Making Grandma Proud and Making Things Fizz

Hello! It’s me again! Fall is on the horizon. I hope everyone has their apple cider or pumpkin spice latte at the ready. I prefer cider myself. Pumpkin spice was a novelty when it first became a fad. Now it’s too hyped up. Try chai tea and hot cider. The chai tastes like mulled spices (essentially, that’s what it actually is), and it’s delicious! A splash of whiskey wouldn’t hurt, either.

I decided to make homemade gnocchi last night! No, sorry, I don’t have any pictures. But click the Pinterest link below to find the method I used. I’m a visual person, so videos and such are super helpful for me. I was a little concerned about making this pasta–last time I tried making gnocchi a few years ago, the pasta turned out more like potato mush, and I ended up turning the clumps into pancakes instead. It turned out to be an ok compromise, but it made me shy to try again. But I did! And what a success!

I sauteed my gnocchi in butter with garlic, sage, fresh thyme, and threw in a diced tomato for color. Very tasty! My Italian grandmother would be extremely proud! Both of my grandmothers would be proud, truth be known, but since this pasta is Italian in origin, I thought it a tribute to mia famiglia.

If one were so inclined, gnocchi could probably be used as the dumpling part in chicken and dumplings, depending on the recipe. They’re about the same size. It is that time of year when all of the heartier foods like stews come out. Guiness stew will most certainly be gracing my stove sometime in the not-too-distant future. I will definitely be sharing that recipe.

In other news, I have decided to give home brewing a try! I got a mead brewing kit from a vendor on Etsy. So far, so good! But now I’ve got the bug! I want to try cider next! Yes, you heard me. Hard cider is wonderful this time of year. It will be a couple more weeks until the mead is finished, and I cannot wait to try it!

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Etsy kit I used.

Also, Christmas is coming. Giving people homemade gifts is always great, especially if it makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

My herbs are beginning to turn themselves in for hibernation. It may also be because the weather has been so damp lately, but the mint especially is becoming limp and brown. So sad. I did take clippings of most of my plants to propagate in water so I can grow them indoors during the winter. There are some plants that will regrow roots after being cut if they are placed in water for 2-3 weeks: thyme, mint, lavender, rosemary, and sage are a few. So, fingers crossed. It’s only day two, but I really hope this works. If not, I will simply have to start over from seeds next year.

That is all that I have for you at the moment! Stay tuned for further adventures! Until next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backyard Pharmacy

Hello All! Long time! I wish I had a good excuse, but I don’t. I will say that writer’s block combined with procrastination is never a good mix. But all that aside, who is excited about viewing the solar eclipse in the northern hemisphere today? I certainly am! I have my pinhole camera all set and ready to go! The last time I remember there was a solar eclipse, I was in kindergarten, and I didn’t get to see it. Bummer. But as long as the clouds stay out of the way, we will be good to go! Remember, DO NOT look directly at the sun, unless you want to go partially or even permanently blind.

I have been recovering from a summer cold–ick. I don’t get sick very often, or for very long, but being any kind of sick makes me feel miserable. Colds always like to settle in my chest and sinuses, and so decongestant and expectorants are my go-to. I go with the cheaper version of Robitussin, and that sees to the expulsion of mucus (ick) from my lungs.

During this last bout, however, I supplemented my medicine with some yarrow tea brewed from my fresh fern growing on my deck. I added dried lemon balm and spearmint to the tea as well. It was amazing how well it worked to alleviate the symptoms of my cold! Not only did it soothe my sore throat, but it also helped me breathe a little easier.

There are plenty of herbs that assist in boosting your immune system response when you’re sick. Dandelions–yes, those pesky, fuzzy yellow flowers sprouting up all over your yard–are used to treat everything from gas and indigestion to the common cold, to warding off cancer. The whole plant, from root to stem to flower, can be used either topically or ingested. Plantains–not the cousin of bananas, but the green weeds that are also growing in your yard–can be used to stop bleeding from minor cuts, can be used in salves and poultices, or brewed in tea and eaten in salads. Plantain has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

One herb that I have not managed to try yet is marshmallow–not to be confused with the puffy, sugary, s’mores-building confection sporting summer campfires. Marshmallow plants can be found in damp areas such as near marshes (hence the name) and along river banks. Common mallow is within the same family. The confectioner’s version of the marshmallow got its start medicinally. The sap from the root of the plant can be whipped until it’s stiff, and sugar and other ingredients added to it, making it a lozenge of sorts for sore throats. The leaves and stems of the plant can be eaten as well.

