What’s Growin’ in the Garden 2

Interesting that I was thinking of doing a garden update today since we had rain forecast. I have some pictures from May 25th and was going to add a few more today. Well, it is raining. We had and inch of rain in five minutes, then ended up with 2″ in about 30 minutes and it arrived with 25MPH winds. Here are some pictures from the porch.

Our creek has extended into the backyard.

North side of the house, water running, now the corn is facing west laying over.

Our new creek through the turnip bed.

Lots of water – this is normally dry

I won’t know if there is any permanent damage for a few days and will let you know about that in the next update. Message for me – always plan for the unexpected. Always…..always.

Here are a few comparisons from the last article. Then pictures and comments about what’s growing out there – or was – or maybe is still growing. Time will tell.

April 22nd

May 25th

We are still using coffee grounds for acidity around some plants, these were for the blueberries. The eggs shells have made their way around the base of all squashes and tomatoes, so these were given to the peppers.



Pinto beans

The pinto beans are doing well and I have learned something. They vine like pole beans. I thought they were a bush bean, but they look just like the Missouri Wonders, except they don’t have a trellis to grow on. Another thing we’ve noticed is that some of them appear to have the same type of curly top problem some of the tomatoes have. Because of that I think the person that commented about the soil being too fertile is probably right. Some of the beans look great and some of them are wrinkled up. Another good learning experience.

Missouri Wonder green beans next to the pinto beans

While we are in this corner of the garden, here are the two apple trees. In the past we have harvested about 20 apples altogether in the seven or eight years these trees have been here. This year there are many apples. We hope they remain on the trees long enough to ripen and harvest. I’m wondering if I will have enough to can a few which leads me to pondering the best way to do that without any added sugar or other ingredients. Any ideas?

Comfrey by the apples. The chickens get a handful each morning.

Sunflowers are planted at the end of each trellis and here and there in a couple of other places.

 I told you about the potatoes Frank bought for me in the last article. Well, right after we planted them it rained and rained and rained. Four plants survived the wet soil. They look healthy and vigorous, though, so we will see what kind of harvest we get.

We have had a few meals of the first small yellow crook neck squash. There is nothing like those first few meals, they always taste so good. Soon we will be overrun with too many, but that’s not such a bad problem to have. We can always share with the chickens. We lost a few winter squash and one yellow squash plant to vine borers before I got the wood ashes around the base of the plants. I’ll put some more out after this rainy week passes.

The carrots, and all of the surrounding weeds and crabgrass, are doing very well. I started the carrot seedlings in pot makers again this year which makes all the difference. They get a good head start and produce much better than direct seeding.


Our winter squash this year is Thelma Sanders which is a type of acorn squash, along with some seeds we saved last year. They are a mixture of five different winter squashes we grew last summer. We’ll see what they produce.


There are a few pots of nasturtiums, marjoram and basil here and there throughout the garden.

The Japanese beetles really like the amaranth. Even so, it is growing well.

 The beets are doing well this year due to being seedlings in pot makers just like the carrots. I hope to can some this year.

The okra has not liked the cool, rainy weather. It is very slowly coming along.

The corn is doing okay. The 2008 Painted Mountain seed germinated very well, much to our surprise. It has tasseled first when the open pollinated sweet corn has barely begun. We hoped to cross pollinate them, but that won’t be happening since the timing is off. And now, after the rain and wind, we’ll have to see if any makes at all.


Our experimental patch of sorghum is coming up. It will be very interesting to see how it does, along with the amaranth. We’re curious about the harvest, the labor involved and how we can add these to our diet. Learning, just can’t do without it. There is always something to learn.

That small patch of dirt back there is the sorghum.


I planted some lettuce in pots on the porch to see if we can have some through most of the summer. Another experiment. This pot has a marigold coming up in it along with the Romaine.

What is surprising is how much the garden has grown in the last week since these pictures were taken. We’ve had sunshine and many things are really taking off. I realized when looking through these pictures that there aren’t any of the tomatoes, but they’re out there, along both sides of the carrots.
Well, that’s it for now. We hear thunder not too far off and there is more rain on the way. Just hope it doesn’t have any hail or high winds with it this time.

How are things growing in your neck of the woods?

Until next time – Fern

P.S. We have a question. Do any of you have experience with a corded electric tiller? We are reviewing this one. Please tell us what you think or if you have other recommendations. I have a Mantis and it works fine, but it just won’t till. It is a cultivator, not a tiller. I need something vastly smaller than the tractor with the tiller attachment to help take care of some of these weeds. Please tell us what you think. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Herbal Remedies for Stress

I’ve been working on my ‘Herb Bed Harvest’ data so I can keep track of when to harvest my medicinal and culinary herbs. As I read and write, I keep running across herbs that are good for anxiety, nervousness and stress. This makes me think of the things happening in the world that are adding to our uneasiness. So, even though I have not tried these remedies, I wanted to share this information with you.

