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An Herbal Tincture is a method of preserving the medicinal attributes of an herb in such a way will allow you to use the herbs long after their season is gone. As I have said before, the more herbs you eat, the healthier you will be. However, at certain times of the year, certain herbs are not available. So, by making tinctures you can use herbs all year round. Typically, to make a tincture you steep the herb of choice in vodka or brandy for four to six weeks. Once the herb matter is strained out and the liquid re-bottled, the tincture will keep indefinitely.
The essential oils and herbal essences are soluble in alcohol making alcohol a better solvent than vinegar for making tinctures. Once the menstruum (plant material and solvent) has steeped, all the herbal goodness and health benefits of the herbs will be suspended and concentrated in the alcohol. This concentration is why so little of the tincture is needed in an individual dose.
There are many combinations of herbs that can be used- select the herbs based on your needs. Dandelion is an all around great herb with so many medicinal qualities. I use this herb alone to make a tincture that is taken by anyone feeling “under the weather” to boost the immune system and ward off the colds and flues that tend to go around in the winter.
A small amount- 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon per day is all that is taken by adults around our house. When the children were toddlers a few drops in their sippy cups helped battle the snotty noses and colds that came with childhood.
There are many resources on the internet for recipes and several good herbal books that give instruction as to preparation of tinctures. I like to use Growing 101 Herbs That Heal, by Tammi Hartung.
A basic recipe is:
1 clean 1 pint glass jar with a fitting lid
Approx. 1 cup chopped fresh herb or 1/4 cup dried herb, coarsely chopped.
1 pint of brandy or vodka.
Place the chopped herb matter into the jar.
Pour in Vodka or Brandi, let steep for 4-6 weeks, shake weekly, then strain.
Herbal tincture steeping and waiting to be strained. Be certain to label with contents and date- the only way to be certain you will remember what is in the jar.
bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil.
And at no season, safe perhaps in Daffodil time,
do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November. Rose G. Kingsley
Fall is the best time of the year to garden! I have already posted a Fall Gardening Check List and I will be creating several more posts about fall gardening in the weeks coming. I LOVE summer, but I am always ready for those brisk autumn mornings that are just around the corner!
“Regard your soil as the living, breathing entity it is- to be nurtured, fed and sustained.” – Peter Fossel
Soil is the Soul of your Garden!
It doesn’t matter what you plant or where you bought your plants or seeds, if your soil isn’t healthy- you will not be successful. Soil may not be very exciting to a new gardener, but once you really understand the complexity and the vitality of healthy soil – you will look at soil with new eyes!
Micronutrients and Microbial Organisms are essential to healthy soil!
Microbes- the unseen, unsung heroes of soil and organic gardening. They serve first to break down organic matter into a form plants can use, and then to improve the soils structure and the ability of plants to draw sustenance from it.
Micronutrients are those minerals and elements that are not needed in great quantities but are essential for plants to be healthy.
Where to begin?
The first step in bringing your soil into the best shape possible and into a state of high fertility is to know what type of soil you currently have.
A soil test is important to do in the very beginning. Once you have a base line, deciding on amendments will be easier. After the initial soil test, it isn’t necessary to keep having the soil tested- the plants will tell you if the soil is lacking.
To do a soil test- get a sample bag from the county extension office or from the lab that you want to use. With a bucket in hand, dig 6-8 inches down with a small shovel and place the soil in the bucket. Take samples from all over the area you are testing. Even on a small piece of property, the soil can vary from on area to another. Collecting from multiple points will give you a better picture. Stir all the soil together and then fill the bag and mail it to the specified address and follow the lab’s instructions.
When the results come back- take the results to your county extension office and the agent can help you read and analyze the test results.
Now, it is important to understand that you don’t have to have a soil test to begin improving your soil. The following amendments are perfect for every garden and cannot be over used as they are organic in nature and mild in their effects.
But, you do need to look at your soil and determine what kind you have:
Or a combination of these types
Regardless of what you grow- fruits, herbs, vegetables, or flowers- it all starts with the soil. The plants will only be as healthy as the soil that their roots are anchored in. Therefore, it is imperative that attention is given to the health of the soil.
Key elements are:
Friability– the texture of the soil. It should be soft and crumbly- think potting soil.
