New Growth: Exploration in Gardener Education

new growth1 New Growth: Exploration in Gardener Education

 

 

Recently, I decided to make a career change. After years of working in the Service Industry, I came to the realization that my long-held fascination with horticulture was a more rewarding past time than most I could name. When the opportunity presented itself, I made that proverbial leap.

Despite my difficulty with the infamous Texas heat, and that bright, burning, gaseous star we call our Sun, I found myself recently laughing with Liz, deep in the boughs of a fig orchard, at the whims of both heat and light, happier than I had been in a while. In that moment, that leap seemed more like a skip.

Much like that famous feline, my curiosity often runs rampant. So many questions I can’t immediately answer without a smartphone.  How do you take a fascination, a hobby, and become not only an asset to your new pursuit of conservation, but more importantly, uncover the answers, and even solutions, to all of those burning questions? Clearly, I had to start reading, and maybe even take classes.

Education, and my path to it, is what I am going to discuss in these blog journals. I mean to take you on a journey in my quest to become a mystery-solving, Latin name-knowing, Horticulturist, with a gorgeous green house, and some really wacky hats.

Master Gardener

As my photography professor, the late Lynn Jones, always told me, if you want to do something, talk to the best. So I began considering my options, and kept coming back to the famous Master Gardener Course. It is a program affiliated with The American Horticultural Society, and in Texas, is connected with Texas A&M.

Excited, I went to the website for the chapter for Travis County, and happily, the classes are held in Austin. I then learned I was too late. Not only is it taught but once a year, registration, and acceptance deadlines were in May 2014. The classes begin in September. Also, each year there is no guarantee that classes will be held. But, in the spirit of leaping, I signed in to receive updates, and throw my hat in the ring. I can, and will wait. To quote the website, ” The program offers a minimum of 50 hours of instruction that covers topics including lawn care, ornamental trees and shrubs, insect, disease, and weed management; soils and plant nutrition, vegetable gardening; home fruit production; garden flowers; and water conservation. (The training is offered at various times during the year at various locations across the state.) ”

Treefolks

So, undaunted, I turned to my next option, Treefolks. my obsession with trees is legendary, having spent much of my life up in one dreaming, this seemed a no-brainier.  Treefolks is a local organization that donates and helps plant trees in and around Austin, 10,000 to date. They have tree stewardship classes, and volunteer opportunities that appealed to me immediately.

Agrilife

Also, recently, Liz forwarded me an email from the folks at Agrilife detailing a lecture/workshop in September on fruit-bearing trees of Central Texas. Taught by Agrilife Extension statewide fruit specialist, Monte Nesbitt. It will cover not only your standards, but also olives and citrus. More on my obsession with olives later.  The website’s link states, “From site selection, soils, fertilization, and pruning to sustainable production practices and dealing with particular insects and diseases—we’ll cover the production basics, as well as unique specifics. This workshop is only offered semi-annually and is not to be missed!”

So, as you can see, this, and next month are already ripe with possibilities. That, and my favorite season, Fall. Updates soon, new pencil boxes, and Latin dictionaries at the ready.

Plant Vegetables in Your Garden in 9 Easy Steps

If you’ve checked out our gardening how to blog, then now you know where you want to put your vegetable garden, how to amend your garden bed soil and when you’ll put your plants in the ground. Next up: how to plant vegetables in that lovely spring garden bed you’ve worked so hard to prepare.

dean Plant Vegetables in Your Garden in 9 Easy Steps

Here are the steps we at Seedlings Gardening use:

  1. Clear off any mulch that’s on the bed (if you’re starting a new bed then you’d skip this step). We usually scoop it off onto a tarp so it doesn’t get mixed into weeds/gravel/soil that’s outside of the bed.

  1. Dig a hole for your plant that looks about the same size as the pot it’s currently in. It should be the exact depth of your plant. I usually dig first and then put the potted plant in the hole to test out it’s size.

