Rosemary, The Awesome Blossom

The Awesome Blossom

The Awesome Blossom

Assuming this impending winter is remotely like the previous one, it will last forever and surely kill us all. And unless you are a complete recluse in a hermetically sealed chamber, you will catch a cold, and it will ruin you. Obviously, there are no guaranteed methods to avoid this dire fate, but there are a few relatively simple steps you can take to boost your immune system and lower the chance of catching bugs. One often overlooked tool in this battle to protect you and your germ­ridden family is the herb Rosemary. A favorite of mine, somewhat due to its versatility and mostly due to the fact that it requires very little attention, this aromatic herb has many uses beyond the kitchen.

Before I get into the serious bit, I just want to bring to everyone’s attention the fact some varieties of this herb have, to my juvenile mind, hilarious names. Some are vaguely pornographic (Miss Jessop’s Upright), others sound like the heroes of romance novels (Lockwood de Forest), some you’ll swear are code for drugs (Gold Dust, Benenden Blue, Wilma’s Gold, several others) and one, my favorite, sounds like your local accountant (Ken Taylor). Anyway, the plant itself is remarkably hardy, equally able to live in a garden or on your windowsill. It can also be trimmed into a topiary, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. It originated in the Mediterranean but can adapt to most temperatures though, like most plants, is a bit of a wuss when it freezes. Mildly interesting trivia: legend says the Virgin Mary put her blue jacket on a bush with white flowers and turned them blue. Thus, Rose of Mary. Seems like this sort of thing just happened all the time back then.

Historically, rosemary was made into a somewhat hilariously named concoction called “Hungary Water”, often mixed with brandy and supposedly was used to treat memory loss and, like every other old timey medicine, gout. Other ailments it has been said to assist with include aching joints, indigestion, and poor circulation issues, often times simply with a topical use of the oils. A modern spin on this is the tincture. Generally made with alcohol as well, although it can also be made with no ­alcohol too (for people who don’t like to party). Depending on the composition and intention, tinctures can be used topically or via ingestion, and are used for a wide variety of medical issues.

Recent studies have also indicated that Rosemary may actually have healing properties beyond these. Cellular research shows the possibility of preventing or even retarding the effects of Alzheimer’s , and that’s pretty damned amazing, I think. Oh, and cancer. That’s a big one too. Less deadly, but still important, Rosemary has also been shown to improve memory, enhance mood, relieve stress and taste delicious on steaks and potatoes. That last bit is a conclusion I’ve reached through my own personal and extensive testing.

-Tom North

Get Your Garden Warm and Cozy

Covering gardens for freeze

Even your garden needs a nice little blankie sometimes

Step 1!
Purchase pieces of pre-cut 1 foot rebar for each bed you desire to cover, we use 6-8 pieces per 10 foot bed, and we space them about 3-4′ apart. These run about .75 cents a piece at Home Depot. Also purchase a 100ft coil of black plastic irrigation tubing, (the thicker tubing without the holes), 6 inch metal staples, and row covering fabric, we buy 12 ft wide floating rail cover, also available at the Natural Gardener for 1.50$ per foot.

 Step 2!
Sink your pieces of rebar about 6 inches into the ground, leaving 4-6 inches exposed. Place the rebar across from each other, down the length of the bed (remember the 3-4′ apart!). Cut the tubing to form an arch, or half circle, and insert exposed rebar ends into tubing, securing your arch. Place your fabric over these arches, covering the length of your bed.
Step 3!
Push the staples through the fabric into the earth, securing your covering throughout the row.
Because of the nature of this fabric, you can leave the beds covered for up to a month, as it uses the beds radiant heat. it also deters insects and birds. Good Luck, Gardeners!
-Heather Coffey

Orega-hell-yea…

food for your soul

 

I’ve been waiting to write this post about oregano for a couple weeks now. Waiting patiently for inspiration, perhaps?

Let me start, set the scene, give you some context.

Oregano is growing strong these days.

oregano

Hearty little herb, loves the dry Texas summer heat.