Most people do not begin with perfect soil of just the right texture but that does not mean you cannot be successful at gardening.
If your soil is too coarse (sandy) texture will be improved by adding compost and other organic materials such as mulch, leaves, etc.
If your soil is too fine (clay), which causes it to be compacted’ then it is going to need organic matter and other amendments such as green sand or expanded shale to loosen up the soil.
The Ph Balance- the Ph balance in the soil should be slightly alkaline. If the soil is acidic the Ph can be adjusted by adding lime. However, I don’t think this point is worth getting worked up over unless you are growing a plant or crop that is extremely picky. There are also many acid loving plants out there. So, know what you are dealing with but then focus on using what you have versus feeling like you must change your soil. If a soil is alive with microbial activity, plants can tolerate a Ph balance that is not quite right.
Drainage- this is more of a location issue. If the location of your garden does not have good drainage you can fix this with using raised beds. Sandy soils tend to drain too fast and clay soils tend to not drain fast enough.
If you have sandy soils you need to slow the drainage down by incorporating organic matter into the soil. Any type of compost will work. Compost acts like a sponge and holds onto water which helps correct the problem of drainage with sand.
Clay soils do not drain fast enough, so incorporating expanded shale or rock phosphate, you can spread the molecules out and allow the water to flow through. Clay is very nutrient dense, so if you can solve the drainage issue, you can grow beautiful things in clay.
5 Key Amendments for Organic Soil
Organic Matter– compost, manure, etc
Lava Sand- The sand-sized and smaller waste material left from lava gravel mining is an excellent, high-energy soil amendment material.
Rock Phosphate– a finely ground rock powder, contains minerals and will enhance the soil texture
Greensand- a material from seabed deposits, contains minerals and improves soil texture.
Limestone (Lime)- rock powder used to sweeten acidic soils
Micronutrients- these may be missing from your soil but are essential for crops and blooms. Magnesium found in Epsom Salt is a good example.
Organic matter from a wide array of sources and greensand will ensure that you have micronutrients galore.
Worm castings have been long known to be a highly fertile component of organic soil. Compared to the average soil, worm castings are said to contain 5 times more nitrogen, 7 times more phosphorus and 11 times more potassium. They are rich in humic acids and improve the structure of the soil as well.
How To Apply- use these methods with any of the amendments
Top-Dress- this is simply sprinkling the amendments over the top of the soil. This method would be used in existing beds.
Working It In- In using this method, you would apply the amendments to the soil and then turn the soil over. The soil can be turned over by hand with a shovel or by machine such as a tiller. This method would be used in new beds or in row cropping.
Compost! LOTS of it- This is one of the best fertilizers you can use. If you have your own compost pile then it is free- which makes it even better!
Animal Manures– any animal that chews its cud produces manure that can be added directly to the garden. This would include Llamas, goats, and sheep. Other animal manures need to be composted first for about 6 months then added to the garden. Rabbits are an exception to this rule, their manure can be added directly to the garden.
Carl Poole Fertilizers- this is a good company that makes some great products.
These should be applied in September thru November for Spring and Summer gardens and June – August for Fall Gardening. Top dressing is the best way as tilling can disturb soil biology. The less disturbance the better. Most beds are still in good shape from the summer garden and just need to be cleaned up and top dressed.
Bringing soil to a point of great texture and high fertility is an ongoing process- once you have achieved beautiful soil, you will still need to maintain it with these same amendments and fertilizers.
Even though your plants will tell you if something is wrong, don’t wait for a struggling plant to address the soil. Make amending the soil part of your garden schedule and then happy plants will greet you all year long!
Of all the plants we have sold over the years, herbs definitely draw the most attention. And for good reason, the uses are too many to list, most are extremely hardy, and they are beautiful. For a beginner gardener, herbs are a great place to start because of the ease of growing.
Before I get into the different aspects of herb gardening, I would like to clarify some vocabulary words:
Herbs are generally grown in all temperate regions of the planet. For the most part, it is the aerial parts, roots, and blossoms of these plants that are used for cooking, medicine, and fragrance.
Spices, on the other hand, are grown around the equator and it is the seeds that are used for the fragrance, cooking, and medicinal qualities. But then to muddy the waters, you have some plants that are both. Cilantro is an herb as you use the leaves in your cooking but, if you let it go to seed then you have Coriander- a spice.
