Tips for Growing Bilberries from Seed

Grow Bilberries from Seed

What IS a Bilberry?

Bilberry is also known as Blaeberry, Whortleberry, Whinberry, Winberry, Wimberry, Myrtle blueberry, Black hearts and Fraughan. Bilberries are DIFFERENT from Blueberries but closely related. Both the berries and the leaves of this interesting plant are used in herbal medicines.

Bilberry leaves have been used to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Bilberry extract can also help protect the stomach against ulcers. It stimulates production of stomach mucus, which protects against digestive acids. And because it relaxes muscles, it can help relieve menstrual cramps.

In folk medicine, Bilberry leaves were used to treat gastrointestinal ailments, applied topically, or made into infusions. Bilberry leaves are also used as a tonic to prevent some infections and skin diseases. The berries contain compounds called anthocyanosides, which are known to strengthen blood vessels and improve circulation, and can be useful in treating eye disorders, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma, and circulation disorders, such as varicose veins and hemorrhoids. These same compounds also strengthen the retina, the part of the eye that controls night vision and helps the eye adapt to light changes. Bilberries are often said to help night vision and, it is said, that during World War II, British fighter pilots ate Bilberries before going on nightly bombing raids because their night vision improved as a result.

Dried Bilberries have been used for many years to treat diarrhea. The dried berry is high in tannin, which helps control and reduce the intestinal inflammation that can cause diarrhea.

Tips for Growing Bilberry from Seed:

  • Soak berries

    Soak the berries in water overnight. The easiest way to do this is to put the berries in a jar, pour water over them, let them sit over night.

  • Smash berries

    In the morning pour the soaked berries through a sieve, smash the berries inside the sieve, then put the mashed berries in a bowl or small bucket of water, stir them around in the water, at which point the flesh will float and the seeds will sink.

  • Separate Seeds

    Pour off the majority of the water and the flesh of the berries. Finally, pour the water and the seeds into a sieve that is lined with a paper towel. Allow this to drain, and you will now have the seeds on the paper towel, and you can proceed to scoop them up and plant them!

  • Plant Seeds

    Sow your Bilberry seeds in fall or very early spring (expect germination in the spring). You may also mix the seeds in moist medium in a sealed plastic bag or jar in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for 90 days, then remove from fridge and sow. The best conditions for germination are cool, moist shade. Sow seeds in acid loam medium. Grow out in a shaded place in pots for a year before transplanting to final location. Bilberries prefer to grow in acidic loam soil.

  • Enjoy!

Interested in purchasing Organic Bilberry Seeds? Click the link below to be directed:

Purchase Bilberry Seeds Here.

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Posted on February 24th, 2014 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Vojito! the Best thing to Happen to Summertime Since the Mojito!

How to Make a Vojito

A delicious recipe for Vojito, with vodka, lime, mint, fresh strawberries and mix.

Welcome to Strawberry Vojito Summer Heaven

“Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable.”
~Gilbert K. Chesterton

Here we are, enjoying another beautiful summer in Colorado. The beginning of summer brings with it many pleasures; baby animals, flowering trees, green grass, and the always enjoyable, bountiful gardens! As many know, along with this pleasures come a fair amount of work. Keeping up with the yard, controlling weeds, up keeping the garden, and attempting to keep those cute little animals from enjoying all our hard work in the garden!

After a day of weeding, mowing the yard, chasing after the beautiful joys that are our children, and caring for our surrogate child, our garden, we look forward to our adult time on the deck to take in the oasis we have created. I believe we can all attest to the joy we get from sitting on a deck or patio, looking over the beauty we have helped mold while enjoying a delicious adult beverage that looks, tastes and feels of summer. For us at Sunshine and Rain, we have found that our favorite drinks this year have been able to use things from our garden to make the recipe even more enjoyable. Today’s drink is what we call a Strawberry Vojito. Yes you read that correctly, Vojito, not Mojito. We call it a Vojito because we have replaced the rum with vodka.