Well, a few years back I was traveling in the Greek islands, I, like oregano, love the dry heat. It was here that I became more aware of the flavor of oregano. Sure, we eat it all the time in stuffing’s or Italian food. It’s that beautiful herby flavor on a big ol’ slice of pizza, but in this platform it’s up against a number of other hearty flavors. It doesn’t quite stand out.

In Greece they slammed the oregano on the famous Greek Salad like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Imagine this, sweet sun-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, chunky cucumber, kalamata olives, capers, that’s the salad base. Now slap a huge slab of fresh feta cheese on top. Drizzle with a vinaigrette, yummy olive oil. Then top with a heavy-handed sprinkling of oregano. Now that’s the way to get a taste for oregano. I fell in love with its woody, pungent flavor. Became enamored with the herby smell wafting through the market as I passed barrels overflowing with the stuff.

Dare I say “Yum-O!”

Now that’s great. Grow this herb in your garden, it’s easy, great fresh or dried. Use it with poultry, fish, and hearty veggies. Or adopt a Mediterranean Diet…life is good.

So why was I looking for inspiration when I have those fond memories you ask? Well, I think I was inadvertently waiting to get sick…

I woke-up on Labor Day morning swallowing swords and spent the next three days in bed with a sore throat and stuffy head. My herb-wise next door neighbor and my herb-wise roommate both asked me upon hearing of my illness, “Did you take oregano oil yet?” I hadn’t, shame on me. They advised that on the first signs of sickness, the first moment of a scratchy throat, down the oregano oil and all will be well.

A little late, I did take it (along with a load of other things) and am now back in the saddle. Not only is oregano tasty it is also a powerhouse of a medicinal herb.

  • anti-bacterial (prevents the growth of bacteria y’all!)
  • anti-fungal
  • anti-viral
  • anti-oxidant (preserve those cells!)
  • high in iron, vitamin K, fiber

So there you have it. It’s THE PERFECT time to try oregano on a late-summer Greek salad (tomatoes, cukes…) and a great time to stock your medicine cabinet in preparation for cold and flu season.  You can buy oregano oil at health food stores and a product called Oreganol is a good one.

 

How does a Master Gardener Garden?

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Austin taking a moment in the garden with his super cute pup.

 

I first met Austin Neal at a brunch he hosted this spring at his East Austin home. I instantly fell in love with him and his secret garden. Austin is a Master Gardener- he can tell you why there are brown patches in your trees and how to nurse an ill-faded satsuma tree back to life.

Austin gave us a tour of his garden

 I started work on this garden in late 2008. It has been slow and methodical and will continue to transform for many more years. I don’t look at gardens as a “git’er done” project but rather a call to us on what the space wants to be and how it can compliment the surroundings. This garden is influenced by the railroad that passes by for the commuter rail RED line. There are lots of raw steel and recycled items, like the old pickets from fences that were en route to the landfill that were intercepted to create the patchwork fence.

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A view of the fence and rail road track Austin took influences from.

I would describe my style as eclectic and respectful. I like to start things off and see what happens. Gardens are always going to have their way of flowing like the Boggy Creek that runs parallel to the house. It’s always changing and taking care of things on it’s own. I enjoy a space that feels peaceful and restful but can also come alive for groups of friends to enjoy.

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Along the way Heather got to ask Austin all about his Master Gardener experience..

I became a Master Gardener in 2012. I was called to being a part of this group because of their commitment to sharing their knowledge with the public and helping them to benefit from gardens. I love sharing with people and helping them understand nature, gardens, and how gardens are an integral part of the human experience.

I have been gardening for as long as I can remember. I spent the summers with my grandparents on a peach and apple orchard in the Carolinas. My grandfather and grandmother loved to garden. They had a lovely partnership of growing, cooking & canning. It was nourishing and abundant. I have loved nature from the times that my family spend camping and exploring the National Parks and local State Parks.

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Views from Austin’s porch

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Passion Vines along with other fun flowering plants adorn Austin’s garden.

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Austin, Heather and I enjoy a glass of Rose and a chuckle on our tour.

Do you have a garden you’d like us to tour?  We’ll bring the wine…

Thank you to Margaret Mirth for the photography and to Austin Neal for the fun times.

New Growth: Exploration in Gardener Education

new growth

 

 

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.