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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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Aaand again with the decade between my posts. There are no words. I simply get distracted by everything else around me, and it doesn’t help that I typically sink into a mild winter funk of tired sluggishness. The early darkness does it, or something. This happens even when the winter is mild as ours has been so far. We’ve only had one ‘snow storm’ of a few inches so far, and the snow only lasted two days before melting. It’s a far cry from some of the winters of my childhood.

A trespassing thief stole my trail camera already, making my Thanksgiving-time quite grumpy-like. Regular season deer hunting has come and gone. I shot a nice doe on opening day that would’ve given me fodder for a few posts if I had thought about it at the time. I used some of her for jerky, made hot Italian sausage, and doubled the family recipe for korv as well. This is on top of the number of roasts I saved (and the butchery that came before all that).  Oh well. Maybe next time. For now,  the upcoming holiday season gave me a different idea for a quick, easy, and money-saving thing to share with you all.

Here at SVF, we grew our own Christmas trees for many years out of a patch of conifers my dad planted some decades ago. I love the smell of their boughs. The fresh, bold scent seems to lift my spirits, and their green color defies the weather even when everything else is grey. However, things have changed and grown up since I was younger, and now the trees are all too big for that purpose (maybe we could use just one branch? :P). Due to changes in our family, though, we rarely ever have a Christmas tree anymore anyway.

Even so, I don’t have to miss out on the experience. It’s easy to make a homemade wreath out of conifer boughs and it doesn’t require cutting down or even really injuring a tree. They take up very little space and can be put in ‘extra’ areas like the backs of doors or corners of walls – perfect for someone with little floor space. It also saves the expense of buying, for those who enjoy wreaths.

All you need:

  • – Cutting tools (I use a hunting knife and any pair of scissors. Pruning snips are great too)
  • – String/twine (I like a natural fiber brown twine as it blends in better and is completely biodegradable after, but you can use anything you have laying around)
  • – Pine, spruce, or fir tree with branches low enough to be reached safely

You may want to wear gloves if you don’t like your hands getting any sap on them. However, I find that it isn’t that big of an issue, and fresh sap doesn’t seem to be as gooey as old sap anyway. I’ve never had a problem.

You do not NEED a ‘form’ for making a wreath under any circumstances. It’s a mistake to think you do. However, if you’re really struggling with it, you can do something as simple as bend an old wire clothes hanger into a circle, and that will generally suffice as a guide.

firgroup

The best type of tree to use is up to you. You can use any conifer, but I chose my balsam firs. You may want to decide based on what you have access to. Make sure to ask the landowner if you want to go on private property! You can also often find discarded trimmings at tree farms or nurseries/stores that sell large quantities of ‘live’ Christmas trees. Just ask someone working there. The worst you get is a no.

Firs have needles that are flat/two-sided and generally single on the branches. They also tend to have ‘softer’ needles that don’t stab your feet as much when they fall off and end up on your floor. Pines generally have needles in bunches of 2-5 that tend to be longer and more ‘feathery’. They are soft, but tend to be more sparse looking and harder to make a pretty wreath out of. Spruces have 4-sided/’square’ needles (in cross-section), and though they tend to be good-looking, they are very pointy when dry and underfoot. These facts add to the reason I chose my firs.

Select some branches and trim them from the tree. You’ll want to use the ends of branches if the tree is large, as they bend more easily and have more needles. It helps if you can select ones that are naturally a bit curved, but it isn’t a necessity. Once you have some branches, arrange them to form a framework, and tie them together. If you need to, pick them up and gently but firmly bend them, working them with your hands. They will take on more of a shape you need with some coaxing. You can also partially break them if necessary, damaging the inner pith but leaving the bark intact so it stays together.

After I have my beginning ‘circle’, I trim off my twine ends, and remove any really too-long or dangly offshoots and put them into another pile. It’s good to leave some on the base branches, though – use the twine to tie them down a bit so they’re not all straggly and so they conform to your base circular shape. Keep tidying up your twine ends as you go, clipping them close so they don’t stick out.

I’m left with thinner trimmings like this. It’s never enough, though, so I go back to the tree and select some more small offshoots of the branches. You’ll need a nice little pile. I prefer to make my wreath right next to the tree, so I can take more as I go if I need to, but if you want to make it inside or at another location, clip extra so you don’t run out. It’s better to have too much than not enough.

Lay them along the shape of your rough wreath and eyeball them. See how they look, and arrange them so they’re pleasing to the eye. You can do this however you prefer. If you like them all pointing in one direction, do it. Prefer them to go opposite ways and meet at the top or bottom? Do it. Prefer a jumbly arrangement? Whatever you like is fine! Tie them down with the twine. You can make effort to hide the twine if you want, burying it under the needles, but as you add branches, you’ll find that it becomes hidden on its own. Some don’t even need to be tied down, either. Just ‘thread’ them in between the other limbs and branches, and they’ll stay down on their own.

After some tucking, I got this, but it wasn’t quite full enough for me, so I trimmed a few more limb ends…

After I got this, I thought it wasn’t too bad! It was giving off a lovely scent, too.

I set it on my stoop and walked over to my Norway spruces, which drop long, thin cones. I easily found a few good, clean samples, and tucked them into the wreath as a decoration. I used no glue or anything, just careful placement. You can do this with any kind of cones, leaves, grasses, or any other decoration you’d like to add. For stubborn things like really big pine cones, bury the bottoms in the pine foliage and use twine to tie them on. If it still won’t stay in place for some reason, you CAN hot glue it in there, but I’ve never found it necessary.

And there you have it… a decent looking wreath, and it didn’t cost me anything, because all I used was stuff I already had or that was growing around me. Just loop it over a hanger you might already have, or just tie a circle of twine on top and hang it from any old nail in the wall like I do. 🙂

This was a quick one, too. If you spend even more time with it, you can orient the branches just perfectly to how you like it, and get one that looks even more fabulous to you.

Happy holidays!

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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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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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