In hopes of others finding creative ways to utilize herbs and fruits from their garden, we decided to share this recipe with you!

To make this drink you will need the following ingredients:

  • 10 Fresh Mint Leaves – We have used both peppermint and spearmint and both have been wonderful! We don’t even prefer one over the other…whatever is FRESH is best!
  • 1-2 Fresh Lime Wedges
  • Mojito Mix
  • Lemonade (Fresh is always best)
  • Soda Water
  • Absolute Citron Vodka
Directions:
  • Take the mint leaves place them in a shaker and muddle them.
  • Once all the leaves have turned a dark green color from muddling, add two sliced strawberries and muddle them in with the leaves.
  • Once the strawberries have basically liquified, cut the lime to get one lime wedge. Squeeze the lime wedge and then place it in the muddled mixture.
  • Add one shot of Mojito Mix, two shots of Absolute Citron Vodka, and roughly four ounces of Lemonade.
  • Add about one cup of ice and shake the mixture for 10 seconds.
  • Open the shaker and add two shots of Soda Water and pour the mixture into a glass.
  • For presentation purposes, add one sliced strawberry to the top of the ice, another lime wedge to the side of the glass and garnish with a good sized mint leave.
  • Enjoy your summer in a glass!
Voilà! Summer in a glass!

Voilà! Summer in a glass!

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Posted on July 12th, 2013 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Growing Lavender from Seed

Lavender

The Appeal of the Lovely Lavender Plant

“There’s a few things I’ve learned in life: always throw salt over your left shoulder, keep rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for good luck, and fall in love whenever you can.”

~Lavender and Alice Hoffman
(Practical Magic )

The lavender plant (species Lavandula) is a popular and unique plant that is an interesting seed-to-plant choice.  To grow lavender from seed takes commitment, it takes patience and, above all, it takes time.

The lavender plant is a member of the mint family.  The distinct smells and aroma of lavender can evoke a wide range of emotions.  It has exceptional colors and smells, which make it a superb landscaping accent in many gardens.  Because of its incredible versatility you can use the lavender plant to plug holes in your landscaping as well as add it in small hard to fill spots such as entryways and paths. Lavendar is a low maintenance plant that, once planted, is easy to care for and build around. All types of lavender plants are attractive to bees and butterflies making them great in butterfly garden or as host plants for encouraging pollination.

Lavender is grown both for its pleasant colors and incredible smells and for its homeopathic properties.  In the language of flowers, lavender flowers denote purity, silence, devotion and caution.

One of the most common notes of interest for growing lavender from seed is the variations that are inherent to growth from seeds.  The lavender plant will vary from plant to plant in a number of ways; gradations between slightly paler and deeper shades of color as well as occasional differences in height or flower shape, and flower per spear are certain to occur.

Choosing your Lavender Varieties

There are 20 or more different species of Lavandula plant. In addition, there are countless numbers of hybrid varieties that have been created through crossing the different species! This vast variety means many, many different colors, shapes sizes and even scents for you to choose from. When lavender is started by seed, some of the offspring may very in appearance from their parent plant- bringing an even greater potential for variety to every garden in which they are planted.

Here  are some of my favorite lavender plants. Click on the image to be directed to sources for purchasing specific seeds:

  • Spanish Lavender

    Spanish-Lavender

    Spanish Lavenders have tissue paper-like feather bracts protruding from the ends

  • Wooly Lavender

    Wooly-Lavender

    The silver-white foliage has made the wooly lavender very popular for use in "moon gardens".

  • Spike Lavender

    Spike-Lavender

    Spike Lavender is a highly productive oil producing making it popular for use in soaps.

  • Yellow Lavender

    Yellow-Lavender

    Light green foliage with greenish-yellow flowers and highly aromatic!

 

Growing your own Lavender from Seed

Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun,
And with him rises weeping; these are flow’rs
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.

