Last week my Garden Journeys segment was about building an herb garden for my friend, Sarah. She and I talked for an hour about what kind of herbs she likes and which ones she wants to try. Sarah and her husband are renting their house so tomorrow we are going to plant the herbs in pots so the garden is portable. Most common culinary herbs are Mediterranean plants that like to dry out between waterings so they do well in pots, since pots tend to dry out faster than in-ground gardens. Sarah's herb garden includes Bay Laurel- so she can grab a leaf or two for recipes that call for bay leaves. She will also be enjoying mint and lemon balm iced tea, oregano for Italian dishes and more. While I was shopping for Sarah I also grabbed some shallots and calendulas for myself. I use calendula flowers in salads, as a substitute for saffron and the dried flowers can be soaked in witch hazel to make a healting toner for skin sratches and cuts.
The TWCNews Austin and San Antonio Garden Journeys episodes that I host are only 2 minutes long, so it can be a chalkenge to get in all of the pertinent info. Aaron, the compost tea brewmaster at Natural Gardener, who appeared on a recent interview, gave me his notes to include in my blog to make sure we get all of his knowledge out there! He says-
"It is very important to have consistentcy when brewing commercially. 4 most important variables when brewing commercially:
1. Use rainwater- slightly acidic 5.6-5.8 ph, no chemicals like flouride or chlorine/chloramine, city water can slow bacterial reproduction and in some cases kill off good organisms.
2. Use good quality compost and amendments- different composts have different bacteria and fungi. Inlike the Lady Bug Brand Revitalizer and Fox Farms Soil Conditioner. Along with good compost you need good amendments to help the bacteria and fungi.
3. It is very important to have lots of oxygen and circulation. This will give the organisms plenty of oxygen and food to grow and populate. We use 2 air stones, a circulation pump and an areator for the compost bag.
4. It is very important to check for life and potency before you sell. We use a microscope."
Even though Aaron is brewing commercially these are also all good tips for home gardeners who are dablling in making compost tea at home. I believe compost tea is the answer to many gardening problems so I hope you will buy some from a locally owned nursery or try your hand in making it yourself.
I am going to be on KXAN Studio 512 again- not sure when it is airing. I'm showing off some "Thrill Fill Spill" hanging baskets - one for part sun and one for shade. The part sun basket has Ponytail Palm for the thrill, vinca and petunias for the fill and silverponyfoot with purple heart for the spill. The shade basket has a corn plant aka dracena for the thrill, coleus for the fill and creeping jenny for the spill. I was inspired by Articulture designs to use dyed reindeer moss around the tops of the baskets in contrasting colors. Should be fun!
This week's Garden Journeys segment is going to be about Compost tea again... I really believe that compost tea is the answer to many garden problems. I think it can also be a great gateway for people who are trying to wean themselves off of the blue water chemical fertilizers so they can go organic! This time I got an insider's look at the Natural Gardeners BrewHouse! I also got to see how much life is swimming around in the tea by looking at a drop under a microscope. It was amazing to see how much stuff is in just one drop!!! Look for the segment this Saturday on Time Warner Cable News.
it was really exciting for me to interview John Dromgoole, someone I look up to alot on my career. The segment turned out great and now I have something to say when folks ask me about staghorn ferns!
Today we filmed the Garden Journeys segment at Natural Gardener in their tropical house. A bunch of people have asked me about Staghorn Ferns and I don't know anything about them. So I decided to interview John Dromgoole, owner of Natural Gardener who is very passionate about these plants. I used to work at Natty G back in 2003, so visiting with John was really a hoot for me. Their tropical house is very cool and the butterfly garden is also totally crazy with flowers now.
I learned that staghorn ferns prefer bright, indirect light and need protection from cold. The best way to grow them is to tie them onto a piece of wood and surround the root ball with spaghnum moss. Then you can water the moss and mist the leaves with diluted fertilizer. Hanging them in a tree will show the best results. But they need to come indoors in the winter because the cold will kill them as they are native to tropical regions. They are true ferns and reproduce with spores. As the plants get larger you can divide them but John doesn't recommend that because the huge specimine ferns look so amazing! He also told me to check out the huge staghorn fern at Zilker Botanical Garden at the entrance to the garden center. Next time I'm there I will for sure.
