The first wave of seeds…

I recently placed an order with Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I don’t know why I bought them so early.  It was just all happening so quickly…but they will keep, so it’s okay!  I will surely be placing another order before winter is through.  It’s inevitable, really…

Included in this batch were: Lucid Gem Tomatoes, Corsican Basil, Purslane, Country Gentleman Sweet Corn,  America Sweet Pea,  Anise Hyssop, Oxheart Carrot, Borage,  Pink Senorita Zinnias, Purple Dragon Carrots, Cupani Original Sweet Pea,  Mazurkia Zinnias,   Siam Queen Thai Basil, Broad Winsor Fava Beans, and two packs of free/surprise seeds: Black Vernisssage Tomato and cabbage (I honestly forgot what kind and don’t have the seeds with me right now!  But I will report on them later…)

UGHH YES #seedhaul #seeds #heirloom #organicgardening @bakercreekseeds

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Even though I can’t even remember the name of it, I’m pretty excited that they threw in the cabbage!  I thought about ordering some but doubted I would get around to planting it.  Now I will have to do it!

Are you looking at seed catalogs?  Have you gotten any for next year yet?  What are some of your favorite places to get seeds?


Beautiful and Bittersweet: Working in the Garden in Autumn

Wednesday, we did some more winter prep work, which included expanding our backyard garden space and repotting some plants we wanted to bring inside.  (The cold front moved in just as we were finishing this!)

To make the garden bigger for next year, I spaded up the ground and put a mulch of leaves (because that’s what I had) over it.  I don’t know how effect this will be, but we will also be putting some chicken poo on it soon, as well.

Saturday, we began taking out the peppers, tomatoes, etc., that had been killed by the previous night’s freeze.   The cover crop we planted is looking great (unfortunately, no pics right now.)   We will also spread some chicken manure over the big garden.

Autumn garden work is always bittersweet; while I look forward to the opportunity to rest and recharge, I miss actually growing things.  We meant to set up some cold frames, but didn’t get around to it this year.  I do plan, however, to do lots of reading and research over the winter.  I’m very excited about one particular book on soil that I recently purchased and will share more on that later.  I also have a number of other gardening books in the queue which I’ll try to review once I get around to it.

Do you grow anything through the winter?  Or do you take that time off?  Are you already making big plans for next year?


A meditation on lawns, food, and healthier yards…

What many hold to be a well-maintained lawn can be, in fact, an assault on our environment’s well-being.  Despite the lush green appearance that normally betokens good health, these perfectly manicured yards often result in pollution generated from mowing and trimming, they are doused in harmful herbicides, and the grass becomes dependent on harsh chemical fertilizers that can actually harm the beneficial organisms in the soil.

Please keep in mind, this post isn’t a judgement on anyone.  I myself have a grass-covered yard–albeit unfertilized and quite “weedy.”  I do hope, eventually, to make it into more of a permaculture landscape, but it’s what I have for now, and I’m not faulting anyone for having the same.  But we do need to think about how we’re treating it.

How did boring, grassy, chemical-laden lawns become such a desirable thing?  The history of the lawn has a lot to do with showing off money.  Lawns as we know them today, though, are not merely an ostentatious show of wealth, but they actually go against nature.  It’s time to reevaluate our outlook and aim for a yard full of healthy, natural, varied plants.

Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, fed with nutrient-rich compost, are not only better for you and the environment, but are so much more interesting.  Plant tomatoes, basil, beets, radishes, fennel, squash, peppers, or whatever you like to eat.  Keep a patch of borage, comfrey, and chamomile for the bees–and for beauty.  Use cover crops like clover or rye as a green manure (natural fertilizer) in the winter.  For a lower maintenance yard, plant native prairie wildflowers.  And let those dandelions grow

Dandelions have–quiet undeservedly–earned the title of weed, but this was not always the case.  Highly nutritious, they were once an herb revered by European settlers (the ones who brought them to America) for the medicinal and food qualities.  They provided early salad greens in the spring and they were used for wine making.  They are still used many to treat a myriad of ailments.  Perhaps most importantly, though, they are some of the first forage available to bees in the spring.  (And bees are important, since they pollinate most of our food supply.)

If planting so many different things seems daunting, just start small.   Quit using herbicides and chemical fertilizers.  Mow and trim a little less frequently.  Plant one or two new things.   Don’t water so much, and when you do, make sure it isn’t running onto your driveway or into the street.   And for the love of Pete, don’t water if you don’t need to!!  Has it been raining for the last week?  You probably shouldn’t turn on those sprinklers the next day.  (Yes, I’ve seen people do this.)

