Thursday, April 1, 2010

Snapshots from a Spring day in a Florida Herb Garden

Spring is a great time of year for herbs in Central Florida. There is so much going on in the gardens. Here is just a glimpse of the activity from my time at the Fair Share Garden yesterday.

The herb spiral at the Fair share garden pictured here was weeded and thinned over the last week and replanted with Holy Basil in the bare patches. Last week we had a little incident with a volunteer being bitten by wolf spider in while weeding the herb spiral. This was a more painful than poisonous bite. Fire ants can also be painful problem here for Spring gardeners. Keep an eye out for Plantago species(plantain) when you are out in the garden. You can make a spit poultice with the leaves to take the sting out of the bites; just chew up the leaves to a pulp and apply to insect bites or stings. We used Virginia plantain on the Wolf Spider bite:



Lance leafed plantain also will work. Don't let the blanket flower in the background fool you, it is not a part of the plantain pictured below.


The variegated mugwort (Artemesia speicies from the Bastyr University herb garden) is lush and intermixed with delicate fern-like yarrow leaves in the herb spiral. I like to make infused oils for pain salve with mugwort and decoct it for sprained or strained ankles. My front yard yard is covered with it where it has self-seeded. In about two weeks I will harvest the mugwort and dry it to make moxa and to save whole and dried for use with sprains strains. To use it this way you can simply boil up a pot of water with handfuls of dried mugwort. When the water cools a bit you can soak a towel in the hot water and use it as a wrap around the ankle or bruised and strained area.


I'm still waiting to see if the Neem trees in the spiral will send up new growth after having died back from the winter freezes. However, I am overjoyed to see a hint of new growth in my precious Moringa trees. Look closely to see it! I just found out that 1 million Moringa seeds are on their way to Haiti via a European organization. These trees make a very nutritious leaf, especially beneficial for nursing mothers and babys. They in face have the highest concentration of protein for any known plant and have no known contraindications for use. Last season I didn't harvest leaves from the fair share trees we planted in hopes of collecting seeds. There were plenty of flowers and insects enjoying the blossoms, but no seeds were made. From now on I will stick to woody branches for propagation and enjoy harvesting leaves for nutritional use.


Many herbs like thyme, comfrey, lemon verbena and catnip have survived the winter and are putting out new lush leaves in full force. We will keep an eye on these cool loving herbs and harvest them before the intense summer heat starts in. Yesterday I harvested three baskets full of catnip to dry, and sent thyme home with a Fair Share volunteer with a cough and sore throat. Comfrey doesn't get terribly huge in Florida, though there is plenty for salve and balm making when the need arises.



We started two new herbal projects at the garden yesterday also. The first was to put in a new trellis for a fresh planting of loofa gourds. Here are Joel, Moira, and Giovanni preparing the holes for the new posts. I can't wait for more loofa gourds to use in soaps.

Next we have the grand and ambitious new US mint herbal project. When Joel said he wanted the USA bed the Embry Riddle students built in back in October to be filled with plants that could be left alone and not replanted,

I had to suggest it be filled with mints. The large tires and tree-sized pot at fair share were getting root bound with spearmint and chocolate mint. We broke up the root bound mints and filled this bed with mint sprigs yesterday. It's going to make a great source of mixed mints for herbal tea. I'm going to be on the look out for other nice mints like peppermint and apple mint to add to the bed.

This blog post is part of a spring herbs blog party that I'm hosting. Please check out all the Spring herbal blog posts here.




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