Nature’s abundance is truly unlimited. Plants that we take absolutely for granted are the ones we ought to pay more attention to. I know I am gaining a much higher respect for what are known as common weeds, and learning to put them to their proper uses.

That’s all that I have for you today. I hope you all enjoy your day! Until next time!

 

Man Cannot Live by Bread Alone…Except I’m a Woman

Bread has been undergoing a revolution, one I am so happy about! Going are the days that everyone is eating that pale white, flat, tasteless packaged stuff that can barely be called bread, and coming are the days of true knowledge and enjoyment of the crusty, warm, savory and sweet creations that artisans craft with their own hands.

I was at a farmer’s market today at the Government Center in Fairfax, Virginia, and Great Harvest was there, selling breads of all shapes, sizes, and flavors. Great Harvest is a chain known in a few places in Virginia that make their own breads in-house. They even grind their own wheat, which is an amazing feat for any bakery. If you love bread and other baked goods and you have one of these places near you, go visit. I promise you won’t be sorry!

This was my very late lunch today, along with an herbal tea made with dried peppermint and lemon balm leaves!

The lemon balm was a bit overshadowed by the peppermint, but the tea was nonetheless refreshing. It’s wonderful to reap the benefits of one’s labor!

I asked the farmer from whom I bought the cheese and a dozen eggs at the farmer’s market about how they’re faring with the weather being so hot. He plainly stated that rain is needed. There’s a tropical storm brewing, so I believe that he’ll get his wish.

So many people complain about it being too hot, and then complain again when it rains. I only ask for balance between wet and dry weather, for the sake of those that grow our food. If it’s too hot and no rain, everything withers, and dies. If it’s too wet, plants can become moldy or even drown. It is a very delicate relationship between farmer and crop and livestock.

So the other reason why I went to the farmer’s market was for fresh eggs. I’ve been dying to make pasta lately (I love my carbs!). I bought a pasta maker, and I went to work this afternoon.

Pasta is pretty easy to make. The basic recipe is flour, salt, eggs (there are eggless recipes out there too), water, and olive oil (I added a little fresh parsley and basil to my recipe). Mix all those together, then knead the dough on a floured surface for four to five minutes. Let it rest in the refrigerator for about one hour.

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Take it out and cut the dough into quarters. Flour the pasta machine, then roll your first dough quarter through it. Start on the largest setting, and work your way down from that until the dough is the consistency you are looking for. Then run the flattened dough through the pasta cutting side.

You can put the fresh pasta right into a pot of boiling water and cook it immediately, or dry it on a rack and save for later.

My drying rack is a pants hanger and each bar I covered in plastic wrap (less cleaning). I added roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese to the pasta I cooked. It was simple but delicious! The rest of the pasta will be stored for later use. Self-sufficiency, here I come!

So, that’s all I have for you tonight! Enjoy the rest of your evening! Until next time!

 

 

More Plants, and Food!

Hi, everyone! A quick shout out to all my new followers! Thanks for reading, and thanks for deciding to follow me! I am honored!

I have added a few new plants to my collection. I was killing time yesterday at a nursery before joining my friends somewhere, and I bought peppermint, yellow yarrow, and rosemary. I am super excited! Yarrow is supposed to be very good for you and has the capability of healing cuts and sores. I took a couple small samples from the plant that I bought, and I’m drying them so I can add the cuttings to oil for another essential oil. I’m drying some more spearmint as well, and I will store that in an airtight container once it’s completely dry.

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Health is a major reason why I am doing what I’m doing. I am actually in amazing health (aside from the cold I just finished getting over), and I intend to remain healthy throughout my life. My family has a history of heart issues, diabetes, and colon cancer. No thanks, I say to that! When I die, it won’t be because of any of these problems.

My mom has always been a major advocate for healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle. The other day, we were talking about how we both discovered that a more alkaline blood pH is less likely to become cancerous.

What is pH you ask? It’s a scale which determines how alkaline or acidic something is. The scale goes from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything with a pH higher than 7 is acidic. Anything with a pH lower than 7 is alkaline. Examples of food with high acid would be carbonated water, wine, chocolate, and vinegar. Examples of food with more alkalinity would be broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach.