  1. Gently shake or pop the plant out of it’s container – sometimes you have to push it from the bottom, sometimes you have to tip it upside down, sometimes you just have to cut the container. I always try to keep my hand on the top soil around the stem of the plant so as to handle the stem, roots and leaves as little as possible. Don’t break up the root ball – try to keep it intact.

  1. Place the plant in the hole you dug. The top of the soil in the pot should be even with soil at the top of the hole, i.e. you shouldn’t have to build up a mound of soil around your plant to cover it, nor should you have to push garden soil over the top of plant and up to the stem to make it even. (Tomatoes are an exception and we’ll talk about that in tomorrow’s post.)

  1. Wrap foil around the main stem of the plant (starting where the stem meets the soil to about 1 or 2 inches up the stem). We keep this on for about a month while plants are still young and fragile – the foil protects from cutworms.

  1. Sprinkle organic granular fertilizer over the bed. A good four finger pinch around each plant will do. This is the “slow release” food for your soil life and plants.

  1. Evenly spread your mulch over the bed and around your plants.

  1. Water immediately after you finish planting – give everything a gentle and steady shower. We go over everything once slowly (at this point the water soaks the top layer of the ground), and then we go back over everything again (and now the water soaks down into the soil and through the roots).

  1. (This step isn’t necessary but do it for best results and if you can!) Water with a seaweed fertilizer -usually 3 oz. to a gallon of water mixed in a watering can- after you water the garden. This helps reduce the impact of transplanting shock.

Cages and Trellises

This is also the time when you want to place small tomato cages around tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and tomatillos and trellises near melons, cucumbers, climbing squashes and climbing beans.

Here’s what we only transplant (i.e. what we grow ahead of time or buy in the 4” pots and plant as specified above):

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Eggplants

  • Tomatillos

Here’s what we always start from seeds we plant directly in the garden (following the instructions on each seed packet):

  • Beets

  • Radishes

  • Beans

We use both methods (transplanting and direct seeding) for all the plants listed below:

  • Lettuce

  • Melons

  • Squash

  • Cucumbers

  • Basil

  • Chard

Are you about to start planting? Did you already plant? How’d it go?

 

Ayurveda Explained-ish

food for your soul Ayurveda Explained ish

In writing articles for the blog about the health benefits of those foods we’re growing I noticed I reference Ayurveda…a lot. I wonder if I’m just rambling-on while few even know what I’m talking about.

To remedy this potential situation I’m gonna school y’all real quick on Ayurveda.

Bring ya up to date on this ancient health system hailing from India. Oh, and when I say “real quick” I should say studying Ayurveda is one of those things that takes a lifetime…maybe two, so give yourself time.

I found Ayurveda when I began studying yoga. This led to two years living and working at a yoga retreat center in California, which was also home to a College of Ayurveda. Knowledge of Ayurveda seeped in like osmosis, it’s the nature of being secluded and surrounded by something.

I find Ayurveda fascinating and over the years have experienced many benefits like reduced anxiety and improved digestion from this lifestyle.

And that’s exactly it Ayurveda is, a lifestyle.

The bottom-line is; Ayurveda’s all about collaboration. It’s between you and your body, what we consume and how we consume it.

Same team here people, same team.

Ayurveda is the study of this, with the ever-present goal of cultivating balance between our body, mind, and spirit.

Ayurveda is not…

  • just cooking a certain way. Yes it is plant based/nature based, however it also encompasses your mental state and certain yoga postures to help certain conditions. For instance, if you’re experiencing sluggish digestion then poses with spinal twists or torso compressions may be helpful. In addition, body-work, vastu (which is the Indian version of Feng Shui), astrology, gems, colors, aromas, all of these things are incorporated in Ayurveda. All can facilitate balance or perpetuate imbalance.
  • like Western Medicine. There’s no magic pill to take symptoms away. It doesn’t treat acute ailments. I’ve heard this concept described as Ayurveda won’t make you well.

Ayurveda is built on the concept of doshas, an Ayurvedic term for constitution or body-type. Each dosha is a mixture of natural elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. We’re all born with a certain dosha and then it can morph as life kicks in and we eat certain things, do certain things, live in certain climates, seasons change, etc.