 Shakespeare
(Winter’s Tale, iv. 4)

  • Seeds!

    To begin you will need high quality plant seeds.  Pick seeds that are designed for how and most importantly where you intend to use them.  Some regions, such as Colorado, may require that you pot these plants so that you can bring them in out of the cold.  As far as pot and soil are concerned, choose pots that are easy to out-plant because you will eventually be moving them into your garden and you don’t want to disturb the root system too much.  Soil can be simple potting mixtures of your choice, but remember that drainage is always important to avoid over watering as well as under watering.

  • Plant!

    Choose a number of seeds for each pot and place them in your moistened potting mixture.  Be sure to pick a number of seeds that will allow for a few deaths and any unwanted colors that you may want to remove later.  Do not cover the seeds with too much dirt because the lavender seeds are extremely small. Keep these newly placed seeds and pots in a warm spot indoors as the seeds will require a temperature of 70 degrees to germinate.  Be watchful of your seeds during this process, you do not want them to dry out.  Be mindful not to over water the tiny seeds as this will overwhelm them.

  • Germinate and Sun!

    Once you have some seeds that are germinated you can begin the time consuming process of introducing them to the outdoors.  This will require the greatest amount of patience so be committed.  Start by placing your newly germinated seeds in very sunny spot indoors as they are incredible sun lovers and will eventually be exposed to full sun as adults.  Let the plants grow and grow in this sunny spot until they are near their full size.  Once they are near full-grown you can start to acclimate them to the outdoors.

  • Transplant and Grow!

    Place your potted lavender outside for an hour a day in a shaded area, such as a porch.  Day by day, increase the time the plants spend in this shaded area. Once you have had them outdoors for a few weeks you can start to move them into direct sunlight.  If you start to get burnt plants make sure you allow a little more time in the shaded areas before going for more direct sunlight.   Give them about 2 to 3 weeks in the direct sun, and be sure not to over water, which may rot the root system. If you make it all the way through this process you can easily out pot the lavender to wherever you need their great colors and smells.

Good luck and have fun!

Lavendar

Lavender

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Posted on July 24th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »

Loving and Growing the Tea Plant!

Grow Tea Plant

Tea Plants are Beautiful and Ancient!

What is the Tea Plant?

The Tea plant is a plant that we see and use  every day and probably don’t acknowledge all of its various uses.  In order to get all that we can out of the Tea plant it is important to know about the diverse characteristics of the plant.   While there are many different products that may be considered “tea”, such as fusion teas, as well as drinks infused with other plants, we are going to look at the species known as “Camellia sinensis” which is used to make black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea.

While Camellia sinensis is native to countries like China or India, it is now being cultivated across the globe in many tropical and sub-tropical environments.  Tea remains one of the most historically recorded plants still in use today.  In fact, the medicinal uses of tea date back to 4700 years ago by the great emperor Shennong in The Divine Farmer’s Herb-Root Classic, in which tea and a collection of plants were outlined for their medicinal uses.  Tea has been known for its stimulant effects, amazing anti-oxidant properties, and even for help with simple things like stomach aches and bladder problems.  We can break down some of these health benefits further in order to better understand how to use the tea plant.

  • Caffeine

Did you know that Tea contains caffeine?  It is really no surprise that the various teas, black and green especially, contain the stimulant known as caffeine.  In fact, about 3% of their dry weight is caffeine! .  Teas percentage of caffeine in relation to its dry weight is actually more than coffee. When you are feeling a little sluggish or just don’t have that pep in your step, but don’t feel like brewing a pot of coffee, try switching it up and making some tea.   It is important to be aware however, that caffeine is a natural diuretic, which is also beneficial for a number of reasons, including lowering high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver, and hypertension.  Maintaining your hydration is the only downside of diuretics so be sure that if you are drinking a lot of tea that you take measures to properly re-hydrate yourself as well.

