Herbal This & That

Gardening Quick Tips for a Better Garden

Gardening Quick Tips for a Better Garden

Shared Secrets of Generous Gardeners

By , About.com

 

Gardening knowledge comes with experience and from the generous sharing of fellow gardeners. There’s no reason to suffer the same garden dilemmas year after year. Surely some other gardener has had the same problem before you and you know how much gardeners like to talk about gardening. Don’t ever be afraid to ask. Just be sure to pass your own knowledge along. Here is a growing list of Garden Quick Tips from garden enthusiasts around the world. If you have a gem of knowledge you’d like to share, please take a moment to send me a note.

End of Season – Last Minute Tips

There’s never enough time to get everything done in the garden that you planned to do. Gardeners in warmer climates take their break during the hot season. Gardeners racing the first frost have their break imposed upon them. Here are some tips to help you get ready – fast.

Flowers

Some flowers flourish without fuss and sometimes nothing you do seems to please them. Then there are those clever gardeners who have found the little secrets that work like magic in the flower garden.

Garden Design

Great garden design may be subjective, but there are still some universal truths that form a good basis for any design. It’s when gardeners add their own personality to this foundation that garden design becomes arresting. Hopefully these tips will tweak your imagination and help you bring your garden alive.

Gardening with Kids

It’s wonderful to see kids enjoying a garden, but it can be difficult to hold there attention there very long. If ever there was a need for gardening quick tips, it is when gardening with kids. All suggestions are welcome.

Houseplants

More than any other type of plant, houseplants are too often relegated to decoration. Many people only notice there houseplants when something goes wrong. Making a plant a part of the interior of your home is a wonderful opportunity to appreciate it close up. But indoors is a harsh atmosphere for plants, so here are some tips to make them feel more at home.

Pests & Disease

As sure as night follows day, insect will follow plants. It would be nice if every pest or disease could be taken care of with a quick tip, but since that’s never going to happen, the best we gardeners can do is pick our battles.

Vegetables

Marketing and pesticides have made us think that perfect vegetables are there for the picking year round. Anyone who has ever grown vegetables knows that’s a fantasy. But part of the joy of vegetable gardening is the anticipation and the cycles of the seasons. Another part of the joy of vegetable gardening is fooling your vegetables into prolonging their seasons. There can never be too many quick tips for that.

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Gardening Basics – How to Start a Garden

Gardening Basics – How to Start a Garden

Tips for Planning a New Garden

By , About.com

 

Starting a garden can be daunting. There are all kinds of decisions to make and a little planning can go a long, long way toward making a garden you’ll love working in as much as looking at. But even planning can be a challenge.

I think the 2 most important questions to keep in mind are:

  • How do you plan to use the space (entertaining, play area, grow food…)
  • What do you envision in your mind

Here are some resources to help you answer thse questions and create a garden you’ll enjoy.

 

1. Starting a Garden

Where to begin? First you need to choose a good site. The amount of sun exposure and access to water will play a big part in what plants you’ll be able to grow.Another good place to begin a new garden is with the soil. This may not be the most fun part of gardening, but as the saying goes: “Feed the soil and the plants will take care of themselves. You’ll need to access what type of soil you have and what, if anything it needs. You can get your soil tested for a nominal fee at your local Cooperative Extension office and sometimes at a good nursery.

Vegetable gardening is a little different from flower gardening and here are some questions to ask yourself and steps to take to start a vegetable garden.

2. Choosing Plants

Selecting plants is one of the toughest gardening tasks, simply because there are so many from which to choose. Key things to keep in mind are your hardiness zone and your soil type. But when push comes to trowel, what it really comes down to is what plants do you like and how much time can you put into caring for them. Here are some lists and resources to help you focus your search:

  • Drought Tolerant Plants
  • Easy Care, Low Maintenance Perennials
  • Deer Resistant Plant Lists Shade Plants

Want to get started on a smaller scale? Why not try container gardening or focusing on one particular type of plant, like roses?