The three doshas are: VATA, PITTA, KAPHA, with a mix of two predominant doshas being most common. Oh, there is so much to this really! But basics…

Vata is ruled by the elements of air and ether

Pitta is fire and water

Kapha is water and earth

So it’s common to hear someone described as Vata-Pitta or Pitta-Kapha.

Many Ayurvedc texts describe each dosha according to typical physical and personality characteristics, and this is a simple way to get a grasp on your general body-type, however it just doesn’t do it total justice. To truly know your dosha your pulse and other subtle clues are taken into account, which can be measured by a knowledgeable practitioner.

The pulse is important because Vata, Pitta, and Kapha move through the body and reveal themselves in the pulse. It is possible one practitioner will tell you they read one thing and another will tell you something different. This can be true for many forms of alternative medicine considering a number of variables can manifest as a certain symptom of ailment. This is why I believe it’s important to get familiar with your own system so you can throw-in some of your own body intuition/wisdom.

My personal interest in learning about my dosha began because a practitioner described me as Vata-Kapha, which can have opposite qualities, therefore working against each other. Something I learned from reading a book by a wonderful Ayurvedic doctor named Dr. Vasant Lad (reading list included below) is that a Vata-Kapha can have the physical appearance of a typical Pitta type person. So without the guidance of a practitioner it would appear I’m Pitta, however, I know my personality characteristics aren’t typical of Pitta. So it’s helpful to get guidance and clarity.

When you start to get acquainted with your dosha…

and experience the effects foods and lifestyle have on your system your ability to cultivate personal health and balance skyrockets. However, I’ve heard the feedback we can care too much about being in optimal health and trying to “feel good.” I can agree, sometimes part of finding balance is embracing those moments of feeling less than stellar.

So why don’t we hear about this in our weekly yoga classes?

My first thought is in The U.S. we typically want to focus on the physicality of yoga when we’re in a class for 75 minutes. We go to a yoga class to feel good or sometimes get a workout and to please the entire room.

However, as Ayurveda becomes more prevalent in the west you can find teachers that bring these teachings into class, which I think is awesome and empowering.

Also, if you spend some time studying yoga outside of a class you’ll begin hearing about it as Ayurveda is discussed in ancient yoga texts. In India, where Ayurveda comes from, it’s often engrained in their everyday lives. Passed down from generation to generation.

I’ve had an Indian doctor tell me Ayurveda’s not considered special, it’s just the way it’s done.

So there you have it. Helpful? Not sure. Will this help you next time I reference Ayurveda (probably next post)? Who knows.

Have a question? Ask!

Some books and websites I recommend:

Any book by Dr. Vasant Lad. A good start is The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies.

Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution. Dr. Robert Svoboda.

The Yoga of Herbs. Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasanat Lad

Dr. John Douillard and his website www.lifespa.com. He’s got a database of awesome, well researched, videos about different health topics from an Ayurvedic perspective. One of my faves.

 

What We’re Planting This Month

This winter has been crazy! Right now it’s kinda spring, but it was 23 degrees this morning.

So what are we planting and when?

Right now we’re still planting cold season veggies in gardens with room for both.  You can harvest things like broccoli and lettuces until May in certain years and that’s what we’re hoping for.

Now we can’t predict the weather… even though I have 4 weather apps on my phone, but I’m hoping to be able to plant all our spring/summer veggies the third week in March.  So that’s things like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil and so on.  I’ll print the full list of things we’ve got going in around town that Monday.

Be warned though… These plants are cold sensitive and can be affected by prolonged periods under 45 degrees.  Please protect your plants and don’t plant if a freeze is predicted.