  • Anti-Oxidants

Tea has also been known to have anti-oxidant properties.  Anti-oxidants have been the focus of numerous studies and while there are many mixed opinions about the benefits of anti-oxidants, many studies conclude that they do help in reducing the risk of heart disease.  In addition, those who work out with regularity are at risk for oxidative stress, accompanied by inflammatory responses, which can be relieved by drinking tea regularly.

Grow Your Own Tea Plant from Seeds!

Tea Plant

The Beautiful Tea Plant

So if you think that you may want to start drinking tea on a regular basis than what would be better than growing your own tea plant and reaping the benefits?

  • Time and Commitment

Growing tea plants from seed is a great project however, growing your own tea is for advanced gardeners with a willingness to commit for a couple of years!  If you think you fit this description then the next most important thing to consider is the climate in which you will be trying to grow a tea plant.

  • Climate

The tea plant is a naturally tropical or sub-tropical plant, which should be grown in a climate Zone of 8.  This would include parts of the mid-west but more specifically the southern region of the United States.  If you don’t live in one of these areas you would have to consider growing the plant in a greenhouse or pot that you can easily move indoors.

  • Growing your Plant

  1. Seeds:First, you will need seeds.  Check out eGardenSeeds.com’sTea Plant Seeds to accommodate your needs.
  2. Soil: Once you’ve got your seeds you will need to pick a soil mixture that is just right for your plant.  .  A key to a good plant will be a soil mixture that is sandy and quick to drain.  Other growers suggest a soil that is slightly on the acidic side, but a well-drained mixture is paramount to a good plant.  Another tip is to add some sphagnum moss to your potting mixture.  This will be extremely beneficial as this moss will be vital in providing your sand soil mixture with the capacity to hold water and nutrients.
  3. Pot: The tea plant is a small shrub, that can grow up to 3 feet if you don’t prune it, so pick an appropriate sized pot if that’s is where you will be growing it.
  4. Grow! Tea plant seeds germinate erratically and over a long period of time. These seeds can germinate at any time from a month and up to a year after being planted- patience is key!!! Once your plant is growing, expect it to blossom in the fall, with small aromatic flowers, that are quite pleasant.   You will need to wait 2-3 years before attempting to harvest your plant, but the wait will be worth it!!

Enjoy!

Grow Tea Plant

Now You Can Grow Tea Plants from Seed!

 

 

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Posted on April 12th, 2012 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  No Comments »

Grow Marshmallow Plants from Seed

Grow Marshmallow Plant from Seed

The Marshmallow plant is a unique and ancient plant that is fun and easy to grow!

What IS the Marshmallow plant?

When most people think of marshmallows their mind automatically turns to the soft, spongy candy that is delicious toasted on a campfire, munching on when watching the TV or surfing the Internet! Marshmallow’s distinctive taste is due to the use of the sap from the marshmallow plant, or Althaea officinalis . The ancient Egyptians first used in confectionery by mixing it with honey and nuts. Modern marshmallows owe much to their texture and flavor thanks to the French who had the idea of whipping up the sap and combining it with sugar. Modern marshmallow candy is extruded by machine, which gives it its distinctive cylindrical shape, but the marshmallow plant is not only good for making candy, it has other properties too. Marshmallow sap and mucilage has long been used as a treatment for all sorts of ailments, from coughs and sore throats to constipation; many herbalists still use it to this day. Marshmallow sap, seed, leaves and roots are all edible and make ideal salad items too.

The Marshmallow, a hardy but elegant-looking plant

Grow Marshmallow Plant

The Marshmallow plant is unique plant full of magic and mystery!