In no particular order, here are some herbs you may find of interest.

  • Catnip – infusion from dried leaves can be used for a digestive aid, tonic, sleeping aid, a mild nightcap; not for pregnant women
  • Chamomile – infusion for insomnia
  • Basil – infusion of dried leaves for nervous headaches, anxiety
  • Hops – make a sachet of dried herbs and put inside your pillowcase or infusion before bedtime for stress, anxiety, tension and headaches
  • Lemon Balm –  infusion for anxiety, depression, tension, restlessness, irritability
  • Valerian – roots used for chronic anxiety, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, premenstrual tension
  • Oats – have many benefits and are good for depression, stress, nervous disorders
  • Pumpkin seeds – high quantities of zinc, iron, calcium, B vitamins, proteins which help with brain functions and help deal with stress

There are many other herbal remedies that are indicated for stress, nervous tension and insomnia, but I wanted to stick with some basic, mostly familiar choices. I find if I try to branch out too far, I don’t get anywhere. If you try to do too much at one time, you can get overwhelmed real quick. So, here is some very basic information that can form a foundation for further research and experimentation.

Planting chamomile

Out of the plants I have listed, we have recently planted catnip and chamomile. We have used chamomile tea for years, but now we hope to grow our own. Catnip will be a new herb on our shelf.

Basil 2013
Lemon Balm 2014

We started basil and lemon balm last year. This will be our first year to harvest the lemon balm and the basil has yet to come up again.

Cushaw squash 2013

We don’t grow oats or pumpkins, but we do grow other winter squashes. I know the goats and chickens will eat the seeds and we have roasted pumpkin seeds before. I haven’t really thought of them as something I should consciously keep. This year I will share them with the animals, but keep some for us as well.

I started growing hops a couple of years ago. Then when we tore down the old shed, it had to move into a pot on the porch for a while. I have decided where it’s new home will be, but it hasn’t moved there yet. Most folks ask why I grow it, to make beer? No, for it’s sedative properties. I know that times will get hard, and would like to have something available to help us weather those times a little easier.

I hope this gives you something to think about. What can you do naturally to decrease the stress of your family? What can you provide that is sustainable? When life becomes a matter of survival, having a few things on hand to help everyone relax a little may be a life saver. I don’t think any of these remedies will come anywhere close to replacing prescription medications some folks take on a regular basis. But if a time comes where prescription medications are no longer available, or there is a long-term disruption of availability, some of these simple herbs may help in some small way.

Before you use any herbal remedies, you need to do your own research and form your own conclusions. This information is in no way a replacement for needed medical attention. Peaches are very good for you, but the pit can kill you. If you choose to add herbs to your medicine chest, do so with good common sense and a solid base of information. It’s something to think about.

Until next time – Fern

Working in the Herb Bed

After 2013 heavy rain

Having a self-sustaining herb bed has been a goal of mine for many years. I started working on this one about four years ago. It is definitely a process to take a piece of ‘lawn’ and turn it into something useful and sustainable. First we tilled it up, then I covered it in brown painters paper and a hay mulch

April 2014

to try to kill out the grass and weeds. But we had a heavy rain and it washed all of the mulch and tilled up topsoil away. Then we tilled it again, and had another flooding rain that washed the topsoil away. Some people would say I needed

a new location, and that may be true. But we are limited on space in our yard due to the size of the land around the house, the little seasonal branch that runs through here, and the topography. Right on the other side of the branch the land goes uphill and is much drier. Most of the rest of the yard is the garden, or driving area. We have tried to pack as much as we can into this small space. So this is what I have to work with, and I will keep trying.

April 2014

I actually have quite a few things started and add a few more each year. This year I am getting very serious about having certain things growing. Some of these plants are for culinary use, some for medicinal, some for animal feed and some for both or all three. I have tried a few plants that I would really like to be able to grow for the qualities they have, but they just aren’t sustainable in our growing zone, which is zone seven. Some of the plants I have been able to establish are doing quite well, and some are doing so-so. Here is a run down.

I haven’t tended to my garlic patch enough to get a good start of ‘modern’ garlic. There are a few growing from the patch I harvested last summer, but they are small and few. What is growing is what I call my ‘old fashioned’ garlic. I have two patches. One came from a neighboring homestead where it has been growing for at least 40 years, and the other came from a fence row by an old church. I don’t know how long it has been growing there. Both of these older varieties are growing very well after only one year. I think I will stick with them instead of the more common smaller leafed varieties. 

