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Archive for the ‘Farming’ Category

Birds have begun to build their nests and the green begins to break through the cold soil as the days lengthen. The changing season sprouts new life from the barren winter ground as we shift into warmer, spring days that awaken the newfound life.

When it comes to gardening, I prefer to keep things simple, quick, and affordable—I don’t want to spend more time or money on something I could just buy from the market. To start seedlings in the past, I’ve thriftily used egg cartons, plastic cups and full-sized milk jugs to sprout seeds. This year, I’ve reused various containers readily available to most households that would normally be thrown out or recycled. These containers include:

  • Reuse containers for seed startingPlastic containers from fast food restaurants
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Yogurt cups
  • Single-serve pop and milk bottles
  • Strawberry fruit containers

Check around with friends, family and neighbors to see if they will save them for you.

IMG_2864v2Fast food containers

I have a tendency to avoid fast food as much as I can, but every once in a while I need something quick and cheap. Many of the plastic containers—from salad containers to milkshake cups—are great for starting seeds. The only effort required is to poke holes in the bottom of the containers as well as the clear top if it came with one. This top will act as a miniature greenhouse for the seedlings to get a good start in.

Reuse toilet paper rolls to start seeds

Toilet paper rolls

Found in every household and one of the most common household wastes, I first heard about using toilet paper rolls to start seeds from Laura Rittenhouse’s Gardening Journal.

Toiler paper rolls for seedlings

She didn’t have much luck, but I decided to give them a try anyways. So far, they have been a success and are functioning similar to the peat pots bought in a store—they dry out about as often too. I’ve chosen this as my go-to option for additional seedlings this year.

To make them useable, I cut four slots in the bottom of the toilet paper rolls and folded them underneath. Place several of the rolls in an unused planter or container to hold them upright. To make my job easier, I did not put dirt around them as I do not want them to decompose faster. The idea is that the rolls can be replanted straight into the soil without disturbing the roots and where it will then decompose.

Yogurt cups

Incredibly popular, single serve yogurt cups make excellent seed starting containers.  Normally tossed into the trash or recycling bin, I’m sure it won’t take long to collect enough to start seeds in.

Individual serving yogurt cups, milk, and pop bottles make excellent seed starting containers.

Individual serving yogurt cups, milk, and pop bottles make excellent seed starting containers.

The only special attention required is to poke drainage holes in the bottom.

Pop bottles & milk bottles

Individual (16-20 oz.) pop and milk bottles will also make wonderful containers to start seeds in. Simply cut off the top and poke some holes in the bottom. Create a miniature greenhouse by reattaching the top and removing the cap.

Strawberry Fruit Containers

While it may be more difficult to collect mass quantities of strawberry fruit containers, they turn into seed starting containers with little work. Since they already have drainage holes, simply fill with soil and seeds of choice and they’ll be sprouting in no time! The lid even has vent holes so you can close it and let it act as a greenhouse to encourage quick germination.

Please remember to recycle all unused plastic containers after using. I usually try to save mine to reuse the next year because we don’t have easily accessible recycling.

 

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Meyer Lemon Tree BlossomsDespite a warmer than average winter, I’ve been going over my gardening plans for the coming seasons as I focus on my indoor garden. It’s rare for me to talk about what I do and my upcoming gardening plans. I currently live in an urban apartment where gardening space is limited, but have learned to maximize the small space available with container gardening.

I base most of what I do with my garden off of gut instinct and luck in combination with the knowledge I’ve picked up through trial and error over the years.

What Worked

  • Mixing My Own Soil

Living in an apartment, my access to soil and compost is incredibly limited. In the past I’ve relied on a popular brand of potting soil with varying results. My goal this past year was to find a more rich soil mixture that required less maintenance. I ended up using a mixture of potting soil, a high quality compost, sand, and soil conditioner mixed in accordance to the needs of individual plants.

Mixing my own soil turned out to be the best thing I could have done for my little container garden—it retained moisture without becoming waterlogged. To cut down on cost, I looked for ripped, discounted bags at garden centers. The potting soil I used was leftover from the prior year and I would recommend cutting it out completely if possible.

  • OrchidsOrchids

During the winter, mold can be a major problem with indoor plants. My apartment has poor air circulation that created a severe mold problem with the sphagnum moss potting medium used for my orchids. The mold caused root rot, so the decision was made to replant them in bark which has completely abolished the mold problem. While still healing from the mold attack a year later, all have stabilized and look to be healthy.

  • Lizard TerrariumTerrarium

After longing for a terrarium, I finally created a large and nearly self-maintaining eco-system plus an additional lizard. A layer of rocks under the soil help create a self-watering system that the plants thrive on. Beneficial springtails help to tidy the enclosure and decompose waste. Can’t wait to add some live moss!

  • Overwintering Herbs

Currently, our mild winter has made wintering over the many herbs and plants incredibly simple. The hardier plants are unmoved since summer while the more tender are housed in a small pop-up greenhouse for protection from the winter nip.

  • Container PondContainer Pond

Mid-summer, I picked up side project and turned a large, cracked planter into a container pond. This was an especially cheap and simple project—the container was clearanced for $6. Easy to maintain, the pond and goldfish within provided a tranquil addition to an already relaxing jungle. The goldfish have adapted well to overwintering in a tank inside

What Didn’t Work

  • Balcony GardenLack of Space

This past year, I grew both lemongrass and tomatoes; however, both plants grow fairly large and take up a lot of space. Since they shaded out many of my other plants, I have decided I will not grow them this coming year in order to make room for new plants.

  • Various Tropicals

I grow many tropicals that rotate between inside and outside depending on the weather. Both last winter and this current winter, I have found molding soil due to my apartment’s poor air circulation. Currently I have been treating with cinnamon to keep the mold at bay, but would like to find a better solution in the future.

After busting the pot on my large White Bird of Paradise, I attempted to repot it on my own despite suspicions it would be a two person job. I was unprepared for the thick, stiff roots that grew straight down and the three plants separated as I loosened the old soil. In the end, I ended up with leaning plants that were growing into one another.

My cats have done a good job of eating the foliage and even killing a few. I have resorted to placing them in odd places so the plants will have time to begin their recovery.

Looking Ahead

  • Seed SproutingSeed Sprouting

The warmer than average winter is wreaking havoc on my gardening plans as I’ve been cautious of planting seeds with worries they’ll sprout too early. However, I have picked up some new seeds to try of which includes fenugreek, cattails for my pond and cat grass in hopes of distracting the cats from my tropicals.

  • Enduring Soil

When I created a soil mixture last spring, I tried to plan ahead in anticipation of this growing season as I wanted the repotting to be minimal. I added plenty of soil conditioner to each pot in hopes that it would decompose throughout the year, leaving another year of rich soil for each plant to continue growing in. I am eager to see how well (hopefully) this has worked out.

  • Meyer Lemon Tree in FlowerLemon Tree

I will endure the continual wait for the first lemons to ripen on my Meyer Lemon tree. I’m also hoping to see the growth even out a little more this year. The tree is currently in full bloom with a scent that fills the entire room; however, I won’t be leaving many lemons to grow as it’s still a young tree.

After a fairly successful year, this coming year looks to be a promising experience with plenty of room to grow and expand my gardening knowledge. So, how did your garden grow this past year? Got any interesting plans for the 2013 season?

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Whether off to college or going on vacation, leaving plants alone can mean death for the poor creatures. This can be complicated when there are many plants involved—or even an entire garden. Despite having a plant sitter, I have lost many plants this way and have since devise d a better plan to help the sitter succeed.

Casualties: Thyme almost died while I was away last.

Casualties: Thyme almost died while I was away last.

There are a pot load of factors to what sort of care is needed for the plants:

  • The number of plants.
  • Whether they’re indoors or outdoors.
  • If they’re growing in pots or plants in the ground.
  • The time of year and location.

I find summer to be the most difficult and stressful time for outdoor plants. While a week away from home may not sound long, during the summer heat, plants may need watering every day. Despite this, I am always tinkering and evolving the systemleft for the plant sitter.

Find that Special Somebody

Surprisingly, the most difficult challenge may be finding the right person to house sit the plants. This person must be somebody who is not only willing, but also enjoys caring for plants. Previous plant care knowledge is always beneficial. A close neighbor, friend or relative is often the best bet if caring for a garden or jungle of house plants! If only a few plants are involved, it may be easier for the caretaker to watch them in their own home.

Clearly label all plants!

Clearly label all plants!

Keep it Simple

Do whatever you can to make care as simple as possible. Using neat handwriting, clearly label all plants, the bigger the tag, the better—large popsicle sticks work great! Some people only see “plants with green leaves,” so leave labeled photographs of the plants—I’ve even emailed this last minute to the sitter. Make a list of all plants and their locations, don’t want one passed over! Include detailed care instructions that include a watering schedule; note any plants that have special or differing requirements. Make all care accessories easily accessible—nobody wants to hunt for a watering can. Will anything need fertilizing? To avoid overwhelming the caretaker, try to do this beforehand or use fertilizer stakes.

Watering can in an easy-to-find location

Watering can in an easy-to-find location

Outside Care

Outside plant care can be fairly basic during the cooler months, but may be complicated by the heat of summer as the ground and potted plants will dry out quickly with a lack of rain. Because of this, plants may need to be watered daily. Optionally, self-watering pots can help alleviate some of the work while mulching can help the soil retain moisture longer. Large vegetable gardens may even be mulched with grass clippings. While watering cans work great for a small amount of plants, choose a garden hose for a large number of plants–sprinklers, soaker hoses and sprinkler hoses work great for large areas.

Special care: this orchid is in a dormant period and must not be

Special care: this orchid is in a dormant period and must not be watered

Prioritize

Chances are, the designated plant sitter may be overwhelmed and unprepared for what some may call a jungle. It is important to make sure they know which plants are most important and irreplaceable or difficult to replace. This way, they can focus their attention on these plants, increasing their chances of survival. The plant sitter is only as good as the plant owner, at least while you’re out of town anyway, so proper cooperation is required.

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With autumn in our midst, many gardeners are focused on their fall gardens of leafy greens and roots. However, now is a wonderful time to create a winter garden of indoor herbs or tomatoes. Adding a little living green to a home during the chilliest of months can be simple.

One of the best ways to get indoor herbs started is to root a cutting—this way you don’t have to play the waiting game for a seed to sprout and develop into a mature plant. Cuttings may be rooted in water, moist soil, or even a damp paper towel wrapped in plastic. Rooting hormone will help speed the process along. Basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, mints and tomatoes have all been known to root and not let go!

Choose a Cutting

When choosing a stem to cut,  it is important to avoid new, immature growth. I prefer to use a woody or developed softwood side shoot. Take cuttings early morning before a warm sun has sapped their stored energy.

It is also a good idea to take several cuttings per chance one doesn’t develop roots.

Remove Leaves

Remove any leaves and side shoots 2”-4” from the bottom to prevent rot.

Dip cutting end into rooting hormone.

Rooting mediums:

  • Soil – make sure the soil mixture is light and retains moisture.
  • Water – root cuttings in a jar of water. Don’t forget to change the water every couple days.
  • Paper towel – dampen a paper towel and wrap around the base of the cutting, then wrap plastic around the paper towel.

Developing Roots

Until they begin to develop roots, cuttings need to remain moist and must not be allowed to dry out. Use a plastic bottle or plastic bag (like a miniature greenhouse) to help retain moisture. Stick the cuttings in a sunny location such as an east or south facing window. Do not fertilize until roots have developed.

Tug Tug Tug

Check weekly for root development. If using soil, gently tug on the cutting—any resistance means it has begun to develop roots. Generally it will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks for roots to develop. If rooting in a glass of water or a damp paper towel, wait until roots are at least 2” before replanting in soil.

