Archive for the ‘Organic Gardening’ Category

Hello Rose... of Sharon

After playing an active part in my gardens this summer, it was easy to see the daily transitions occurring ever so diligently.  However, the reduction of rain, and other season variables resulted in shorter height(up to 3 1/2 feet on the butterfly bush and bee balm), color fade(on the hydrangea) and blossom scarcity(compared to last summer, on the day lily’s).

At first, I was somewhat shocked, and disappointed with the seemingly “lack of production”.  My expectations for perfection were challenged.  I find this happens in life, as well.  After reflection, I could feel a smile forming on my face, and an understanding of what ‘acceptance’ might be showing me.  There is beauty in the now What if we dropped the mental preconceptions, the should’s, the if’s, and the but’s.  Nature doesn’t question “Where is more”?…why should we?

“As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be you can’t see how it is.” ~Ram Dass

Bee Balm Love

Accepting the present blossoms, production, life circumstances, etc.  can provide great peace, release of the expectation/disappointment cycle, and even unveil a sweet gratitude for what IS.

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” ~Lao-Tzu

Essential oils can have a gentle and effective role in cultivating acceptance.

Original Essential Oil Blend @ a 1% dilution:


Vanilla Infused Organic Golden Jojoba- 1 oz.

Thyme(Thymus vulgaris ct linalol)-2 drops

Palmarosa(Cymbopogon martini var. motia)-2 drops

Neroli(Citrus aurantium var. amara)-2 drops

Jatropha Flower Essence

Suggested Use: Apply daily over the heart area morning, and evening.  Nicely paired with regular entries in a personal gratitude journal.

Blooming Bell Flower

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie

Until Next Time,

Breathe Joy…


Pictures from my garden, Summer 2011

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Garden Fresh Tomato

Organic Harvest

There is nothing like a bright red, homegrown tomato right out of the garden, or the addition of aromatic herbs to add dimension to the next meal.  Backyard eating is an amazing way to experience the miracle of growth, the intensity of fresh, in season, organic produce, and participate in sustainable living practices.  It can be as simple as splicing a couple of holes directly in a bag of organic potting soil and adding a few seedlings(for a self-contained “mini” garden), to container gardening on the porch, to a full-blown raised bed garden system.  I am passionate about getting my hands in at the ground level, and watching it all unfold into an abundant harvest of life.

Here’s what worked for me:

Planning out a site that was prime for full sun(an annuals favorite, 6-8 hours per day, is ideal), and conveniently close to a water source.

Deciding the quantity of veggies desired to harvest.  That will determine, of course, on how large of a garden layout you will need.


I chose raised beds because my soil is hard and high in clay.  Raised beds are a great choice for several reasons: you can easily manage the loose soil(it does not get walked on or compacted), the beds warm faster than direct ground sow, allowing you to start the planting season a bit earlier, and the side walls can be used as support for a variety of cold frames and trellis’s. I used graph paper to layout the raised bed design that I wanted, making sure to space enough room between the beds to fit in a wheel barrel(a good measure for weeding, and harvesting.)

The Base

Double walled cardboard that had been re-cycled was laid out on the marked area. I chose a 27 foot octagon. The cardboard provided a nice base to begin on and great for weed prevention.

If you are handy at building, certainly it is less expensive to build your own raised bed boxes(highly suggested that you choose wood that is NOT pressure treated due to the chemicals used in that preservation process).  However, if you are a lover of convenient, Natural Yards is an excellent alternative.  They are a company that provides natural, easy to assemble, cedar raised bed kits(and have free shipping).

I chose 4- 4” x 6” x 16.5” and 4- 2” x 2” x 16.5”.  The depth gives me flexibility for deep root plants, like tomatoes.  The smaller 2″ x 2″ are perfect for herbs, zucchini and seeds.

The Next Layer: Cedar Mulch

Natural Cedar Wood Boxes

Once assembled, it is time to fill with a high quality organic soil. There are a lot of theories on how to “layer” soil.  I used a combination of organic soil, peat moss, and compost. Once the beds are laid in place, a nice thick layer of cedar mulch can be put down on the walkways, between the raised beds.  This provides a super path and is awesome to keep the weeds far away.

One of the most fun parts of the process is deciding what to plant.

Seed Savers is an excellent company dedicated to organic seeds, specifically heirloom varieties.  I have had great pleasure experiencing their Caribbean blue potatoes, purple basil, green and black zebra tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes.  You can really go crazy with all the varieties-they have 13 kinds of just garlic alone!