Now, some herbs are herbaceous and some are not. Herbaceous means that the green plant parts die back to the ground each winter and the roots put out new plants each spring.
Now, let’s get planting. Regardless if your yard or garden is shady, full sun or somewhere in between, there are herbs for you to grow. The things to consider as you choose you plants are their origin, water requirements, growth habits, and their function. Each of these factors will determine what plants you choose and where you put them.
Understanding where herbs come from will tell you a lot about the growing conditions they will need. If a plant originates in the Mediterranean region, you can bet it will be a tough plant that has relatively low water requirements, sun loving, and tolerant of poor soils. Lavender, Rosemary, and Oregano are examples of such plants. I had a Rosemary plant that doubled in size in the worst drought in Texas history with no extra water. Needless to say, when folks come to me asking about tough shrubs that will tolerate our heat- I recommend Rosemary.
On the other end of things, if a plant is naturally found in moist woodlands, you will need to provide a shady spot with rich soil for that herb. Goldenseal is an example of just such an herb. Their origins also point to their water requirements.
Obviously, you don’t want to put a plant that likes dry conditions with a plant that needs regular watering. Thus, mint and lavender are not good roomies. Mint with Calendula or Pineapple Sage are good choices for a container. Lavender, Sage, and Rosemary are good buddies with greek oregano acting as a ground-cover in a sunny spot.
Just as you would plant a flower garden with tall plants being at the back and low growers being located at the front, these same considerations need to be given to the growth habits of herbs. There are so many sizes and shapes to choose from along with blossom color, scent, and function.
Let your imagination be free, there are no rules. If you like the formal gardens with clipped boxwood as edgings, then plant that type of garden. For those of you with free spirits drawn to the rambling, free forms of plants then plant away and enjoy the seed heads blowing and nodding in the breezes. Joy is one of the great harvest reaped from herbs. Some things you plant will die. Don’t let that discourage you, plant again. If it lives and thrives, plant more of it.
Herbs I love in Texas:
Thyme- creeping lemon, Sage (Salvia Officinallis), Italian Oregano, Lemon Balm, Citronella, Mints, Salad Brunet, Parsley, Texas Tarragon, Roses, Lemongrass, Anise Hyssop, Borage, Dandelion, Dill to name a few.
Have you wondered where I have been? Have you wondered what I have been up to?
Maybe, or maybe not.
You may have read my post on my facebook page, that we were relocating to Galveston, Texas or you might not have seen that, and lets be real- you might not have cared!
But just in case you do care- I thought I would share with you this brand new- sort of – blog and site. It’s brand new because I have never lived by the sea before and it’s not new because I haven’t deleted any of my old blog posts.
So. Here. We. Go!
Officially, we moved to Galveston Texas in September of this year (2018). So many of you were surprised and to be honest, so were we. I have loved this island for many years and my second daughter moved here when she married her love three years ago. Many hours were spent dreaming of what it would be like to live in a town steeped in history with a view of the waves whenever I wanted it.
Well, now I know and I LOVE it!
Even though I dreamed about it, I did not really think it would happen and certainly not at this time in our lives. But, God had other plans and the doors opened up for us to make the move and we took the chance!
But what to do about Hollyberry Herb Farm? Many of you have asked that very question and others have asked if we would be at the garden shows come spring and I have been hesitant to answer. I hated to disappoint you and I hated the idea that the season of Hollyberry Herb Farm might be over.
However, after sitting and pondering the options ( most of this done while sitting with the waves lapping at my feet- don’t hate me) I had to accept the fact that this was a new season and I could not bring everything from the former season with me.
So, the answer to”what will we do with the farm?” was we will sell it. And we did.
“Will you be at the garden conferences and shows?” the answer is “No, we will not”
But the answer to “will you still teach on herbs?” is YES!
And that is where this blog comes in! I still love my herbs, use them every day, and want to share them with anyone and everyone who it interested. So, here is where I can share those things with you!
Also, I want to share my journey of learning to live in a coastal town with the sea just yards away from my front door and the harbour just yards away from my back door. I can even hear the ships as they blow their horns when they enter the harbor. Gardening is different down here and I am looking forward to learning about a new climate and weather conditions- I hope you will enjoy the journey with me!