3. Garden Design

Designing a garden is an ongoing process and half the fun of gardening. While there are so called design rules, like always planting in odd numbers, there are no garden police to enforce them. Make your garden whatever you envision. Most gardens are a mix of plants – annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs – that are always growing and changing. Even the best thought out design will eventually need editing. Even so, there are some basic principles that will get you started off right.

And here’s a tip: Choosing some type of theme, whether it’s a color scheme, a style or a group of plants, will not only help give your garden a sense of cohesion, it will help make your design choices easier. You can always expand from there.

4. Garden Tools

There are all kinds of tools and gadgets designed to make gardening easier and more enjoyable. There are a few that should be in every gardener’s shed, like good pruners, but most are optional and as you gain experience you will find yourself reaching for the same favorite tools again and again. So don’t go overboard buying tools right away. But when you know what you like, it’s worth it to invest in the best you can afford. Good tools are more comfortable to use and last a long time.

5. Maintenance – Caring for Your Garden

There is always something to do in the garden: planting, staking, dividing, cutting back and weeding. Some plants are more demanding than others, but garden maintenance is a given. It can also be the most enjoyable part of gardening, because you get to observe the changes your garden goes through. By regularly working in your garden, you’ll stay ahead of problems and learn the seasonal rhythms of your plants. You will also learn which plants do well in your garden, which you love and which you’d just as soon dig out and give away. Maintenance is the real essence of gardening.

 

 

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The Witches Magick for May 9th – Strega Herb Jar

The Witches Magick for May 9th – Strega Herb Jar

Strega Herb Jar

A strega herb jar is a jar, with herbs inside, designed to provide protection for you and your home (or those who live in it.)

Items You Will Need:

Rue
Cork
Thyme
Hyssop
Vervain
Coriander
Woodruff
Pennyroyal
Bay Leaves
Glass Jar
Gemstone (optional)

A ‘Strega Herb Jar’ is a jar of selected herbs designed to ensure protection over you, your home and those who take residence in it. Depending on the herbs selected, it can also look like an attractive form of ornament and can leave a nice scent.
The Strega Herb Jar has been traced to Italy, as ‘Strega’ is Italian for ‘witch.’ Stregheria is a system of Witchcraft with Italian roots, and the term itself is an archaic word in the Italian language that translates into the English word Witchcraft.
Now, place a small amount of each herb into the jar (you may wish to do so in layers for more ornamental effect). Once you have filled the jar with herbs up to the top, you may desire to add your gemstone of choice. Don’t fret if you do not wish to add a gemstone, this step is optional.
Also, you may want to call upon a deity of your choice, and ask them for their attention and blessing. This can be done in the form of a simple prayer.
Pop the cork in the top of the jar, sealing it. Before setting the jar down on a window or shelf of your choice, shake it slightly. From time to time, shake the jar and let the aroma of the cork remind you that you are protected.
*You may use a substitute for any herb shown in the list, for another herb that is said to have protective or cleansing properties.
*A Strega Herb Jar can also be used for the purpose of attracting good luck.

Author: Pseydonyma

Spells-Of-Magic.com

 

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How To Make Essential Oils

HOW TO MAKE ESSENTIAL OILS

Witches often ask about how to make essential oils. I don’t know exactly how you produce essential oils from herbs. What I do know is that it’s a laborious process, and that most of the time you will want to dilute the essential oils anyway, so that fragrant, blended oils consisting of a carrier oil and a herb are often more versatile. In addition to that they are quite easy to manufacture. This is how I do it.

 

The Kitchen Magic School’s Fragrant Oils

This is what you need
=====================
A carrier oil. The intended use decides which one. Edible oils are sold in super-markets everywhere, and can often be used for other purposes than just eating. In herbal cosmetic shops like the Body Shop you can buy pure or blended oils for special purposes like bathing and massage. You can experiment with different oils for different purposes, but never ingest any oil that wasn’t specifically made for the purpose. It’s important that you use new oil with the best before date well ahead, as fragrant oils don’t keep as well as essential oils. Wheatgerm oil can be used as preservative if you find that your oils don’t keep well.

