Today I was eyeing the plants at my grocery store. We all know not to ever expect much from the grocery store plants, as they’re usually completely neglected, dry, and limp looking if not half (or totally) dead. However, the grocery store plants are the closest and easiest for me to get to, so I like to puruse and sometimes get a spectacular find.
However, that’s not what got me thinking today. What got me thinking, was the urge I have whenever I see a half dead plant. I know from discussions on the forums that these urges are natural for us that have gone beyond the occasional gardener to the obessive gardener.
It sounds bizarre for those of you who aren’t constantly picking through and checking on their gardens, and looking for seeds of bizarre and exotic plants. But I liken it to the cat lover who can’t help but rescue a stray cat. I can’t help but want to rescue the poor neglected plants. I can see their beauty through their browned and wilted leaves, I know that just with a little TLC they could flourish.
That doesn’t mean I save every plant, however, but I sure want to. Perhaps that’s why every inch of available windowsill space is covered with little (and some not so little) plants. Almost every plant I’ve bought has been an attempt to save its life, save for a few here and there.
I have to stop myself some times and realize, that while I hold a plants life as extremely important, sometimes my need to eat is a little more important than a withered and dying aloe that I’m positive would live 100 years if just given a little care now.
Make Herb Tea Fertilizer
Did you know you can make liquid fertilizer for your plants using other plants? Sounds like floral cannibalism but it’s not unlike compost when you think about it. Some plants are high in particular nutrients which can be extracted in the same way that you would make a medicinal tea for yourself. What’s more, all of the plants worth using tend to be invasive in the garden. This year your eyes will light up with enthusiasm at the sight of that ever-expanding patch of comfrey behind the shed instead of glazing over with the thought of digging it up. Hell, I am completely jealous of your expanding comfrey patch. Yeah, come to think of it, I’ll take your shed too.
1. Fill up a bucket, large jar, or other container with the leaves, stems and flowers of pruned herbs. Pack them in tightly. There is no need to remove the entire plant. Just cut it back and you’ll be able to make another batch next month.
2. Pour in water, filling your container to the top.
3. Let the whole mess sit for a day. Put it in the sun to speed things up.
4. Strain out the herbs and fill up a spray bottle or watering can with the concoction.
You can spray the leaves of your plants with this mix as a foliar fertilizer, or just pour it onto the soil.
Herbs to Try:
- Comfrey – High in magnesium, phosphorous, and pottassium.
- Stinging Nettle – Contains magnesium, sulphur, and iron.
- Horsetail – Loaded with silica, a nutrient that makes plants strong.
My tea contains comfrey and stinging nettle (watch those stingers!).
Guest post by Emira Mears
Sometime around last weekend the lilac in my backyard burst into bloom. Since then we’ve been enjoying stunning cut blooms and scent in the house. As I was bringing the cuttings into the house, I was reminded of last year around this time when I made my partner go out under the cover of night stealing blooms from alleyways for me (none of the neighbours I was friendly with on the block had lilacs).
Perhaps as evidenced by my willingness to push someone into theivery, lilacs are among my favorite flowers/plants, and when we found this house last summer the large health lilac tree beside the garage was among the “pros” on my feature list (it kind of made up for the very bad wall to wall brown carpeting). In fact, last Spring, when we were beginning to think about buying a place “must have, or have room to plant” lilac tree was on my list of qualities that would make the ideal home. And I’ve been looking forward to this season when I would get to experience its blooms since last summer.
Funnily enough though, while I’m certainly enjoying, it is no longer really the centre of the garden the way it was when I first identified it. As I continue to put work, thought and plans into the garden I’m finding that I’ve got so many favorite corners that delight me in slightly less ostentatious ways. Everything from my well monitored seeds in the veggie garden, to the successful reclaiming of my rosebushes from an aphid attack occupy my gardening thoughts deflecting my past obsession with the showy splendour of a lilac in bloom. I think I like it better this way.
Leafscapes Spring in Chicago
Thursday, May 18. 4 – 7 P.M.
1820 North Wells Building (N. Wells & N. Lincoln)
Please RSVP to attend (Note that you must be 21 years of ago or older to attend).
I’ll be giving urban gardening demonstrations at four Leafscapes events this year. Take a look at the schedule to see if one is coming to your area.
I keep hearing that fancy, mega-expensive containers are one of the current trends in gardening this year. To which I reply with a big fat WHATEVER. You can keep your fancy-schmancy urns and leave all of that quality junk for me.
I found this discarded orange crate while walking through one of Toronto’s “nicer” neighbourhoods. Crates are just tall enough to accomodate leafy greens or herbs with shallow root systems. I decided to fill this one up with a crop of mache. Mache is the de rigour green of the uppercrust and a good choice if growing lettuce feels like a waste of time and space. The succulent leaves make a delicious salad (especially good with figs and blue cheese) but fetches a hefty sum at your typical Whole Foods.
Little work is required to prep your crate for growing. The bottom of mine had large spaces between slats and required some kind of coverage to hold soil in. Alternatively, crates with solid bottoms will require drainage holes to let water out. I laid an average-sized plastic shopping bag inside the crate and cut a bunch of small holes with a pair of scissors to make drainage. The key here is making a vessel that will hold soil, but adding drainage back so your seedlings aren’t swimming during a heavy rainfall.
Next, I filled up the crate with good quality container soil. A cheap container plus cheap soil, equals too much cheap! When it comes to container soil you get what you pay for. Your best bet is usually with the mid-ranged priced soils. Avoid the Miracle Grow stuff if you can. Fill your container to the top and tamp it in with your hands. You want to remove the air pockets and make a respectably flat surface. Don’t go crazy with it — a level is not required.
Once you’ve got your soil in place, cut around the edges with the scissors to remove the excess plastic bag. Pour a handful of seed into your hand and spread it thinly, and evenly across the soil surface. Don’t worry if you have too many seeds as you can remove excess plants later. Add another 1/4″ of soil on top of the seeds and water everything in well.
Leafy greens prefer cool weather and shadier spots. Plants will bolt in hot weather which means that they quickly go to seed and become bitter. How much sun is too much depends on your conditions and the time of year. Mine are currently placed in a sunny spot on my rooftop deck because the daytime temperatures are in the light sweater to spring jacket plus long sleeve shirt range. I will move it to a shady spot when the heat picks up. Water your container everyday. Soon you will see little tiny plants emerging. Here are what mine looked like today 15 days after sowing. Mache can take as much as 20 days to emerge from below the soil so don’t give up if yours take their sweet time. Be patient!
Other suggestions for your crate:
- Rouge d’hiver lettuce
- Red orach
- Kale (grown as baby kale only)
- Thyme – lemon, lavender, orange, silver…