Traditionally, garlic is harvested on the longest day of the year – our summer solstice. If you planted your garlic on time (October – December) your crop should ready by this time. And you will be grateful for those extra hours of daylight – pulling garlic can be a hard, long day’s work – but the rewards are lasting. Harvesting garlic always feels like building a bank account to me – alot of work upfront, but then you have a stock of something valuable – food that will keep for many months and always be useful. What worthwhile recipe doesn’t rely on garlic?
Note sure if your bulbs are ready to come out? Here are some guidelines to harvesting and curing your garlic properly.
-Know your varieties. Two broad categories of garlic exist: hardneck and softneck. Hardnecks will produce a scape. The scape should be harvested roughly 3 weeks before the bulbs come out of the ground. This way, the plant will know to send its energy down, instead of up, producing nice, big cloves.
-Bulbs are generally ready when about half of the plant’s green leaves have turned papery and brown. These are your clove wrappers.
-Take a look! the best way to know if your garlic is ready, is to dig up a head and examine its qualities. The bulb should look full, or “dropped,” and in proportion to the neck.
-Garlic can, of course, be eaten as soon as it is pulled. If you would like to store it, however, it must be cured. To cure garlic, lay the bulbs in a single layer in a cool, dry space with good airflow. Bundles of garlic can also be hung from rafters and dried this way. After 3 weeks, the garlic should feel very dry and you should be able to easily remove any dirt or excess papery skins with a gentle rub with your thumb. Snip the roots and the neck.
-Always store good garlic at room temperature. Do not refrigerate!
Less is so much more in the great outdoors. Less noise. Less distraction. Less light to dim the stars. In many ways, we go out there to discover what we need, and what we can leave behind. The trick is in finding the right things, and keeping them affordable, and caring for them so they last. Ok, that’s actually three tricks. And there are more. Here we’ll focus on what to buy where and things you can make or do on your own. Please share what you think of the choices and how your packing goes.
Swiss Army style gadgets are helpful, but I also love a tool that does one thing and does it well. SteriPEN is a compact, battery powered, completely reliable water purification system that uses UV light. It takes seconds to work and there’s no funny aftertaste. Dunk the bulb in your water, press a button and you’re done. I’ve used mine on some extremely suspect ditch water and felt fine, then drank tap water in the same area and felt, you know, the opposite. They’re $70-130 at REI, Amazon, or FreshWaterSystems.com.
Used: Water Bottles
Is it just me, or did the backlash against disposable water bottles turn into wellspring of unused reusables? I’ve been through an embarrassing amount over the years. I’m making up for it spiritually by reminding myself and anyone who will listen that every thrift store on the planet has water bottles to spare. Antique stores have rugged old-school canteens. For every bottle you buy used, a Scout gets a merit badge. For every bottle you buy new, a bird falls off a tree.
Yours: Sprout Mix
Pure, fresh water. Nice, clean water bottles. That’s pretty much all you need for sprouting seeds in your backpack or car. They’re such a nice surprise after a few days of rehydrated meals or a diet of meat-and-marshmallows. Buying a pre-packaged seed mix costs (much) more than scooping your own from the bulk aisle of your natural food store. So dig in! Go for larger seeds like chickpeas, lentils and beans. They’re easier to work with in makeshift places where the last thing you want to do is spill. And remember, while this is technically science, it is also magic. Learn what works for you by playing with this basic technique:
1. Soak seeds overnight or up to 14 hours.
2. Drain and rinse. Screw lid on as loosely as possible. Store away from light.
3. Rinse and drain thoroughly 3 times per day for 3-4 days. Keep the lid loose and the bottle upright.
4. Taste test. Around day 3 or 4, seeds will be tender, flavorful, and ready for your table.
Compost tea, that is. Many of us rely on tea for its soothing, curative properties. Really, what is more restorative than a hot cup of green, mint or rose? Your plants feel the same way. One of the best and easiest ways to naturally fertilize your garden – ensuring optimal, healthy growth – is with batch of home-brewed compost tea. Compost tea adds nutrients to your plants in a soluble form, introduces beneficial microbes to your soil and treats disease. The process is simple – steep aged compost in water over a period of days. Provide a food source for the microorganisms – kitchen molasses works well – and an electric pump to aerate the solution. An air supply will activate good, bacterial action. At the end, you have a kind of wonder tonic for your garden. The true meaning of garden tea.