I have very happy memories of working at Natural Gardener. It's where I got my start in horticulture in Austin and it's where I started my transition from conventional gardening to organic gardening. I owe a debt to John and the staff there for helping me along the way in my business too. It's a special place that I am always happy to visit! Visit http://www.naturalgardeneraustin.com.
I got to meet Monique and the crew at Articulture today for the next TWC segment. Check out their web site at http://www.articulturedesigns.com. You should also go to their boutique. I bought an awesome candle and oogled all of the wall hanging plant arrangements, living furniture and house-made ceramic planters at 6405 Manchaca Rd, Austin, TX 78745. I gotta say, As a business owner myself, I was impressed when Monique mentioned offhand that she made sure that Articulture is federally trademarked. Way to be detail-oriented in every way!!!
This week's Garden Journey was to my backyard to make a batch of compost tea. I am a big fan of compost tea and I am constantly experimenting with new ingredients and different ratios. The idea is to get an explosion of the population of beneficial soil microbes in the compost tea mixture. Each liquid ingredient in the tea provides essential nutrients to soil microbes. The dry ingredients inoculate the tea with different types of microbes. The wormcastings are full of bacteria, the leaf mold is full of fungi and the finished compost will have a variety of other types of microorganisms. Different plants need different types of soil microbes to thrive, so having biodiversity in your tea is key. This backyard science experiement has worked for me in helping beef up weak plants, reverse disease issues and open up dense, compacted soil. The only thing that I have a problem with is using liquid humus, which is dervived from lignite, a type of low-grade coal. I am trying to illimate non-renewable resources from my gardening life, and using liquid humus goes against that principle. The liquid humus feeds fungal microbes so I will have to find something else to replace that. The molasses feeds the bacterial microbes and the fish and seedweed feeds everybody. Here's my current recipe:
4 gallons of water
aquarium bubbler for a small fish tank- I use a brick to weigh down the pumice stone
1 cup each of Fish Emulsion, Horticultural Molasses, Liquid Seaweed, and Liquid Humus.
1 pound worm castings (worm poop- I currently buy this at the nursery but I am planning to get pet worms soon)
1 pound finished compost- I use home made when I have it but I will use any bagged type too
1 pound or a couple big handfulls of leaf mold (leaf mold is just what it sounds like- get some moldy leaves off the ground from a wooded area- you can also use aged mulch, some bagged mulches are aged already)
cloth bags for dry ingredients- old socks, pieces of cloth tied with a rubber band etc will work.
Put the aquarium bubbler in your bucket of water. Add all of the liquid ingredients. Put the dry ingredients inside a cloth bag. Add the tea bag(s) to your liquid. Let it sit with the bubbler running for 24 hours. After 24 hours mix it with equal parts water. Rainwater is best but you can also use filtered water or tap water. It is better to do this imperfectly than to not do it at all. Try to use the finished tea within 8 hours. If you can't use it right away you can leave it in your bucket with the bubbler running and add more of the liquid ingredients every day until you are ready to use it.
To apply- I just use buckets and watering cans to dump it on the ground. If you are more frugal and patient than I am you can use a pump up sprayer and spray every inch of your yard using just a few gallons. Really one gallon of concentrate mixed with one gallon of water will cover a normal city sized yard with a light mist. I find it more satisfying to dump it on the ground and I just make more all the time. Watering the ground beforehand will help it soak in, but again, it's better to do this imprefectly than not at all so don't get too caught up innthe details. I toss the used tea bags into my compost pile and it really speeds up the compost pile breakdown!
Check out the latest Garden Journeys here- create a hanging basket planter usung the thrill fill spill method! http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/lifestyles/garden-journeys.html
Screen shots of a text exchange with my bff about Haworthia- a striking succulent houseplant.
