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Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Make Liquid Compost

Credit to: http://www.ehow.com/how_4883170_make-liquid-compost.html 

By Nannette Richford, eHow Contributor

If you are in the habit of throwing your kitchen waste down the garbage disposal, you are wasting valuable nutrients that would make your flowers and vegetables thrive. Perhaps you do not have the time or space needed to build a compost bin, but that should not stop you. With a little effort, you can make liquid compost from those fruit vegetable scraps.


  • Save fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds and any other organic matter in a small bucket or a large bowl. Avoid meats, fish, dairy or other fatty foods. Add leftover cooked vegetables, as long as they do not contain heavy seasoning or fatty sauces.
  • Place the scraps in the blender. Add any leftover water from cooking or add a little water to make blending easier.

  • Blend on high speed until the scraps are pureed. Add enough water to create a pourable mixture.
  • Pour into a bucket or pitcher. Add 2 tablespoons of ammonia and 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salts per quart. Mix well. Apply to the soil around outside plants. This will provide a quick source of nutrients to your plants.

Tips & Warnings

Make a habit of blending the scraps on a daily basis. Make liquid compost when you clean out the refrigerator by blending all left over fruits and vegetables.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Plants by Type: herb

We've chosen North America's most popular garden plants and provided "how to" gardening information to help you prepare, plant, and care for them.
For each plant, we've identified the hardiness zone, sun exposure, soil type, soil pH, pests and problems, harvest tips, recommended varieties, and special features. You'll also find recipes, free e-cards, and a dose of wit & wisdom. Just click on an image below to view that plant's growing guide.
Or, click the links below to browse by plant type:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

How to purify water ~ Just in case....

Boil water at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. A pinch of salt added to each quart of water improves taste. You can also purify water with two chemicals: chlorine bleach and iodine.
Chlorine bleach (unscented) such as Clorox or Purex. Check the label to be sure that hypochlorite is the only active ingredient. Do not use bleach that contains soap.
Use the following amounts:
  • 1% chlorine - Add 40 drops of bleach/ gallon of water
  • 4 to 6% chlorine - Add 8 drops of bleach/gallon of water
  • 7 to 10% chlorine - Add 4 drops of bleach /gallon of water
Mix bleach into the water and let stand for 30 minutes. Water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn't, repeat the process and let the water stand for an additional 15 minutes.
Iodine. Iodine from your medicine chest can also be used to purify water. The iodine should be 2/United States Pharmocopeia(U.S.A.) Strength. Add 20 drops/gallon of clear water, and 40 drops/gallon of cloudy water.
Water purification tablets are available at drugstores. Follow manufacturer's directions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Gardening Makes You Happy and Cures Depression

With thanks to:  http://permaculture.com.au/online/articles/why-gardening-makes-you-happy-and-cures-depression

Written by Robyn Francis

Robyn Francis

While mental health experts warn about depression as a global epidemic, other researchers are discovering ways we trigger our natural production of happy chemicals that keep depression at bay, with surprising results. All you need to do is get your fingers dirty and harvest your own food.

In recent years I’ve come across two completely independent bits of research that identified key environmental triggers for two important chemicals that boost our immune system and keep us happy - serotonin and dopamine. What fascinated me as a permaculturist and gardener were that the environmental triggers happen in the garden when you handle the soil and harvest your crops.

Getting down and dirty is the best ‘upper’ – Serotonin

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels – contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research. Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system. Lack of serotonin in the brain causes depression.

Ironically, in the face of our hyper-hygienic, germicidal, protective clothing, obsessive health-and-safety society, there's been a lot of interesting research emerging in recent years regarding how good dirt is for us, and dirt-deficiency in childhood is implicated in contributing to quite a spectrum of illnesses including allergies, asthma and mental disorders.

At least now I have a new insight into why I compulsively garden without gloves and have always loved the feeling of getting my bare hands into the dirt and compost heap.

Harvest 'High' - Dopamine

Another interesting bit of research relates to the release of dopamine in the brain when we harvest products from the garden. The researchers hypothesise that this response evolved over nearly 200,000 years of hunter gathering, that when food was found (gathered or hunted) a flush of dopamine released in the reward centre of brain triggered a state of bliss or mild euphoria. The dopamine release can be triggered by sight (seeing a fruit or berry) and smell as well as by the action of actually plucking the fruit.

The contemporary transference of this brain function and dopamine high has now been recognised as the biological process at play in consumers addiction or compulsive shopping disorder. Of course the big retail corporations are using the findings to increase sales by provoking dopamine triggers in their environments and advertising.

