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...