What you’ll need:
2 5-gallon buckets
1 gallon aged compost (make sure to use compost that is mature, this will not work with fresh kitchen scraps)
1 aquarium pump
1 gang valve
4 gallons water
3 ft of aquarium hose
1 0z. un-sulphured molasses
What you’ll do:
Cut the hose into 3 ft long pieces and attach to gang valve
Attach the gang valve to the rim of the bucket and make sure the hoses reach the bottom
Add water, leaving 6 inches of space between the solution and bucket rim. (If you are using city water, run the water through the pump and bubbler for at least an hour before mixing in the compost. This will evaporate any chlorine. Chlorine will KILL the beneficials organisms in your tea.)
Add the molasses.
Turn on the pump and run for 3 days, stirring occasionally.
After brewing, stain the mixture using cheesecloth suspended over the second bucket. (Return wet solids to your compost pile.)
The tea should smell like sweet and earthy- it should NOT smell bad. Do not use if it smells foul.
Apply the freshly-brewed compost tea to your plants immediately using a watering can or by running it through a slow-drip irrigation system. You can reapply every two weeks.
“What is a camp without the evening campfire? It’s nothing but a place in the woods where some people have some things.” –Ernest Thomson Seton
Campfires tell their own stories. The good ones for a night or two, the bad ones for months or even years. My favorites are the cook fires that crackle and roar and feed but never linger, vanishing as completely as smoke into the night. For the low-impact, highly-functional fire you will need: dirt, rocks, wood, matches, an axe, a hand trowel, your cooking utensils and a fire pan.
1. Select a location for your campfire.
Away from anything that could catch fire, like grass or low branches, and anything that keeps the forest alive, like root systems and organic soil. Sand is perfect. A large, flat rock works, too.
2. Place your fire pan.
Fire pans form a protective layer for the soil below. They can be made from almost any material, including garbage can lids or steel baking pans. Canvas or nylon tarps are relatively lightweight and make a slightly larger workspace. Simple to pack and prepare, fire pans stop soil from being charred, sterilized or disturbed by animals in search of food, and they make campfire cleanup easier for you.
3. Cover with layer of mineral soil.
Dig for soil in a plant-free area. Carry back to your fire pan and pile on top to insulate. Pat down flat.
4. Form a ring.
Collect stones and arrange in the shape of a keyhole: round on one end, with a narrow rectangular channel on the other. On the wider side you will burn wood and gather friends. On the other you’ll scrape fresh hot coals and cook on a grill. No grill? Balance your pots and pans across the stones.
5. Sort your fuel.
As a rule, buy your firewood from one of those roadside stacks on your way out. It keeps the deadwood you would otherwise gather where it belongs (in the woods) and minimizes the risk of spreading plant diseases from one area to the next. Split or sort your bundle into:
Tinder: a handful of splinters, dry weeds, twigs or bark from dead trees.
Kindling: from thin twigs to club-sized sticks.
Logs: Split logs burn and produce coals more quickly. Whole logs last longer and make better fuel for social hour(s).
6. Start with a fire-lay.
At the heart of every fire, lay a “fire stick” across two short, thick sticks or egg-sized stones. Place tinder beneath the fire stick and layer kindling above. Light this.
7. Build up your fire… slowly.
Pyramid: Place 10”-12” sticks around your fire-lay and keep adding as you burn. Good for quick fires and boiling.
Log Cabin: Build a criss-crossing stack of wood around your fire-lay. Produces lots of coals for heat-intensive meals. Less likely to smother the temperamental element.
8. Get cooking!
Chili, shish kebabs, flap jacks… fire-roasted banana with Nutella! Who needs clean fingers when you have a face full of gooey breakfast chocolate? Try not to drip or throw food waste into the fire. That would only cool it off and leave bits for animals to find.