Haworthia succulents care watering indoor plants propagation pups how-to
I met this Texas Rat Snake today while I was working at the Mueller Greenway. He was not scared of me at all. I was definitely startled by him! They can really climb!
This week on TWC news my Garden Journeys segment is about hanging baskets. In the segment I use a planting design method known as "Thrill Fill Spill". This reminded my hilarious husband, Eric, of that (arguably) sub-par U2 song "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me". U2 is my favorite band but that song is pretty silly. So anyway, the "thrill" part is a tall, skinny plant with unusual foliage- something with a lot of impact to conrast the other plants. Well, watch the segment this weekend, or later after I post it on my blog, to find out what the spills and fills are. Other tips for hanging baskets:
1. use baskets only in shade or a spot with morning sun and afternoon shade because they dry out really fast.
2. You can't overdo it. Pack the basket full of plants for immediate impact. If you are using short-lived annuals like the vinca I used you don't have to worry about them getting overgrown because you will only have them for six months tops.
3. Plant the plants so the top of their root balls are an inch or two above the soil level in the basket. Then after you have all of the plants situated you can backfill with more potting soil.
4. Use potting soil for sure. Do not use soil from your yard. It will be too heavy and could cause weight problems for the structure holding your basket.
Now I have this song stuck in my head.
I learned so much from my allergist, Dr Maria Gutierrez, while shooting our segment about mosquitos. Fact of the segment: it's the chemicals in the mosquito saliva that make us feel itchy! A cold pack to soothe itchy bites is an awesome idea. I also didn't know that wearing light colored clothing can prevent mosquito bites in the first place. Since I work outside I get all kinds of bites and rashes all the time, Dr Gutierrez has helped me a lot...especially with my allergy to honey bees and wasps! I'm currently getting immunotherapy shots for bees and wasps to reduce my reactions. I keep a perscription steroid cream on hand to cut poison ivy off at the pass too. It also works on chiggers and helps the bites heal faster since I'm not scratching them all the time. Visit Dr Gutierrez here.
Today I am interviewing my allergist for my Garden Journeys segments on TWC news. It was the cameraman's idea after he was bitten a bunch of times earlier this summer. I'm planning t ask her what makes mosquito bites itch and how to care for your bites for a speedy recovery. I'm glad to be doing another indoor shoot so I won't be so sweaty and squinty on camera! I'll post the segment after it airs. If you have Time Warner Cable in Austin or San Antonio look for the segment this Saturday at :46 past the hour and on Weds at :46 past the hour every hour.
Steven Green at the Four Seasons Austin Lobby Lounge showed me how to make a biplane cocktail with blackberries and basil. I love this drink because most Texas gardeners have basil and blackberries ready for harvest in their gardens at the same time in the summer. Mixed with gin, may favorite summer booze and topped with Topo Chico, it takes the edge off the triple digit heat. I can't imaging surviving an Austin summer without Topo Chico. It is as delicious as it looks and I enjoyed a little mid-week day drinking! It would be great for brunch. Learn how to make it here. Steven uses a simple syrup that they cook up in house using fresh blackberries, a big bunch of basil, sugar and water.
Recently I interviewed Justin Duncan from NCAT about their program to train veterans to become farmers. We have a massive shortage of farmers in our country and more farmers retire every day. Justin's programs introduce veterans to the rewards of growing food for a hungry nation. Justin and I had a great time wandering around Natural Gardener today. His gardening knowledge is top notch! Justin is a veteran too and that keeps him motivated to get former soldiers into the fields to grow our food. Watch the interview here.
