Educational Opportunity to Share

thIt’s the coldest day of the year, so I’ve literally spent hours online reading about gardening, building a new yahoo group entitled The Garden Spot and watching it grow exponentially in the last 24 hours. As I gazed through email from wonderful places like Johnny’s Seed, Winding River’s Herbs (someday, when we get back to UT to visit old workmates and browsing the countless Deseret Industry stores, I absolutely positively have to visit her) and many others, the following educational opportunity came across Johnny’s Seed site. I wanted to share it with you hoping you might benefit from it also.

Johnny's Selected Seeds

Interested in Starting a Hydroponics Business?

Interested in Starting a Hydroponics Business

Consider attending an upcoming 2-day short course on “Starting a Successful Hydroponics Business,” being offered twice next month.

The short course is designed for those considering the venture or who have recently started a hydroponic business. Attendees will enjoy hands-on learning at one of the premier facilities in the Southeast for teaching hydroponic growing in a working greenhouse setting: the UF/IFAS Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center near Live Oak, Florida. An optional tour provides an exclusive visit inside one of the most successful, modern greenhouse hydroponic operations in Florida.

Sponsor: University of Florida/Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences
Course Title: Starting a Successful Hydroponic Business
Dates: March 16-17 or March 20-21, 2015
Location: Suwannee Valley Agricultural Extension Center, Live Oak, FL
Johnny's Selected Seeds

Enroll by March 6th to receive the Early Bird tuition discount. For more information, call Dilcia Toro or Karen Hancock at (386) 362-1725.

Register Today »


How Much to Plant

ImagewI always ask that question as I gaze into my overflowing 5 gallon bucket of seeds. This year, it’s actually about 1-1/2 bucketful’s of seed. And, every time I go to the store and look at the revolving rack of seed packets, I think I actually start to drool. Thankfully my husband is with me most of the time otherwise we’d literally go broke in seed packets. Then too, I sell seeds on eBay, so there are those bulk packages of seeds that need to be shared, planted, sold or bartered. This year, our garden plot soil was tested at the county extension office and it came back within the perfect pH range, and with the exact composition of nutrients, organic matter and inert matter that is needed for a vegetable garden plot. Considering what it was 3 years ago when we first moved here, (hardpan soil, acidic, sandy, almost no organic matter to hold nutrients), whoever at the University of MO tested it, scrawled a handwritten note on the bottom of the printout asking what we’d done to make it this good, this quick. I took that as a huge compliment considering we’ve worked our fannies off getting organic matter in it.
Everyone has their own needs, likes and dislikes when it comes to vegetables. And too, they have their issues with space limitation, physical limitation or even HSA or zoning limitations when it comes to raising gardens. And, taking into consideration what will be eaten fresh and what, if anything, will be preserved for the winter months, is also a factor. This year, I am hoping to have enough excess to sell at the local Farmer’s Markets. We’ll see how well that turns out.
I read this on a blog and wanted to share it with you. It’s not exact science, just a recommendation and I so appreciate the originator of this article for posting it.
What all are you planting this year and how much do you usually plant. Are your indoor seeds (tomatoes, peppers, brassicas, sweet potato slips and such started yet? It’s coming along time! Finally…..

How Much Should I Plant To Feed My Family For A Year?

Here are a few recommendations mostly found in the book Reader’s Digest Back to Basics. Some of these amounts may be way off for your family, but like I said it’s at least a good general idea.

Asparagus: about 10-15 plants per person
Beans (Bush): about 15 plants per person
Beans (Pole): 2-4 poles of beans per person (each pole with the four strongest seedlings growing)
Beets: about 36 plants per person.
Broccoli: 3-5 plants per person
Cabbage: 2-3 plants per person
Cantaloupe: figure on about 4 fruits per plant (estimate how much your family would eat)
Carrots: about 100 seeds per person (1/4 oz would be plenty for a family of six)
Cauliflower: 2-3 plants per person
Collards: about 5 plants per person
Corn: start out with 1/2 lb. seeds for the family and adjust as needed
Cucumbers: 3-6 plants per family
Eggplant: 3-6 plants per family
Lettuce: 4-5 plants per person
Okra: 3-4 plants per person
Onions: 12-15 plants per person
Parsnips: 12-15 plants per person
Peas: about 120 plants per person
Peppers: 3-5 plants per person
Spinach: about 15 plants per person
Squash (including Zucchini): about 10 per family
Sweet Potatoes: about 75 plants per family
Tomatoes: about 20 plants per family
Turnips: about 1/4 lb seeds per family
Watermelon: about 1/2 oz. seeds per family

Garden Planting and Planning in Progress..Finally!!!