9. Clean up.
Burn all wood to white ash at least thirty minutes prior to cleanup. Crush any remaining charcoal to powder. Scatter evidence of your fire over a large area, dispersing the rocks and returning the soil to its hole. Then enjoy the satisfaction of looking over your campsite as you leave and seeing… nothing. No blackened ring, no ugly scar, no sign of human habitation to spoil the view.
Beyond the holy herbal trinity of parsley, cilantro, and basil, there are three more herbs essential to the pared down city garden: Mint, borage, and tarragon. The first three are staples- work horses of the summer menu, bringing uplifting unique flavors to any dish. Mint, borage, and tarragon serve to impress. They’re the indulgent addition,or the finishing touch. With these six herbs at your disposal you can go anywhere, from Mexico to Italy, France to Syria, or hop across the pond for proper pims in England.
Mint is a bit of a bruiser, so if you’ve got the resources, plant it in its own pot, or else it will take over the rest of your garden. Possibly the easiest plant in the entire universe to grow, it isn’t picky about soil, food, light, or water. A nice, light, neutral potting soil will suit it perfectly. Put it anywhere and pick often! Try this recipe for a new twist on the usual spring salad. Then, of course, there are always mojitos….
Borage is just about as easy as mint. Although it’s an annual, it readily self seeds year after year, and if kept weeded, should come back the following season. Give it freely draining potting soil, and keep well watered. In a pinch, borage can do part shade, as well. Here’s a lovely new twist on the old Pimms recipe. Throw a handful of the sky-blue starry blooms on any salad for a final flourish!
One word: Fish. Butter and tarragon are excellent bed fellows, and together they are the ultimate flavoring for fish. Make sure you get french tarragon, and not any of the other sometimes-bitter look alikes. Once again, tarragon is not a picky herb. Give it neutral, freely draining soil and some shade in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day. A rough and ready perennial, it tolerates cold pretty well and will keep coming back if planted in zone 4 and higher.
Happy Friday! Now that the workweek is through, why not fix yourself a cocktail? Our friends at the Four Seasons, New York suggest their take on the New York Gin Cream, using only ingredients found within 100-mile radius of the city––part of a worldwide program to showcase local ingredients. What better way to welcome the weekend? Cheers!
New York Gin Cream
By Simon De Swaan, Food and Beverage Director, Four Seasons Hotel, New York
1½ oz Fox’s U-bet Vanilla Syrup (made in Brooklyn)
1½ oz Whole Organic Milk (local farm stand or Whole Foods)
Club Soda or Seltzer water to taste
Combine ice, syrup, gin and milk in a large martini shaker. Shake and pour drink mixture (without ice) into a tall soda fountain glass. Top with seltzer or club soda to get a frothy/bubbly finish on top of the mixture. Garnish with a black and white cookie and a straw.
The Lore of the Egg Cream:
Egg Creams have been a part of the soul of Brooklyn for years––whether chocolate or vanilla they are dear to many New Yorker’s (mostly Brooklynite’s) hearts. This sparkly-sweet drink has been around for more than a century and we’ve added our own twist using Greenhook Ginsmith’s Brooklyn Gin to make our own version called the New York Gin Cream––Four Seasons Hotel New York’s 100-mile cocktail.
There are many stories of how the Egg Cream got its name, but one story goes that it was first created by a Jewish candy-store owner, Louis Auster, who opened a legendary shop on Second Avenue and Seventh Street in the 19th century. From then on, many soda fountain jerks have recreated the coveted Egg Cream as well as laid claim to being the inventors. Regardless of origin, the Egg Cream is one traditional all New Yorkers can get behind.
Ponderosa Pines are easy trees to love. They smell like vanilla cupcakes, maple syrup and sausages, or pineapple to some lucky noses, and when the sun strikes them in the right way, they light up like pillars of pink salt. 40 to 150 foot tall pillars that can reach up to 8 feet wide and 600 years old under the best conditions. And they are everywhere, pouring over the Rocky Mountains, covering the southwest, and standing off against the prairies to the east.
