Summer Update 2013


The circle garden was a spur of the moment experiment this spring. I’d been reading stuff by Derald Langham and his Genesa gardening principles and also a book on Native American medicine wheels.


The paths are outlined with landscape edging and filled in with gravel. I was trying to rush and finish in time for spring planting so instead of gravel on the outside path I threw in some clover as a quick ground cover.

IMG_8007The spring was cold and wet and that made some of the bean and squash seeds rot in the ground. Everything but the Amish Paste tomatoes are doing great.

IMG_8017This is the first year that organic apples are growing on the trees. I planted them 2 years ago.  I’m trying an experiment with bags made from velcro and row cover to keep the bugs off. The ones that aren’t covered seem like they’re doing fine. These two disease resistant dwarf varieties that I’m growing are William’s Pride and Freedom.

IMG_8019It’s going to feel great to bite into an organic apple and eat peeling and all without wondering what horrible pesticides might be on it. So far I’ve been able to only use a dormant spray in the late winter and neem oil every other week. There was a problem with woolly apple aphids but they seem to have vanished.

IMG_8045What do you do if you want a rain barrel out in the middle of the garden and it’s no where near a gutter? Try another experiment! This is an oversized umbrella with grommeted holes on top and turned upside down to capture rain. It works fairly well but it takes many heavy rains to fill it up the barrel.


Strawberry Season



It’s strawberry season and though I only have a small strawberry patch, strawberries are coming in by the bucket loads. Right now I have more strawberries than I know what to do with. So besides gifting them to neighbors,  I’m preserving them for when strawberry season comes to an end. Here’s how I do it. It’s simple and no additives like sugar are needed. Continue reading

Creating Your Own Veganic Potting Soil


Most likely, any potting soil you buy at the big box stores will have some form of manure in it. I guess it’s possible you can find some mixes that don’t include manure but it’s rare. That’s why for my own peace of mind I always just make my own mixes. There are many veganic ingredients that can be used in potting soil mixes.

Coconut Coir – This is the eco-friendly alternative to peat moss. It’s the shredded husks of coconuts. It comes in compressed bricks that expand many times their size into fluffy fiberous bits when soaked in water. It’s kind of like those magic growing capsules you might of played with as a kid. These are easy to ship so can easily be ordered online if you can’t find them locally.

Worm castings – Yes, they’re considered vegan but this has to be researched carefully because you will need to know what the worms were fed and most likely it’s manure. It’s almost impossible to be sure so I make my own.

Compost – Any well aged compost will work but of course it can’t contain manure.

Pine Bark – This can be used to add bulk to help fill larger containers cheaply.

Perlite – When you need a well draining and airy soil use this.

Sand – Use this to add extra drainage. Be careful what sand you use. I used construction sand in a couple of my raised beds once and the sand was infected with root knot nematodes, anything growing in those beds looks pathetic now.

Kelp Meal– A good source of nitrogen, potash and trace minerals. Use this sparingly.

Rock Dust – Contains minerals and trace minerals. Use this sparingly. Think of this as a multivitamin for your plants.

Green Sand – Another good source of potash and trace minerals. Use this sparingly.

Here are some basic recipes for soil mixes to get you started.

Coconut Coir 2 Parts
Perlite 1 Part
Worm Castings 1/2 Part
Green Sand 1/4 Part
Kelp Meal 1/4 Part

Coconut Coir 2 Parts
Perlite 1 Part
Worm Castings 1 Part
Green Sand 1/4 Part
Kelp Meal 1/4 Part
Rock Dust (Optional)

Coconut Coir 2 Parts
Perlite 2 Parts
Pine Bark 1 Part
Worm Castings 1 Part
Green Sand 1/4 Part
Kelp Meal 1/4 Part
Rock Dust (Optional)

Sweet Marjoram

Sweet Marjoram growing in a terracotta pot.

Sweet Marjoram growing in a terracotta pot.

There are many kinds of marjoram. My favorite is, Origanum majorana or Sweet Marjoram.

There’s nothing like the bright, warm scent of a fresh sprig of sweet marjoram rubbed between your hands. In my opinion it rivals even the most expensive smelling cologne. With that fragrance, it seems like it shouldn’t work in cooking, but somehow it does.

Sweet marjoram gives boring white beans a savory richness and is also said to help with flatulence, a perfect pair! I love to add it to spaghetti sauce for the sweet herbaceous note that makes everyone ask, “what do you put in your sauce to make it so good?” Another favorite pairing is with roasted winter vegetables. As I cut pieces off for cooking, I trim up the dead leaves and twigs while shaping it into a neat compact form. This creates a fuller and healthier plant.

I’ve found that the best way to grow sweet marjoram is in a container. Anytime I’ve ever grown it in the garden the weeds devour it before it’s had time to establish itself. Just remember to check to see if it needs watering daily and to give it a liquid seaweed fertilizer, bi-weekly. If you do grow it, compare it to the dried stuff  from the grocery store in a bottle and you’ll see what you’ve been missing.

Sweet Marjoram doesn’t like cold weather. That’s another good reason to grow it in a container. I bring it inside during late fall, and put it in a nice sunny spot somewhere in the house. During late winter my plant can start to look ragged but I just remember that spring will be back around soon and I can start all over again.

Try My Vegan Cookbook’s Herbalicious Butternut Squash Soup.