What kinds of seeds are you planting this year? Are they seeds you’ve saved from previous years or ones from a favorite vendor? This is what we have so far, at least of those that need to be started indoors.

I love rummaging through flea markets and 2nd hand stores. This year, I stumbled upon a huge stack of plastic 12 cell cupcake holders, approximately 6 or 7 dozen, for $6.00. We usually use the Jiffy start trays that I save from year to year, refill with jiffy discs, and start seed in them. Most of them were so badly cracked last year that I threw away all of them. I used the shallow aluminum disposable baking trays covered with plastic wrap last year and had great success. This year, when I saw the cupcake holders, I grabbed them in a feverish, football pass grab and hold, with lights flashing, I scurried to the checkout grinning like a Cheshire cat. The lady at the checkout asked what I was going to do with all them and as I told her, you could actually see the look of failure on her part to think of that and save them for herself. It’s an inexpensive substitute for the Jiffy trays, equating to just a few cents a piece. With the box of Jiffy discs, I guestimated that each box of the discs would cost about $3.30 to start, vs $7.00 if one were to buy the premade, pre-set-up version at the store. This is what we’ve started so far.  

Cayenne peppers

Habanero peppers

Serrano peppers

Sweet banana peppers

Sweet Chocolate bell peppers

Sweet orange bell peppers       (still need to start the green bell peppers)

Rutger’s tomatoes

Beefsteak tomatoes

Jet Star tomatoes

chocolate cherry tomatoes

Red cabbage

Late Flat Dutch cabbage

and…ta da….last, but not least   10 trays of asparagus seeds. I’d purchased 4 packets of Martha Washington asparagus seeds in 2012 from a friend. They’ve never been planted since we didn’t have a place decided upon to plant them.  And, as I was digging through the seed bucket, I found 2 giant sized packets of asparagus seeds from Jon, a great friend and garden mentor that I got from him at the Missouri Organic Association convention some 3 years ago. One packet held about a tablespoon full of seeds, so they are plentiful and each eaked out 2 trays each of asparagus plants in processing. From him, there was a packet of Jersey Knight asparagus and the other was just marked asparagus. I am assuming that these are the Martha Washington variety too. I know these seeds are a little older. I just hope and pray that they germinate and grow their little hearts out.

Now, you ask, what in the world am I going to do with 10 trays of asparagus plants? Well, plant them of course. We’ll be doing some mighty fine eating in a year or 2, and the patrons at the farmer’s market will be happy too. Then, there are more seeds to sell, trade or barter. We will be happy campers canning all that asparagus.

Today, the main project is to make the potato bins so that I can get the seed potatoes planted on St. Patty’s day. It was something that my grandfather did, always worked for him, has always worked for us. We’re choosing to plant the potatoes vertically this year, hoping to get a better yield than in years past and to save garden space. We’ve tried to grow them on top of the ground, covered with mulch and hay, tried the conventional deep hill method, neither of which work all that well here in the Midwest.

I am hoping that I can get outside in a little while and sow the lettuce seeds. There is a huge variety that I usually plant, and as silly as it seems. I mix all the leaf lettuces and broadcast them directly into their plot of ground. Mesclun, black seeded simpson, salad bowl variety. The iceberg lettuce is planted individually, on homemade planting tape. These are simple and easy to make using a strip of paper towel, paper napkin or tissue paper, dab a spot of glue made with flour and water onto predetermined spaces, and dropping a seed or two onto each “glue” spot. With these tapes, the paper and “glue” is biodegradable, and makes planting in even spaces much, much easier for those miniscule seeds. Just lay the tape into a shallow furrow, lightly brush over a bit of soil and gently, very gently pat it down with the palm of your hand. The rule of thumb in planting seeds is to plant seeds at a depth of soil only as much as the seed is wide. It’s an old farmer’s trick that was passed on from my Native American grandfather to my father, then to me…and now to my son.