The herb. For this purpose it doesn’t matter if it’s fresh, dried or even frozen. Herbs are sold in many places. Occult shops often have quite an assortment, but the super-market in your area may sell some of these much cheaper. Super-markets often have herbs in either the spice department (notably fennel and cardamon), the health food department (notably rosehips and buckwheat) or even the hot drinks department (notably chamomile and cocoa). Specialized health food stores and natural cosmetics boutiques often have herbs too.

Growing your own herbs can be a very satisfying experience, and it doesn’t take a lot of skill to do with the most common ones. You can buy plants at a nursery or raise your own from seeds. Seeds are available in super-markets, garden centers and nurseries. There are often quite adequate instructions on the seed envelope. If you are new to growing things, start out with easy growers like
mint, heartsease and dill and grow them in pots.

Which herb to choose is a science in itself. If you want to use the oil for magickal purposes, you will probably want to choose it according to its correspondences. At the end of Starhawk’ _Spiral_Dance_ there is a substantial list of common correspondences, and the classic Culpeper’s Complete Herbal lists herbs and their uses and correspondences. Of course if you follow a specific
tradition you will want to consult it, so you don’t use inappropriate herbs. Many eclectic witches like to make up their own correspondences following their intuition. If you will use the oil on your skin, make sure that it won’t irritate or cause allergic reactions. You may want to consult a book on
aromatherapy if you are using fragrant oils for healing. Some oils are considered aphrodisiacs, and can be quite fun to use for massage.

A practical consideration is the availability of a given herb. Herbs may be unavailable for many different reasons. Maybe it isn’t traditionally used in your part of the world, it may be illegal for a number of reasons, it could be surrounded with superstition or it can simply be out of season.

A bottle. Fragrant oils are sensitive to light so try avoiding crystal clear bottles. You will often want to use just a spoonful of the oil, so a squirt cap is useful. Shampoo bottles can often be used, as they are generally about the right size and have caps which are made so you can easily take a small amount without having oil run down the outside of the bottle. Plastic bottles will often be found to take on some of the aroma of the contents, so you may want to throw them away after one use, or always keep the same oil in the same bottle. Some occult shops sell amber glass bottles, too. Of course it’s neat to have all your oils in identical bottles instead of having an array of brightly colored shampoo bottles, but they’re a lot more expensive than saved up shampoo bottles. Label all your bottles carefully with the name of the herb, carrier oil and date of manufacture!

This is how to do it
====================
The basic principle is easy: put the herb in the oil, and wait.

If you are bothered by herb particles in the finished product, you can use a tea egg or a small bag of muslin or nylon suspended by string in the bottle, and remove them when you find the fragrance strong enough. This requires a bottle with a wide opening. If you don’t have such a bottle, you can strain the oil in a wire-mesh tea sieve instead. If you aren’t bothered by herb particles, you can
often leave the herb in the oil until you’ve used it all up. This works particularly well with antiseptic herbs like peppermint, but can in other cases make the oil go stale.

The time it takes for an oil to become pleasantly fragrant depends on the herb and the oil, what you consider pleasant and the conditions you keep them under. You will have to experiment with concentration, stirring, and time to find out which works best under your circumstances. With some herbs crushing can speed up the process. Seeds like fennel are among those. Many herbs vary quite a lot in strength depending on a range of factors, so sometimes you will have to adapt your recipes. The best thing is probably to develop your intuition with regards to herbs. As a rule of thumb, two weeks to three months should be adequate.

Suggested uses for fragrant oils
================================
Bathing:
Many oils can change your mood when used in a bath. Try out different ones, like thyme and heartsease.