According to what both my mom and I were reading, carboniferous vegetables like spinach and cauliflower will help your system maintain a healthy blood pH. Blood that is too acidic can cause many problems. Her explanation of Diabetic Ketoacidosis was more than a little disturbing. This is where the blood has become so acidic due to having too many ketones in the blood (which are released to counteract too much glucose in the blood) that the blood literally boils. Yuck! No thanks! I will eat the leafy greens to keep that from happening. Cancer can take a hike too.

So my mom shared a fantastic recipe with me for broccoli rabe. I have never cooked broccoli rabe before, but I’m always game for experimenting with food. So here is what it is:

1-2 Pounds chicken thighs

1 bunch broccoli rabe

5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 package rice and red beans (I used Zataran’s)

1 bell pepper, chopped

Olive Oil (use the one specifically for sauteeing, it will say so on the bottle)

Salt (I used Kosher salt, but it’s up to you)

Pepper

For Marinade:

5 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 Teaspoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a resealable bag, add chicken and all marinade ingredients. Seal the bag and mix everything around until the chicken is well coated. Allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare rice according to the package directions. Add bell pepper to the rice 5-8 minutes before it is finished cooking. Pour rice mixture into a rectangular pan to cool. Set aside.
  3. Prepare an ice bath for the broccoli rabe (this stops the cooking process). Add salt to the ice bath (salt lowers the temperature of the ice).
  4. Cut one inch off the bottom of the broccoli rabe. Divide the rabe into 2 portions. Set a large pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Pour in a generous amount of olive oil (the broccoli rabe absorbs a lot of it, so don’t be shy). Once it’s hot, add garlic to the oil.
  5. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot. Add salt. Use tongs to stir it around. Add more oil if needed. Cover and cook for about 1-2 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, put the broccoli rabe into the ice bath. Once cooled, transfer it out to either a colander or a plate with a paper towel to dry.
  7. Replenish ice and salt in the ice bath and repeat steps 4-6 with the second batch.
  8. Using the same pot, add the marinated chicken thighs two at a time. Cook for about 7 minutes on each side, or until the meat is white all the way through and the outside is browned. Let the meat rest on a plate for 10 minutes.
  9. Place broccoli rabe over top of the rice. Add chicken over the top of the broccoli rabe. Pour remaining pan juices from the pot over the top of everything. Serve warm.

It’s so good! Adding more olive oil takes out some of the bitterness from the broccoli rabe, and it is absolutely delicious! Come one, don’t tell me you don’t want to try this!

20170615_122635 That’s all that I have for you today! Enjoy the rest of your day, stay cool! Until next time!

 

 

The Blue, the Grey, and a Newbie’s Search for Wild, Edible Greens

How’s it going out there? It’s hot here! 95 degrees and humid. What did I decide to do on such a day? I went hiking at the Bull Run Park in Manassas. This is where the first and second battle of Manassas took place.

The first battle took place in July of 1861. HOW those men fought a battle in the dead heat of July in Virginia, in those heavy woolen uniforms, with about 80 to 100 pounds worth of gear on their backs, running full tilt at one another on a HILL, with a loaded firearm and cannons blowing craters and taking limbs left and right, I will never know! I was dying in running shorts and a tank top, and I had a Camel Back filled with water. It barely weighs 15 pounds. There is no cover on Matthews Hill either; hardly a tree over the entire battleground. You feel the heat from above and below.

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It’s very beautiful and peaceful now (except for the sounds of traffic). But being on that hill gives you some perspective on what it was like the day of the battle. There must have been an “Oh, S*#t!” moment as the Confederate and the Federal troops eyed each other from across the field. There were brothers on the left, and brothers on the right, and not everyone was going to be walking off that hill when it was all done.

I’m a New Englander, born and raised. One of my ancestors fought in an infantry division from New Jersey during the Civil War. But I suspect that we had relatives on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. In Clifton, there is a sign posted outside one of the houses on the main strip, claiming that a Payne (my mother’s maiden name) was a housebuilder in the area, and was a lumber broker to the railroad that now runs through the town. My great-grandfather was a railroad worker. Family business? Possibly. I don’t have any formal proof at the moment.

The man on the left is my great-grandfather, George W. Payne. The sign is from Clifton.