There is a bucket load, literally, of more seeds to plant as soon as the weather warms up here. Most of those are ones that can be directly sown into the ground like:

Hubbard Squash

Butternut Squash

Blue pumpkin

Sugar sweet pumpkin (tiny but make terrific pumpkin pie)

a few, and a very few zucchini and yellow crookneck squash



Spacemaster cucumbers

bunching onions

Blue Lake green beans

sugar snap peas

We do a lot of companion planting to conserve space. I do a 3 sisters method with corn, beans and squash, plant onions (not this year though) in and amongst the peppers and tomatoes, and okra in and amongst the peas, onions or zucchini. Okra is so versatile, has no bad companions, so we plant in among the shorter plants and it produces more than enough for the 2 of us. I like the concept of companion planting and the 3 Sisters method. Each of the elements in planting with a 3 sisters method is supportive of the other. Beans and legumes will enrich the soil with potassium and nitrogen, essential for corn growth and development. The corn stalks will literally, support pole beans, while the low lying, leafy squash plants will shade the ground at the base of the corn and beans and help retain moisture to aid in their growth habits. It’s a win-win for all 3 vegetables. I also plant onions, sage and marigolds in and amongst the tomatoes and peppers. The byproducts of those plants help ward off detrimental insects. Again, it’s a space saver, but also has numerous benefits for the plants themselves.

So, what are ya’ll planting or have you started yet?

I so love springtime, especially after the harshness of this past winter.

Medicinal Herb of the Day: Dill



We commonly think of it as a culinary herb, but did you know that it has many medicinal uses too? I didn’t, at least until my Native American adopted dad started teaching me the why’s and wherefores of Native American lore. You see, I am part Cherokee from my father’s side. My great-grandmother was full blooded Cherokee and I found her name, plus many other family members on the Dawe’s rolls. That’s a story for another day. But, in keeping with my heritage, and with what dad #2 has taught me, the need to share this knowledge leads to this blog, the way we live, and what we share with others. Back to the subject.


Anethum graveolens is the Latin name for this plant. It grows in gardens to the height of about 16-24 inches with thin, delicate leaves, It is an aromatic plant, sometimes used in companion planting in your vegetable garden to ward off destructive pests and to lure in beneficial insects to keep your cucumbers healthy. As a companion plant, don’t plant it near tomatoes or carrots.  I keep an herb garden specific for my many herbs that I use in natural remedies, cooking and as a place to sit in the cool evenings and partake of the many scents that the garden provides.

As a medicinal plant, it’s know to have a calming effect. It can be used for the following:

To help alleviate flatulence, abdominal bloating, indigestion and colic

The oil is said to relieve stomach cramping, especially with diarrhea

Combined with another antispasmodic herb, caraway or crampbark, it helps to alleviate menstrual cramping

It can increase lactation in nursing mothers, but, understand too, that mother’s milk will have the anti-spasmodic effect in the infant and it will help if you have a colicky baby.

It can help prevent bad breath when chewed

It can help alleviate motion sickness

And, last but not least, it can help, when added to other herbs, to prevent coughing spells

It is an antibacterial, especially for use with staphylococcus aureus


Harvesting Dill Seeds

Wait until the seeds on the top of the stalks become brown and dry looking. Wait until the morning dew has dried before harvesting seeds. Place a paper bag over the tops of the heads, bend the stem downward and gently clip off the stalk with a sharp pair of pruning shears or scissors. After you’ve harvested all the dill seeds you want, take them inside the house, and on a piece of waxed paper, gently shake the stalks inside the paper bag. Pour them out on the waxed paper and allow to air dry. Do not put the seeds in the oven or microwave since heat will destroy the beneficial effects of the volatile oils contained in the seeds. You can also dry the seeds by tying the stalks together at the ends, with the paper bag over the seed heads and hanging them from a rafter or in your pantry to completely dry. The seeds will fall off the heads easily when dried. Store the seeds in an airtight container until ready for use or replanting. I do leave some of the seeds on my plants to naturally reseed the garden and increase production for the following year.