Tried & True Resources:

Once the plants are in place, buckwheat hulls are my favorite choice for mulch, keeping moisture in and weeds out. My compost of choice to add directly into the raised beds at the time of planting is vermicompost. (See my recent blog post on worm compost). My natural, organic insecticide, fungicide, and miticide of choice is Neem.  Neem is a wonder-worker and a great preventative mist for all your flowers and vegetables.

There are oodles of resources on gardening and how to plant. The ones I love and use regularly are:

Boundaries...they're a good thing

Lastly, because I live in a county, wooded area, a deer fence was a must.  I installed an 8 foot high deer barrier from Deer Busters.  At any given moment, I can have a backyard full of deer. The fence has been installed for over 3 years and they happily peruse around it.

The final step would be an automatic, self-watering system.  That is on my “things to do” list.  I’ll keep you posted. For now, daily hand watering works just fine, and gives me a chance to keep good tabs on the growing process.

It's Fun Being Green!

My Curious Kitty

Organic Gardening is one of the most rewarding projects.  It keeps me connected to my land, my food source, and the plant world.

Until next post,

Breathe Joy…

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Garlic scapes that is! 

For years, I never knew what a scape was, or that it’s a wonderfully edible ‘by-product’ of the beloved garlic. Garlic is a member of the genus, Allium(onions, leeks, and chives also belong to this family).  The garlic scape is a shoot that sprouts from the underground garlic bulb.  Scapes are ready to be harvested when they lengthen and begin to straighten out from their natural looping tendency.

Garlic Scapes: Who Knew?

With most things that sprout, harvesting when the shoot is young will produce a more tender and delicate outcome. It is best to harvest the scape when it is bright green.  Waiting until it is white, or pale is actually taking away energy and life force from the garlic growing below; resulting in smaller bulbs.

There are a ton of ways to use scapes.

Being 100% Italian, there is never a shortage of where this delectable bulb stalk can be tucked in.  Garlic scapes are a welcome flavor addition chopped raw and added to stews, salads, stir-fry or casseroles.  The flavor has a fresh, light and ‘green’ overtone to the familiar garlic sensation.

So let’s get cooking, shall we!

Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto


10 garlic scapes(diced)
1/3 cup walnuts(or pine nuts)
1/2 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste


1/3 cup raw cashews, 1 Tablespoon of nutritional yeast, pinch of salt, black pepper to taste, 1-2 Tablespoons of HOT water


Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper.

In the same food processor bowl, add the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper.  Process until mixed and slowly add the hot water.  Pulse until combined(use a spatula to clear the sides, so all is throughly mixed). Add this mixture to the first bowl, stir by hand.

This can be spread on baguettes and toasted under the broiler for an amazing garlic bread, or added to your favorite cooked pasta with fresh garden tomatoes chopped atop & a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Still hungry for more?

Freshly Picked from My Garden

Garlic Kale Chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner(or paper towels).
  3. Add 1/3 cup of the vegan garlic scape pesto(above). Massage the pesto into the greens(your hands are the best option…now that’s Italian)!
  4. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
  5. Bake until the edges brown for 10 to 15 minutes(flipping 1/2 way through). Watch carefully so the edges do not burn.  The chips should be light and crispy when done baking. Enjoy!
Until next time,
Breathe Joy…

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There is something about finishing a day of work and immediately heading into the garden.  After slouching over a computer all day, the vivid colors of nature and rich, deep earth at your fingertips is completely transforming.  I just finished planting flower boxes filled with bordeaux, purple trailing petunias, vivid coral geranium and electric pansy colored verbena.  Such fun!

I believe in the power of color, and when you ‘tune in’ it is hard not to see the play of beauty.  When a palette of complimentary colors are chosen, a sense of harmony and attraction is created.  The combination of purple, green and coral forms a triad(three hues equally positioned on the color wheel).  This balance of using active range shades(like red, orange, yellow) and passive range shades(like blue, green, purple) gives a sense of balance and stability.

Ok, sorry… I got off on a tangent.  This post is about WORMS!! 

One gem that I have found over the years to help maintain garden health and luscious blooms is vermicompost.  It began when I attended a compost seminar in Avon, NY at Worm Power, the largest controlled vermicomposting facility in the Eastern United States. And, by the way where their tagline is “Eatin’ manure and lovin’ it!!

On the tour they began their very organized system at the “hot compost” pile(a natural method were the material heats up, breaks down and eliminates weeds & pathogens).  Next, we were on to the worm building, which housed 8 million busy worms “doing thier thing”; which in turn creates one of the richest, organic fertilizers available.

Passion Flower playing Peek-a-boo

On a side note, my first year using this new fertilizer, I really “pumped up the poop” in the flower beds.  The rewards were outstanding(see pics).  My Mom actually was coveting my worm castings!  In fact, for her birthday, I bundled up a bag and tied it with a big bow…she was thrilled. :o )

Garden Beauty

In any event, my interest grew to begin in-home vermicomposting.  I purchased a five tier tower and 2000red wigglers and began the process.  With the additional simple set up of shredded paper, coconut mulch bedding and common edible kitchen scrapes, the in-home composter was good to go.

After a couple of months, I not only had pounds of rich, fertile compost(for FREE), but the tower also collects the liquid version(called worm tea). This is awesome diluted with water for indoor houseplants.

Bursts of Joy

If you are looking for an eco~friendly project that reduces, reuses, recycles and rebuilds simultaneously, vermicomposting is the way to go.

Believe it or not, it is actually fun sharing a morning smoothie with your pet worms!

Simple Action:  Looking for the Pow without all the Fuss?  Harris Seeds has Worm Power products in stock and ready to ship.

Until next time,

Breathe Joy…

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My first experience with Comfrey(Symphytum officinale) was in the early 90’s.  I had purchased a home from a horse trainer and one of the main instructions regarding the property was to give tender care to the “magic plant” on the side of the barn.  She continued to tell me that she would prepare poultices with it for all of her horses injuries, and was continuously amazed at the quick and effective results.

Comfrey plants grow from 4-10 feet tall!

Freshly picked Organic Comfrey 

Believe it or not, I never knew what that enormous ‘green giant’ was until last year when I began delving deeper into herbs and ‘backyard medicine’.  I no longer live at that residence, but lucky for me, my best friend does!  It was my great fortune to harvest comfrey from that precious plant last fall.  Pieces of the root, stems and leaves were carefully picked, gently washed and lightly dehydrated, at low temperatures.  Quart size glass jars were filled with the dried plant material, and a fine grade of olive oil was poured over, covering the comfrey. The filled jars were kept on the window sill for 8 weeks and gently shaken on a daily basis.  Lastly, the oil was strained through cheesecloth twice, and decanted into one ounce, amber glass bottles.  It was an easy process.  Patience was the main skill exercised!

Comfrey Roots, Stems & Leaves

I love having Comfrey infused oil on hand.  It is powerful on its own, and makes an awesome addition to St. John’s Wort oil & Calendula oil in skin and wound healing balms.

Historically referred to as “Bone-Knit”, Comfrey is known for its ability to aid in the healing of broken bones, sprains, and closed wounds.

Other benefits of Comfrey include:

  • Help with skin conditions such as acne and boils
  • Aiding in the proper development of nerve cells
  • Replacing damaged cells in the body
  • Effective with intestinal disorders
  • Alleviating bronchial problems
  • Assisting with heavy bleeding
  • Increasing circulation
  • Anti-inflammatory

Spiritual Perspective~

Many wild-crafters have deep gratitude for the natural plant world, with qualities of humility & reverence.  Folklore suggests that ‘permission’ from the plant is requested before harvesting.  Once the feeling to proceed is present, mindful cultivation includes taking small amounts from several plants, when there is abundance(vs. all from one plant), using care when cutting, and even leaving an offering such as dried corn or tobacco leaves.

Edible Insight:

Consuming oral comfrey products or comfrey tea is NOT RECOMMENDED. Internal consumption of comfrey tea is said to cause liver damage, as it contains pyrrolidizine alkaloids that are considered hepatoxic(toxic to the liver).

Fun Fact:

Comfrey is also used as a natural, organic fertilizer. Being deep-rooted, this plant has the capability to extract many nutrients from the soil.  It contains 2-3 times more potassium than farm-yard manure; a component necessary for proper plant functions.

Simple Action:

Comfrey water can be prepared by placing a handful of comfrey leaves in a container and then filling the jar with sufficient water to cover.  The mixture needs to stand for 3-4 weeks. Next, strain the leaves out of the water and store in a garden sprayer. For every gallon of water, 1/3 cup of comfrey juice is added for proper dilution. Your homemade Comfrey “tea” is now ready to delight your garden!

Original Essential Oil Recipe:

This is a 2% dilution for the aid in muscle, tendon and ligament healing. Apply to the affected area 2-4 times per day.

1 oz. of Comfrey Infused Oil

Lavender(Lavandula angustifolia)-6 drops

Helichrysum(Helichrysum italicum)-4 drops

German Chamomile(Matricaria recutita)-3 drops

Flowering Comfrey


Until next time,

Breathe Joy…

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