Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Serious Mistake?

Serious Mistake?

I think I made a serious mistake about three weeks ago. It's not been confirmed by lab tests, but I'm being treated with an antibiotic specifically targeting a parasite classified as Giardia. Thankfully, the antibiotic is inexpensive and effective. I'll be on a 10-day routine of one dose every 8 hours. Today I've had two doses so far, and I am feeling better.

Here's the story...

It was a Thursday, lunchtime, and I was sitting in a nearby city park, under a tree. The weather was perfect: mild temperature, clear skies. I remember being intrigued by a squirrel in the highest branches of the pine tree under which I was sitting. The squirrel was eating immature pine cones, rapidly scraping and gnawing, flaking bits of outer hull to the ground, finally tossing the bare core down, and scampering to snag another delicious cone.

Glancing around I noticed a few young dandelion plants. I've eaten dandelion leaves many times, often fresh picked from my yard, rinsed in cold water and used as a salad, or boiled as a potherb.

With no hesitation, with a sort of pride that I was one of the few people that I knew that could forage for food even in a city park, I grabbed a small bit of dandelion leaves, rinsed them with a splash of water and ate them with my sliced turkey sandwich.

They were young, not much bitterness at all, and they added a fresh, healthy taste to my sandwich, although that may have been largely due to my forager's pride.

That was it. I returned to work and then went home, eager to begin preparations for a week's vacation visiting Yellowstone National Park.

However, that evening, after supper, I felt more full than usual, a bit gassy in the gut. The next day the feeling persisted, and I felt less inclined to eat my lunch.

On Saturday we started our journey, traveling in a 16-foot camping trailer. That night I was feeling more gassy, more stomach cramps, not hungry at all.

Then followed two more days of misery, trapped in a travel trailer, away from home, with persistent, foul, runny diarrhea.

A bland diet, lots of tea, lots of water, and time finally seemed to bring my gut back to normal. We were able to spend an entire day in Yellowstone, and we took our time coming back home, camping a few different spots on the way.

I felt okay. Tired, but okay.

I returned to work, still tired, but no problems with the gut.

Until the next weekend.

It was almost the same pattern as before. Fullness, gassy, fatigue turned into merciless, messy diarrhea.

On Monday I called in sick, saw the doctor, discussed options of a stool sample (on the expensive side, and often not conclusive, according to the doctor), off-the-counter symptom relievers, or antibiotics. When I described (hesitantly) my impromptu foraging in the park, he agreed that that might be the cause, but it could be a virus as well (although my wife had not experienced any symptoms).

The deal was sealed, however, when I recalled the similarity between my symptoms and my daughter's when she was about 6 years old. We'd gone camping near a mountain stream. We'd been warned to not drink the water from the stream because Giardia had long been a problem in that area. We sternly warned our daughter not to drink the water, but we did allow her to go wading in the small stream.

A week after the camping trip with our daughter, she began to have recurring, serious bouts of diarrhea. Three days or so of misery, followed by a week of normalcy, only to be followed by another round of foulness. We let it go for a month before seeking help, getting a stool sample, ending with identification of Giardia. A week of antibiotics finally brought an end to the icky cycle of diarrhea.

So, I'm starting my own round of antibiotics, on the assumption that I do have a colony of Giardia in my gut, causing the persistent, recurring bouts of diarrhea.

Lesson learned? It's hard for me to believe that such a small bit of dandelions, that I had rinsed in water, could have initiated such a violent invasion of parasites into my body. It's disappointing to feel suspicious now of plants I find in the park, or anywhere, for that matter. If rinsing in water is insufficient, what can a forager do? Cook everything? Spray with bleach? Stick with store-bought?

I guess, for me, the primary lesson learned is to avoid foraging in city parks. Too many people, too many squirrels, too much chance of herbicide, insecticide or polluted irrigation water.