To Harvest the leaves.

Leaves should be harvested before the seeds develop, otherwise they become bitter. To harvest, gather in the early morning, rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. You can dry dill leaves by tying the branches in clusters, and hanging upside down, just as you would the branches with the seed heads. Allow to dry thoroughly, and store in an airtight container until ready for use. They can be used medicinally as well as culinary. Fresh dill is wonderful when a few sprigs are placed in jars of dill pickles as the oils will be released in the brine, making the pickles have a wonderfully deep, dill flavor. Dill is also good when placed fresh or dried on poached salmon.

To use medicinally. as a tea to help prevent gastrointestinal issues:

Steep 2 teaspoons of slightly crushed dill seed in a cup of boiling water for about 10-15 minutes. Strain, and sip slowly.

Tinctures may be used at the rate of 1-2 mls, 3 times per day to help relieve gastrointestinal disorders.


CAUTION: Dill may cause dermatitis with some people if used excessively. It may have a phototoxic effect if used and the consumer goes out into the sun. Use sunscreen with aloe if you experience any sort of dermatitis or sun burning after the use of dill tea, or stop using the tea altogether. Personally, I have not seen this happen with anyone I’ve known who use it, but the words of caution appear in my herbal books, so I feel compelled to share them with you.

Disclaimer: Any words of wisdom on herbal remedies is meant for entertainment purposes only. It is not a substitute for proper, licensed medical care and should not be construed as such. Alternative medicine is wonderful for some, but it is not for everyone. Even with the use of herbal remedies, it should be done with the understanding and approval by your licensed healthcare provider as some herbs may interact negatively with prescription medications. As always, if you use herbs for alternative medication, and the symptoms do not subside within a few days, it is best to seek the advice of your primary healthcare provider. …and that being from the words of a retired nurse…me.


Medicinal Herb of the Day: Comfrey


Also known as:
– bone knit
– common comfrey,
– knitback
– knit bond
– Quaker comfrey
-black root
-slippery root
-wallwort. *Note: This should not be confused with salsify/oyster plant (Tragopogon porrifolius) , a garden root vegetable, which is not related.

Range and Identification of Comfrey
Comfrey is native to Europe through Siberia. It has been introduced to North America and other temperate regions, and can be found throughout much of the U.S. and up into Canada (see map). It prefers moist soil, and is often found as a garden escapee. Russian comfrey (S.x uplandicum) is a hybrid between common comfrey and prickly or rough comfrey and prefers drier ground.
The comfrey plant is a perennial, blooming in the spring/summer and dying back in fall/winter. It has a dense, clumping habit and grows up to 3 feet in height. Flowering stalks have leaves attached in an alternating pattern up the stem.

Comfrey flowers are borne in clusters at the top of the stem. They are delicate and bell-shaped, with only a slight aroma. The blooms measure about 1/2 ” in length, and come in an assortment of colors including white, pink and blue. The plant looks somewhat similar to foxglove, but foxglove flowers are larger and more showy.

Comfrey leaves are lance shaped, and may reach up to 1 1/2 feet in length. Like borage, the leaves are hairy and rough. (Comfrey is in the borage family.) As you can see, the veining is quite pronounced. On the leaf stem, there are small green wings that flair out on either side of the stem.

Comfrey roots have a branching habit, forming dense clusters and making them difficult to remove. They are brittle and break easily, and a new plant will regrow from the leftover bits. (Don’t plant them in a spot unless you’re sure you want them there.) The roots are dark brown on the outside and white on the inside and measure less than 1/2 inch in diameter.