Are there other roadblocks in your way?  Does your HOA require that you keep a “perfect” yard?  Write them a letter or share this with them.  State the facts.  Don’t be afraid to shake things up…even if you don’t have success right away, you may at least get others to start thinking.

Are your own feelings telling you that anything less than a deep green carpet of sod is unacceptable?  Don’t be afraid to question your own preferences, too!  Do you cling to the idea of the “traditional” (i.e. less environmentally-sound) lawn because you think it’s truly superior, or because you want to blend in?  Are you resisting a beautiful, beneficial ecosystem of biodiversity because you are fundamentally opposed to it, or because it’s what you think everyone else is doing?

If you are thinking about creating a healthier yard, check out a few of these sites to get some inspiration:
Food Not Lawns
Grow Food Not Lawns
Permaculture Research Institute
Article: How to Ditch Your Lawn and Grow Food
Article:  Grow food, not grass, to fight climate change

Are you already doing some of these things?  We’d love to hear about your journey!  Are you facing challenges?  Share those too and maybe we can work out some solutions.


Stinging Nettle: Facts, Uses, and Warnings

Welcome to the first in my series of Plant Portraits!  As the weather is fixing to get cooler (we hope, anyway) and gardening slows down, I am planning on to using this time to educate myself about different plants.  I thought it would be well if I recorded what I learned–not only so others can benefit, but also so that I can retain the info better!  (Believe it or not, I can be pretty forgetful.)   So, without further ado, today I’m learning about…

Stinging Nettle

The first time I ever heard of stinging nettle, it was being referenced in a defunct fairy tale podcast I used to enjoy.  But in that context, I still had no idea what it was, beyond something you may not want to touch.  From time to time, I’d see it mentioned again as a nutritious wild plant.  But when I saw this video on using its stalks as a source of spinning fiber, I knew nettles were something I needed in my life!

You can imagine how excited I was when I recently spotted  stinging nettle seeds at Hillside Seed and Feed.

Here are some basic facts from our good friend, Wikipedia:
“Urtica dioica, often called common nettle, stinging nettle (although not all plants of this species sting) or nettle leaf, is a herbaceous perennial flowering plant in the family Urticaceae. It is native to Europe, Asia, northern Africa, and western North America,[1] and introduced elsewhere. The species is divided into six subspecies, five of which have many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation when contacted by humans and other animals.[2] The plant has a long history of use as a source of medicine, food, and fibre.”

via Pinterest (original source unknown) states that one cup of blanched stinging nettles contains 6.6 grams of carbohydrates and 2.4 grams of protein.  The same site also says:

“Bastyr University, a natural-medicine education center in Washington State, notes that nettle is a nutritious food that has vitamins and minerals, including iron, potassium and silica. Stinging nettle is naturally high in iron, with 1.46 milligrams per 1-cup serving of cooked leaves — the equivalent of 2 cups of fresh leaves or 2 tablespoons of crushed, dried leaves — which makes 1 cup of nettle tea. Stinging nettles supply iron — each 1-cup portion contains 7.7 percent to 17.5 percent of the daily recommended intake, depending on your nutritional requirements. The calcium content of stinging nettles is also significant: 1 cup provides 32.9 to 42.8 percent of the amount you require daily. Calcium promotes strong teeth and bones, and it may also lessen the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, preventing headaches, mood swings and bloating.”

Nettle tea can improve kidney health, improve digestion, boost the immune system, and treat osteoporosis, among other things. (From

Also from the Organic Facts site:  Final Word of Warning: While nettle tea does have many obvious health benefits, there are some concerns, particularly for women who are pregnant, as it can result in hormonal fluctuations that may be dangerous for fetal development. Also, if you are harvesting nettle leaves from the wild for personal use, make sure not to wait too late in the season, as certain compounds increase in concentration later in the season, namely those that can do harm to your kidneys and increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Before adding any new herbal remedy to your health regiment, it is always a good idea to speak with your doctor first.

via Monterey Bay Spice Company

I’m excited to grow and try nettles next year.  Have you ever eaten stinging nettle?  What are your thoughts?


French Marigold Seed Giveaway!

It’s time for a giveaway!

