Archive for ‘Gardening’

February 24, 2015

Chemotypes 



This is a picture I took in Mexico of an Oregano plant, also known as Wild Marjoram, but should not be confused with Origanum majorana, which is Marjoram. There are many common names of one plant that are confusing, so it’s best to use the universal Latin name to identify a plant. Latin names are usually in italics, to differentiate in print. The first Latin name is called the Genus, and the second name is the species of the plant. While marjoram and oregano are from the same Genus Origanum,  they are very different species: Origanum vulgare is Oregano, and Origanum majorana is Marjoram. 

The leaves on the Mexican Oregano are scalloped, unlike the smoother edged varieties in my garden. 

What other differences are there between Mexico Oregano and Greek Oregano? 

For starters the Mexican Oregano is grown in Mexico, and the Greek Oregano is grown in Greece. 

Plants that have the same Latin name can have different chemical constituents depending on where they are growing. Habitat influences plants, and alters chemistry because of factors like altitude, soil, climate, rainfall, and a host of other conditions. 

These types of plants are referred to as Chemotypes. They are the same plant in Latin name, but due to habitat may have different plant chemistry. 

Different breeding and natural selection of a Genus like Thymus, Thyme, creates many varieties of species and subspecies. 

The Mexican Oregano may have the same name as the Greek Oregano growing in my garden, but it looks different and tastes different. They may have mainly the same chemical constituents that make up Oregano, but there is enough variation in plant chemical constituents to change flavours and aroma. They may be used interchangeably, but expect different results. 


February 10, 2015

Creating a 24 Hour Garden

The summer of 2014 feels as though it was forever ago, but now we have reached February the temperatures are starting to rise and we are starting to get longer days and evenings. As the frost starts to recede and your garden begins to recover, it won’t be long until gardens start to come into full bloom once more. But, how do you change your garden into a 24 hour place to enjoy? This post aims to find out.

Creating a Pleasant Place to Sit… And Enjoy

If you want to enjoy your garden, then you need to make it a pleasant retreat; a place to be that’s away from the children, the noise and the hustle and bustle of family life; somewhere that you can sit back, relax and enjoy.
This can be done fairly easily, and at a relatively low cost, too. Increasingly, we’ve seen a number of people add patios to their garden, but there is obviously a large cost attached to this. If you’re after a cheaper option, then a small paved area is great. If you’re looking to reconnect with nature in a natural setting, this will arguably be better, as it will appear more natural and less man-made. If you add a dining set then you’ll even have a place where you can relax and eat outside; as well as somewhere to rest your wine and book.

In order to create a 24 hour garden, you have to create a place you actually want to be 24/7.

Lighting the Way

To make a 24 hour garden you need artificial light for when the natural light fades. Sadly, even in the summer, light can fade relatively early even when it is warm. To make the most of this natural heat and to enjoy dusk in your garden, you can add outdoor wall lamps to provide a suitable level of lighting for your needs. This can either be localised or cover the whole garden depending on exactly what you require.

Setting the Mood

Finally, consider the ambiance of the garden. Something like a water feature can make a lovely sound and convert your garden into a relaxing area to unwind after a long day at the office, or a place to sit and enjoy a morning coffee as you wake up to the world. Much like with patio areas, there’s no need for your water feature to be too extravagant, so you can even create a great look on a budget.

Follow these simple steps to make sure your garden is a place you can enjoy morning, noon and night.

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February 9, 2015

Octagonal Summerhouses Through the Ages

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source: http://www.ilikesheds.com/

February 9, 2015

Using Your Polytunnel to Grow Vegetables

Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a novice, looking to be self-sufficient or supplement your salad bowl, we all want a bumper vegetable crop – but it can be tricky to achieve. A polytunnel is a great way to up your game and help you grow the veggies you’ve always dreamt of, so here’s a guide to putting up a polytunnel, and growing your own veggies.

Putting It Up

Putting up a polytunnel is a lot easier than you might think! You can choose to have it erected by a professional, or you can do it yourself – either way this definitely isn’t a job for a bad-weather day! In particular, you want to choose a day that isn’t too windy. It’s also important to put it up in warm weather, as the polythene will hand more tightly on the frame and make the job easier. A standard polytunnel has a framework constructed from hoops of aluminimum (or other metal) tubing, covered in a large polythene sheet. Assembly is pretty simple; first you’ll lay out the footprint and put up the frame, then you’ll dig a trench around the outside of the frame and use it to secure the sheet, before fixing the cover to the frame, and adding the doors.

What to Sow, When

One of the most important things to think about when trying to achieve the best possible vegetable crop when using a polytunnel is knowing what to sow and when. In spring you can sow early crops of lettuces, carrots and herbs. In summer all the half-hardy plants – the aubergines, cucumbers, peppers, chilies and tomatoes plus the more tender herbs such as basil and coriander can fill the beds. In autumn, winter salads, overwintering brassicas and oriental greens are ideal, while in winter you can enjoy cut-and-come leaves, spinach and chard and sow your onions. Peaches and nectarines can also be brought inside to avoid peach leaf curl.