The Scottish botanist David Douglas named them Pinus Ponderosa for their “ponderous” size (he hadn’t seen the Redwoods yet) but the trees have a particular aspect and mood that goes beyond bigness, approaching the sublime. Qualities that have everything to do with two factors: drought and fire.
Drought forces their roots deeper and wider than most conifers, spacing them well apart and making Ponderosa forests feel airy, peaceful and light. Dry seasons inevitably lead to combustion, whether by lightning strike or, now, by people who grasp how deeply fire is woven into the character of Western woods.
In fact, Ponderosas are quite literally fire bugs. They need it so bad, they provide their own kindling by continually shedding bark and limbs en mass every year. Bare trunks keep flames from reaching vital crowns and lanky, draping needles shield their cones from heat. Brush fires clear out shade-bearing competitors like White Pine or Incense Cedar without seriously injuring older trees. At the same time fire coaxes sap into the lowest, deepest parts of Ponderosa trunks, bracing the heartwood so it can stand under its own weight for hundreds of years.
Fire is tough, necessary love. It’s the natural history lesson of a century and a funny thing to learn from any tree.
For all our West Coast readers, why not celebrate Mom with a trip to the Echo Park Craft Fair? Wilder friends Agnes Baddoo, Kathleen Whitaker, Dream Collective and Moon Canyon Flowers will all be present to brighten up your weekend and make Mom feel just that much more special. Card optional.
When it comes to understanding container gardening, my old boss came up with a saying I like to use: ‘first you thrill, then you spill.‘ I think it gets at two of the most crucial elements to crafting a real whizzbanger of a pot quite nicely. Here’s three great tips for making a great garden container:
1. Height: Height is part of the ‘thrill’ element of a pot. You need something eye catching. A colorful, vivid, imposing ‘je ne sais quoi’ to firmly establish the pot’s presence in the world. Choose foliage over flowers for this part of the display- something that will give you volume and bulk. A great summer choice are canna lilies, as is woodland tobacco, or a big plume of elephant ears.
2. Stuffing: This is what goes along the edges of the pot and gets crammed in in every available blank space. No bare patches allowed. Feel free to choose 1-3 different annuals to make it interesting, but don’t select anything that will compete with the size of your background anchor plant. Something with lacy, differently colored foliage that stands out, like any of the wormwoods, is a good choice here. You can’t go wrong with coleus, either. Even something like coral bells is great for stuffing- the airy flowers it produces midsummer add another element to the mix, too. I like to use some of the salvias here. Don’t be afraid to step it up a notch on the color and texture. This is the layer to do it with.
3. Spill: My favorite part, this is where you can get buck-wild messy. Lantana is a failsafe for full sun and it comes in a myriad of tropical popsicle colors. Million bells is good in the same way. For shade, sweet potato vine is tenacious and brilliantly lime-green or purple, however you want it. And if you’re looking for an upward climber, try moonflower- it blooms at night!
While you’re at it, don’t forget the golden rule of container gardening: water, water, water.
Image by Helen O’Donnell
Place a sturdy leaf in a jar of water and at the end of several weeks or months, depending on the leaf, you will have the makings of a phantom bouquet. All that remains is to sift out the nets intact, rinse and gently rub away the pulp. The same process occurs every winter on damp and spongy forest floors so that come spring, after the snow has melted, whole acres are covered with the remains of skeletalized leaves. But they do more than attract the eye.