History and uses of the Marshmallow plant and it’s parts:

Marshmallow plants get their name from the fact that in the wild, they tend to grow in the swamps and marshlands of the mid-Atlantic. It’s an elegant looking plant with velvety, soft leaves and pale pink flowers that stay on all year round, which makes marshmallow an ideal decorative plant. Marshmallow plants are also fairly hardy and well used to wet and cold weather, which makes them easy to maintain and look after. The seeds from the marshmallow plant are also great ingredients for cooking, helping to add distinctive flavors to all sorts of dishes, both savory and sweet. The seeds can even be eaten raw!

Growing Marshmallow Plants from Seed:

Stratifying seeds:

To grow a marshmallow plant from them, you need to first stratify the seeds to begin the germination process. Stratification involves storing them in the same conditions they experience in the wild and is best done by mixing the seeds with damp sand and placing them in a plastic bag. After letting the bag stand at room temperature for 24 hours to absorb the moisture within the sand, put the bag it in the refrigerator for four to six weeks, giving it an occasional shake. Keep checking for signs of germination, which once begins, indicates the marshmallow seeds needs planting.

Planting the Seeds:

Once the seeds are showing signs of germination (by beginning to sprout), you need to start planting them immediately. They fare best in a normal garden pot, with holes in the bottom for drainage. Simply fill the pot with a good soil or potting mixture and place the seeds and sand from the bag on top. Because marshmallow plants grow in marsh and swampland, they need to be kept as moist as possible. The best way to do this is to cover the pot very loosely with a transparent plastic bag or some wrap, ensuring enough air can get to it (make holes in it if you have to). This will trap any condensation.

You should keep the pot in a sunny but cool area, preferably indoors by a window, until the seedlings begin to sprout and you can see green stems. Keep checking the moisture level, remembering the conditions they grow in the wild; sprinkle with water if necessary if the sand/soil mixture gets too dry.

Time to Transplant!

Once the seedlings are showing signs of sprouting, it’s time to transplant the marshmallow plants outside. Dig holes in the bedding about a foot apart and transfer a seedling into each hole, gently patting soil around it to ensure it is properly secured. Make sure the plants receive plenty of water during the first year, especially during the hot weather, replicating the types of conditions they grow in the wild.

Watch them Grow and Enjoy!

Marshmallow plants grow slowly at first, but after a year, it may be necessary to distance the plants a further foot apart to avoid crowding. Marshmallow plants grow to about four feet in height once matured and are easy plants to take stem cuttings or to propagate seeds. If you want to use the plants for culinary uses, you can sprinkle seeds on salads as a tasty replacement for sunflower seeds, or place in stews and other dishes. The leaves too are good to eat, either raw or as a steamed vegetables.

Marshmallow Seeds

Click imigae above to be directed to high quality Marshmallow Seed!

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Posted on January 18th, 2012 by Ms. Sunshine  |  8 Comments »

The Top 5 Seeds to give as a Gift – Gifts of Meaning and Beauty

The true spirit of the season is to love and protect each other and our Earth

The true spirit of the season is to love and protect each other and our Earth

This holiday season is marked by widespread economic and environmental trials. We are all being asked to look honestly at our actions and our choices. For many, this means the always difficult task of finding unique gifts for our loved ones has taken on the new depth of finding unique, meaningful and purposeful gifts!

As we are faced, both as a country at large and within our own families, with the challenge of making smarter choices, the backyard garden is finding a new home in our hearts.

Here are my Top 5 suggestions of Seeds to give as gifts this Holiday Season. I chose these seeds based both on the meanings they hold on on the usefulness and/or beauty of the plants they produce.

Enjoy!

5. Vervain

Beautiful Blue Vervain may help bring you love money and sleep!

Beautiful Blue Vervain may help bring you love money and sleep!

Give Blue Vervain Seeds as a unique way to wish your friends and family blessings of Love, Healing, Protection, Peace, Purification, Chastity,Youth, Money and Sleep. Blue Vervain has also been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy for a variety of ailments.