I have often remarked on the great joy I feel when I forage in the garden, especially when I discover and harvest the ‘first of the season’, the first luscious strawberry to ripen or emergence of the first tender asparagus shoot. (and yes, the photo is my hand plucking a deliciously sweet strawberry in my garden) I have also often wondered why I had a degree of inherent immunity to the retail-therapy urges that afflict some of my friends and acquaintances. Maybe as a long-term gardener I’ve been getting a constant base-load dopamine high which has reduced the need to seek other ways to appease this primal instinct. Though, I must admit with the benefit of hindsight, I now have another perspective on my occasional ‘shopping sprees’ at local markets buying plants for the garden.

Of course dopamine responses are triggered by many other things and is linked with addictive and impulsive behaviour. I suppose the trick is to rewire our brains to crave the dopamine hit from the garden and other more sustainable pursuits and activities. As a comment on PlanetDrum stated, “all addiction pathways are the same no matter what the chemical. As long as you feel rewarded you reinforce the behavior to get the reward.”

So in other words it all comes down to the fact that we can’t change our craving nature but we CAN change the nature of what we crave.
Strengthening the Case for Organic
Glyphosate residues deplete your Serotonin and Dopamine levels

Of course, for all of the above to work effectively and maintain those happy levels of serotonin and dopamine, there’s another prerequisite according to another interesting bit of research I found. It appears it will all work much better with organic soil and crops that haven’t been contaminated with Roundup or Glyphosate-based herbicides. This proviso also extends to what you eat, so ideally you’ll avoid consuming non-organic foods that have been grown in farmland using glyphosates.

A recent study in 2008 discovered that glyphosate, the active ingredient of Roundup, depletes serotonin and dopamine levels in mammals. Contrary to Monsanto claims, glyphosate and other Roundup ingredients do perpetuate in the environment, in soil, water, plants and in the cells and organs of animals. One study found glyphosate residues in cotton fabric made from Roundup-ready GM cotton can absorb into the skin and into our nervous and circulatory systems.

No wonder there’s so much depression around, and stress, and all the addictions and compulsive disorders in the pursuit of feeling good. I think back on when I moved to Sydney in 1984 for a few years and was contacting community centres in the inner west to see if there was interest in permaculture or gardening classes. A very terse social worker snapped at me “listen dear, we don’t need gardening classes, we need stress therapy classes”, and promptly hung up on me with a resounding “Huh!” when I replied that gardening was the best stress therapy I knew.

So enjoy the garden, fresh organic food and make sure you have fun playing in the dirt on a regular basis.

Robyn Francis 2010

Robyn Francis is an international permaculture designer, educator, writer and pioneer based at Djanbung Gardens, Nimbin Northern NSW. She is principal of Permaculture College Australia.

Here’s some interesting sites and extracts for further info and reading

Glyphosate Report PDF

fhrfarms1.com/docs/.../Gly%20monograph%20PANAP%204-10.pdf An in-depth and comprehensive report of independent research on impacts and effects of Glyphosate and Roundup published by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, Nov 2009

Soil Bacteria Work In Similar Way To Antidepressants


UK scientists suggest that a type of friendly bacteria found in soil may affect the brain in a similar way to antidepressants. Their findings are published in the early online edition of the journal Neuroscience.

Soil bacteria can boost immune system

Harmless bug works as well as antidepressant drugs, study suggests


EXTRACT: Exposure to friendly soil bacteria could improve mood by boosting the immune system just as effectively as antidepressant drugs, a new study suggests.

The researchers suspect, however, that the microbes are affecting the brain indirectly by causing immune cells to release chemicals called cytokines. “We know that some of these cytokines can activate the nerves that relay signals from the body to the brain,” Lowry said in a telephone interview.

The stimulated nerves cause certain neurons in the brain to release a chemical called serotonin into the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to be involved in mood regulation, among other things.

Scientists think the lack of serotonin in the brain is thought to cause depression in people.

Previous studies have linked early childhood exposure to bacteria to protection against allergies and asthma in adulthood. The new finding take this idea, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” a step further, and suggests bacteria-exposure not only boosts our immune systems, but alters our vulnerability to conditions such as depression as well.