In Phantom Flowers, a treatise on the art of producing skeleton leaves – an unfortunately anonymous how-to booklet published in 1864 – the author explains:
From the large proportion of mineral matter contained in the leaves, it is evident that the same substances existing in the earth must be annually circulating from one to the other. The roots extract them from the soil, they ascend the tree with the sap, and are deposited in the leaves. Having given them coherency and strength, and having probably performed other functions which are yet unknown to either botanist or chemist, the fall and decay of the leaves returns these mineral ingredients to the earth. With the succeeding year the mysterious circuit is repeated, the tree enlarging in bulk, and the forest soil increasing in richness…
Phantom Flowers describes how to preserve plants, including their leaves, buds, and seed-vessels, in an ornate, patient and purist Victorian style. J.E. Tilton & Co. might have published the book primarily to sell their leaf whitening agent, but the author puts such an… ahem… flowery Emersonian spin on the whole affair, it’s worth a re-visit even now:
The science which enables us to understand not only the history, the names, the virtues, and the associations connected with all plants, as well as the wonderful relations, the admirable laws which govern their structure, and the important part they bear in the economy of the universe, is worthy of the careful study of every intelligent person. He will find it worth while to become familiar with a science which, wherever his steps may lead him, from the bleak mountaintop, crusted over with mosses and lichens only, to warm and luxuriant tropical valleys, where the magnificence of vegetable wonders almost bewilders the senses, with still furnish him with new subjects for admiration. It will make his morning walk in the garden or over the meadow a new delight. A tramp along the commonest field path, or a ramble by the wayside, which, to the eye of the dull and unlearned, may be mean and barren, he will find rich in interest and exuberant in beauty…
The fields, the forests, the entire landscape have a positively different and altogether new meaning to one who sees, not only the general beauty of the whole display, but who also studies with delight every detail of fern, or shrub, or forest tree in the foreground.
On a more practical note, the book contains “minute particulars” on over twenty different species. The author specifies when to collect, how long to soak, and what kind of results you can expect from any given leaf. Whether or not you choose to bleach them in the olden style is entirely up to you.
May 15th is the traditional cut off date for a final frost. Meaning, starting next week, everything goes – in your garden. I will be seeding watermelons and transplanting chile peppers. As you prepare to fill your summer plot, consider not only what you’re planting, but where you’re planting. The logic and tradition of companion planting is based on setting up mutually beneficial relationships between plants. This method of organization can encourage pest control and stimulate vigorous growth. It is even said to produce tastier tomatoes.
Every plant demands and provides differently – absorbing certain soil nutrients, attracting specific pests while repelling others. It makes sense, then, to arrange your garden in a way that takes advantage of these individual properties. Companion Planting originated with the Native American custom of the “Three Sisters” guild. Historically, Native Americans would plant corn, squash and beans side by side on a small plot of land. The tall stalks of corn provided trellis for the beans, while the sprawling squash offered ground cover, stamping out potential weeds. Beans, a legume, are nitrogen fixing, and will not disturb nutrient intake of corn or squash.
Trap crops are another example of companion planting. If you are concerned about squash bugs attacking your cucumber bed, plant zucchini nearby. Summer squash leaves are sweeter and more preferable to the pests, thus deterring them from your main crop cukes.
Overtime, growers have collectively developed a comprehensive guide to companion planting. Inevitably, these guides are part truth, part lore, but in any case, a home garden offers the perfect scale in which to trial some of this knowledge. We can’t tend to our garden at all times, so why not let the plants themselves do some of the work?
Here are a few suggestions:
Basil with tomatoes – repels tomato hornworms
Nasturtiums with squash – deters squash bugs
Radishes and cucumbers – trap crop for cucumber beetles
Lettuce and carrots – for best flavor of both
Bee balm and tomatoes – for enhanced tomato flavor
Tomatoes and lettuce – tall trellis can provide welcome shade for tender greens
So, if you haven’t picked up on it yet let me tell you again: I am lazy. Fortunately the natural world is so beautifully accomodating, I haven’t yet found any incentive to turn over a new leaf and become a new me. Lazy suits me just fine. Which is why I’m partial to growing natives, particularly in the garden setting where they do all the growing work themselves. Below are my top three edible natives- where you can get ‘em and how to treat them right. Sit back, and enjoy.
The Ramp: Yeah, you’ve all heard of it before, but how many of you have actually gotten off your lazy behinds and grown it yourselves? The farmer’s market is a lot easier, right? (I know, I know. Look who’s talking). Rule numero uno when buying native plants for food, particularly in farmers markets is this: ALWAYS ask your vendor where their product comes from. If it’s wild foraged, stay away from it. Ramps are rare in the state of Vermont, and they take a long time to reach maturity in any of the woods that they’re found. A single picker can decimate a population in no time, and then what? There’s no coming back from that. Give ramps moist, rich garden soil and plenty of early springtime light and they will perform like total gems in the garden setting, steadily taking over if given ample space. This website sells both ramp seeds and bulbs.