Online classes are in the works and more videos are on the way!
If you want to join me in this journey, then all you have to do is follow this blog! Just enter your email in the field at the side, you will receive an email whenever a new blog post arrives. You can also like our Facebook page, also a field at the side of the page.
By commenting at the bottom of the blog posts, you can interact with me. As a matter of fact, you can comment below and tell me something you would like to know about the world of herbs!
As we get out and about now selling our herbs a Farmer’s Markets and Garden Festivals, I am frequently asked if I have any garlic. When I ask questions to clarify just what the customer is looking for, I am surprised that they are looking for seedlings so that they can grow their own Garlic. How marvelous! Just one problem…
If you want to grow garlic in Texas you need to plant is in September, the same with strawberries- but that is a whole other blog and soapbox. Once planted in September, the bulbs will sprout and grow all winter long then in June or so, the tops will start to turn brown and it is time to harvest. Yes, no matter where you live garlic takes that long to grow. But, it is so worth it and it really is easy.
I have always loved dandelions. Blowing the seeds was a wonderful pastime when I was a child. Little did I know that I was spreading the love- dandelion love.
Now I love dandelions for a whole different reason. It is such a joy to see their little sunny faces shinning in the sun. This always signals that the deep of winter is over. But the real beauty of the dandelion is in the healing properties that the plant possesses. Even without reported healing properties, the dandelion has a high amount of vitamins and minerals. The University of Maryland Medical Center has this to say:
Herbalists recommend dandelion for liver cleansing and ridding the body of toxins. You can drink tea made from dandelion leaves and blossoms, take a tincture made from the plant and roots, or you can take supplements found in your local health food store.
If your looking for dandelions in your own gardens, look for the yellow blossoms suspended on a single stem, the yellow blossoms on branching stems are not true dandelions. They are actually called “false dandelions”- how creative.
See the single stem with one flower
In the photo above you can see the single stem with one flower. When I harvest dandelions I want to get as much of the root as possible. To do this, I use an old finished weed popper.
Once the plants are harvested, I wash the soil away and let them air dry. Once dry, the plants are then chopped and covered with vodka or brandy. The mixture will steep for six weeks and then be strained. After the liquid is strained it is now a finished tincture. I use this for my family anytime our immune system needs a boost. This post is not intended to be medical advice, just for information- you do your own research and then make your own health decisions.
Even if you don’t choose to use dandelion for your own benefit- leave them for the bees. Dandelions are one of the first sources of pollen and nectar for the bees in the spring.
Temperature, it’s all about the soil temperature.
Soil temperature is almost never to warm, however, soils that are to cool and damp at worst can cause your seed to rot in the ground and at best take many days to germinate. Seedling in cool soil grow slowly and often do not develop into healthy productive plants.
The piece concluded more often than not family members (especially the male ones) were ingrates and, generally, home-cooked meals were too stressful, expensive, time-consuming, and utensil-dependent to be worthy of the trouble.
Marcotte’s indictment of what she considers a romanticized cultural icon certainly speaks volumes about where our cultural mainstream food values reside. Indeed, the average American is probably far more interested and knowledgeable about the latest belly-button piercing in Hollywood celebrity culture than what will become flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone at 6 p.m.
In the circles I run in and market to, the home-cooked meal is revered as the ultimate expression of food integrity. The home-cooked meal indicates a reverence for our bodies’ fuel, a respect for biology, and a committed remedial spirit toward all the shenanigans in our industrial, pathogen-laden, nutrient-deficient food-and-farming system.
I would imagine most of the ungrateful males in these families watch TV or see a lot of food ads on their computers. You won’t find integrity food advertised on TV or pop-culture web sites. It’ll be a steady brainwash of junk food, convenience, highly processed food-like materials. That we can physically chew and swallow the stuff does not make it desirable for our bodies.
Further, since when are women the only ones who are supposed to shoulder the burden for integrity food? Why doesn’t Marcotte, rather than whining about unappreciated women, write instead about families who seem to think sports leagues and biggest-screen TVs are more important than health? Who think pharmaceutical companies are responsible for wellness? Who think no difference exists between factory chickens and pastured chickens?