I'm fascinated by ethnobotany and the history of foods in different cultures. I went to a presentation given by Justin Duncan from NCAT- https://www.ncat.org - about African American gardening hertitage. My husband and I enjoyed the program so much that Eric suggested I have Justin on one of my TV segments. So today we taped a segment about the history of okra. Justin told me that slaves from Africa brought okra seeds with them- making every effort they could to bring a part of their home with them. Other crops that came to our country from Africa include watermelons, cowpeas, artichokes and asparagus. These are all staples in my Texas garden and I am so pleased that Justin shared their history with me. I have grown some fun types of okra including the local heirloom variety "Hill Country Red". The red pods and leaves were a real knock out! I sometimes use okra instead of corn when planting a three sisters garden- a Native American gardening tradition of planting corn, beans and squash together. The corn is a little too tempermental sometimes and the okra is way easier to deal with. Okra seeds are really easy to save for next season's planting. Watch the Time Warner Cable News Segment here.
I love sharing cuttings, bulbs, seeds etc with friends because every time I see the plant I think about the person who gave it to me. For this TIme Warner Cable News segment I had an agave pup from a customer of mine and a pencil cactus and some other succulent cuttings from my friend Leah. The cylindrical pot is from my friend Ruth too- a lot of stuff in my garden is from Ruth! I got the strawberry pot from an antique mall in Denton, Tx. I have two that match and that was one of my best thrifty finds. I love southwesterny style terra cotta pots. Other great pass along plants include purple heart cuttings, iris bulbs (corms), chives that have been divided in half, yucca pups. Check out the segment here.
Woot woot! Today I was the special guest at the monthly meeting of the Austin Herb Society. I am a sponsor of theirs. I did this TV spot on the KXAN midday show about herbs in containers a couple weeks ago to promote today's meeting-
Today we made seed bombs and it was very fun! Lots of participants said the project reminded them of making mud pies as kids. Thanks to the Herb Society for having me! I'll post some photos later.
Seed bombs are balls of clay with small seeds embedded in them. They are an efficient method for planting small seeds that are typically planted using a "broadcasting" method like wildflowers, herbs and cover crops. Though the origin of seed bombs is mysterious, most people agree that a Japanese farmer named Masanobu Fukuoka developed the clay balls to make it easier to distribute seeds for cover crops like alfalfa on his farm. Using seed balls for small seeds saves you from having to bend or squat to plant tiny seeds that are difficult to see. The clay protects the seeds from birds and rodents and also prevents the seeds from washing away during a hard rain. The compost gives the seedlings a bit of nutrition as they sprout and inoculates the seeds with beneficial microbes. Recently seed bombs have been adopted by guerrilla gardeners as a way to plant native wildflowers over vacant lots and roadsides. Making and throwing seed bombs is a great projects for kids and the young at heart!
You Will Need:
Foil pie pan or medium mixing bowl to mix ingredients
Coffee cup filled with water
Native Clay from Central, South or East Austin yards
Sand or sandy topsoil
Gift box or plastic bag
Labels for gift box with planting instructions
This recipe will make two egg-sized seed bombs.
Scoop 5 spoonfuls of clay into your pan.
Scoop 1 spoonful of sand into your pie pan.
Scoop one spoonful of compost into the pie pan.
Scoop 1 spoonful of seeds into your pan.
Use the spoon and your fingers to mix the ingredients well.
Sprinkle one spoonful of water slowly over the dry ingredients.
Use your fingers to mix the ingredients together to distribute the water evenly throughout the mixture.
Put half of the mix into the palm of your hand and squeeze gently. If the mix clumps together, then use your hands to roll it into a ball. If it is not clumping you need to put all of the mix back in the pie pan and add another spoonful of water. Be careful not to add too much water. If the mix is too wet it will not clump and too much water will also cause the seeds to sprout prematurely.
Roll the other half of the mix into a ball.
Repeat the steps above to make as many balls as you like.
Set your balls in an egg carton and allow to dry for at least 24 hours. In humid conditions it may take 48 hours for them to dry.
Put your seed balls in the gift box with information tags. Store them in a cool, dry place until ready to use.
To use the seed bombs:
Select a sunny spot and gently toss the seed balls into that area. You do not need to water them or bury them. The seeds will stay dormant until weather conditions are right for them to sprout.
Here's a video of how to do it: