Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Planting Moon

Hopefully this day finds you in your gardens enjoying the sun and  planting seeds. Today is the "Planting Moon" and those following lunar cycles to plant, find this an auspicious day full of fecundity and vitality for the newly planted seed. 

Perhaps you know it already, but each full moon goes by many different names around the world. Many of these names indicate seasonal activities or traits of the season, such as the "Planting Moon" or the "Harvest Moon." Check out this link for a list of some the full moon names.

And if you haven't yet planted your seeds, this long holiday weekend is a perfect time. Rather than going to the beach or picnics at a park, this is exactly how I usually spend my holiday weekend - in the sun and dirt with seeds in my hands.

And if you are looking to add the littlest of the Three Sisters (beans) to your garden this year, here's a suggestion from my vegetable garden. My vegetable seeds (last year's leftovers and new seeds for the year) used to be kept in a shoebox. Well, I went past them fitting in a large moving box long ago. One of my problems is that I end up with 6 seeds of this or 12 of that leftover - not enough for a row of any thing but I save them anyways. I think there is something criminal about throwing out seeds so I never do it. But seeds don't last forever. Although outside some notable exceptions, most seeds retain decent viability for 2-3 years.

So unless you get exactly the same varieties of a vegetable each year, you'll have leftovers like me. Take those tiny handfuls of seeds from previous seasons mix them and plant a row. The most enjoyable rows of beans I ever grew were the rows of pole beans I grew the last two years where I did just this. The rows were highly productive over a long period since all the varieties mature at slightly different rates. And the mixed bean harvest had a variety of color and taste on the dinner plate.

And on that subject....if you are not already a fan of pole beans, I urge you to try some this year. Most gardeners have more desire for plants than garden space. Pole beans are an excellent producer for the small footprint they take up in the garden. They grow up, not out. You sow them rather thickly and let them climb. You don't need anything fancy or complicated for them to climb on. Long sticks and poles work just fine and hey, those do grow on trees!

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and join me (at least in spirit) in the sun and rich earth of the garden!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Native Plant Smackdown

While reading a forum on native plants a few weeks back I came across a link to the article Garden Smackdown - Roll Call: Native Plants in my Garden. The article was a challenge was to list and share what native plants were growing in your garden. I found this an interesting idea since I have dedicated my gardening and planting energies over the last 10 years to one of 3 categories - food, medicinal, and native plants. So I've made a list of the native plants growing at my home that I or the previous owner planted or have encouraged to grow. There are many benefits to growing natives - hardy & pest resistant, support native fauna (like butterflies), need little special care once established, and many are simply beautiful. I've separated the plants into multiple lists to help you if you would like to try these in your gardens - which I strongly encourage!

Need more info: What are native plants? and How to and why to plant native plants

Sun-loving Perennials:
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida)

Tennessee Purple Coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis)
Yellow Coneflower (Echinacea paradoxa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Asters - multiple varieties (Asters spp.)
Goldenrod - multiple varieties (Solidago spp.)
Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Tickseed (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Queen of the Prairie (Filipendula rubra)
Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosa)
Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus maximillian)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Sundrops (Oenothera fruticosa)
Black-eyed-Susan (Rudebeckia hirta)
Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)
Mountain Mint (Pycanthemum virginianum)
Cherokee Sweet Mint (Pycanthemum incanum)
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Indian Hemp (Apocynum cannabinum)
Wild Qinine (Parthenium integrifolium)

Shade-loving, Woodland Perennials:
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Labrador Violet (Viola labradorica)
Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum)
Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum peltatum)
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)
White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)
Ramps (Allium tricoccum)
American Spikenard (Aralia urticifolia)

Partial Sun/Shade Perennials:
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Woody Plants - Trees/Shrubs:
Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)
Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus)
New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)
Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Grey Dogwood (Cornus racemosa)
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
American Hazel (Corylus americana)
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)
Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)
American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum)
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana)
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)

Feel free to post your own native plants list (via a comment to this post) or perhaps let us know how the plants you purchased from the native plant vendors we had at our Native American Dance & Music Festival last year are doing.

If you are feeling a bit confused and would love to read more, my favorite book on native plants of this region is Native Plants of the Northeast by Donald Leopold. I've included a link to the right for this book. Enjoy and go native!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Recycle Craft - Plant Markers

Traditionally Native peoples, like all early cultures, made the utmost use of the materials at hand. There were no Mega-Marts. No pre-fab kits. You made what you needed or perhaps traded with someone who could. So beyond just the respect for Mother Earth and her finite resources, I think recycle crafts are a modern incarnation of that ancient creative and ingenious spirit of our ancestors to use, re-use, and re-purpose materials at hand for all their needs.

The following is a simple recycle craft to create plant markers or labels out of containers that would have been otherwise thrown in the recycle bins.

Materials Needed:
• Plastic container -
     #2 plastic 1-gallon works best
• Scissors
• Permanent Markers

1.) Clean and dry containers as needed.

2.) Using sturdy craft scissors or kitchen shears, cut sections out of the container. Cutting along corners to maximize flat usable surfaces is best.

Cut off the bottom and save.

3.) Cut the sections into strips. The exact size is up to you. For the example shown here, the strips were approximately an inch wide.

If there are curves or uneven spots, do not worry. The last step addresses that.

4.) Make two cuts at the end of each strip to create a point.

5.) Use a permanent marker to write the plant's name or other information on the label.

Since I try lots of different heirloom varieties of vegetables each year, I use lots of these markers in seed starting!

6.)After the permanent marker has dried, fold or crease the stake lengthwise. This will address any curved parts of the plant marker, give the label some stability, and will make these markers easier to push into the soil.

7.) Label your plants and enjoy. Note: the permanent marker will fade if used outdoors. I get a growing season out of these before they are too faded. If you live in very hot or sunny location, you may get less time before fading.

8.) The bottom saved earlier in an earlier step can be used too. I use it as a saucer for some of those young potted seedlings!

I hope you enjoyed this simple craft. If you have recycle ideas to share, post a link in the comments to this article or send them to us at Thanks!