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I apologize for the lack of posts on my part. The end of summer always brings a whole host of things that demand my time, some more important than others, but all squabbling for and yanking at my attentions until I give in. For example, one of my roosters has become a little crotchety, so as I collect my daily bounty of eggs, I’m always eyeballed and occasionally bodyslammed by him, and I end up debating his fate. He’s on ‘probation’ as of now – while he’s a beautiful bird, I don’t want him to go after a customer or something.

This past weekend was the peak of the harvest moon. It’s said that this bright full moon was once used by farmers to continue work into the night during the intense harvest period. My own is almost complete here, having mostly ended a few weeks ago. Haying season has been finished for some time, with plenty of bales put away to supply bedding for the chickens for the winter. I dug all my potatoes, beets, and turnips, and they’re now in damp straw-filled bushel baskets in the old stone basement. Only hardy things like brussels sprouts and carrots remain outside, and I’ll deal with them soon (except for the kale, which will be left there – and will probably survive – all winter).

It was a good season, though. After admirable performances on their part, I let the tomatoes go, their vines thin-foliaged and dying, fruit quality suffering from months of early blight and the associated exposure/sunscald. Probably more than a bushel went ‘to waste’, with some of these being fed to my chickens as feed, but it wouldn’t have been worth the trouble to take care of them and cut around their damage when I already have on the order of 6 or more full cases of homemade tomato products to use this winter. You choose your battles.

Just three 40-foot rows of bush beans produced over 300 pounds of beans before I let them go to seed as well, blowing my past years out of the water. I have no more freezer space for them, and lost what remained of my desire to spend the hours required to pick them to sell. I put a 14″ wide head of broccoli in the freezer – the biggest I’ve ever seen, beating my old record by 3″. I also picked the largest watermelon I’ve ever grown here, a 20-pound-plus Jubilee, and have enjoyed (or sold) several other melons in the 15-pound range. Our climate isn’t usually as suited for production of these, but the hot summer this year seems to have helped them, even as it hindered crops like the lettuce (there was still plenty, but it was the sorriest, sparsest looking row of it that I’ve ever grown).

The harvest and transition to fall also brings a number of festivals and other celebrations that conveniently fill the gap between fair season and ‘winter hibernation’. Some are craft shows, others are historical celebrations or giant farmer’s markets, or some may even be a mash-up of all of these. One such amalgamation is one I go to every year – the Busti Apple Festival. Born from the Pioneer Festival that used to be held here, it always happens on the last Sunday of September, rain or shine. This year it happened on Sept. 30th, and though the forecast called for rain, we managed to escape without a drop.

An early 1900s shot of the Mill.

The Apple Fest is held near the old Busti Gristmill. This historic mill, built in the late 1830s, was in neglected disrepair for many years. However, funding from the Apple Fest is used by the Busti Historical Society to restore it while still maintaining period accuracy. Windows and floors all needed replacement – it was basically a start with the bones and building back. They have also purchased some of the buildings around it. This year there were some breakthroughs, with some old equipment being demonstrated, and the once-empty mill channel over the creek being filled with hewn beams and hardware in preparation for a possible return to action in the future.

There are many tents of crafters with things to sell, and there’s always a good selection of fresh produce and other farm products. There are also demonstrations of log hewing, candle-making, spinning, a one-room schoolhouse, antique tractors, traditional music, and more. While I think most people go to this festival for the fair food and other ‘stuff to buy’, and I do like buying certain things myself (ex. maple and honey products, stone-ground flour, cheese), I go primarily to see what’s going on with the ‘old stuff’, and I do enjoy seeing some others who do take an interest in it.

A row of crafters’ tents lines the road, shut down for the day for the festival (Post-Journal photo, article linked).

A particular new thing of note to me this year was a blacksmith that was working on pieces on-site. His operation is called Evergreen Forge, based in Scandia, Pennsylvania – within a half-hour’s drive from my home. He had a number of pieces for sale, most decorative in nature, but a single knife stood out to me from all the offerings on display. It was a fixed-blade damascus hunter. Better yet, it was handmade, and one of a kind by nature. The price tag was intimidating, but it was beautiful, and I kept coming back to it, finally giving in and paying the asked-for sum, which I knew it was worth.