Stinging Nettle: This beast is tough to wrangle. I love it for its nutritious, succulent spring greens and usefulness in cleansing tonics. It seems to pop up everywhere around my house, thriving in the sandiest of soils and hottest locations. However, give it good garden soil and it will go NUTS. So be careful, because this mother stings (hence the name- we all got that, right?). The cool weather of spring gives nettles an almost buttery texture and they are supremely tender when steamed. Buy the seeds here or venture out into your local park later in the summer with a pair of snips- you’re sure to find a tenancious specimen in seed.
Miner’s Lettuce: This plant is a rare example of an exceptionally yummy garden variety weed that Americans took to Europe- and not the other way around. Dandelions, chickweed, mustard, and lots of other popular edible plants are European in origin- having arrived here in the ballast soil of ships and other supplies the colonist brought over hundreds of years ago. Miner’s lettuce was first discovered, named by botanists, and cultivated as an edible on the west coast. What a joy its been since! Buy the seeds at Territorial. The plants are cold hardy, and can almost tolerate those early unpredictable spring frosts. They like freely draining rich soil, but they’re beautifully weedy and will tolerate just about any circumstances (just the way I like it!).
According to mythology, soap traces its origins to Mount Sapo – a mountain in ancient Italy where animal sacrifices were supposedly held. The ashes from the sacrificial fires mixed with animal tallow, which found its way to the river below where Roman women would gather to wash their clothes. They found that their linens came out cleaner when the water mixed with the ash and animal grease. Water, ash, fat. The original formula for getting clean. Sapo, meaning “soap” in Latin. This story is perhaps pure fiction, but the science described remains fact for soap makers today.
The chemistry of soap making is simple: a caustic alkali serves as your base and some combination of fats and oils acts as the acid. From there, you can experiment with scent by adding essential oils, spices and herbs. Below is a very basic recipe for a vegetable-based, cold-process soap plus two different fragrance profiles. Once you have a solid understanding of the technique, you can adjust and tinker to your liking. As your summer garden comes into bloom, add fresh herbs and flowers to the mix. In winter, use dried herbs and steeped botanicals. Soap making has become a four seasons project for me. I promise, once you too figure out how easy the process is, and how simply you can perfect your ideal blend, you’ll never dole out cash for drugstore varieties again.
For a more comprehensive guide to soap making, check out this great book
16 oz. each of olive oil, palm oil and refined/high heat coconut oil
7.07 oz. lye
15.84 oz. water
Essential oils (up to 5 oz. total)
Dried matter (lavender, cloves etc. Nothing too abrasive and nothing that will rot)
*Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clove
*Sassafras, Rosemary, Lemon, Lavender
Combine oils in a large mixing bowl.
Using gloves, add lye to water in well ventilated area and stir until dissolved (only use stainless steel or glass bowl. no aluminum! no wood!)
Cool lye solution to 110 – 120 degrees F.
Pour lye water into oil mixture.
Using an immersion blender, combine ingredients until you see a light “trace” in the blend. (Do not over blend or you’ll get chunky soap).
Add essential oils of your choice (note: this can further stiffen the mixture). Blend in to reach “trace” once again. Consistency should be that of a very loose custard.
Stir in dried matter of your choice.
Pour into silicone or lined wooden mold.
Press plastic wrap onto top to avoid ashy crust.
Wrap mold in a couple of thick towels/blankets to cool very slowly for 24 hours.
Unwrap and cut into bars. Arrange on a drying rack to cure for 6 weeks.
Store in an airtight container.
makes about 4.5 pounds of soap
‘Tiptoe through the snowdrops, to the window…’
Here on the east coast we get about two seconds flat to sing springtime songs. Turn around and BAM summer’s fist is stuffed right up your sniffer. Today- it’s already hot outside. The clay brown earth is warming up. Earthworms are at the soil’s surface mixing all that hummusy goodness down into the root zone. Crocuses have come and gone.
It’s time to harden off your seedlings.
