandy and have found that my succulents have grown better in the general potting mix anyway.  It looks pretty too.

4: Once they have developed roots, it’s time to plant them into your frame, container or terrarium. 

5: Once planted, little care is needed.  Keep in a low light area for about two weeks before moving them to receive sunlight.  Water when the soil dries out. 

Caring for your Succulents:  If your new plants become “leggy” pinch off the tips and start a new plant.  The original stem should develop smaller shoots. I like to keep my creations pinched back and have a continuous supply of baby succulents.  I never know when I need a little gift for something.  These little treasures make great gifts when planted in small terracotta pots. 

TIP:  Want to increase the variety of your collection of succulents?  Share this post with friends, and have each of you purchase a succulent plant, propagate, and hold a plant swap.  Soon you will end up with many different varieties!

Sedum Lime-Zinger PPAF
photo by Chris Hansen courtesy of http://www.PerennialResource.com

Inspiraton from the Paper Towel

5 Aug

I would like to think that I live my life spontaneously.  Not as spontaneous as I would like, but enough so that sometimes I don’t know where my day will lead me.  When I started this blog, my intent was to write about organic gardening in small spaces, which for today, is at My Urban Farmscape.  I told myself that I would have loads of information to share with others.  And I do, but sometimes I have no idea when I wake up in the morning what I will write.  Maybe this is procrastination, but I like to call it spontaneity.  This morning I had thoughts of sharing how to make a garlic braid, or maybe how to dry herbs.  It felt forced, and being a spontaneous personality, well, it seemed dreadful.  What I really wanted to do was to get outside  as this is the first cool day in a string of long hot dry ones.  I was thinking that once I got outside I would find my inspiration, and come up with my topic for today’s blog.   I then worried that once I got outside, it might be hard getting back inside to write.  Todays dilemma.

During breakfast, my husband asked, “Where did you get the paper towels with garden sayings?” 

“I think they were in the mega pack, I didn’t even realize it.”

He read out loud, “No two gardens are the same.”

The thoughts in my head were suddenly filled with flashes of gardens that I have experienced in my life.  I replied with a chuckle, “Wow, that’s true, I never knew paper towels could be so inspiring.”  And with that, I grabbed my coffee and headed upstairs to my computer.  I decided to share with you  my garden inspirations for today, brought to you today by Bounty (could I get a paid endorsement for this?)

 

The flowers of all tomorrow are the seeds of today.

  

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.

 

Gardening is a way of showing you believe in tomorrow.

 

Friends are flowers in a life’s garden.

Now that I have posted this, I will be going outside to strip the dried peppermint leaves off of their stems and place in a jar to save for tea.  I need to catch up with some weeding, and soon I’ll share with you more about harvesting and preservation in a later post.  This is the plan, but when I get in the garden, I have no idea where the day will go, I just know that I need to get out there.  As always, I welcome suggestions for topics from you.  Enjoy your day!

Signs of Spring…Finally!

11 Mar

You know how that first day is, the first really sunny day in early spring. You wake up in the morning and immediately feel the strong pull of nature’s song. You go outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your face, you see the birds fluttering about, and then you find yourself looking at the small wonders nature has brought to you.

You notice the bright green in the lawn, not of turf, but of moss, and before you know it, the afternoon turns into the cleaning of garden beds, planting of cool season veggies in the cold frame, and watching the bees as they buzz amongst the first crocus blossoms.

You absolutely LOVE days like this. So do I and today was one of those days. I know I can’t get too excited about the garden, there are still nine weeks to go before planting the majority of it. So for now, carpe diem!

A Garden Revolution Resolution

1 Jan

With the holidays behind me, I will eat sleep and breathe the garden.  For as long as I remember, I have admired the beauty and felt the mysteries of the plant world.  As a child I would examine the “weeds” in the lawn, tasting their bitterness on my tongue as I chewed them between my front teeth, as a teenager walking down a tree lined country road through dappled sunlight noticing wildflowers blooming sporadically along the forest floor, and as an adult growing tasty vegetables, aromatic herbs and brightly colored flowers at my organic farm. I can’t help but hear the conversations that quietly occur among the creatures in this leafy world. 

Growing plants became more serious for me when I returned to college to study Horticulture at Michigan State University.  Initially I wanted to design landscapes, but the more I learned about food production around the world, the more it became clear to me that I wanted to become involved with the local organic food movement.  My farm was located in Southeast Michigan and it became USDA certified organic in 2004.  I grew vegetables, herbs, flowers and Michigan native plants.  As the economy began to collapse, we were forced to sell the farm and ride things out for the next few years, finding work, moving, finally settling in Mid-Michigan.  For me and my family, our lives were changed by forces beyond our control, like many others in the world. For some this may sound like a sad story, but that is not what I am trying to convey.  With these changes I have adapted and learned so much more about people and my relationship with plants and nature.  A couple things I have learned are how to grow more plants in less space along with the many benefits of participating in a community gardening.

So, for 2012, my resolution is to actively participate in a so called “garden revolution” by sharing my knowledge and experiences with organically growing vegetables, herbs and flowers in small garden spaces and community gardens.  You should find something interesting whether you are new to gardening, or a master.  You can expect weekly posts on a variety of gardening topics.  Most of all, if you follow from the start we will work together on planning, planting, growing, harvesting, and preserving My Urban Farmscape .  As the season unfolds, and as time allows, you will find more frequent posts via this blog, Facebook or Twitter.  I also look forward to hearing from you about your urban farmscape experiences.  You are probably thinking, “It’s only January, it’s a long way from gardening in Michigan.”  NOT!  I’ve already started and you need to start too!  Even if you live in a warmer climate, you will find helpful information on organic gardening in small spaces.  Stay tuned to see how.  So…What’s your 2012 Garden Revolution Resolution?

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