Giardia: Quick Facts

  • First described in 1681 by Leeuwenhoek
  • Named after zoologist Alfred Giard
  • Lives in intestines of infected humans or animals
  • Infection caused by contact with feces of an infected carrier
  • Giardia may contaminate food, soil or water
  • Symtoms: violent diarrhea, excess gas, stomach cramps, upset stomach, and nausea


Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giardia, for quick facts

Dr. Stan Erlandsen (1988) (Public Health Image Library (PHIL), for image of infected gerbil intestine, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ea/Giardia-spp.--infected--gerbil-intestine.jpg

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria L.)


Aegopodium podagraria L.

Herb Gerarde groweth of it salts in gardens without setting or sowing, and is so fruitful in its increase, that when it hath once taken roote, it will hardly be gotten out againe, spoiling and getting every yeere more ground, to the annoying of better herbes.
--- Gerarde, The Treasury of Botany

After a long, long hiatus I've returned to my forsaken website, with a newly discovered (for me) edible plant!

I snapped a photo of this plant growing in our front yard, planted by the previous owner as a decorative ground cover in the flower garden. It turns out to be edible, although aggressively invasive and hated by many gardeners and homeowners throughout the world.

Naturally, I now love it!

Let's dive into the details and delights of Goutweed!

Carrot Family (Apiaceae, formerly Umbelliferae)

Common names

Ashweed, Ashweek, Bishop's Goutweed, Bishop's Weed, Bishop's Elder, Bishop Weed, Bishop Wort, Bishopsweed, Bull Wort, Dog Elder, Dwarf Elder, Eltroot, Farmer's Plague, Garden Plague, Goat's Foot, Goatweed, Goutweed, Ground Ash, Ground Elder, Herb Gerard, Herb William, Jack Jumpabout, Jump About, Pot Ash, Snow-On-The-Mountain, Weyl Ash, White Ash

Origin of the Scientific Name

"Aegopodium is from Greek "agios", meaning goat and "podion", meaning little foot; Little Goat Foot, from the shape of the leaf; "Podagaria" is also Greek, meaning gout of the foot.

The family name, "Apiaceae", comes from "apium", Latin for parsley. But beware! Not all of the plants in the family Apiacea are as edible as parsley or carrot. Some are deadly!

Origin of the Common Names

Seeds become detached and jerked to a distance by the wind, recalling the name 'Jack-jump-about'.

It was called Bishopsweed and Bishopswort, because so frequently found near old ecclesiastical ruins. It is said to have been introduced by the monks of the Middle Ages, who cultivated it as a herb of healing. It was called Herb Gerard, because it was dedicated to St. Gerard, who was formerly invoked to cure the gout, against which the herb was chiefly employed.

The plant is eaten by pigs, hence one of its names.

Plant Uses: Food

Brought to North America from Europe as an ornamental, used as a salad ingredient and potherb in the spring.

Salad ingredient and pot herb; young leaves and stems especially good in salads; older leaves cooked with cheese or added to fritters; made into a German green soup, called "grune suppe".

Leaves, raw or cooked, tangy; best harvested before the plant blossoms.

Rhizomes of Goutweed are NOT edible!

Recipe: Grune Suppe with Goutweed (Green Soup)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Handful of mushrooms
  • 2 large handfuls of young goutweed, washed well and chopped
  • Vegetable stock

Sautee the onions till soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. Add the potatoes and sautee for 3 minutes or so. Add vegetable stock (about 1 liter) and cook the soup until the potatoes are soft. Add the goutweed and simmer for about 5 minutes. Puree, dilute to desired consistency and add salt, pepper, chilies or other herbs to taste.

Recipe: Goutweed Pesto

(Note: The source of this recipe was a website written in Dutch. I've translated it through Google and edited it for clarity. The introduction is written by the original author of the recipe, not me!)

"If you can not beat 'em, eat' em." Last year I cleared my strawberry bed from all signs of Goutweed, leaves and roots and all, removed one by one by hand. But already Goutweed has completely filled the empty spaces. So, now I pick them and eat them!