Maybe this knife will one day test a whitetail’s hide, or maybe it will serve me in any number of capacities from a garden vegetable-lopper or a forest mushroom-slicer. Maybe it will not. It’s a hard decision to make after you’ve bought (for a fraction of the price) and used many generic, mass-produced blades for your entire life. I almost always have a knife on hand, though – they’re like an extension of myself, an extra digit I don’t possess on my own – and it’s a new thing to own one this gorgeous that is still so strongly made and could serve well longer than my lifetime if cared for. Given all of what I’ve just said above, it seems almost like a waste and perhaps a denial of its own purpose to simply allow it to sit on display forever.

I could always give it a run with some squirrels. Though some would find the idea of eating them odd or even disgusting, they’re my favorite game animal. They’re abundant this year, probably helped along by the past mild winter. The feast of thickly dropping hickory and beech nuts almost makes up for the fact that spring frosts ruined all the wild apples and other fruit.

Hickory nuts (and some extra heads from my sunflower landrace) spread out to dry.

Cool rains have come, and nippy nights are bringing on the fall colors, along with a host of curious mushrooms and fungi that I delight in foraging for. No great finds so far, just a few blewits and a tiny Lion’s Mane, but there’s time yet. With one season over, and a new one started, it’s time for fall foraging and hunting. Hopefully my downtime will increase as the days shorten, allowing for the inevitable posts that will follow these subjects…

Is this butt a sign of things to come???

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Last time, I offered a post detailing a few of the uses for zucchini that I utilize in handling my small farm’s huge overabundance of them. Those ideas were good, but a lot of people might already have their own bread recipes… Today I bring you a quick post describing a few more ways to use the little green fruits, one of which is a real shocker (especially with how good it is)! After all, I just picked 15 more zucchini the other day…

All of these ideas can also be used with other summer squashes.

Feeeeaaarrr the enormous head-eating zucchini plants!

– Zucchini and Tomatoes –

This is also a ‘lazy day’ recipe for me. You start with a tomato base. You can use them stewed, diced, as paste, or any other way really – that part is based on your preference. Since I also grow and can lots of my own tomatoes, this is never an issue, but you can definitely just use store bought too. I usually prefer a base with less chunks, so I’d use diced or paste, or if I wanted to use whole/halved or stewed, I’d let it cook a little before adding the other ingredients.

What I do is warm up the tomato ingredient in a medium to large pot. Once I have it good and hot, I’ll add chunked, sliced, or cubed zucchini pieces. It’s best to use mostly small to medium zucchini for this. You want to add enough zucchini that the tomato ingredient will flavor them all, but not drown them. That is, you want your zucchini well ‘sauced’ but you don’t really want a soup here. The shape and size of the zucchini pieces you add is again based on your preference. I prefer good sized chunks, as I like firmness and they don’t get as easily cooked down and ‘floppy’ as the slices, but that’s all up to you as you might prefer them that way! Optional ingredients to also add at this stage are things like onion pieces, mushroom chunks or slices, or other vegetables (I usually just add the mushrooms and several dashes of my favorite spices and herbs).

Let simmer for a while until zucchini is tender. Feel free to sample as you go. 😉

Once zucchini is done, remove from heat, dish into bowls, and cover with a generous helping of mozzarella (or other cheese if you don’t have mozzarella/cheese substitute if vegan). Enjoy!

In this same vein, do not be afraid to experiment with zucchini. Its mild flavor and easily manipulated texture lends it well to all kinds of variations on casseroles and savory pies.

They’re still spawning!

– Zucchini Soup Base –

This is one of my new favorite ways to use zucchini, as you can barely tell it’s there unless you really hunt… and that’s saying something, since in my last pot I added 5 whole fruits! It’s also pretty easy, in my opinion.

Start by making stock/broth. Take your pot and add a good amount of water (very scientific and accurate, I know). What size of pot you use depends on how much you want to make. I make a giant pot and we eat off of it for several days, but you can simply scale down and make a small pot – it just won’t use as many zucchini at once.

To make your starter broth, you can boil some meat and remove it to re-add later, using the cooking liquid. You can boil up some herbs and vegetables, spice/salt as desired, and make a nice veggie broth. You can do something as simple as adding enough bouillon cubes to the water to flavor it. Doesn’t matter – just make a little broth however you see fit.

Cut tops and tails off of zucchini and chunk or slice. If using really giant zucchini, they should be skinned and seeded first. Add to the broth and simmer until zucchini is soft. You can also add some skinned tomatoes at this stage if you like, since tomatoes go with zucchini so well, but it’s optional. I added 8 to my last batch.

Once zucchini and optional tomatoes are falling apart somewhat, blend up the mixture well with an immersion blender stuck right into the pot (don’t stick the motor piece under the water, and make sure to go a little easy on it so it doesn’t get too hot). You can also use a regular blender, pour the batch through a food mill, etc. but those are all messier and take more work (I love my immersion blender). Once blended, the zucchini will practically disappear and become what is basically a thickener in the broth. The only sign they’re there afterward are a few green flecks that sort of look like pieces of parsley or basil or something.

After this step, you can add other veggies, meat, or any other ingredient you wish to have in a soup. I added generous piles of chunked potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, and celery. Cook until those ingredients are done/tender, salt/spice to taste, and you have your soup!

How to defeat it??!?!?

– Zucchini Cobbler –

This was a recipe I stumbled upon one year in zucchini-desperation. I had so many and I was so sick of them that they were all just going to end up in my compost. They weren’t selling and I couldn’t even give them away fast enough.

Then I read about this. It’s not salty. It doesn’t have tomatoes. It was a completely different take on zucchini than any other recipe I had ever seen before. The best part is… it tastes and feels almost exactly like apple cobbler. A lot of people will be fooled if you don’t tell them it has zucchini in it. A few extra picky eaters might be able to sense that something isn’t quite right, but no one I have ever fed this recipe to has disliked it. Now, it is admittedly not very healthy, but man is it good, and very unusual.

The best part is, it uses quite a lot of zucchini, and you can put big zucchini in it too – somewhat big ones even work BETTER than little ones for this, because they come out more apple-like!

However, the preparation is a bit more labor-intensive than the above ideas.

Zucchini Cobbler

8 c. peeled, chopped zucchini (A little further detail about this ingredient – you want to skin the squash first, then slice in half lengthwise, or in quarters if a bigger zucchini. Scoop out seeds and center pulp. Then with the skinless ‘shells’ that are left, slice width-wise into pieces that should look pretty similar to thin, crescent shaped slices of apple)

2/3 c. lemon juice

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

4 c. flour

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. butter, chilled

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

  • – In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook and stir zucchini with the lemon juice until zucchini starts to get tender. Stir in 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and the nutmeg, cooking a minute more. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • – Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 10×15 inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the flour and 2 c. sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture starts to look like coarse crumbs. Add 1/2 c. of this mixture into the zucchini mixture you made before. Press half of what’s left into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread the whole pot of zucchini mixture over this, then sprinkle the rest of the butter mixture on top of that. Dash with the last tsp. of cinnamon.
  • – Bake 35-40 min. or until the top is golden. Serve warm or cold.

A few of my added notes on this recipe:

  • – I overdo it with the spices when I’m cooking the zucchini mixture. I always add extra cinnamon as well as a dash of cloves. It’s up to you if you do this. I am a giant spice lover.
  • – I use a 9×13 pan because I don’t have a 10×15. There are no changes. It seems to work fine, it just fills it up allll the way.
  • – I have “accidentally” used really soft or even fully melted butter for this recipe before. It works almost as good, it just makes a gooier topping instead of a crumby one, so you just have to be a little more creative with spreading it out/pressing it into the pan. It bakes and crisps up just fine, though.
  • – I do not dash with cinnamon after – the cinnamon overkill I do in the earlier step takes care of all my cinnamony needs.
  • – Adding some oats to the topping mixture in place of some flour, or sprinkling oats on top before baking, is sometimes a nice touch.
  • – I almost always leave it in closer to an hour. Just keep an eye on it and see when it’s done to your visual satisfaction.

