Tuesday, July 13, 2010


 Peonies are beautiful to look at and give off a heady scent. A perennial plant that multiplies on its own this plant is a terrific addition to any garden. Available in a variety of colors you may want to start your own collection.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Recycle yard and food wastes to make compost. Compost, that dark and crumbly soil amendment, offers special bonuses. It strengthens the soil structure, making it more porous for such beneficial creatures as earthworms and better able to hold water and nutrients. It creates a healthier environment for beneficial fungal and bacterial activity.

Even better, you can make compost out of leftovers. With a composter established, add leaves and flowers from your yard along with vegetable trimmings, fruit peels and coffee grounds from your kitchen. Turn the compost pile every few weeks to aerate it and keep it moist in dry weather, and it will be odor-free and ready to enrich your yard.

A word of warning on composting DO NOT put meat products in your compost bin or pile. The fatty acids attract maggots and other nasty things that will render your compost useless for your yard or garden.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bergamot - Today's Herb

Bergamot is known by several different names including: bee balm, horsemint, and oswego tea. It is a genus consisting of 16 species of erect, herbaceous annual or perennial plants and is indigenous to North America. Ranging in height from 1 to 3 feet, the plants have an equal spread, with slender and long-tapering leaves; the leaves are opposite on stem, smooth to nearly hairy, lightly serrated margins, and range from 3 to 6 inches long. When the leaves are crushed they emanate spicy, fragrant oil.

Several bee balm species have a long history of use as medicinal plants by many Native Americans including the Blackfoot, Menominee, Ojibwa, Winnebago and others. The Blackfoot Indians recognized the strong antiseptic action of these plants, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Bee balm is the natural source of the antiseptic thymol, the primary active ingredient in modern mouthwashes. The Winnebago used a tea made from bee Balm as a general stimulant. Bee balm was also used as a carminative herb by Native Americans to treat excessive flatulence. An infusion of crushed Bergamot leaves in boiling water has been known to treat headaches and fevers.

Although somewhat bitter, due to the thymol content in the plants leaves and buds, the plant tastes like a mix of spearmint and peppermint with oregano, to which it is closely related. Bee balm was traditionally used by Native Americans as a seasoning for wild game, particularly birds. The plants are widespread across North America and can be found in moist meadows, hillsides, and forest clearings.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Basil - Today's Herb

Most of the time, Basil should be used fresh. In recipes it is generally added at the last moment. Cooking it quickly destroys the meal. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Using a freezer will allow for it to be kept a longer time. In both cases, it needs being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavor, like hay.

Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequently use basil. In Mediterranean cuisines it is often combined with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce from the city of Genoa. The other two main ingredients of Pesto are olive oil and pine nuts. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivators are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and "African Blue". Chinese also use fresh or dried basil in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves into thick soups. They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves.

Basil is sometimes used with fresh fruit and in fruit jams and sauces. Most commonly this is done with strawberries, but also raspberries or dark-colored plums. Some people say that the flat-leaf basil used in Vietnamese cooking is more suitable for use with fruit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spring is Near Time to Garden Let's Talk Dirt!

I love digging in the dirt. The whole process of turning the soil first thing in the spring, planting those first seeds or young plants, watering, weeding, reaping the results of my labor. No garden again this year for me so am going to share a virtual garden with you once again by way of the internet. So, lets jump in and get busy...

Before you can have a thriving lawn or garden you need to start with the basics and there is nothing more basic than the earth, dirt you are going to be growing in. You need to know your soil and feed it so it will be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Oh got carried away there. It doesn't matter if your yard or garden is a few acres or a small city lot, you need to know a bit about your soil.

Start with a basic soil test kit available at many local garden centers or through your county Cooperative Extension office. Just follow the instructions that come with the test. All you should need is a garden trowel or shovel to collect soil samples. If you don't have a trowel or shovel a big spoon will work too.