In any case, while my roots may be from the north, I feel that transplanting myself in Virginia has worked out just fine! I feel much more at home here in Virginia than I ever did in Connecticut.

So! History aside, the reason why I wanted to go to Bull Run today was due to my burning desire to try my hand at foraging. I only just started, and I my wild edible plant knowledge is not that vast yet. I know what blackberries look like, of course, and I know what daisies, oak trees, maple trees, and poison ivy look like. But I want to be able to eat what I find without possibly poisoning myself.

I have recently started reading: 20170613_150902

It’s very informative about what plant it is, where to find it, what parts of the plant are edible and when to harvest it, any warnings that may caution a novice forager from assuming that something is safe to consume.

Because I am so new at this–green as grass (pun intended)–I did not attempt to pick anything. I simply took pictures of plants that I wanted to research more. Does anyone know what these are?

Also, as a budding naturalist, I am making a home study of essential oils. I started the process with my spearmint last week, and this week I’ve added cinnamon and star anise to the list. I’m using the cold infusion method, where you simply add your plant parts to a sealable jar with the oil of your choice, tighten the lid, and wait two months while it does its thing.

I dried the mint leaves first before I mixed them with oil. I used olive oil as the base. There are other oils you can use (coconut, almond, jojoba), but olive oil is readily available, inexpensive, and less likely to give someone a bad reaction; I have friends and family that are allergic to nuts, wheat, and other potential allergens and it has made me sensitive to their plight.

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I’ve already bought the dark bottles to store the oils in once the oil is thoroughly infused. Now, all there is to do is wait. For two months. Patience. OOOOOOOOMMMMMM……

So that’s all that’s exciting in my life for the present!

Oh, on a side note pertaining to star anise, I’ve added it to my coffee temporarily to help alleviate menstrual cramps. And it works! And it’s a hell of a lot healthier than taking Ibuprofen every 4 hours! Just thought I would share, in case there are any ladies out there who could use a remedy.

If coffee is not your thing, try chai or chamomile tea. Chai has anise in it, along with cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves–all amazing for your health! Chamomile helps to reduce pain as well but it is not always suited for people with certain conditions. If you’re pregnant, it’s not advisable to drink chamomile. If you have allergies to certain plants like ragweed, don’t drink it. Also, certain medications may react chemically with the compounds in the tea. I am not a doctor, so please ask for medical advice from a professional before taking my advice.

Stay cool, my friends! Until next time!

When Life Hands You Lemons…Limoncello!

Hi, Everyone! I hope your week is going well thus far. It is only Tuesday…technically it’s my Sunday, which makes Wednesday my Monday…and it’s hump day. Meh. Well, at least the camels will be happy.

So a few days ago, I got it into my head that I wanted to make homemade limoncello. Limoncello is an Italian liquor made from lemon rinds, grain alcohol, and simple syrup. Because it’s challenging to find/buy high-proof grain alcohol in Virginia without a license to distribute, the next best alternative is vodka. I used Smirnoff, which is a decent, mid-grade vodka. I’m more of a wine and beer drinker, so I took the Smirnoff as a recommendation from a friend.

So you need:

6 Lemons (Meyer Lemons are slightly sweeter, but regular lemons are just fine)

750 mL Vodka or Grain Alcohol (98% proof if you can get it)

Simple Syrup

Container to store the mixture in

Peeler

You want to peel only the outside yellow part of the lemon. The white part will make the limoncello taste bitter, and you really don’t want that. Ick. Once all the lemons are peeled, place all the peels in the container, and pour in the liquor. Give it a stir, or close it up and give it a little shake. Leave it on your counter for about two weeks, or longer for stronger lemon flavor. Check on it once in a while and shake it up a little. Oh, the anticipation.

Once all the lemons are peeled, place all the peels in the container, and pour in the liquor. Give it a stir, or close it up and give it a little shake. Leave it on your counter for about two weeks, or longer for stronger lemon flavor. Check on it once in a while and shake it up a little. Oh, the anticipation.

After the two weeks or more are up, we add the simple syrup to the lemon rinds and vodka and then bottle it.

So because you only used the rinds of the lemons, you have six perfectly good lemons sitting on your counter that you need to use, or they’re going in the trash! What do you do? Make vodka lemonade! So you would need a little more vodka for this.