“These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health,” Lowry said. “They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”

“Selfish behaviors are reward driven and innate, wired deeply into the survival mechanisms of the primitive brain, and when consistently reinforced, they will run away to greed, with its associated craving for money, food, or power. On the other hand, the self restraint and the empathy for others that are so important in fostering physical and mental health are learned behaviors – largely functions of the new human cortex and thus culturally dependent. These social behaviors are fragile and learned by imitations much as we learn language". Dr. Peter Whybrow - "American Mania"

Some interesting insights and food for thought…

Status and Curiosity – On the Origins of Oil Addiction by Nate Hagens


The various layers and mechanisms of our brain were built on top of each other, via millions and millions of iterations, keeping intact what 'worked' and adding on what changes and mutations helped the pre-human, pre-mammal organism incrementally advance. … We are, all of us, descended from the best of the best at surviving and procreating, which in the environment of privation and danger where we endured the most 'iterations' of our evolution, meant acquiring necessary resources, achieving status, and possessing brains finely tuned to natural dangers and opportunities. In our modern environment, it is the combination of pursuit of social status and the plethora of fun, exciting/novel activities that underlies our large appetite for oil.

research tells us that drugs of abuse activate the brain’s mesolimbic dopamine reward system, the neural network that regulates our ability to feel pleasure and be motivated for “more”. When we have a great experience… our brain experiences a surge in the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine. We feel positively charged, warm, ‘in the zone’ and happy. After a while, the dopamine gets flushed out of our system and returns to it's baseline level. We go about our lives, looking forward to the next pleasurable experience.

Hagens also muses that “There is anecdotal evidence that the typical american diet high in processed starches and sugar robs us of our baseline serotonin - the zen master of brain neurotransmitters. Lack of serotonin makes us more susceptible to cravings/behavioural changes and throws the reward machinery out of whack. Food we buy/eat is available at stores and restaurants because a)it is profitable b)it is convenient and c)it tastes good. I suspect that future changes in diet towards more vegetables and less processed food might improve our collective addictions/impulsivity.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The difference between open-pollinated, heirloom, and hybrid seeds

ALL CREDIT TO:  http://blog.seedsavers.org/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds/

The difference b

Deciding which seed to plant can be a daunting task, and the decision is often more complicated than simply trying to pick which beautiful tomatoes to grow. Among the more important decisions every gardener makes is the choice between open-pollinated, hybrid, and heirloom seed varieties. Each of these seed types has something to offer, depending on the gardener’s needs, interests, and values.
For seed-saving purposes, the most significant distinction among these types is that gardeners can save true-to-type seed from open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, but not hybrids. Here are a few more distinctions that might help you decide what to grow this season:
  • Open-pollination is when pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, humans, or other natural mechanisms. Because there are no restrictions on the flow of pollen between individuals, open-pollinated plants are more genetically diverse. This can cause a greater amount of variation within plant populations, which allows plants to slowly adapt to local growing conditions and climate year-to-year. As long as pollen is not shared between different varieties within the same species, then the seed produced will remain true-to-type year after year.
  • An heirloom variety is a plant variety that has a history of being passed down within a family or community, similar to the generational sharing of heirloom jewelry or furniture. An heirloom variety must be open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated plants are heirlooms. While some companies create heirloom labels based on dates (such as a variety that is more than 50 years old), Seed Savers Exchange identifies heirlooms by verifying and documenting the generational history of preserving and passing on the seed.
  • Hybridization is a controlled method of pollination in which the pollen of two different species or varieties is crossed by human intervention. Hybridization can occur naturally through random crosses, but commercially available hybridized seed, often labeled as F1, is deliberately created to breed a desired trait. The first generation of a hybridized plant cross also tends to grow better and produce higher yields than the parent varieties due to a phenomenon called ‘hybrid vigor’. However, any seed produced by F1 plants is genetically unstable and cannot be saved for use in following years. Not only will the plants not be true-to-type, but they will be considerably less vigorous. Gardeners who use hybrid plant varieties must purchase new seed every year. Hybrid seeds can be stabilized, becoming open-pollinated varieties, by growing, selecting, and saving the seed over many years.
So what’s it going to be—hybrid, open-pollinated, or heirloom varieties? While hybrids have their benefits, choosing open-pollinated varieties conserves the genetic diversity of garden vegetables and prevents the loss of unique varieties in the face of dwindling agricultural biodiversity. Furthermore, focusing on heirloom varieties creates a historical connection to gardening and food production, building a more sustainable future by carrying on our garden heritage. By choosing open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, you have the ability to help conserve biodiversity and to contribute to the stories behind our seeds.
Learn more about seed saving and SSE’s collection of heirloom vegetable seeds for sale in the Seed Savers Exchange Online catalog.