  • 2 handfuls of young Goutweed
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • olive oil
  • pepper and salt

Put all ingredients (except the oil) in a food processor and run it briefly until well mixed, but not pureed. With food processor running, trickle olive oil until pesto has a nice, creamy texture. Enjoy on tomato soup or freshly baked bread! Serves 4.

Plant uses: Medicinal

All parts of the plant are diuretic; used to treat rheumatism, arthritis and bladder disorders.

Plant Dimensions

Typically 4-12 inches high, but may grow up to about three feet tall; leaves 2-3 inches long

Plant Type

Forb, with roots long, white and branching, stem erect and hollow

Fruit Type

Seeds small, similar in shape to carrot seeds


Leaves medium green in the wild; domesticated plants are variegated, with bluish-green leaves and creamy white edges; flowers are white

Flower Shape, Petals, and Arrangement

Umbel cluster, five petals

Leaf Shape, Arrangement, Attachment and Surface Traits

Glabrous, alternate, lobes ovate and sharply toothed

Leaves basal, divided into three groups of three leaflets, toothed, irregularly lobed


The veins of Goutweed terminate at the tip of a tooth. In the toxic hemlocks the veins terminate between the teeth. In the photo above, water hemlock is on the left, and Goutweed is on the right.


Funki Sock Munki, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mookmonkey, for Aegopodium podagraria 'Variegatum' image, https://flic.kr/p/6i7YP5, Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group, https://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/aepo1.htm, accessed 04JUL2016, for plant description

U.S. Forest Service, http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/aegpod/all.html, accessed 04JUL2016, for plant descriptions

Botanical.com, A Modern Herbal, http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/g/goutwe32.html, accessed 10JUL2016, plant description, common names and origins, and uses

Eat The Weeds, http://www.eattheweeds.com/gout-weed/, accessed 09JUL2016, for plant descriptions, names and origins, plant uses, and the warning against water hemlock

Crafty Kitchen Witchery, http://craftykitchenwitchery.blogspot.com/2013/08/goutweed-my-kitchen-witchy-herb-of-week.html, accessed 10JUL2016, for Grune Suppe recipe

Cathelijne, http://www.cathelijne.nl/2012/zevenbladpesto/, accessed 10JUL201, for Goutweed Pesto recipe

John Lindley and Thomas Moore, authors of "The Treasury of Botany; a Popular Dictionary of the Vegetable Kindom", for the introductory quotation from Gerarde, https://books.google.com, accessed 31JUL2016, Public Doman, published by Longmans, Green, and Company, 1870

Wikimedia.org, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACicuta_douglasii_%26_Conium_maculatum_1459205.jpg, for image of water hemlock leaf veins

Wikimedia.org, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AAegopodium_podagraria_(18672687233).jpg, for image of Goutweed leaf veins

Idaho Mountain Wildflowers, http://www.larkspurbooks.com/apiaceae1.html, for origin of the family name, accessed 31JUL2016

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Herbal Gardening, Part 5

Herbal Gardening, Part 5

Our seedlings started indoors are sprouting, and it's time to start thinking about constructing our container garden.

Here's a list of items I think we'll need. I was hoping to get it all for under $50, but the numbers are adding up to way more than that:

Item Description Each QTYTotal
Boards 2X6X8 lumber $3.64 9 $32.76
Clothesline Plastic Clothesline $6.57 1 $6.57
Nails 1/2 Lb. Box, 16D $1.99 1 $1.99
Nails 1/2 Lb. Box, 8D $2.24 1 $2.24
Landscape fabric3 Ft. x 50 Ft. $14.971 $14.97
Tomato cage Blue Ribbon Ultomato$6.47 4 $25.88
Peat moss 3 Cu. Ft. $11.272 $22.54
Compost 1.5 Cu. Ft. $4.63 4 $18.52
Vermiculite 3 Cu. Ft. $6.00 2 $12.00
TOTAL $137.47

So, we'll see if we can find some bargains, or look at less expensive ways of accomplishing the same things.

Perhaps we can use plastic tubs or buckets for the herb garden alongside the driveway, reducing the lumber required to build our 3-foot by 4-foot containers alongside the garage.

The tomato cages could be made of dowels or scrap wood.

The landfill or local nursery might have less expensive compost.

Any other ideas?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Herbal Gardening, Part 4

Herbal Gardening, Part 4

We've planted our indoor garden spot. Here is a list of each crop started indoors and a description taken from the seed packet, followed by a list of crops that we plan to sow directly to the garden later.

Planted indoors from seed on April 11, 2010

To be planted directly in the garden later:

Amana Orange Pole Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

Lake Valley Organics Seed

Amana Orange is one of the tastiest and earliest of the heirloom Beefsteaks in our trial garden. Deep orange color and big Beefsteak flavor make this one of our all-time favorites.

Planting: Start in a warm location indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting. Harden off young plants in a protected outdoors location about 10 days before transplanting. Plant outdoors in late spring after the nights have warmed. There is little advantage to setting plants out early since unstable spring weather will delay growth.

Note: Tie the vines to a sturdy trellis as they begin to grow. Feed every 2-3 weeks with an organic fertilizer high in phosphorus for best growth. Deep watering once a week is best to promote healthy roots and large harvests.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Plant space: 3 feet
  • Sprouts in: 7-15 days
  • Matures in: 80 days
  • Row space: 3 feet
  • No chemical fertilizers
  • No seed treatments
  • 100% open-pollinated seed, no hybrids
  • 100% certified organically-grown seed

Brandywine Pole Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

Lake Valley Organics Seed

Few tomatoes can claim the mystique of Brandywine. It is generally thought to be an old Amish variety passed down through generations of gardeners. Whatever its heritage, modern gardeners agree that its flavor and texture cannot be beat! 12 to 20-ounce fruits with flavor like your grandmother used to grow.

Planting: Start in a warm location indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting. Harden off young plants in a protected outdoors location about 10 days before transplanting. Plant outdoors in late spring after the nights have warmed. There is little advantage to setting plants out early since unstable spring weather will delay growth.

Note: Tie the vines to a sturdy trellis as they begin to grow. Feed every 2-3 weeks with an organic fertilizer high in phosphorus for best growth. Deep watering once a week is best to promote healthy roots and large harvests.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Plant space: 3 feet
  • Sproutes in: 7-15 days
  • Matures in: 85 days
  • Row space: 3 feet
  • No chemical fertilizers
  • No seed treatments
  • 100% open-pollinated seed, no hybrids
  • 100% certified organically-grown seed

Caraway (Carum carvi)

Lake Valley Seed

A hardy biennial herb closely related to carrots. Attractive bright green lacy foliage the first season; seed head with aromatic seeds in second season. A tasty addtion to rye breads, soups, stews, pickles and liqueurs.

Planting: Plant in full sun in spring as soon as soil can be worked, or fall in mild climates. keep soil evenly moist and well-weeded while plants are young. No special care is required after plants mature.

Note: Seed stalks emerge in the second year. Harvest seed heads when seeds turn from green to dark brown. Cut stem and place in an open sack to dry. Gently rub off seeds when completely dry.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inch
  • Seed space: 2 inches
  • Sprouts in 8-10 days
  • Thin height: 1 inch
  • Thin space: 18 inches
  • Plant height: 18-24 inches

Celebrity Hybrid Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

Lake Valley Seed

This 1984 All-America Selections Award Winner remains one of the best all-purpose varieties available. It dependably produces high yields of flavorful, medium-sized, round, red fruit with exceptional disease resistance (VFFNTA). Determinate.

Planting: Start indoors about 4-5 weeks before the last spring frost date. Sow in moist, sterile, seed starting mix. Grow in a sunny spot or under plant lights. Transplant outdoors when seedlings have 506 leaves and after danger of frost has passed. Plant in full sun and rich, well-drained soil.

Note: Support with stakes or tomato cages to keep fruit off the ground and make harvesting easy.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inch
  • Plant space: 2 feet
  • Row space: 2 feet
  • Sprouts in: 8-10 days
  • Matures in: 70 days

Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Lake Valley Seed

A hardy perennial, chives are an indispensable ingredient wherever a mild onion flavor is desired. They are easy to grow, very hardy and can be tucked away in any odd corner of the garden. Pale purple flowers appear in early spring and can be used to flavor and color herbal vinegars.

Planting: Select a location with full sun to part shade. Chives grow in clumps, and can be planted in rows in your vegetable garden or with your flowers. Sow in early spring, or winter in mild climates. Keep seeds evenly moist until they germinate.

Harvest: Harvest lightly the first season to give the plants a chance to develop. Cut leaves with scissors about one inch from the ground as needed.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Seed space: scatter thinly
  • Sprouts in: 7-10 days
  • Thin height: Do not thin
  • Thin Space: Do not thin
  • Plant height: 12-18 inches

Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Lake Valley Seed

A tasty variation on Sweet Basil with a tempting cinnamon scent and flavor! Easy to grow like regular Basil. Use as a flavor treat in place of Sweet Basil with fish, cold summer soup and fuit salad. Grow with Lemon and Anise Basil for a complete range of unique flavors.

Planting: Plant in a warm sunny location with rich, moist soil. Basil loves heat and does not begin vigorous growth until night and day temperatures have warmed in late spring. Start outdoors in late spring or indoors 4 weeks early for transplants.

Harvest: Cut individual stems as needed. May be dried or frozen for later use.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inch
  • Seed space: 1 inch
  • Sprouts in 8-10 days
  • Thin height: 2 inches
  • Thin space: 12 inches
  • Plant height: 18-24 inches

Fino Verde Basil (Ocimum basilicum minimum)

Lake Valley Seed

Favored by chefs for its intense Sweet Basil flavor. Pretty, compact plants are perfect in patio pots, containers and in the flower of vegetable garden. Grow with Lemon, Anise, and Cinnamon Basil for a complete range of unique flavors. Fino Verde is the favored variety for making pesto.

Planting: May be started 4 weeks before last spring frost for transplants. However, it is easy to sow Fino Verde seeds outdoors. Plant in a warm sunny location with rich, moist soil. Basil loves heat and does not begin to grow vigorously until both night and day tempertures have warmed in late spring.

Harvest: Cut individual stems as needed. May be dried or frozen for later use.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inch
  • Seed space: 1 inch
  • Sprouts in: 8-10 days
  • Thin height: 2 inches
  • Thin space: 12 inches
  • Plant height: 12-15 inches

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Lake Valley Seed

A hardy perennial with delicate, light green foliage and a lemon scent. Bushy plants make an attractive accent or perennial border. Makes a tasty tea when combined with mint. Easy to grow; not fussy about soil or sun. Prospers even in dry soils or partial sun.

Planting: Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant in early fall in mild climates. To maintain a tidy appearance, cut back foliage by one-third in summer when flowers appear.

Harvest: Leaves may be used at any time. Cut back by two-thirds after flowering. Dry fully grown branches in the shade for later use.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Seed space: 2 inches
  • Sprouts in: 5-10 days
  • Thin height: 2 inches
  • Thin space: 10 inches
  • Plant height: 1-2 feet

Marconi Red Sweet Pepper (Capsicum annuum)

Lake Valley Organics Seeds

A delicious sweet, Italian-style pepper used for roasting and frying. Fruits are 6 to 8 inches long and go from green to red at maturity. Use wherever red bell peppers are called for, or sear over the high heat of a summer barbecue.

Planting: Start indoors 8-10 weeks before transplanting. Keep soil temperature warrm; about 80 F. for best germination. Harden off the young plants about 10 days before transplanting by setting outdoors on warm days during the day. Transplant outdoors in late spring after the nights have warmed. Plants will not begin to grow vigorously until the night temperatures have increased.

Harvest: Peppers may be harvested when they reach mature green size about 5-8 inches long, or wait for them to mature to a bright red color with a sweeter flavor.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inch
  • Plant space: 12 inches
  • Sprouts in: 10-20 days
  • Matures in: 75 days
  • Row space: 24 inches
  • No chemical fertilizers
  • No seed treatments
  • 100% open-pollinated seed, no hybrids
  • 100% certified organically-grown seed

Marketmore 76 Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)

Plant Hart's Seeds

Matures in 67 days.

This cucumber is long, cylindrical, straight, firm and smooth, with excellent uniformity. Resistance to Cucumber Mosaic Virus, Powdery and Downey Mildew and Cucumber Scab, makes this variety a reliable performer. Highly recommended for main crop harvest in early fall.

Sowing: Plant seed outdoors in late spring when the ground is warm and all danger of frost is past. Make a group of 4 to 6 seeds placed in a ring about 2 inches across; cover with 1/2 inch of fine soil, well pressed down. Each ring of seeds is called a hill and hills should be spaced 4 to 6 feet apart each way.

Thinning: Thin when plants are 2 to 3 inches tall, leaving 3 or four strongest plants in each hill.

Germination: Germinates in 8 to 10 days depending on soil and weather conditions.

Remarks: For best results, or where space is limited, us a trellis or stakes. For best flavor, pick fruits when 6 to 8 inches long. Do not permit fruits to grow too large. Control insects with vegetable dust.

Red Cherry Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum)

Lilly Miller Seeds

This classic salad tomato produces loads of golf-ball-size, bright red fruit with good flavor. Plants keep on bearing for many weeks. For easier harvesting, support plants with stakes or cages.

Planting: Start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before planting outdoors. Harden off seedlings by putting them outside during the day for 1 week before tranplanting. Transplant seedlings to the garden when nighttime temperatures remain above 55 F. Enrich the soil with compost before planting. Use plastic mulch to retain heat in the soil.

Growing: To avoid diseases, don't plant where tomatoes or peppers have grown in the last two years. Water regularly to keep soil evenly moist.

Harvesting: Tomatoes are juiciest and most flavorful if picked when bright red.

  • Planting depth: 1/4 inch
  • Seed spacing: 2 seeds per pot or cell
  • Days to sprout: 7-14
  • Spacing after transplanting: 20-30 inches
  • Spacing between rows: 3-4 feet
  • Days until harvest: 75

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Lake Valley Organics Seed

A lovely perennial for the flower or vegetable garden! Pebbled gray-green leaves with spikes of purple flowers in late spring, Use fresh or dried to flavor meats, poultry, stuffing, and soups.

Planting: Plant in full sun to partial shade with well-drained soil. Keep soil evenly moist until plants have germinated. Mature plants are quite drought hardy.

Harvest: Harvest fresh leaves as needed. Cut back entire plant before flowering to 4 inches. Hang to dry in shade or freeze for later use.

  • Seed depth: 1/4 inche
  • Plant space: 24 inches
  • Sprouts in: 8-10 days
  • Matures in: Perennial
  • Row space: 24 inches
  • No chemical fertilizers
  • No seed treatments
  • 100% open-pollinated seed, no hybrids
  • 100% certified organically-grown seed

Sweet Marjoram (Marjorana hortensis)

Lake Valley Seed

Marjoram is an attractive annual that is easy to grow. Tiny gray-green leaves and pale flowers make an attractive addtion to an herbal border or patio pot. Its distinctively flavored leaves are used to season fish, meats, soups, vinegars and jelly.

Planting: Marjoram is a tender perennial, grow as an annual. It cannot survive most winters. Sow seeds outdoors in late spring in sun to partial shade. Prepare soil and scatter seeds evenly over the surface. Water gently, and keep soil evenly moist until the tiny plants emerge.

Harvest: Cut individual leaves or stems anytime or cut the entire plant to 4 inches before flowering. Marjoram may be dried for later use.

  • Seed depth: barely cover
  • Seed space: scatter
  • Srpouts in: 8-10 days
  • Thin height: 2 inches
  • Thin Space: 6 inches
  • Plant height: 12-18 inches

Wild Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Lake Valley Seed

A hardy perennial. No cat should be without this feline aphrodisiac; even the most mild mannered kitty turns into a tiger with catnip. Easy to grow. A good plant for a window garden.

Planting: Plant in full sun to part shade. Does well even in poor, dry soils. Sow anytime in mild climates, or early spring in cold areas.

Harvest: Individual leaves may be harvested anytime or cut back entire plant to four inches before flowering.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Seed space: 1 inch
  • Sprouts in 8-10 days
  • Thin height: 2 inches
  • Thin space: 18 inches
  • Plant height: 2-4 feet

To be planted directly in the garden later:

Bibb Summer Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

Lake Valley Organics Seed

Delicious flavor and cruncy texture! Dark green leaves with a creamy yellow heart. Each plant produces a miniature rosette of leaves perfectly sized for an individual salad.

Planting: Lettuce prefers cool weateher. Select a location with full sun or part shade in hot areas. Sow in early spring, fall or winter in mild climates. Keep soil evenly moist for best growth. Thin regularly - lettuce does not like to be crowded.

Note: Plant a few feet every 2-3 weeks for continuous harvest. Save space by inter-panting with other later crops like beans, squash or tomatoes.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Plant space: 8 inches
  • Sprouts in: 7-14 days
  • Matures in: 50 days
  • Row space: 12 inches
  • No chemical fertilizers
  • No seed treatments
  • 100% open-pollinated seed, no hybrids
  • 100% certified organically-grown seed

Bloomsdale Spinach (Spinacia oleracea)

Lake Valley Seed

Bloomsdale is an old-time favorite in the garden. It is quick to produce bunches of crinkle-leaved rosettes that are packed with vitamins and minerals. Best flavor and production are achieved when grown during cool weather.

Planting: Spinach grows best during cool weather in the spring and fall, or winter in mmild areas. Choose a location with rich, moist, non-acid soil. Cover seeds with fine soil and keep evenly moist until they germinate. For continuous harvest, plant every 10 days.

Harvest: Harvest by pulling entire plant when leaves are till young a tasty. In many cold winter areas. fall planted spinach will over-winter and produce very early spring crops.

  • Seed depth: 1/2 inches
  • Seed space: 5 inches
  • Row space: 12 inches
  • Sprouts in: 5-10 days
  • Matures in: 42 days

Little Finger Carrot (Daucus carota)

Lake Valley Seed

Little finger carrots can be pulled at three inches long. Deep orange, blunt roots have a very small core and smooth skin. These miniature carrots are often served in gourmet restauants. Their sweet flavor develops early. Great fresh and perfect for pickling and canning.

Planting: Plant outdoors as soon as soil can be worked, and replant every 3 weeks until mid-July. Carrot seeds are slow to germinate: soak seeds in warm water for a few hours. Keep soil bed moist. Plant a few radishes with the carrot seeds. Radishes sprout quickly and mark the row. When plants are 2-4 inhes tall, thin 1-2 inches apart.

Harvest: For best flavor, harvest these carrots when "little finger" size.

  • Seed depth: 1/8 inch
  • Seed space: 1/2 inch
  • Sprouts in: 7-21 days
  • Plant space: 2-3 inches
  • Matures in: 60 days

Reference Links


A determinate tomato plant’s habit is to grow into a bush. Once these reach a certain size (3-4 feet), they bloom and set fruit. After that, they’re pretty much done. One reason someone would chose a determinate plant is because they don’t want to mess with a lot of staking (although you still would be smart to toss a cage around them), plus you don’t have to prune them.

An indeterminate plant is a true vine and continues to grow forever and beyond (up to 12 feet) if you don’t do a little pruning once in awhile. These guys can take up a lot of space and that could be a nuisance to some people. They need to be trellised throughout the season and pruned regularly.

That said, the indeterminates have a lot going for them. For one, they have a much higher fruit yield and the tomatoes are bigger as well as better. You’ll get a lot more yield per square foot with these crazy vine types as they continue to produce fruit up until a hard frost kills them. The bottom line for taste is that the indeterminates win every time. Most heirloom tomato plants are indeterminate; and that should tell you something.

VFFNTA: When purchasing tomato plants, you may have seen these letters on the plant’s tag next to the variety name. Sometimes it’ll be “VFF” or VFN”. Have you ever wondered what those letters are telling you? Should you even care? Well, it all depend if your growing zone encourages certain diseases or not and if incredible flavor turns you into a risk-taker.

Each one of the letters stands for a different disease that tomato plants can be prone to developing. Tomato-freaky scientists have bred and produced tomato plant varieties which are prone to these diseases. If you buy a tomato plant that has the letter “V” next to its name such as “‘Oregon Spring’ V”, this tells you the disease the plant is bred to resist is verticillium wilt which commonly attacks tomato crops.

  • V = verticillum wilt
  • F and FF = fusarium wilt
  • N = nematodes
  • T = tobacco mosaic virus
  • A = alternaria leaf spot

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Herbal Gardening, Part 3

Herbal Gardening, Part 3

We planted seeds today.

It was a beautifully warm, mild day, I really wasn't planning on starting our indoor garden today...I was hoping to write and relax. But I had carelessly spilled water on a couple of our packets of seeds, completely sopping them, and I knew I needed to do something before they started to germinate or rot.

The first step was filling our 26 biodegradable starter pots with planting mix.

We used Jiffy-Pots, made of peat moss, distributed in the USA by Ferry-Morse Seed Company. They are about two-inches in diameter, about three-inches high. The manufacturer's instructions seemed straight forward:

  1. Place Jiffy-Pots into a Jiffy plant tray.
  2. Fill with Premium Seed Starting Jiffy-Mix.
  3. Water thoroughly - enough to saturate walls of the pot.
  4. Plant seeds according to directions on seed packet.
  5. To transplant, plant "pot and all" making sure peat pot is completely covered by garden soil.
  6. Water thoroughly.

We didn't use the official Premium Seed Starting Jiffy-Mix. We used what we had left over from last year.

Our planting mix was made by Rexius Forest By-Products, Inc. It seemed to have all the right ingredients:

  • Forest humus
  • Compost
  • Pummice
  • Perlite
  • Sand
  • Peat moss

It had no fertilizer components. We'll have to add some sort of fertilizer when the seeds sprout.

I found our planting mix to be very hard to moisten. I first filled each pot to the brim with the dry mix and then sprinkled with water. Only the top surface of the filled pot became wetted...an inch below the surface, the mix remained dry, even after forcibly pressing the running water hose into the mix for several seconds.

Finally, I removed the mix out of each pot, dumping it all into a small pail. Then I added water as I stirred and mashed with my hand, much like mixing water into dry pancake mix. When it was all saturated, I filled each pot once again with the wet planting mix.

The Master Gardeners (MG) recommended only one seed per plant. Several of the seed packets described putting two or more seeds into each pot. We followed the written instructions on each packet of seeds, generally two to three seeds per pot.

We planted 15 different crops, using 15 starter pots. Adding the two tomato seedlings the MG gave us, we have now 17 pots on our small desk, placed near our south-facing double-glass door. We'll water daily and wait for the sprouts.

Grow, seedlings, grow!