Allegedly, you can also use zucchini to make a remarkably apple-like pie, using a similar preparation/ingredients as is employed in this cobbler. I have never tried it, though.

When this is a ‘bad day’ for you, you know your squashes are going crazy!

My plants are now infected with powdery mildew, and they’re winding down a little with production as compared to the beginning of their season. However, the disease will not kill them – they’re all still setting new blossoms, and will until the first frost, so there will still be plenty of zucchini madness to come!

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Highly aromatic, lemongrass grows in thick, cascading clumps that make an attractive indoor or outdoor plant. This plant isn’t just a beauty; it also has medicinal properties and can be made into a delicate tea. In addition to being healthy, this herb will also impart a citrus flavor into any cuisine. If you’ve been interested in experimenting with it, growing lemongrass couldn’t be easier.

Getting Started

Purchase lemongrass stalks that are fresh and still green; avoid stalks that are turning brown and drying out. The ones I purchased were beginning to yellow, but still rooted. Each stalk will multiply to create several new stalks by the end of the season. Fresh lemongrass may be difficult to find in some regions, so I suggest looking in specialty shops—I found mine in an international food market.

Watching Grass Take Root

I prefer to make a fresh slice on the end of the lemongrass to help it take in water until the new roots form. Now simply plop them into a jar of water, making sure the bottom bulb section is covered. After 2-4 weeks, roots and new growth should begin to appear.

Watching Grass Grow

Once 1-2” of roots develop, the lemongrass may be planted into soil. If unable to plant right away, don’t worry–lemongrass is patient. It was still chilly outside when the roots developed on mine, so I left mine in water until the roots were approximately 5-6” in length and the weather had warmed.

Choose a well-draining container to plant the stalks in. When planting, ensure that soil covers the root base. To prevent a risk of rot, do not bury into the soil any deeper than where the highest root nodule is. Water thoroughly. The stalks may feel loose at first, but will soon grow new roots to anchor them securely into the soil.

Lemongrass is not frost-hardy and must be brought inside if temperatures dip below 45°F/7°C.

Health benefits

According to The Herb Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing and Using Herbs (Harding, 2006), lemongrass has many medicinal benefits such as:

  • Lower fever, especially malarial
  • Treating stress-related symptoms
  • Aromatherapy
  • Aids digestion
  • Essential oil relieves muscle aches and pains, injuries, and poor circulation
  • Insect repellent

Making tea

Lemongrass tea is a delicate, citrus flavored tea. It can be made by either steeping the top leaves or the stalk of the plant. The top leaves make for a lighter citrus flavored tea. Simply cut up the leaves and steep as normal—approximately 5 minutes.

When using the stalk, peel off the outer leaves—these are bitter. It is necessary to bruise the stalk by either bending it several times or crushing it under the blade of a chef’s knife. Cut the stalk into pieces. Add to boiling water and steep until preferred strength is reached—approximately 5-10 minutes.

Cookery

Lemongrass is one of those mystery herbs you typically see sold as dried, brown stalks in a little glass bottle at the grocery store. Well-known in Thai cuisine and common in Southeast Asian dishes, lemongrass can be added to soups and curries or made into a tea. It pairs well with coconut milk and will provide a delicate and acidic lemon flavor to balance and compliment a dish.

Lime and Lemongrass Cooler

Servings: 4

  • 2 limes, peeled and each cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 small lemongrass stem, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbps. Sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 crushed ice cubes
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 slices of lime
  • Soda water, to top off

Place lime pieces, lemongrass, and crushed ice cubes in a food processor.

Add the water and sweetened condensed milk, process for a few seconds, but not until completely smooth. Strain the mixture into glasses. Add a slice of lime to each glass and top off to taste with soda water. Serve at once.

Enjoy!

After removing, the outer leaves of lemongrass make great cat toys!

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