Caveat 1: Some herbs are skin irritants, and you may be allergic to some without knowing this. If your skin gets irritated during or after a bath, immediately take a shower and wash yourself all over with hypoallergenic soap. Then dry yourself and use a hypoallergenic body lotion. This should take care of most skin irritations. If it doesn’t, seek a doctor. Carefully note which herbs cause skin irritations in you, and avoid them. If you know that your skin is sensitive, avoid herbs which are known to cause skin irritations or allergic reactions in many people. Some of the more common ones are mint, vanilla and of course all hot spices like pepper.

Caveat  2: Never use psychoactive herbs in a bath, this includes sleep inducing herbs.
You can drown yourself quite easily that way.

Anointing:
Fragrant oils are much milder than essential oils, and can often be used directly for anointing on your skin. If you are using fragrant oils for magickal purposes, you may want to take into account the correspondences of the carrier oil, too.

Vaporizing:
Vaporizing means that you heat the oil so that it gives off its fragrance. This is useful in its own right, but can also serve as a substitute for incense when you or members of your household object to incense for medical or other reasons. Vaporizers can be bought in occult stores, shops for herbal cosmetics, interior decoration boutiques or even in the department store. The most common ones are a terra-cotta ring that you suspend on a lightbulb, and more elaborate structures with a house for a tea-candle and a shallow pan suspended above it. The fragrant oil has to be quite strong for this purpose.

Massage:
Massage is a fine art and healing in many ways. You may want to experiment with using edible oils for this purpose. Caveat 1: The oil used for massage enters the skin even more forcefully than the one used in a bath. Make sure you aren’t allergic beforehand. Vigorously rub in a tad of oil on a sensitive place like the inside of the arm just above your wrist. If the skin is irritated after an hour, don’t use that oil on your skin again. Caveat 2: Massage is often a part of lovemaking. If you use a condom for birth control, don’t use massage oils. The reason for this is that the oil make microscopic holes in the rubber, and renders it useless.

Cooking:
Fragrant oils of spices like oregano or basil can be used in cooking. You can use it as a marinade, or to brush on meat before you grill it. How about making your own curry oil? Caveat: Use only oils specifically made for ingestion for this purpose.

Libations:
We often use wine or water for libations, but we know that for instance the Minoans on Crete offered their deities oils as well as wine and honey.

Further suggestions
===================
You can use this method with other mediums than oil; shampoo and liquid soap for instance. Find fragrance free products, and make your own herbal cosmetics. I like to use chamomile shampoo, so I blend 100 ml of fragrance free shampoo with 1 gram of chamomile flowers from a teabag. After one week the liquid starts to turn yellow and smell of chamomile, and is ready for use. I use a hair
conditioner (again fragrance free) to make sure I rinse out all chamomile particles from my hair. The same can be done with rosemary if you have dark hair, and other herbs if you have problems with your hair or scalp. Lavender produces a soothing soap, and pine needles an invigorating one. Again, make sure you aren’t allergic to herbs used on the skin or in the hair in this way.

 

Copyright Ceci Henningsson 1994. This article may be freely copied and distributed, provided this copyright notice is included.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, Herbal This & That, Horoscopes, Oils & Ointments | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Witchcraft and Empowering your Herbal Work

Witchcraft and Empowering your Herbal Work

Let the Magick come to life….’

You do not have to be practicing Witch to make use of the recipes and skills which are covered here, but it will help if you have an understanding of the principles of the Craft. For some this mean putting aside the misconceptions created by the media especially the popular press) and the adverse comments made by those who have no understanding and no desire to understand our heritage. Witchcraft is one of a number of belief systems whose roots pre-date Christianity and which come under the umbrella heading of Pagan. Indeed, Witchcraft has roots which go back to Pala eolithic times, as illustrated by the cave paintings of our ancient ancestors. Having said that, the Craft is a living religion and has as much relevance to us today as it had to its practitioners in the past. We still seek healing of our bodies and minds, strength to deal with our daily lives, understanding and compassion to help us relate to those around us and to develop our own selves.