Here’s the question I would like to ask these families: “Are you spending time or money on anything unnecessary?” Cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, lottery tickets, PeopleMagazine, TV, cell phone, soccer games, potato chips . . . ? Show me the household devoid of any of these luxuries, then let’s talk. Otherwise, you’re just unwilling to do what’s more important, which is provide for the health of your family and your environment. That’s a personal choice, and one that’s entirely within your control.
I’m amazed at the difficult situations I hear about in which people do indeed rise to the occasion. Whether it’s sprouting mung beans or alfalfa seeds in a quart jar on the windowsill or buying grain by the bushel, resourceful, can-do people committed to changing their situation figure out a way to do it.
For Marcotte to accept irresponsibility this easily underscores a profound courage deficiency. Turn off the TV, get out of the car, get off the phone and get in the kitchen — men, women and children. The most expensive potatoes in the nation are cheaper by the pound than the cheapest potato chips. Ditto healthful ground beef from pastured cattle versus fast-food burgers.
With slow cookers, indoor plumbing, timed-bake and refrigerators, today’s techno-enabled kitchens allow busy people to cook from scratch and eat with integrity far easier than during Great Grandma’s time. She had to fetch water from the spring, split stove wood, start a fire and churn the butter and she still managed to feed a large family very well. If our generation can’t do at least as well with our 40-hour work week and kitchen tech, then we deserve to eat adulterated pseudo food that sends us to an early grave. I don’t know that anyone’s children deserve this, however.
While extreme hardship does certainly exist — and my heart breaks for impoverished people who truly have no resources — let’s not excuse the other 98 percent from their responsibility on that account. If everyone who could do something would do it, perhaps we would all have enough left over to help the egregious hardship cases. Soccer moms driving their kiddos half a day one way to a tournament, stopping at the drive-by for “chicken” nuggets, and then dismissing the kitchen as “too stressful” is an upside-down value system. And how many of the men whining about not liking what they’re being fed spend their Saturdays on the riding mower managing a monoculture, fertilized ecological-dead-zone of a suburban lawn, rather than using their resources to grow something nutritious for their families and wholesome for the planet? When do we start talking about them? Hmmmmm?
Photo by Richard Lord: Joel Salatin raises pastured poultry and grass-fed beef at Polyface Farms in Swoope, Va.
Any sort of gardening is an art, one that takes time and experience to master- it is certainly a journey. Heather Rinaldi, founder of the Texas Worm Ranch, and I are teaming up to offer you a great beginning to your journey of herb gardening. In our class you will gain knowledge and confidence from the hands on projects and informative lectures. A workbook is included to help you keep your notes and ideas in one place and to give you a reference for when you are in your own garden and have a question.
Once this class is completed you will have a working knowledge of soil biology- an overview of how plants feed from the soil and how to keep your soil healthy, a working knowledge of how herbs work in the body, how to grow, harvest, and preserve herbs, and how to propagate plants from seed, cuttings, and root division. All the tools you need to be successful in the herb garden- or vegetable or flower garden as well. The skills you gain will not only enable you to grow herbs, but they will carry over into the vegetable and flower garden as well.
For both of us, our first memories are in the gardens eating fresh produce right from the fields. We have both been seriously gardening for more than 10 years and are eager to share our hard earned experience with you.
Each attendee will leave with five herb plants propagated by them, a workbook & 3 seed packets, 10 lbs of premium worm castings and one gallon of Worm Wine ™ to improve soil health. – plus a wealth of knowledge! It takes a lifetime to master gardening, but with out class you will be on your way to having gardens that are the envy of the town.
The Texas Worm Ranch is located in Garland, TX and this is where the class will take place.
Hollyberry Herb Farm & Texas Worm Ranch present:
Mastering The Art Of Herb Gardening
Tuesday Classes for 3 weeks: 8:30-12:00
Herb Overview, Growing, Harvesting & Preserving
August 5, 2014
Soil Biology Made Easy So You Can Garden Easy
Propagation 3 different ways- Hands On Workshop
Cost is $175.00/person
Class includes: Workbook, 5 herb plants and 3 seed packets, 10 lbs of premium worm castings and one gallon of Worm Wine ™ to improve soil health.