Category Archives: Garden Advice

DIY Autumn Wellness Tea

In my mind fall is this perfect time of year when we welcome the cool crisp air, autumn festivities, and the break from a busy summer season. It’s a time for crafts and reading and enjoying and celebrating the harvest with family and friends.

Unfortunately the reality is that autumn is usually just as busy as summer. There’s always more gardening projects whether it’s repairing tools for next year or putting up the last of this year’s peppers. Throw that in with visits from relatives, less sun exposure and vitamin D, tons of stress, and unhealthy food and you get the start of flu season!

One of my favorite ways to try and combat this problem, besides learning when to take a break, is to drink herbal tea. I’m not willing to give up my Halloween goodies or Thanksgiving feast but I can still make sure my body is getting some of the good stuff.

My favorite autumn tea blend includes the following herbs.

Echinacea any variety

Echinacea is an excellent herb for this time of year because studies have shown that it make act as an immuno-stimulant and even increase the production of white blood cells. All parts of the plant can be dried and used for tea. If you haven’t grown it yet it’s fairly easy to cultivate and is perennial in zones 3-9.

Ginger

While ginger certainly adds nice flavor to this blend it too has medicinal properties that are great for fall. Ginger is high in vitamin C, magnesium, and other important minerals. It also helps with nausea, heartburn, inflammation, and respiratory ailments.Plus it adds a nice warmth to this fall beverage.

Catnip

Not just for cats, catnip is actually very beneficial for humans. It has a calming effect and contains high levels of vitamins C and E to help keep your immune system strong. Catnip is another easy herb to grow and is perennial in zones 4-10.

Licorice Root *optional*

If you’d like your tea a bit sweet without the added sugar consider adding some licorice root. Beyond its flavor licorice root also has the added benefit of soothing upset stomachs and easing coughs. I put it as optional as its flavor is not everyone’s favorite.

 

To make the tea blend 4 TBS of dried echinacea, with 2 tsp of dried ginger, 2 TBS of dried catnip, and 1 TBS of dried licorice root (or more to your taste) in a small jar. Then steep 1 TBS of tea mix per 8oz of boiling water for 5 minutes. You may find you like it stronger and can use more than 1 TBS.

If you wish you can use a tea ball or strain the herbs out before drinking your tea.

 

Enjoy your tea, your harvest, and all the important people and events in your life this autumn. Stay healthy and happy!

Rainy Day Garden Projects

While rain is great for growing plants it’s not necessarily ideal for that weeding, planting, harvesting or other major garden work you were planning. Not only will you end up soaking wet, walking on wet soil can be detrimental. Wet soil is more easily compacted which will make it harder for beneficial insects, fungi, microbes, and your plants to thrive. That doesn’t mean you need to take they day off though. There’s plenty of important and fun gardening tasks that can be accomplished on wettest days without setting foot in the garden. Many of these are also great for the dead of winter when you can’t stop thinking about gardening.

Read.

Continue your gardening education. Reading gardening or farming books can be a great way to expand your knowledge, get more project ideas, and stay inspired. Check out Southern Exposure’s book and DVD section here.

Organize your seeds.

No one likes chaos and wasted seeds. Go through all your old, new, and saved seeds. It’s best to find some way to organize your seeds whether it’s a binder with baseball card sleeves, files, or even just a shoebox with cardboard dividers for your different types i.e. greens, tomatoes, flowers, etc. When order time rolls around you’ll know what you need and what you already have.

For old seeds or those you’ve saved you may want to do a simple germination test. Place 10 or 20 seeds in a moist but not soaking wet paper towel, roll or fold it up, and place it in a clear plastic bag or container to prevent it from drying out. Check occasionally to ensure your paper towel stays moist, larger seeds will use more water. After your seeds germination period (or a couple of days) you can count how many seeds have sprouted. For more on germination visit this article, How to Test Germination.

Use a garden planner.

Garden Planner Example 2017

Garden planners like the one offered by Southern Exposure can help you to make the most of your garden space and ensure you’re garden stays healthy. You can keep track of things like crop rotations, soil amendments, and where you’ve used cover crops. Check it out here.

Get your orders in.

If it’s an appropriate time of year rainy days can be a good time to the office work side of gardening. You may want to get an early start ordering next years seeds, perennials, even compost or a soil test. Don’t wait till it’s a perfect day to actually be working in the garden to think of these things.

Make plant markers.

Especially if you have kids making your own plant or variety markers can be a fun project. There’s so many options and you can find some great ideas online. A few ideas include popsicle sticks, painted rocks or bricks, painted wooden spoons, or even beaded wires.

Preserve or use your harvest.

For many, one of the most important parts of having a garden is enjoying the harvest. Rainy days are the perfect time to do kitchen activities like canning and cooking. Try pickling some peppers or making some delicious squash souffle.

If you have goods already in storage it’s also a good day to do a quick check on them. Make sure all your cans still look good, that none of your green beans are getting freezer burned, and that none of your potatoes have started to turn.