While my supply is ample, it is (unfortunately) not infinite.  So, here’s how we’ll do this:

I will post the giveaway pic on our facebook page several times this week.  (If you aren’t already following us, find us here!)  The first people to comment (exact number will be determined in each post) will receive a free pack of seeds, harvested by hand from my own garden.   (I will contact  the winners for a mailing address, but promise this information will remain confidential and not sold or given away for any reason.)

How to Grow:
These seeds can be sewn indoors 6 weeks before the last frost and then transplanted, or sewn outdoors after.  They need a sunny spot, should be watered regularly, but beyond that, I have found these to be pretty tough plants that don’t need much attention.  Pinch back dead heads to encourage new blooms.

French Marigold Facts:
French marigolds, or those of the Tagetes genus, are actually native to Mexico and Central America, not France.   (They are also not to be confused with “Pot Marigold,” or Calendula officinalis, which is an entirely different plant!)*  French marigolds have a pungent aroma and are believed to be an effective plant for naturally controlling pests, but I mostly like them because they are so cheerful!   Bushy, compact plants grow about a foot tall.  This is a mix of orange and yellow.
*Pot marigold is edible, while French marigold is not.  Please DO NOT eat these marigolds!

The first giveaway opportunity will happen on Tuesday, October 3, so keep watching!

Putting the Garden to Bed, the Worst Blogger Award, and Other Plans

First things first: in case you haven’t guessed it, the Worst Blogger Award goes to…me!  (I’m glad that’s out of the way.  I feel better now.)

Now, for the important stuff: we are finally getting the garden ready for winter!  There is still much that needs to be done, or certainly much I want to do, but I feel like we’ve got the bulk of the hard stuff accomplished.

On Saturday,  we finished cleaning the bulk of the weeds out.  Our own garden space was pretty clean, but there were some other areas that were overgrown and needed a lot of attention.  The tomato plants, some okra, and a few vines are still alive, so we left them for now but will take them out, too, within the next few months.  After tilling what we could, we sowed a mix of medium red clover, winter rye, and Austrian winter peas as a cover crop, which we’ll then till under later as a green manure.

The whole concept of cover crops and green manure is new to me, so to be honest, I’m not sure if we’re doing it right!  It will be a bit of an experiment.  Also new to me is the concept of no-till gardening, which is what we plan on doing next year.

I have lots of ideas for Spring 2018, which means I also need to do a lot of research!!  I intend to keep sharing on here in the meantime, though.

Morning glory and bumble bee.

Bumble bee, in a wild morning glory, climbing up a pigweed. Weeds can be beautiful…

Know to Grow…

I’ve been gardening for years now, but this year, for some reason, I am obsessed.   It’s always been enjoyable to me, but it has lately developed into a real passion.  (If you’re going to be passionate about something, it may as well be something important, right?   Food is pretty important.)

I will take a moment here to make my disclaimer–I am not what you would call a foodie, per se.  While I love and appreciate fresh, organic food, I am not above eating Cheetos and Ding Dongs.  This may be horrifying to some (and probably rightly so), but I’ve got to be honest.  Would it be better to cut back on the junk?  Yeah.  But my point is that I’m not perfect, and certainly don’t expect anyone else to be.  However, I do feel that if you eat food, you should have at least a basic understanding of where it comes from…

What truly startles me is when I hear that a good deal of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows, or when my uncle relays a story of how a woman he talked to saw green beans on the vine and didn’t know what they were.

I’m sure I take for granted what little knowledge I have.  Though I’ve lived in the suburbs for most of my life, I’m very fortunate to come from an agricultural family and have access to enough land for gardening.  I’m no expert myself, though, and am always trying to learn more.  My dream is that everyonewould develop a genuine interest in gardening.

I would encourage everyone to grow something.   I know some don’t have the space, but if possible, if you have a little porch or patio, do some container gardening.  Try a few herbs.  A tomato.  Anything!  The experience of watching something go from seed (or seedling) to something you can eat and enjoy is amazing but hard to convey with words.  Don’t know how to get started?  Take a class or ask your master gardener!  (You can also ask The Garden Girls andwe will help in any way we can.)

I’m excited about going to Composting 101 on August 7.  The class will be taught by Master Gardener Connie Gaston and held at the Wichita Public Library (Main Branch) at 223 S Main.  It’s the first in a series of Fall Gardening Classes given throughout August; you can see the rest of the classes here; they are totally free, but they do ask that you register if you plan on attending.

You can also stop by the Sedgwick County Extension Office at 21st and Ridge and they will help with agricultural questions or concerns.  In addition to classes, they offer soil testing, have lots of information on their website, and more.  

Let’s learn and grow together.