Early March Planting

Vegetable Beds:

Seeds
  • Daikon
  • Radish
  • Beets
  • Favas
  • Carrots
Transplants
  • Artichoke
  • Cardoon
  • Cabbage 
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower 
  • Asian Greens
  • Kale 
  • Onions 
  • Lettuce
  • Frisee
  • Radicchio

Herbs:

  • Cilantro
  • Fennel
  • Mint 
  • Parsley 
  • Leaf Celery
  • Mitsuba (An herb related to parsley & chervil)
  • Chervil 
  • Oregano 
  • Thyme
  • Marjoram 

Edible Flowers:

  • Viola
  • Pansy
  • Dianthus
  • Nasturtium (A flowering edible green – used in salad mixes)
  • Chrysanthemum (A flowering edible green – used young in salads and older in stir-fries)

 

Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

food for your soul Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

Cilantro’s growing in the garden these days and that’s a good thing! A natural heat-expeller (I’m making that term up, but that’s what it does), anti-inflammatory to ease allergies and arthritis, digestive, anti-bacterial and anti-viral, the list goes on.

The leaf to the coriander seed, this green is used widely in Indian, Asian and Mexican cooking. It has cooling properties which balances the heat found in many dishes that use chilies and peppers, like salsas and curries.

cilantro Release Your Fire + Ease Your Allergies With Cilantro

According to Ayurveda, spicy dishes can add to a person’s internal fire

Ayurveda calls our internal fire Pitta, affecting the way we feel, as well as the way we interact with and see the world. Mix this up with the abundance of Pitta-increasing foods/activities engrained in our lives (i.e. coffee, alcohol, over-work, stress, etc) and we can become unbalanced.

A post diving deeper into what Ayurveda is and why I reference it in relation to the healing benefits of food is coming soon, yet I’d like to say a little more now.

A common question is, “Does Pitta have to do with the physical body and temperament?” And “What will I feel like when I get rid of it?” Ayurveda in general weds the body and mind. One can experience physical symptoms or qualities of Pitta and, most likely, will experience mental qualities as well.

Now, to “get rid of it.” You don’t want to, we need fire. A friend, and small business owner, gave me an example from her life as she worked with a Doctor of Chinese Medicine to help her with a sleep disorder. Let me just say also, if she had an abundance of fire in her system it makes sense she’s a hard-working, successful small business owner. Fire is needed to manifest and accomplish such goals.

Pitta (even in overabundance) can be helpful!

The charm comes in knowing when and how to find balance so we don’t work to exhaustion or start yelling impossible demands at our employees.

My pal was experiencing troubled sleep, acne, and painful menstruation. Her doctor of Chinese Medicine gave her an herb regimen and for the first week of therapy she experienced the physical sensation of heat in her body. After that first week her skin began to clear and she felt relief from painful menstrual cramping and restless nights. According to Chinese Medicine she was expelling excess heat.

This is a perfect example of what Pitta-reducing or cooling herbs can do.

In terms of “how will I know if I’m balanced?” Heck if I know, really!

I can’t tell you what you will feel when you’re balanced. Health and body awareness are personal journeys. Always in flow, balance is never static. You’ll know when you feel balanced and when you need balance, even if others disagree. Ya dig? So go forth, and good luck!

This brings us back to cilantro, which is a great herb to help reduce and balance heat.

It can act as a mild diuretic, aiding the body to release excess heat. As we enter into Spring it’s a perfect time of year to start using cilantro in cooking to expel stored heat we may have accumulated from heating foods during the winter (i.e. meats, fats, sweets, heartier vegetables, butter, and dairy products).

Cilantro helps alleviate allergies.

Due to anti-inflammatory properties cilantro helps sinuses and blood vessels stay open and flowing. Cilantro also aids digestion, which helps strengthen our immune system. Keeping internal inflammation at bay and digestion healthy is essential to alleviating allergies.

All you need is a teaspoon of cilantro juice a day to start benefiting. Use it in cooking, chopped and tossed over rice, in salsas, throw a handful of fresh leaves in a smoothie even! Keep a bundle in a cup of water on the counter and nibble a sprig when you walk by. Make it up, do what you want!

Do you have a cilantro recipe to share?  Leave it in the comments!  We’re always looking for new ones.