Start a garden journal.

Remembering all the events in your garden from year to year can be a struggle but sometimes the little details are great to have on hand to look back on. While a garden planner may help you organize the bigger picture a garden journal can help you remember all the little things like your last frost date, when the robins came back, and specific notes on new varieties you may be trying out. Garden journals can be as simple as a handwritten notebook or a highly organized binder or even word document of information.

If you’re at a loss for where to start, begin with the basics. Keep track of the weather, planting dates, frost dates, fruiting dates, and the natural world. This can also be an excellent projects to get the kids involved with.

If you were planning a super productive day in the garden, rain can be a let down but it doesn’t have to be. Get ahead on important projects like ordering soil amendments. Make good use of your harvest with a delicious homemade meal. Start getting organized with a garden plant, journal, and/or seed organizer. Just like the plants in your garden you can do your best with what nature throws your way.

Fall Gardening Checklist

For many fall seems like the time when things begin to wind down. It’s time for hot meals, enjoying the harvest, and snuggling up by the fire. However seasoned gardeners know that spending more time in your garden in the fall can lead to an easier spring. There’s still plenty of projects!

Sow fall crops.

There’s actually many varieties that are great for fall planting. Plants like garlic and winter wheat do best with a start in the cool months of fall. There’s also many root vegetables like carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips that can provide a late harvest along with hardy greens like arugula, pak choi, spinach, and mustards. Depending on your zone you may need to use season extenders like low tunnels and cold frames to keep your garden alive in late fall and winter.

Make sure there’s no exposed soil!

This is super important to maintaining a healthy and productive garden. Leaving soil exposed kills off beneficial fungi, bacteria, and insects. It also makes soil vulnerable to erosion and allows weeds to get an early hold in the spring.

The best way to combat this is though the use of cover crops. You can find more about planting fall cover crops and Southern Exposure’s offerings from this article, Fall Cover Crops & Their Importance. You can even use some traditional food crops (like mustard greens) as cover crops! If you cannot plant a cover crop at least consider covering the garden in mulch such as old leaves, hay, straw, or shredded newspaper. These block weeds, provide habitat for beneficial insects, and hold moisture which is necessary for good bacteria and fungi to thrive.

Plant some perennials.

There’s also many perennials you can add to your garden in fall. Perennial onions and certain flower bulbs like crocuses and daffodils are great for fall planting. Many fruit and nut trees and bushes can be fall planted as well.

Mulch existing perennials.

Placing mulch around the base of existing perennials can help prevent frost from reaching killing the roots (especially important with newly established plants). It can also help prevent weeds in the spring while you’re busy with spring planting and as it breaks down it will add nutrients to the soil. When mulching try to avoid making a thick “volcano” mulch mound around the trunk or base of the plant. Piles of mulch like this provide places for rodents to hid and chew on your plants.

Take care of your tools and equipment.

Fall maintenance can help keep your garden tools in tip top shape. Make sure to brush at least most of the dirt off your tools and sharpen any that need it. Some people use a bucket full of sand and old vegetable oil to plunge bladed tools (like shovels) into to get them extra clean and sharp after the big chunks of dirt have been removed. You may also want to sand down and rub linseed oil on any wooden handled tools that need it. Any equipment that uses fuel like rototillers should be drained or run out of fuel for winter. This is because leaving fuel for that long without running the equipment can plug up carburetors.

If there’s tools or equipment that need replaced or equipment which needs professional maintenance it’s best to get it over with in the fall without the pressure of spring planting looming.

Start Planning for next year.

Garden Planner Example (2018 Mintlaw Allotment)

While not everyone may be enthused about having an extensive plan for their garden having a few basics mapped out can help you create an easier to manage and more productive garden. Planning should include looking at what seeds you still have or have saved considering what seeds you’d like to purchase and reconciling that with how much your garden will actually fit (not as many as anyone wants to believe). You should also consider a crop rotation including any areas that will be in cover crops. You can find the Southern Exposure garden planner to help with that here. You may also choose to consider your seed starting set up for next year. Some garden supply stores will have sales in the fall which you can take advantage of instead of paying full price next spring.

Test and amend your soil.

People typically test their soil and add amendments in the spring but there’s no reason not to get this checked off in the fall. It’s actually preferable to add things like manure in the fall so that it decomposes as much as possible before planting.

Leave some things alone.

The rest of this article may add a bunch of projects to your to do list but here’s one thing you can skip. Don’t cut down, rake, and remove all the dead plant material from your garden unless you’re combating a specific disease or insect that overwinters in the material. While you may think your garden looks tidier barren this plant material actually helps many beneficial insects survive the winter.

Get a step ahead in your garden while the weather is cool and pleasant. By doing some basic fall tasks you can be prepared for spring planting and get crops in the ground right on time. You may also end up with a healthier more productive garden without too much effort. Happy autumn!