Monday, May 7, 2012

30 Most Popular Herbs for Natural Medicine

Source Site:  http://ybertaud9.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/30-most-popular-herbs-for-natural-medicine/


“the fruit of it shall be for eating and leaf of it for healing…” (Ezekiel 47:12)

Herbs are a wondrous thing. They not only assist in flavoring dishes and filling the air with delightful aromas, but they also hold medicinal properties that promote healing. Those of you who have herbal gardens of your own, no doubt have a few of these herbal friends already planted. Many of the plants listed below are also listed in my Top 10 Medicinal Herbs that should be in every garden. However, it seems that there are a few more worth mentioning.

Our Herbal Friends

  1. Aloe Vera – Antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, wound and burn healer, natural laxative, soothes stomach, helps skin disorders.
  2. Basil – Powerful antispasmodic, antiviral, anti-infectious, antibacterial, soothes stomach.
  3. Black Cohosh – Relieves menopausal hot flashes, relieves menstrual cramps, helps circulatory and cardiovascular disorders, lowers blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, useful for nervousness and stress. Note: Do not use during pregnancy.
  4. Black Walnut – Good for eliminating parasites, good for fungal infections, good for warts and poison ivy, aids digestion.
  5. Cinnamon – It has been proven that 99.9% of viruses and bacteria can not live in the presence of cinnamon. So it makes a great antibacterial and antiviral weapon.
  6. Cayenne- Catalyst for other herbs, useful for arthritis and rheumatism (topically and internally), good for colds, flu viruses, sinus infection and sore throat, useful for headache and fever, aids organs (kidneys, heart, lungs, pancreas, spleen and stomach, increase thermogenesis for weight loss.
  7. Clove Bud – Improves the immune system, they are also an antioxidant and doubles as an antibacterial and antimicrobial fighter.
  8. Cypress – The therapeutic properties of cypress oil are astringent, antiseptic, antispasmodic, deodorant, diuretic, haemostatic, hepatic, styptic, sudorific, vasoconstrictor, respiratory tonic and sedative.
  9. Dandelion – Helpful for PMS, good for menopause, increases ovarian hormones.
  10. Echinacea (coneflower) – Boosts white blood cell production, immune system support, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, good for colds, flu and infection. Note: Use no more than two weeks at a time. Do not use if you are allergic to sunflowers or related species.
  11. Eucalyptus – Anti-infectious, antibacterial and antiviral.
  12. Garlic – Helps fight infection, detoxifies the body, enhances immunity, lowers blood fats, assists yeast infections, helps asthma, cancer, sinusitis, circulatory problems and heart conditions.
  13. German Chamomile – Helps stress, anxiety and insomnia, good for indigestion, useful for colitis and most digestive problems, effective blood cleanser and helps increase liver function and supports the pancreas. Improves bile flow from the liver, it is good for healing of the skin that might come from a blistering chemical agent.
  14. Geranium – Dilates bile ducts for liver detoxification, antispasmodic, stops bleeding, anti-infectious, antibacterial.
  15. Ginger – Helps nausea, motion sickness and vomiting, useful for circulatory problems, good for indigestion, and is also an effective antioxidant.
  16. Lavender – Assists with burns, antiseptic, used as a stress reliever, good for depression, aids skin health and beauty.
  17. Lemon – Is known for its antiseptic properties, Essential Science Publishing says that: According to Jean Valnet, M.D. the vaporized essence of lemon can kill meningococcal bacteria in 15 minutes, typhoid bacilli in one hour, Staphylococcus aureus in two hours andPneumococcus bacteria within three hours. Lemon also improves micro-circulation, promotes white blood cell formation, and improves immune function.
  18. Marjoram – Anti-infectious, antibacterial, dilates blood vessels, regulates blood pressure, soothes muscles.
  19. Marshmallow – Aids bladder infections, diuretic (helps fluid retention), helps kidney problems, soothes coughs, sore throats, indigestion, and as a topical agent it is said to be anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and wound-healing.
  20. Melissa – Assists in issues with the nervous system, blisters, and has antimicrobial properties.
  21. Mullein – Can be used as a laxative, good for asthma and bronchitis, useful for difficulty breathing, helps hay fever.
  22. Myrrh – Anti-infectious, antiviral, soothes skin conditions and supports immune system. Also an antispasmodic that helps to reduce spasming due to spasms caused by nerve agents.
  23. Oregano – is a powerful antibiotic and has been proven to be more effective in neutralizing germs than some chemical antibiotics. It has been effective against germs  like Staphylococcus aureas, Escherichia coli, Yersinia enterocolitica and Pseudomonasaeruginosa.
  24. Pine – Antidiabetic, cortisone-like, severe infections, hypertensive
  25. Rosemary – Antiseptic, Antibacterial, Cleansing and detoxes the body. Supports the liver and combats cirrhosis.
  26. Rosewood – Anti-infectious, antibacterial, and antiviral.
  27. Sage – Used in anxiety, nervous disorders, as astringent, in abdominal disorders, anti inflammatory.
  28. Spearmint – To calm the Nervous System, aide with Nerve Agents.
  29. Tea Tree – Disinfectant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, burns, good for all skin conditions.
  30. Thyme – Effective against Anthrax and Tuberculosis
Perhaps it is time that we begin taking more proactive steps in our physical well being. In the book, Natural Health Remedies: An A-Z Family Guide it states that natural medicine does not simply seek to suppress symptoms with drugs and so forth, but it attempts to discover and eliminate the root cause of disease. Even further, the author suggests that natural medicine teaches not only the treatment of disease but also itsprevention by instilling dietary and lifestyle habits that promote health.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Benefits of Raised Vegetable Garden Beds