The test report will tell you the soil’s pH, which is its alkalinity or acidity; its major nutrients, such as phosphorous (listed as P); potassium (listed as K); and nitrogen (N); and its composition, such as sand, clay or loam. With the test report as a guide, apply only the nutrients needed for what you are growing.

Adding unneeded fertilizers not only wastes money but actually results in water pollution from runoff. Slow-release or natural organic fertilizers provide nutrients as needed and in small amounts—the way plants need them.

That's it for now - run down to Lowes (one of my favorite places to shop) and get yourself a soil (dirt) test kit...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I apologize for any inconvenience but keeping up with 4 blogs has become too much for one person so as of now will be combining the 4 into one. For the latest posts and garden tips please visit
Faith's Blog or ByFaithOnly's Garden Site

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Growing Gourds Are You Out of Your Gourd?

by Faith Wright-Draper aka "byfaithonly"

We all know that means you are crazy or at least acting the part but gourds are actually getting a bad rap from that old saying, “Are you out of your gourd?” Yes, there are some gourds that look a bit strange, even somewhat crazy, but gourds can put on a spectacular display in a garden and create some very functional fruit. Gourds can be used as decorations, birdhouses and birdfeeders, dippers, containers and much more.

If you are considering growing gourds in your garden there are a few things you will want to consider as well as some simple tips to make your gourd growing experience a good one.

The first tip could well be the most important. You need to consider space. Gourds grow nicely on fences and trellises or they can spread across an open area on the ground. No matter which they are going to cover a lot of area. Gourds grow on trailing vines that can spread as much as 50 feet or more. If you have a small space to plant you may need to trim back these vines as the season goes on.

The next tip would be to choose what type of gourd you would like to grow. There are dozens of types of gourds from bushel sized gourds to small colorful gourds just a few inches long. There are many websites online where you can browse the different possibilities. Just looking at the picture may help you decide which kind of gourd you would like to grow. You may want to plant more than one variety.

Once you have selected your gourds and gotten your seeds either from a local garden shop or ordered online you will need to decide when you are going to start growing your gourds. You will need to consider the growing time for the gourd as well as your growing season. Most gourds take between 110 and 135 days for germination to maturity. If you live in the north where there is a shorter growing period you will need to start your seeds indoors.

To get your gourds off to a quick start you can start the germination process faster by placing the seeds on a moist towel such as paper towel. Place this inside a clear plastic bag and place it in a warm spot – the seeds need warmth to start germination. You can purchase special seed starter kits for this or you can place the plastic bag with seeds on top of your computer monitor (providing it’s on all the time). You don’t want to cook your seeds though just keep them warm.

You will need to check your seeds every few days making sure they are moist. Once you see roots start to poke out of the seeds you will need to plant them in soil. If you have a long growing period as long as there is no danger of frost you can put them right outside where they will grow to maturity. If not then you will need to place them in pots to start growing until it’s safe to put them outside.

After your gourds are in the ground you will want to check them regularly for any signs of disease or pests and remove any problems you may find. You will also need to make sure the gourds don’t get too dry. If you are planting in good rich composted soil you shouldn’t need to water too often but if the weather is extremely hot and dry you will want to water ever few days. Watering in the early morning at the base of the plant is best to avoid getting water on the leaves which can cause problems such as leaf mold or sun burn.

In the fall if you want to use your gourds for crafts or decoration then it’s best to leave them on the vines until the first frost which kills off the leaves. After that you will need to remove the dead vines and discard them making room for next year’s crop. The gourds can be washed and dried to use as you desire. You can find many suggestions and tips on using your gourds.

Beautiful plants and a harvest of gourds growing gourds can be a very rewarding experience and really not as difficult as some would have you believe.

Faith Wright-Draper (aka byfaithonly) has been writing for over 40 years as a journalist, ghostwriting, and freelancing. She currently writes for several blogs, freelances, and on her own website www.byfaithonly.com

Previously published on Associated Content Are You Out of Your Gourd?

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