Irrigation

For a bumper crop of veggies proper irrigation is vital. Overhead watering systems might sound attractive, but the environment tends to be humid anyway and as you are growing a wide range of crops means some are too wet and some too dry. For something a little lower tech but potentially more effective, irrigation tubing at bed level is a great option. You can also use this method to adjust the height of the water spray so plants that need to stay dry (say to avoid rotting) will, and those that need more water will be equally catered for.

http://www.premierpolytunnels.co.uk/top-links/useful-downloads/growing-guide/

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February 9, 2015

DIY Projects to Improve Your Garden

We all love our gardens, but sometimes they can get a little neglected – particularly during the winter months. So get into the DIY craze with a few easy and fun projects to upgrade your garden and really enjoy your outside space, no matter what the time of year.

Designer Flowerpots

Beautifully decorated flowerpots can make all the difference to a garden – particularly if you’re limited on space and pots are your main gardening space. But there’s just no need to spend a fortune on something pre-painted. Instead buy a few plain terracotta pots and grab a brush! A great way to upscale plain pots without too much effort is by dressing them in bold stripes. All you need to do is grab two contrasting colours, a brush, and some masking tape. Start by marking out some stripes with the masking tape, and painting between the tape lines with the first colour. Let this dry completely (probably overnight) and then remove the masking tape. Re-apply the tape up against the edge of the now dry first colour, and paint the remaining terracotta stripes in the alternate colour. Allow this to dry overnight and remove the tape – and you’re done! Plant away!

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Outdoor Movies at Home

Your very own outdoor movie screen might seem like a huge project, but it’s far more manageable than you think! You’ll need a selection of materials and tools. For the frame of the screen you’ll need wooden boards – they can be of pretty much any length as you’ll cut them to size with a power saw to construct a basic TV screen shape frame. Choose two anchor points in your garden such as trees or fence sections and use a power drill to insert heavy duty screws from which your frame will hang. To prevent it from swinging forward and back, you should attach small bungee cords to connect the bottom of the screen to the tree trunks, fence posts or whatever anchor point you’re using. Center the fabric and staple a few at the top/bottom centers, then the sides. Pull and staple your way to corners, making sure to stretch out any wrinkles for a smooth, tight surface. Then string heavy duty curtain wire (or similar) between the two anchor points and hang the screen from it, attaching the small bungees as you go.
Anglia Tool Centre have all of the tools you’ll need to execute this project, so check them out, order what you need, and treat your family to a fantastic outdoor movie experience!

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February 7, 2015

DIY Rose Tincture and Perfume for Nutritive Medicine and Skincare 🌹

Roses are such divine food, medicine and perfume, but watch out for those pointy, sharp thorns on the stem. It’s easy to see why it is such a universal symbol of love. 🌹

I collected some wild rose petals from my garden, for a rose petal tincture and essence. Wear gloves and protective clothing to harvest. Wild roses are better than the commercial varieties for medicinal use.

You can make your own perfume out of Rose petal flowers, as well as medicine.image

See my blog on how to make your own natural perfume from flowers. http://earthelixir.ca/2012/06/05/making-natural-perfume-from-flower-petals/

Rose petal tincture is used medicinally as a nutritive for debility. Rose has a euphoric, aphrodisiac action that soothes and relaxes the nervous system. It tones digestion, reduces inflammation, and is great to use in skincare products. It is good for all skin types, especially mature skin. It’s easy to add rose water and essential oil to make your own skincare products.

See my blog on using Rose essential oil. http://earthelixir.ca/2012/06/04/rose-essential-oil/

Rose water is what is separated from the essential oil part, and is used in cooking, baking, and for beverages.

Rose hips, collected after the flowers bloom, are delicious, nutritious medicinal food. Rose hip tea beverages and culinary soups have a pink red colour, and pack some good Vitamin C content and phytonutrients.