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze as much juice as you can out of them and into a bowl. Because I don’t like having sugar granules in my lemonade, I made a simple syrup with one cup of water and one cup of sugar. Cook the sugar and water mixture until just boiling, and then take it off the heat. Once it cools, add the simple syrup to your lemon juice. Some people prefer a more tart lemonade, and others prefer it sweeter so I will let you loose on this one, and decide how tart or sweet you want it.

Grab a pretty glass, and add a few ice cubes to it. Add a shot of vodka and if you choose, a few mint leaves. Pour the lemonade into the vodka and ice. Go sit on the deck and enjoy the beautiful sunshine while sipping on your refreshing vodka lemonade. 20170601_144502

Please forgive me for being all about the mint at the present time. It’s the only one of my plants that are big enough to harvest and use. 20170606_140707

Everybody else is too teeny weeny for any use yet…although I did grab a couple sprigs of parsley for my pasta the other day.

Sage may be big enough to use soon. The strawberry plant was a surprise. I hadn’t noticed that it had survived the winter; but lo and behold, I saw green! It hasn’t borne that any fruit yet, but I’m excited!

Anyway, back to the mint. The mint I am growing is actually spearmint, not peppermint. Spearmint has a more subtle minty flavor, versus peppermint that is very much in-your-face. Any mint variety is better planted in a pot for a couple reasons. The first is that it literally grows like a weed. If you do decide to plant it directly in the ground, here is a friendly warning: like daffodils, mint will spread to the furthest ends of your garden and beyond! It sprouts up everywhere, like bamboo! So if you want a more controlled growth, pots are the way to go.

The second reason is that mint grows very easily and very quickly. I started my mint indoors around March, and it graduated to being outside around mid-April. From there, it just kept going. All the other plants are taking their own sweet time.

Some plants need certain environments in order to grow well. I live in Virginia, which seems to be a sweet spot for most herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Many of these need ample sunlight, water/rainfall, and nutrient-dense soil. While red clay is what Virginia is known for as far as soil goes (the top soil got blown away years ago), it’s not very difficult to increase the nutrition of the soil in your backyard. It does take time and patience, as most gardening does, but the rewards are limitless.

Here are a few options:

  • Start a compost heap
    • There are so many options for this. I recommend using anything biodegradable, except for meat products and byproducts (no bones or leftover meats from dinner). These will attract unwanted pests like rodents, flies, sometimes coyotes and possibly bears, depending on where you live. They see your garbage as their treasure. Also, meat and their byproducts take longer to decompose. And they smell awful while they rot. Newspapers, coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit rinds and peels, vegetable matter–all great composting materials.
  • If composting is not for you, get some good quality top soil from your local garden store or nursery.
    • Always ask the experts for advice regarding your area: is the ground often wet, or dry? How much sun does the yard get, versus shade?
  • Get nutrients back into the soil.
    • If you want to get nutrients into the ground fast, planting peas and beans are perfect. These add nitrogen, which is a key ingredient for plant growth.
    • Clover is great for adding nitrogen as well, and acts as a cover crop–it keeps the soil from washing away when it rains.
    • Certain mulches are good for this, too. My mom used to get a mulch made of cacao shells. We all smelled like cocoa powder after we spread that over the garden! Be careful to let it dry between waterings, though, because it can get moldy (a harmless but unattractive mold), and it can attract unwanted bugs.
  • If you’re like me and rent, with little room for an in-ground garden, get some pots and potting soil.

Taking care of the soil is imperative to growing anything. If the soil starts out rough, crumbly, and veritably dead, don’t fret! The aforementioned options are great ways to bring health back to your plot. It does take time to regain soil health, just as it takes time to regain your personal health after an illness. But be patient and keep at it!

That is all that I have for you today! Until next time!

 

The Non-Professional Gardener

I love plants. All plants! Even the ones that make us itchy and blistery. I am very lucky to not be highly allergic to poison ivy, while my sister wells up in nasty blisters if she’s within a 10-foot radius of the three-leafed fiend. Meanwhile, I pull that weed without gloves like it’s nobody’s business. I might get a slight rash on my wrist, but a little rubbing alcohol, some Caladryl, and I’m good to go! Not that I’m bragging…ok, maybe a little.

Currently, I live in suburbia with two roommates, a dog, and a cat. My green thumb is confined to the deck of our townhouse, where I am making due with planters and terracotta pots.

