Herbs:  An Herbal Infusion

This past Monday, March 11, I had an opportunity to present to a number of folks interested in learning more about herbs as a part of Mother Earth Gardens winter/spring seminar series. If you have not been to Mother Earth Gardens in South Minneapolis, I would highly recommend a visit. They are opening a second store in NE Minneapolis, which increases the good goods they offer, and opportunities to stop in!  Their approach to gardening is sustainable and Earth supporting. When you walk into their store in the spring, you can delight in a number of Earth-friendly options, and be greeted by a knowledgeable staff. This is quite different from walking into a Big Box store and being greeted by the heady smell of chemicals, and a staff who may or may not know about gardening.

Those in attendance on Monday had a number of great questions, and although I answered each one as it arose, some I felt deserved a bit more detailed response. So, this blog post is dedicated to those questions.  Before I delve deeply into those questions though, I do want you to know that Herb Gardening is fun and a nice way to ease into gardening if this activity is new to you. Most herbs are easy to get started and relatively easy to maintain.  Some, like mint, can get quite busy in a garden as an active spreader, but most are good neighbors. 

Two weeks ago today, I started a number of herbs in my kitchen using empty cardboard egg cartons I had been saving. I filled the cartons with an organic potting mix from Mother Earth Gardens, and planted my seeds as directed.  Within a week, the basil was up, followed by the mint and other garden treats. It is exciting to watch their progress each day, which actually is observable. My efforts include keeping them moist and in a sunny window.  This is a fun thing to do with the kids and will give all participants a sense that spring is sure to come. Check out the image below to see what is happening with my little starter garden.

Basil in Carton

 Yeah! The Basil is up!!!

 

HERB QUESTIONS

O.K., so to the seminar questions with some added thoughts in this post:

Question #1  One gentleman said he wanted to know what herbs to plant which would come up each year, because as he ages, he does not want to be concerned with creating new plantings or planting areas. I suggested garlic, chives, sage, thyme, chicory, horseradish and tarragon. All of these can play well together in the garden, but the garden would be a lot more interesting if some native perennial flowers like Spiderwort, Echinacea, Bee Balm, Asters, Coreopsis and Joe Pye Weed amongst others were introduced to add varying colors, textures and forms in the garden through the seasons. It should also be noted that several of these flowers are also considered herbs because of their useful culinary and/or medicinal benefits.

The other things one should consider when planting herbs in the garden, is whether or not they are desired for use in the kitchen; for their beauty and/or for some other purpose. Just like any plant, if you put it into your garden with one purpose in mind, such as being a perennial performer, you may be disappointed with the outcome. Additionally, a plant like dill or mint can be a traveler and/or prolific producer, which may be a benefit or a source of frustration depending upon your time constraints and intentions.

Question #2  Another attendee asked about Chicons, which I simply answered as the buds of the Chicory plant. But for those of you with a broader horticultural or culinary interest should know that the Chicory plant is grown in a special way to produce the chicons or endive. The chicons are blanched buds, which means the young shoots of the plant are covered to keep light out and prevent photosynthesis and the production of chlorophyll. The outcome is a vegetable with a more delicate flavor and texture. They may be used raw in salads or cooked.

Question #3  Someone in the audience asked about the quality of rainwater and how that may be being monitored. This is a great question!  It is important to know what is being put onto our gardens outside of our own actions. Unfortunately, I do not know of anyone or any particular organization, which could answer this question, but I do know that the organization, Blue Thumb, as well as my company, True Nature Design (www.truenaturedesignonline.com), has resources to help with improving water quality. Perhaps, local weather stations would have information on the chemical makeup of our metro rainwater?

Question #4  Lovage was an herb we visited briefly. Someone asked if lovage is a perennial. YES! Lovage is stately and a highly aromatic perennial.  It is celery-like and grows to 5-6 ft in height.  It is easy to grow from division; has few pests; and is attractive to bees. The aromatic leaves enhance many cuisines, especially Italian, Mediterranean and Indian food, adding incredible flavor to beans, curry, soups, salsa and stews. It can also be used as a tea and an antiseptic. Like with all herbs, one should consult a professional when considering them for a use not known to that person.

RESOURCES

That said, I want to share several good resources for further herb use:

1) Local Herbalist: Cynthia Thomas

 cynthia@sacredjourneyhealingarts.com

 www.sacredjourneyhealingarts.com

 

2) Local Homeopath: Carla Breunig, DC, CCH

 Roots Wellcare, PA  @ 651-310-0000 or

 www.rootswellcare.com

 

3) Local Landscape Designer: Roxanne Stuhr

 True Nature Design, LLC @ 612-558-3161

 Or roxanne@truenaturedesignonline.com

 www.truenaturedesignonline.com

 

4)  Local Artist Using Herbs to Heal: Amy Sabrina

She is available for teaching, speaking and conversations

about her journey and use of herbs.

763-389-1536 or amy@amysabrina.com

 

5)  Other Sources: Susan Weed's Book: Healing Wise

Sam Thayer's Foraging Books; and The Breast Cancer, Breast Health Book.

I hope those of you who attended the presentation find this additional information helpful. Please remember, that if you have questions, ask them.  Also remember that herbs and herb gardens are successful if you have the appropriate growing medium (soils), which varies between garden spaces and containers and between herbs; proper microclimate (temperature, light and air); proper watering; adequate fertilizer and timely applications; efforts to keep pests to a minimum (many herbs are deterrents to pests); and equally important is PLANNING. I hope you will plan to include herbs in your gardens this season, and if you need help with their inclusion in your landscape, that you will give me a call. Happy and successful gardening to each and all!

Roxanne Stuhr

True Nature Design, LLC

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