Step one Start the hardening off process about a week before you plan to plant outdoors. For cold hardy brassicas, this is a few weeks before your last frost date. For warmth loving nightshades like tomatoes and eggplants, this is when you’re safely past the final frost date. Wait until daytime temps are safely in the 55 degrees F range and place seedlings outside in a sheltered location for about 3-4 hours. Bring back inside for the night
Step two Repeat! Move seedlings out for a little bit longer each day, gradually increasing light exposure over time. Make sure to water more as you increase heat and light levels.
Step three After a full week, seedlings can spend their first night outdoors, provided temperatures will remain above 50 degrees F.
Step four Plant seedlings out in the garden on a cloudy day and water in well. If the weather turns suddenly cold, swaddling your seedlings in a swath of fabric like burlap or remay to protect from freezing.
‘Summer time, and the living is easy….’
You may be thinking – I don’t need no plants. In reality you do. Plants improve air quality in your home by filtering out volatile compounds and capturing dust providing some relief to those with allergies and asthma. More so, according to The Journal of Environmental Psychology, they improve your mood. People with houseplants tend to be in better spirits, suffer less stress and have more energy. While that’s all well and good – if you live in city, ideal growing situations are hard to come by. Here’s a list of some easy to care for, low light plants perfect for dark corners and shallow lit windowsills.
1. THE MONEY TREE
Walk into any plant store and you’ll be sure to find a Money Tree with its signature braided trunks. The myth is – the healthier and bigger your Money Tree, the more financial success your home will yield. (My tree is huge and lovely, but I’m still awaiting). Known to be prolific in low light, the plant is certainly an apartment dwellers best friend. They’re easy to care for requiring attention once a week or less depending on your growing environment. As a note – upon relocating the plant to your home, you may see a few leaves scattering to the floor. There’s no need to worry. This a normal shock that the plant goes through upon entering a new environment.
2. SNAKE PLANT
The Snake plant with its sword shape leaves loves medium light and can fair well in low light. This plant doesn’t require a lot of effort either. Water and walk away. The danger here is over0-watering if anything. Native to tropical Africa, this plant is also known as Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, and is known to improve air quality in the home. Asthma? Allergies? This one is for you.
3. CAST IRON PLANT
This was the first houseplant I ever had and bless its soul. The Cast Iron is indestructible. Or, close to anyway. If you have a habit of neglecting your plants, the Cast Iron is for you. Spotty watering? Incredibly low light? No problem. The only drawback is that it grows slowly, so buy a plant whose size you are relatively happy with it.
4. PEACE LILY
The Peace Lily renowned for its ability to neutralizes toxins such as carbon monoxide making it perfect for your city crib. The other benefit is a every plant owners dream. Essentially, the plant will tell you when to water it by letting it’s leaves sag and fall forward. In general, watering once a week is a good plan. For best results – keep the plant more than a few feet away from a window as it prefers indirect light.
Peperomia are all around winners. They’re easy to grow, compact and with a lovely coloring to their leaves. These plants don’t require very much attention, which makes a perfect houseplants for beginners. Most peperomia require moderate to low light. These guys love humidity so a good spritzing of the leaves on watering day will go miles to creating a happy plant.
The best tools always feel like a natural extension of your own body. A simple hand weeder perfectly demonstrates the beauty of an intuitive, efficient tool.
The best time to weed is as soon as you see a thin carpet of unwanted green surrounding your plants. Obviously, it would be far too tedious to pull each tiny sprout by hand. Luckily, a sharp hand hoe can clear an entire area in a single swipe. Glide the blade along the soil at a shallow depth – just deep enough to kill the blanket of weeds without disturbing the soil too aggressively. Be careful, of course, to avoid cutting the plants you are trying to save. In fact, when you are first getting used to the tool, it is a good idea to hold the stem of the planted crop with your free hand as you weed around it with the other. A new hand hoe will have a sharp tip at the edge of its blade. It is wise to file down this point to further prevent accidental slicing.
By May there will be twice as much happening in your garden. Now is the time to get a good, thorough pass on your rows. The weeds will inevitably persist, but clearing them at this early, mid-spring stage will at least save you more arduous battles later.