Well Folks, it's that time of year again when all good Hippies get dirt dirt under their nails.  I love this cider-brick raised be idea only I would want mine 2-deep.  Maybe next year.  This year due to health issues I am going with the Pot Garden.  It's all 'groovy' :)  Garden on.....

Original Article Here: http://www.botanical-journeys-plant-guides.com/raised-bed-vegetable-garden.html

Cinder block raised bed vegetable garden.

**Early planting. The soil in a raised garden bed warms up more quickly in the spring. This allows you to get your veges into the ground sooner and to harvest them weeks earlier. This becomes more meaningful the shorter your growing season.

**Less digging. The soil in raised vegetable garden beds does not have to be double dug every year. This is because you never step into the beds. The soil stays loose and friable. You can dig in some compost each season if you really feel a need to dig. Otherwise, just spread it on top of the soil and rake it in.

**Drainage. Because the soil is never compacted by your feet, it maintains perfect drainage.

**Productivity. Gardening in raised beds produces more food per square foot than raising vegetables in rows or in containers.

Especially if you build a raised bed garden that is 12 inches deep.

The soil is richer and plant roots can move freely through it. Your veges will not be constantly stubbing their toes on rocks and what not like they would be if planted into the native soil.

Vegetable Garden
Raised Bed Soil Management

In order to support the kind of intensive gardening you will surely want to do, the soil needs to be very fertile. Don't skimp on additives. Dig in copious amounts of composted manure when preparing the beds for their first planting season.

Thereafter, spread a generous layer of compost or composted manure atop the beds each spring before you replant them.

This is a good time to add some slow-release, organic fertilizer as well.

If your raised bed vegetable garden is in a lawn, it might be a good idea to line it with several layers of damp newspaper before adding the soil.

The newsprint will suppress weeds and grass. This is especially important in a shallow (6 inch) bed.
After the vegetables are planted, you will want to mulch the beds to regulate the soil temperature, hold in moisture and discourage any weed seeds that happen to wander in.

How Deep to Build a Raised Bed Garden

The standard depths of raised bed garden kits are 6 and 12 inches but there are deeper raised garden bed kits available. How deep your raised bed vegetable garden needs to be depends on what you intend to grow.

If you are not sure what you will be raising from year-to-year, install a 12 inch deep bed. The deeper bed will give you more leeway where plants are concerned.

6 Inch Vegetable Garden Bed Plants

  • Lettuce
  • Nasturtiums
  • Kale and most other greens
  • Most annual herbs
  • Parsley
  • Small chili pepper plants, the kinds that could grow in a 6 or 8 inch pot.

  • 12 Inch Raised Bed Garden Vegetables

    The deeper bed will allow you to grow all of the above plus:

  • Determinate tomatoes*
  • Eggplant
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Melons
  • Sweet peppers
  • Cayenne Peppers or any other large chili
  • Carrots

  • *Indeterminate tomatoes really need a deeper bed to grow and produce well.

    Where to Put a Raised Vegetable Garden Bed

    The elevated raised bed in the photo above can be placed on a wooden deck or concrete patio. This is also an excellent raised bed design for someone with back or mobility problems.

    The other raised bed vegetable gardens depicted on this page would not be suitable for use on a deck as the moisture and weight might damage the structure.

    This will not be a problem on a concrete or slate surface.

    If you are building a raised bed vegetable garden on a patio, be sure to place it a few inches from your home's wall so that air can circulate. If you wish to butt the raised bed up against the wall, waterproof the wall first.

    When placing vegetable garden raised beds on a lawn, try to situate them on level ground. This is easier said than done as most lawns are not as flat as they appear to be.

    Use soil, rocks or wood scraps to make the bed level before filling it with soil. Otherwise any water applied will run to 1 side and it will be difficult to maintain even moisture around the roots of your plants.