Let me back up for a minute. When we moved here six years ago, I increased my book collection for growing, harvesting and using medicinal herbs. From this collection of books, I planned out the herbs I wanted to grow along with their preferred locations, soil types, sun/shade requirements and companion planting needs. From this I made a ‘map’ of my herb bed, or what I dreamed my herb bed would become. It is now very wrinkled and stained from being stuck in my pocket so many times when I am out digging or planting. I knew that I would need a way to identify each plant until I 

learned what they were since I have never grown many of these plants before. We came up with using wooden builders stakes with the name of the plant painted on with black enamel paint. Now some of the stakes have been in the ground long enough that the bottoms are rotting off, so eventually I will need to find something more permanent, but for now this works. This year as I add more plants to the bed, I get out my beautiful (to me) wrinkled, scribbled on map to see where each plant should go. This little piece of paper represents dreams come true to me. It’s the culmination of long-term dreaming, planning and working toward a goal. So, on with the tour.

Next we have the peppermint which is spreading everywhere, as it is prone to do.

I have two leeks. I know that is funny, but they have come back after last year. I would like to have a patch of them so I will leave them and see if they go to seed and spread. I have done this with several plants hoping to create a self-seeding bed of the annuals I have planted.

The multiplier, or walking onions are right next door. They are doing okay for a small patch. I hope they ‘multiply’ much more this summer so I can start harvesting some next year.

The marjoram is doing great. It has been here for three years now. It almost dies off in the winter, but not all the way. Once the weather warms up a bit, it comes right back and spreads a little more each year. It is a beautiful plant. The parsley that I let go to seed right next door has yet to show any signs of coming up so I probably need to replant it. I know the seeds are very slow to germinate and the weather has been unseasonably cold, so I haven’t given up hope of seeing them start to grow.

The lemon balm is just beautiful. What else can I say?

The rosemary turned a little brown during our very cold winter. I have been thinking of trimming it back and letting it regrow itself.

The elderberries I planted last year are doing very well. I added two more plants that I ordered this year. The more I read about elderberry syrup for coughs and colds, the more I want to make sure I have a good stand of it.

The green tea is growing well since I planted it last summer. I think the elderberries may want to invade this space, but I will keep it at bay enough to let the tea have it’s spot. You will notice that many of my plants are fairly close together. That is by design. I hope to fill this entire bed with wall to wall plants. If my entire dream does come true I will have to pull a few up to keep some walkways available. That would be great.


I have two kinds of sage growing. One of them has been here for two years, the other was planted last summer, and both were started from seed.

In between the comfrey and garlic I am adding some chamomile and savory this year. The chamomile is both German and Roman. I wanted to see which one does better in this location and growing zone. 

The chives that were planted here by the garlic last summer came back up which surprised me. I hope they will become a regular site each year now.

This is a witch hazel bush. It has been here for three years now and still isn’t very big or tall. It is a slow growing plant.

The horseradish is doing great, it spreads a little each year. I think it has been here for three years now.


I have added some dill between the lemon balm and the horseradish. I also plan to plant more dill to see if I can get a bigger patch established.

A few years ago I planted cilantro here. It promptly went to seed and died. I thought that was the end of it. Last summer I was out pulling weeds an came upon this plant that looked a little familiar and out of place. I almost pulled it up, but stopped to smell a leaf first, when I realized the cilantro had reseeded itself. That was great! The only problem is it doesn’t like our hot weather and goes to seed way before my tomatoes and peppers are ready to make salsa. It has come up again this year, and I have added two more plants to enlarge the patch. I am going to try drying it to use in my salsa this year so I don’t have to buy any. Last year I bought some for one batch of salsa, but for the second batch, I used the seeds, which are called coriander. They tasted okay, but Frank and I prefer the leaf flavor, so this will be one of my new experiments.

The oregano has come back this year for the third time, so I think I can count on it being here. 

Last year I let my basil go to seed hoping it would come back, but so far, there are no signs of it. I have added rue, savory, swiss chard and arugula as new plants this year. We will see how they do.


Right after I planted this catnip, along came Brother. I have never had catnip and cats together before so his behavior was very interesting. He started rubbing and chewing on it right away. Then he went over and laid out on his back all stretched out. It was funny.

This old stump is kind of a decoration, but it is actually sitting here waiting for some wild yams to grow on it. I have yet to get any of the seeds I’ve bought to germinate, but I will keep trying.

I have probably missed a few plants, but I will keep you updated on the progress of this project. I hope to start harvesting and storing herbs from this bed this summer, so I have much more to learn. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t as I go along. The next thing I need to create for myself is a calendar or schedule of harvesting times. I know some plants need to be picked before they bloom, or others have blooms that need to be picked at a particular stage to receive the most benefit from the plant. There is always much to learn and do and I am ready to get at it. I believe this will be an invaluable skill in our future, and I do know, that I don’t know enough at this stage. 

Until next time – Fern