Here are some beautiful roses for you friends. The roses in these pictures are from my garden, so take some time to smell the roses.🌹

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Common Name  Rose hips/ flowers
Latin Name  Rosa spp.
Family Rosaceae
Parts Used Perennial- Collect flower petals during growing season. Roses lay dormant in colder climates. Collect rosehips in the Fall. Essential oil made from flowers. 
Target Organs Digestion, Central Nervous System, Nerves, Skin
Common Uses Aphrodisiac, perfume, debility, exhaustion, nutritive, inflammation, skincare, Rosehips, rosewater, are used in cooking and beverages
Properties Aphrodisiac, antidepressant, antiseptic, euphoric, antispasmodic, nutritive, astringent, mild laxative, vulnerary, diuretic, anti-inflammatory,
Constituents Essential oil : Esters: geranyl acetate, citronellyl acetate, neryl acetate, 

Sesquiterpene alcohol: farnesol, 

Aldehydes: benzaldehyde

Monoterpene alcohols: Citronellol 15-20%, geraniol 10%, linalool, nerol 15%, cedrol, linlool  

Monoterpenes: a+b pinene, limonene, camphene, b-caryophyllene, citronellal, p-cymene  

Damask rose: a-damascenone, B-damascenone, B-damscone, B-ionone, rose oxide  

Other: vitamin C, tannin, pectin, carotene, fruit acids

Cautions Do not use during pregnancy. Thorny plant, caution while harvesting.
Dosage Tincture: 1-4ml Tea rose hips, flowers

 

February 3, 2015

Wild Bergamot and Bee Balm Wildflowers Make Delicious Medicine

Bee-balm or Monarda which is the Latin name, is a beautiful wildflower native to North east North America. It is known for the popular beverage Natives call Oswego tea, and is also cooked in stews, and used to flavour salads. Being aromatic the essential oil makes great perfume and keeps insects and flies away.

Monarda fistulosa has beautiful tubular lavender-purple pinkish flowers.  The common name is known as Wild Bergamot, not to be confused with the citrus bergamot orange – Citrus bergamia L. used in EARL GREY tea, but it smells similar and is now sometimes combined. English Settlers that came to North America named it that, because they thought it smelled just like earl grey tea, and introduced it to England in 1744. Having a high geraniol content, it smells like geranium flowers mixed with citrus and mint.

Monarda didyma has showy red flowers that smell like citrus and mint. The leaves make a wonderful tea dried or fresh. The common name is Bee-balm because it attracts bees, along with hummingbirds and butterflies. It is also called Scarlet bee-balm because of the colour of the flowers. The M. didyma species has a higher thymol content that makes it smell more like citrus thyme.

The stems are square like some mints, with paired grey green leaves that is rough on both sides. It prefers moist, light soil. Being a mint family member it likes some shade from the hot afternoon sun.  Use all Monarda species the same way. The essential oil has a very pleasant fragrance and is used for coughs and colds. Enjoy in a tea, tincture or in a culinary masterpiece!

Common Name  Bee balm/  Wild Bergamot
Latin Name  Monarda didyma (Bee balm) Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamot)
Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family)
Parts Used Perennial- pick herb from spring until it flowers in July-August
Target Organs circulatory, digestion, respiratory, nerves, lymphatic, skin, urinary, reproductive
Common Uses Respiratory: infections, colds, flu, nasal congestion, coughs, fever, swollen lymph

Digestion: digestive catarrh, indigestion,  constipation, gas, bloating,

Urinary: UTI,  incontinence, infection

Female reproductive: spasms, cramps, PMS, balancing

Nervous system: relaxant, stress, depression

External: wounds, inflammation,

Properties antimicrobial, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, antidepressant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic (digestive, general, respiratory, uterine,) antiviral, anxiolytic, appetite stimulant, astringent, warming carminative, cholagogue, circulatory stimulant, decongestant, diaphoretic, diuretic, digestive stimulant, stimulating emmenagogue, relaxing, secretolytic, stimulating expectorant, febrifuge,  nervine, rubefacient, relaxant, stomachic, tranquilizer, uterine relaxant, (neural, peripheral vasodilator), vulnerary
Constituents Essential Oil Yield: 0.4%-0.6%

Monoterpenes

Monoterpene  alcohols: geraniol 90% 

Phenol: thymol(found in M. didyma)50%

Cautions Mild remedy. Do not use during pregnancy or consult with a professional.
Dosage Tincture: 2-4ml                Tea: 2 tsp. infuse

 

January 20, 2015

How to Make the Garden an Extension of your Home

When choosing a house, one of the non-negotiable priorities for many buyers is that it must have a garden. There’s something about having that patch of lawn bordered by flower beds, or that useful patio, littered with pretty flowerpots, that we just can’t do without. And even when it’s the size of a postage stamp, we cherish it. So how can you appreciate your garden even more?

Portal

Having a solid wall between you and your slice of outdoors will never do. And whereas most people opt for a set of French or patio doors, this won’t invite the garden in like a bi or tri-fold sliding door. The beauty of this type of door is that it’s possible to have wall-to-wall glass, which then slides open and neatly folds out of the way.

With this type of door, you’re truly extending your kitchen or living area into the garden. Even when shut, you can see your garden unimpeded, plus the extra light brought in is a real bonus.

Creating Flow

An interesting way of extending into the garden, is to have the same flooring going from room to patio. This ‘infinity’ look can be quite effective. Solid oak flooring is suitable for both inside and out, and together with the sliding, folding doors, will create a large, combined living space. If you’re not into the wood look, then limestone tiles would work equally well or some frost-proof porcelain tiles. If there is a step down, then you may want to consider raising the patio so that it’s on the same level.