So what do Witches believe in and how do they express these beliefs? First, you have to understand that, unlike the more orthodox religions, the Craft has no paid or formal priesthood we are each our own Priest or Priestess and therefore make our own decisions as to the expression of our beliefs. As a result there is no one true way to being a Witch. This gives rise to a great diversity in our daily practices and indeed enables the Craft to grow and adapt to the real world in a way that other paths find difficult because of their interpreted doctrine. Having said that, there are many beliefs and practices that most Witches have in common.

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5 Herbs That Are Best Purchased As Plants

5 Herbs That Are Best Purchased As Plants

What Herbs Should I Buy Instead Of Starting From Seed?

By , about.com

Why, you might wonder, would someone want to avoid starting herbs from seed? This is such a great way to start your herb garden for pennies. Starting an herb garden from plants, is also a good way to start. In my garden, all the herbs that are purchased instead of started as seeds, fall under these areas:

  • They are fussy to start from seed (I am a busy, impatient gardener)
  • They don’t have a snowball’s chance of growing to any useful size in my zone (which is why a good nursery is always so important)
  • They are perennial, and I am only going to grow a single plant
  • I need to replace an established perennial

1. Rosemary

Rosemary is one of those herbs that demands attention. Unless living in a Mediterranean zone, Rosemary needs to be able to come and go in the outdoor environment according to the temperature. This is not as difficult as it seems. In my garden, my rosemary gets planted pot-in-pot, so I can move it inside when we get our endless rains, and back to the garden until the fall temperatures start to loom.Rosemary plants just make sense. They can be matched for size and shape, and if you (like me) kill one, it is simple enough to pop out and replace with a fresh, new plant.

2. Lemongrass

Lemongrass, and herbs like it, should be purchased as plants. They are fussy and sensitive to temperature fluctuation, so for many of us growing lemongrass would be nearly impossible.

Buy these as small plants, and enjoy them throughout the season. They tolerate sun to partial shade and make wonderful focal points. We buy trays of lemongrass, and keep them in the greenhouse. That way, they can be harvested all season without worry that our crazy Nebraska weather will harm a leaf.

Lemongrass is great when used right from the freezer, so grow some if you can find the plants. Once fall hits, bring them in and freeze whole.

3. Lavender

Lavender is such a beloved herb, it is frustrating for many gardeners to struggle growing it from seed. Although not impossible, why bother when there are so many plants available?

Buying lavender as plants, also allows you to select the varieties that are proven to grow well in your location. I also recommend buying a LOT of plants. Lavender always looks better in groupings, and buying them at the same time will ensure your plants are the same size.

4. Beebalm

Bee balm and other ornamental herbs, are best purchased as plants. Why take a chance on growing the wrong variety, or something that won’t thrive in your location? Ornamental herbs are the quintessential reason for shopping at nurseries to begin with. Choose plants that your nursery owner recommends. They will guide you to the colors, and types of plants that will have the best chance of survival.

5. Medicinal Herbs

Medicinal herbs, which for this article refer to actual herbs that are grown for their healing property, should be grown from plant unless the gardener is familiar with herbal medicine. There are many wonderful places to buy medicinal herb plants. Start with a small garden of purchased plants, and as your skill grow (see how I did that?), you can then start identifying herbs that might be grown from seed or found in the wild.

I like to buy medicinal herbs that are possibly expensive for me to kill. This means I will take much better care of a purchased plant, than I would a few seeds in the soil.

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Transplant Shock and How to avoid It

Transplant Shock and How to avoid It

Transplant Herbs Successfully

By , About.com

Throughout the growing season, transplanting herbs is a great way to keep the garden looking fresh and full. Transplanting can also save you money, if you propagate new plants and then add them to your garden landscape for free.

There are some guidelines that need to be followed, in order to avoid transplant shock, allow your herbs to thrive in the garden. There is more to it than just pushing a seedling into the dirt.

What Can Go Wrong?