My dream is to one day have a huge, sprawling herb and vegetable garden in my backyard, complete with beehives and chickens. Why chickens? They’re omnivores! You can feed them kitchen scraps, which means less garbage going into landfills. They eat bugs, such as ticks (those nasty, blood-sucking insects that carry Lyme’s disease), spiders (which I actually have an admiration for), and wasps (definitely NOT a fan of those aggressive little a*#holes). Also, chickens come with free fertilizer for that beautiful, vibrant garden, and, you get farm-fresh eggs. What’s not to love?

There are so many reasons to grow your own plants! They are countless, numberless, infinite even. It’s a lot easier than one thinks it will be. I started growing Lavender in a small cup on my window sill in my college dorm. It sadly died from neglect a couple years later, but that’s all in the past.

What are my reasons for growing? I am a baker, so naturally, plants are my life. Flour comes from wheat which is a plant, fruits are plants, vegetables are plants, sugar cane is a plant…you get the picture. I have been dying to make my own cooking extracts, and experiment with essential oils. Also, making mixed drinks is more fun when you can go pluck mint and thyme from your own back yard rather than having to go to the store.

So here are some really simple steps to start growing your own greenery:

Step1: Decide what you want to plant. Seed packets are available virtually everywhere, even online (most of mine came from Amazon).

Step 2: Read directions on the back of the seed packet…not necessarily my forte. It will tell you how much sun it needs, how much water it needs, how long it takes to grow, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Step 3: Find a pot. There are so many kinds, shapes, sizes, to choose from. Be creative! choose the pot that speaks to you. Coffee and tea cups can work for small herbs–but for me, that’s counterintuitive, since I have better things to do with my coffee mugs…like drink coffee from them. Put a few small rocks in the bottom of the pot for drainage purposes.

Step 4: Soil. Potting soil is best for a seedling, or just go to the backyard and grab a few handfuls of that nice, dark, moist dirt from some neglected corner (if it works for the grass, it will work for your seeds). Add soil on top of rocks in the bottom of your chosen vessel. Fill the pot to just about 3/4 full.

Step 5: Use your finger to make a hole in the soil for the seeds. Add seeds. Cover them with soil. Pour water over the top; not a lot of water, but just enough to make the soil damp, not sodden.

Step 6: Wait. Be patient. It will happen. This is where instant gratification can be a real beast. In this day-and-age where we can press a single button to get what we want, waiting for something to grow can be borderline painful. But it’s a wonderful feeling when you see that tiny little speck of green peeking through. Just remember: water and sunshine are a plant’s best friends. Make sure they get plenty of both. Unless it’s a cactus or a ficus.

Step 7: Cultivate. If it’s herbs, use them when you’re cooking. If it’s vegetables or fruits, see my previous statement. If they’re simply there to look pretty, that’s just as good.

I don’t know anything about different types of fertilizers, or plant foods, or weed killers. My reasoning is that if it doesn’t belong in the ground, it shouldn’t be sprayed, sown, or planted with your plants, edible or otherwise. It’s not necessary to have giant tomatoes, or mutant squash, or watermelons the size of the Hulk’s head. Also, the poor bees get sick from the chemicals. I like bees. Their waspish cousins can go stick their stingers somewhere else, but honeybees and bumblebees help to make a garden thrive.

Here is what I do know:

  • A nitrogen-rich soil is a plant’s best friend (aside from water and sunlight). Composting is a great way to get a nutrient-dense potting soil. Not all of us have space for a compost heap, but there are organic soils available at most gardening stores and nurseries. And remember those chickens I love? Their fertilizer (my nice way of saying chicken poop) contains ample amounts of nitrogen. Really great for roses, apparently.
  • There are certain plants that act as natural repellents to certain bugs and rodents. For example, plant strawberries with mustard greens to prevent bugs. Rabbits don’t like marigolds. Plant them around the borders of your garden if you have one. Thumper won’t like it.
  • If you are like me and only have pots, use already used coffee grounds as a fertilizer. When I brew coffee, I put ground cinnamon in with the coffee grounds. Cinnamon is also a pest repellent. Bonus for me! I have lovely cinnamon-flavored coffee, and I repel pests from my plants. Used tea bags are great too.

That’s all I have for you today! Until next time, happy planting!