Mirror Plants

By choosing varieties that are equally happy indoors as out, you can have mirrored plants. Get matching containers and pot them up with the same plants. Then place one just outside the door and its twin on the inside. This further confuses where the garden starts and the house ends. If you think flowering plants might require too much maintenance, why not choose some robust succulents, which include cacti and sedum.

Furniture

To blur those lines even further, particularly if the room in question is a conservatory or living area, you may wish to consider all-weather furniture, both inside and out. There are some very attractive and comfortable sofas and chairs available, such as a mock rattan design.
With a little ingenuity, and by making relatively small changes, it’s very possible to give the illusion of bringing the garden into your home, for maximum enjoyment.

http://www.barrier-components.co.uk/

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October 20, 2014

Wormwood the Infamous Ingredient In Absinthe

Wormwood is an ingredient used in the infamous alcoholic drink absinthe, also known as the green fairy. It is an extremely bitter herb and absinthe was traditionally poured over sugar cubes to sweeten the taste.
When used on its own, it is a powerful medicinal herb. It’s main taste is bitter, which is good for stimulating the digestive axis of the stomach, liver/gallbladder and intestines. As its name suggests it expels internal worms, while it also provides immune support.

It is best combined with aromatic carminatives like peppermint, anise, fennel, ginger, chamomile, bergamot, thyme for taste and balance, just like the ancient recipe absinthe.

I prefer wormwood macerated in red wine to temper the bitterness. Steep it for at least a couple of weeks, and then strain. I take a single teaspoon once a day, for a week. Take small doses before or after meals as an aperitif. A tincture formulation is good, but the tea infusion might be too bitter to swallow. It is Not advisable to add sweeteners, the taste cannot be masked. It is better to taste the bitters to stimulate secretions for maximum medicinal power. This is a medium strength remedy so caution is always advised. Be careful dancing with the green fairy.

Use Artemisia species medicinally in the same way, including mugwort, annual wormwood, southernwood, but wormwood is the most bitter.

Wormwood is native to Europe and Western Asia and established in the temperate regions of North America.

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Wormwood herb starting to show its tiny yellow flowers from my garden.

Common Name

Wormwood herb
Latin Name

Artemisia absinthium
Family Asteraceae
Parts Used Perennial herb pick aerial parts, flowering tops bloom in July/August summer
Target Organs Digestion, stomach, nervous, urinary, reproductive
Common Uses Digestion: cooling bitter stimulant, digestive conditions, infections, poor digestion, promotes bile, indigestion, dyspepsia, flatulence, IBS, inflammation, parasites worms-pinworm, roundworm, threadworms, constipation, colic, poor appetite, anorexia, food poisoning, toxicity, headache, nausea

Stomach: all conditions,

Liver/gallbladder: congestion, infections

Moxybustion

 

Properties Cold bitter digestive, astringent, pungent, antibacterial, hepatic, liver decongestant, carminative, stimulating digestion immune, cholagogue, laxative, stomachic, anthelmintic, anti-inflammatory, tonic, nervine, antimicrobial, anti-emetic but emetic in large doses, vulnerary,
Constituents Sesquiterpene lactones, volatile essential oil, thujone, thujan, cineole, linalol, chamazulene, camphene, cadimene, monoterpene, pinene, phellandrene, azulene, bisabolene, flavonoid glycosides, rutin, quercetin, organic acids, amino acids, phenolic acids, polyacetylenes, lignans, ascorbic acid, tannins,

Cautions Medium strength: contains thujone a neurotoxin with narcotic properties. Large doses can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, restlessness, tremors, convulsions. Long term use may lead to liver and kidney damage. Not recommended during pregnancy, lactation, infants, or if kidney or liver damage is present.
Dosage Use in formulations (herbal combinations) up to 25% of formula. continuous use should not exceed two months.
Macerate in red wine or vermouth: 1 small teaspoon a day for a week
Or used as an aperitif small sips before or after meals to aid digestion

Tincture: 1-2ml dilute with water 1 oz before consuming.
Mix a formula with aromatics, do not add sugar or sweeteners

Tea: 3-5g (Very bitter) infuse

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September 2, 2014

Monarch Metamorphosis

Monarch Metamorphoses

What is an ending to the caterpillar is a beginning for the butterfly. One in the same cocoon. Trust the process.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls the butterfly.” Richard Bach

“A great beginning is sometimes at the point of what you thought would be the ending of everything.” Dodinsky

“The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” George Carlin

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For more information on how to help improve the Monarch butterfly population >

http://earthelixir.ca/2013/07/02/milkweed-is-not-a-weed-it-is-important-monarch-butterfly-food/

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