All plants, from herb to flower, hate to be shocked. They need time to become acclimated to their new surroundings, no matter if they are coming into or out of the garden. A shocked plant will wilt, become sun burnt and die, no matter how rich the soil or optimal the growing conditions.

How To Avoid Transplant Shock

To avoid transplant shock, give your herbs the time they need to become used to the move. About a week before you are moving them from indoors to the garden, place them outside, but in a sheltered location. Take them back inside during the nighttime.

By the end of the week, you can safely leave them outside all night long, but be sure to water them at least once a day – more than likely you will be watering even more often if they are in small cell pots.

Now Can I Plant Them?

Finally, your plants are truly ready to be planted outside. Try to choose a day that is neither too hot or cold, avoid a scorching hot day, and never plant in the rain. The best sort of day is one that is calm and warm, later in the day so the soil is warm but the sun is not directly overhead.

Water the hole before you place the herb into it. Also, be sure your potted herb is moist and not rootbound. Make a hole the size of the root and insert the plant. Fill the rest of the hole with soil and press around the base to be sure the herb has made contact completely with the ground. Water again and then mulch.

 

 

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Transplanting Potted Herbs To The Garden

Transplanting Potted Herbs To The Garden

How To Transplant Herbs From Nursery Pots To The Garden

By , About.com

Spring is the time to get out and visit garden shops and nurseries. Take along your garden wish list (you have one, don’t you?), and start selecting the best looking plants you can.

Once you do get your plants home, it will be time to transplant them into the garden. Here are some tips for transplanting potted herbs, in order to keep your plants looking fresh and growing well. Potted herbs come in many sizes, from tiny 3 inch pots to 1 gallon and even 2 gallon sizes. No matter what size you buy, look for plants that are not too dry in the pot. Their leaves should be lush and no shriveled or have dead areas on them. Looking at the bottom of the pot, there may be fine roots sticking out in numerous places, but avoid larger or extremely heavy number of thick roots coming out the sides and bottom of the pot. This is an indication that your plants have grown too large for that pot, yet have remained in the pot for too long (often called Pot or Root bound). Once you trim off the excess roots, it may be too much of a shock for the overgrown plant, resulting in its death or stunted growth.

When you are ready to actually transplant, soak your potted herb in water. This helps the plant to come out of the container more easily, helps keep the soil intact-protecting the roots, and ensures that when you do the final watering with the plant in the ground, it is thoroughly wet through the entire root ball as well as the surrounding soil.

Take a look at the root ball before placing in the ground. If the roots are packed together, gently loosen them and spread them apart (I call this teasing the roots), allowing them to grow in a outward, instead of circular pattern. For more aggressive teasing of the roots, it is often suggested that you cut into the root ball with a sharp knife in several spots. For herbs, this hasn’t been my experience, but it is a valid recommendation in the gardening industry.

Be certain to work on one herb plant at a time. Avoid removing a number of herbs from their pots at the same time, thinking it will speed up your transplanting. The herb roots and soil need to be protected from sunlight and air as much as possible. You may end up with stunted plants that were damaged from the 30 minutes their roots lay exposed as you worked on another plant.

Your hole should be twice the diameter as your potted plant, and deep enough that the herb will be planted in its new spot at the same level. Avoid planting too deeply, since this can cause fungal damage resulting in the plant’s demise. I like to moisten the hole before transplanting, to ensure that the top water will be absorbed more readily. Spread out the roots that you have loosened, and place the herb in the dampened hole. Refill the hole with soil and then firmly press the herb plant into place. Your plant will shift once watered, and it may end up lifting out of the ground, if it is not firmly in place.

Water the new transplanted herb well, trying to avoid soaking the leaves if possible. This will help reduce the chance of mildew and disease, as well as sun damage if transplanting during a hot, sunny day.

Place at least 2 inches of mulch around the base of the transplanted herb, leaving a little space right next to the stem. This helps protect the stem from mildew as well, and any critters that like to hide in the mulch to nibble your herbs, will not have an inviting location to move in. Moisten the mulch once it is in place, and you are done!

 

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