Medicinal Uses of Comfrey
Comfrey contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are naturally occurring plant toxins. As mentioned in the wildlife section, if consumed in large amounts, these can be toxic to the liver. There is a very detailed discussion of potential comfrey toxicity on the GardenWeb forums, in which the author states that based on available data, a human would need to consume nearly their weight in comfrey leaves to cause death. Clearly, this is not an issue under normal circumstances.

The leaves of comfrey have a much lower concentration of the toxins than the roots (almost none at certain times of the year) and are considered safer for internal use (comfrey root is no longer recommended by many herbalists for internal use). Backyard Medicine suggests that comfrey tea should not be used for more than six weeks at a time. It should also not be used if you are pregnant or nursing, or given to young children. *Note: Russian comfrey has higher pyrrolizidine alkaloid levels than common comfrey.

As its many folk names suggest, comfrey is one of the best herbs for healing broken bones, sprains, strains, bruises and tears. You can consume 1 2 cups of comfrey tea per day until the damage heals.

To make a fresh comfrey poultice to apply topically, dig up comfrey roots, clean and chop into short lengths. Blend with an equal amount of fresh comfrey leaf and just enough water to mix. Puree until relatively smooth. Apply to a piece of gauze and place over the affected body part and cover with breathable wrapping. Replace daily. (From Backyard Medicine.)

The leaves can also be dried and infused in olive oil, and this oil can be made into a salve. If you don’t have comfrey available, you can purchase a variety of comfrey products from a reputable herbal provider.

Comfrey may also be used to treat circulatory conditions such as varicose veins and spider veins. Backyard Medicine also suggest that it may be helpful for healing old wounds, such as surgical scars, and minor cuts. It is not recommended for topical treatment of deep cuts or puncture wounds, as it may cause the would to close at the top before it heal underneath, increasing the risk of abscess/infection.

One of the active compounds in comfrey is allantoin. This anti-inflammatory chemical stimulates cell proliferation and supports the immune system. The plant also contains tannins, mucilage, gum, resin and volatile oil. The roots were commonly used for bronchitis and other chest complaints, and for stomach issues such as ulcers, but now other herbs are generally recommended. The Holistic Herbal discusses more of these other uses.
As always, any medical information is for informational purposes only. Always exercise caution when using any wild plants and make sure you have positively identified the plant.

-helps treat digestive tract ulcers when taken as a tea
-very widely known for it’s wound healing abilities
-used in treatment of respiratory ailments
-helps treat gallbladder disease
-helps heal burns
-doesn’t actually heal broken bones, but relieves inflammation and
pain of broken bones
-helps in regeneration of skin cells with wounds
-roots of the plant contain more healing properties than the leaves,
but leaves do contain great healing values.
-salves are wonderful in treatment of acne, especially when combined
with tea tree oil or lavendar
-acts as an expectorant for coughs
-as a tea, can be used as an earwash to help clear inflammed ear
-used for treating arthritis and gout
-Antispasmodic for treating cystitis
-when used as an oil, helps lessen scarring

** Be extremely cautious with using comfrey to heal wounds. It has a tendency to heal from “outside in” and will close the surface area of a wound while the inner area is still open.
**Do not use the roots when creating internal remedies. Use internally ONLY with the supervision of a certified herbal medical practitioner or healthcare practitioner!! Comfrey can be toxic if taken internally.

per: ***

Reconstituting Balm,
Macerate around three ounce or 100 gm of cut and dehydrated comfrey root and add 3 T or 50 ml of superior variety olive oil to it. Leave the substance as it is for around two weeks. You also need the following items to prepare the reconstituting ointment with comfrey roots:
· Twenty drops of lavender essential oil
· One cupful (250 ml) of castor oil
· One and a quarter ounce (40 gm) of beeswax

After two weeks, filter the liquid extract from comfrey roots and olive oil in a separate pot. Next, thaw the beeswax in a saucepan and add the two types of vegetable oils. Keep stirring the mixture on the oven and when they are properly blended, add 20 drops of the lavender essential oil. Decant the blend in a small dark green colored jar and allow it to cool. Store the balm in a cool dry place for use when necessary.