Beautiful Monarda Attracts Beneficials

Brillant beautiful Monarda lands in many places in my gardens as a favorite perennial.  This easy to care for perennial has a lot going for it!  Besides its easy care, it attracts nectar seeking hummingbirds, butterflies, honey bees and the humble bumble bee.

Monarda is commonly known as bee balm, but is also known as wild bergamot, bergamot mint, horsemint, wild oregano and Oswego tea.  It comes in an array of pink, red, white and purple colors and some even have double-flowers.

Monarda is not to persnickety in our garden, but in hot climates light shade keeps the leaves from burning out and it does best if it isn’t allowed to dry out the first year while establishing its root system.  Most Monarda varieties seem to adapt to most soil conditions, but bloom better in well-drained rich soil.  Prepare planting site by loosening soil to the depth of 12-15 inches with a digging fork, then add a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost.  Each spring add a new layer of compost to retain moisture.  Remove spent flowers to keep plants looking tidy.  After frost arrives in fall or winter, plants will die back to the ground and it’s time to cut back to one or two inches above soil line.  Plants can be divided in early spring to keep them looking healthy and the bonus…More plants!

My favorite herb garden has a nice clump of Monarda of various sizes and colors.  I suggest a chair nearby to take a few minutes and enjoy the bumblebees and other flying friends that come and visit!  Now if that doesn’t relax you, I don’t know what would!

Monarda isn’t just for looks though, it’s a fabulous remedy for a sore throat.  Harvest a handful of leaves and flowers and let them wilt. Once they have wilted (12 hours will work), infuse/submerge them into some local raw honey and let them sit for at least 4 weeks.  Strain out the plant material after the four weeks and transfer honey into a dry bottle and label. Take 1-2 teaspoons as needed for sore throats and coughs.

 

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Check Your Stored Garlic Now!

Garlic that was harvested in the summer and stored for winter use should be looked over now!  Garlic bulbs start to sprout as spring approaches. 
Discard any soft bulbs and set out any with green tips.   We roast any garlic that shows the smallest signs of green shoots.  Once the bulbs begin green shoots, the rest will quickly follow.  Roasting is a great way to store longer.  

Remove any green shoots off the cloves, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.  Roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until soft.  

Put them back into storage!  Once garlic is cool, slip the cloves out of their skin and place into a clean sealable jar and cover with olive oil.  Cover tightly.  Adding a sprig of thyme or rosemary adds more flavor.  Use the sweet-tasting cloves to flavor soups, stews or use in artisan breads (my favorite)

Sprouting Garlic

Sprouting Garlic

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Growing Brussels Sprouts at Home

As with all vegetables, Brussels sprouts taste better grown at home.  These miniature cabbage looking sprouts are a delight for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners as well as a tasty side dish during winter months.

Pick a spot with plenty of sun, minimum of 8 hours each day.

Brussels sprouts require fertilizer, hummus-rich soil, so dig in plenty of well rotted compost in prior to sowing in the spring.   If your soil is acidic, sprinkle in agriculture lime, or if your soil is alkaline, add a small amount of sulfur.  Brussels sprouts prefer a pH of 6.5 – 7.5.

You can start sowing seed in mid-March to mid-April .  Sow thinly to a depth of 1/2″.  Once your little sprouts have reached 2-3″ tall, thin them to 2 to 2 1/2′  apart to allow them plenty of growing space.  As they grow you can draw the soil in around the base to give them support in the wind.  Compost can also be used to place around the plants rather than drawing soil up.  By using compost, it helps add nutrients as well as suppress weeds through the growing season.  Extra tall plants may need additional staking.   Keep the soil evenly moist, but never soggy.

Once Brussels sprouts have reached 6″ tall add some general fertilizer around the base of each plant.  Fertilizing every six weeks through the growing season.

Brussels sprouts general take 36 weeks from sowing.  So by patient!   Pick the buttons from the bottom of the stalk upward when they are about 1″, or the size of a cherry tomato.  They are sweeter after a frost.  The top leaves of the plant can also be cooked.

If you have problems with clubroot, lime your soil if it’s acidic.  Place collars around the base of each plant, or cover with insect netting to protect from cabbage root fly.  Cabbage white caterpillars will feed happily on leaves of Brussels sprouts, so protect early with lightweight row cover or spray with Bt once butterflies are present.

DSC_0032.jpgGreat taste in the kitchen:

Brussels Sprouts with Cheese & Walnuts

Stem Brussels sprouts till just tender then place them in a grill pan.  Sprinkle cheese over the top and grill till cheese has melted.  Add chopped walnuts, and black pepper to taste.

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Herbs for Chickens

If you were to walk around our chicken and goat pins, you would find all kinds of herbs growing.  They not only help with a bit of fly control in the summer months, but we collect and dry them for not only teas and tisanes for us, but the animals as well.

Nettle, top of my list for a couple of reasons.  Our chicks love dried nettle!  It is a wonderful source for nutrients, containing essential minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium.  Be sure to grow this in the “outback” safe away from brushing up against.  Ours is right up against the coop, behind a little picket fence.  It never gets very big or out of control because I am always harvesting it.

Red Clover is an excellent laying stimulant.  While it’s great dried tossed in with the chicks daily ration of food, they love it fresh.  I pick a couple of handfuls every night and toss around their bedding in the evening.  It is also a good respiratory system helper and a nutrition powerhouse. Even the two week old babies are really enjoying this treat.

Peppermint smells great and helps repel pests and insects.  Just like for us humans, it helps our chicks have a healthy digestive tract.  However, we grow this in pots near the coop rather than let it get out of hand.  This stuff is easy to grow, but sometimes not hard to control once it is established.

Calendula flowers are an anti-fungal and an anti-bacterial.  So why wouldn’t you give your feathered friends a taste of these?  Calendula can deepen the color of yolks.  My girls like this best dried.

Comfrey leaf, one of the best healing herbs I know.  It’s protein rich, and also helps with digestive issues.

Lavender Flower are aromatic and help reduce stress, improve blood circulation and it is an effective insecticide, including lice!  And what’s prettier than a bunch of lavender plants growing around the yard and coop area?

Chamomile is gentle and calming.  It’s another herb that is excellent for digestive systems, but it’s also good for growth.  This is great for chicks!

Raspberry leaf can stimulate reproductive systems while providing a good source of nutrition.  We have a raspberry patch not far away from the coop, and they love a fresh handful tossed in their mix.

Fennel is a super pest repellent.  It’s helpful to the digestive and reproductive systems.  It can increase appetite and egg laying.  I plant fennel in my garden and let it go to seed.  The bees love the blooms an then once totally dry I  chop the seed heads off and toss the whole thing in the coop.  They love picking off the seeds.  I also save some for later in the year.

Rosemary is so easy to grow, it smells terrific and helps with respiratory health as well as being an                                                                        effective insecticide.  This can be picked year round because it’s an evergreen here.

Lemonbalm!  This could get out of control if I didn’t feed it to the chickens and goats!  Lemonbalm can help repel rodents, it’s an inti-inflammatory, and an anti-microbial herb.  My chickens like it best dried, but they will eat it fresh when it’s flowering.

Thyme is an antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-parasitic.  It’s another herb that helps with the digestive and respiratory systems.

All of these herbs are wonderful dried and mixed together to feed chickens every few days.  I toss a handful in their feed and even a couple of tablespoons in each nesting box. If you don’t have the time or space to grow these herbs but still want to give them a try you can still buy organic herb mixes for laying chickens.

 

 

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