Lazy gardeners know bulbs and tubers are an easy way to deliver maximum impact with minimum output. Storing a portion of the growing season’s food packed away in a long, brown bulky root Dahlias are the perfect example. Dinner plate sized blossoms open July through October, depending on where you live, and dazzle in various shades from near black to iridescent, shimmering pink.
Soil: Dahlias will grow in virtually any kind of soil provided it is deeply tilled to at least a foot. Make sure to plant after the danger of frost has past: A primarily Mexican genus, these plants love warm, sun-toasted earth. Good drainage is also important. Generally, when planting any kind of tuber or bulb, wet soils are a good thing to avoid. Producing elephantine blossoms requires a lot of food, so when planting, fill in the hole with rich compost plus a small handful of bone meal.
Planting: Large dahlias should be planted about six inches deep, smaller varieties should go down about four inches. Lay the tubers ‘eye-side’ up, so the sprouts get a good leg up into the sunshine. Pound a sturdy stake into the hole a few inches away from the tuber so you’re prepared for August when these things will be going gangbusters.
New Growth: Slugs love dahlias. Especially if you live somewhere cool and moist like Washington or Maine, lay down slug pellets as soon as your dahlia shoots start to emerge. Start feeding with compost tea or organic flower feed after six weeks, and continue to do so every month until frost. Dahlias also need ample water, so keep an eye on the weather.
Check out Swan Island Dahlias for virtually every variety under the sun
Basil is a cook’s friend. Not only does it add summer to any dish, but it fills the kitchen a fresh and bright aroma. Speaking of brightness, if you happen to have a windowsill nearby, now might be the time to start your basil seeds in the pot. No windowsill? No fear. Do it anyway! As long as you plant your basil indoors in a spot that gets about 4 – 6 hours of full sunlight a day (ideally South facing) you should see progress.
Although there aren’t as many varieties of basil as there are provinces in Italy, you have a few to chose from. I would suggest Genovese (for the flavor) or Mammoth (for the size). Sow the seeds thinly, about 1 – 2 inches apart and cover with a quarter inch of soil. Use either a pot (at least 18 inches in diameter) or a window box (with seeds scattered lengthwise). Basil is happiest in warm, course-textured soil that drains well (good drainage is vital when growing basil), however keep soil moist with frequent misting. Clip leaves often, right at the node taking about 1/3 of the stem. This will promote growth and further enhance the flavor.
These are just a few tips, however your local nursery might have the best suggestions for you in terms of climate, fertilization, and variety. Keep basil growing year-round in your kitchen (if possible) so that you can add the herb of summer to your food. If you’re feeling like there’s too much basil to go around, this award-winning pesto recipe is your answer.
Spring is a time to clean, detox, and investigate how we feel in our bodies. Ask these kinds of questions: Do I feel sluggish or energized? Is my skin clear or broken out? Am I excited about life? Indifferent? Depressed? When it comes to my mind and body, if something is feeling off I turn to nature. I’ll smell the Jasmine, walk through a Redwood grove, lay in the grass (unless, of course, my allergies are acting up). It’s not a coincidence that there are so many natural remedies. The healing is there, we just have to find it!
Feeling tired, anxious, and behind in everything, I decided to give up caffeine this Spring. I was addicted, so I slowly weaned off until cutting it out entirely. It was then than I turned to my savior: Dandelion Root. Though the flower (Taraxacum) is a pestering weed to many, I wouldn’t hack it away so fast. Health-wise it detoxes the liver, promotes healthy digestion, and aids weight loss. It is a brilliant substitute for caffeine, serving as an energy boost and a taste twin. The roasted root is toasty and bitter in flavor, emulating those comforting qualities of coffee.
You can buy prepackaged tea bags at any health food store or try a home remedy. The roots and leaves provide the most nutrients (add flowers for a flavor burst), just make sure to chose dandelions that have not been sprayed. Once you’re past the caffeine withdrawals, you won’t miss the coffee, the jitters or the sleepless nights. You’ll feel just dandy.
Page 1 of 3