4. Thyme

Thyme is useful in your garden and your kitchen and may improve your Health and bring you blessings of Healing

Thyme is useful in your garden and your kitchen and may improve your Health and bring you blessings of Healing

Thyme was considered by the Greeks as a symbol of courage and sacrifice. Thyme is believed to have been in the straw bed of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child. In the Middle Ages, ladies would embroider a sprig of Thyme into scarves they gave to their errant knights. At various periods in history, Thyme has been used to treat melancholy, reproductive system ailments, and to improve digestion. In the 18th century, it was recommended as a cure for a hangover.

Give Thyme as a gift of Courage, Strength, Health, Healing, Love, and Purification.

3. Echinacea

Echinacea is frequently used to shorten the common cold or flu

Echinacea is frequently used to shorten the common cold or flu

Echinacea is one of the most well known and widely used herbs in America today. Native American are thought to have used Echinacea as a “cure-all”.

Today, people use Echinacea to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu and reduce symptoms, such as sore throat, cough, and fever. Many herbalists also recommend Echinacea to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections

Echinacea should be given to bring wishes of Health and Strength.

2. English Lavender

Beloved worldwide for its unique Fragrance and Calming remedies

Beloved worldwide for its unique Fragrance and Calming remedies

Lavender is well known and loved for it’s beloved fragrance and calming effects. Ancient Greeks and Romans used Lavender to scent their bath water. The flowers are believed to contain a special magic- they bloom over an extended period of time and have the unique quality of retaining their scent even after drying.

Give Lavender seeds to those you wish to bless with Love, Protection, Happiness, Peace, Chastity, Purification, Sleep and Longevity.

1. Bells of Ireland

The "Luck of the Irish" is said to live in these pretty flowers!

The "Luck of the Irish" is said to live in these pretty flowers!

Bells of Ireland flowers don’t actually grow in Ireland. This flower gets its name from the luscious green color of its leaves. The lovely white-veined green bells are not flowers at all. Rather they are calyxes, which clothe the small sweet white flowers found within.

Bells of Ireland symbolize good luck in all areas of life. The flowers are said to contain the “luck of the Irish” because of their green color and whimsical shape.

Give Bells of Ireland to bestow great Luck to your loved ones!

Tips on giving seeds as a gift:

There are endless creative ways to present your gift of seeds, here are a few suggestions:

  • Fill a peat pot with seeds, decorate with bay leaves and attach a small note describing the seed and its meaning.

    A cute and creative way to present a gift of seeds

    A cute and creative way to present a gift of seeds

  • Place seed packets between the pages of a new gardening book:
    Beginner’s Guide to Gardening by Reader Digest
    The Gardening Book (for kids) by Jane Bull
  • Place packets of seeds inside a bouquet of flowers. This is romantic way to say…my love for you will continue to grow…
  • Wrap the seeds with an article or section of the paper that pertains to their meaning or significance. Tie up with a pretty, bright piece of ribbon, string or raffia. Be sure to include an explanation of the seed and the articles significance!
  • A can or jar can be used as a very creative gift wrap. Start with a clean jar or can. Paint the lids, add a “belly band”of printed paper, wrapping paper, bandana or piece of fabric around the midsection. Cover the lid with a piece of fabric or lace and tie on with ribbon or string. Fill the jar with your seed packets and add a decorative tag with a note!

    Even a very simply decorated jar makes a great way to turn seeds into a gift!

    Even a very simply decorated jar makes a great way to turn seeds into a gift!

Happy giving and happy gardening!

Santa-and-Earth

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Posted on November 16th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  5 Comments »

What is Damiana? (and How to Grow it)

What is damiana?

Damiana grows wild in the subtropical regions of the Americas and Africa and is widely used in traditional medicine

What is Damiana?

Damiana is a historically well known herb in North America.  This amazing plant is native to Texas, parts of Southern California and throughout the entire country of Mexico.  Its roots can be traced back to the ancient civilization of the Mayan’s who used it for many of the same reasons it is used today, including use as an aphrodisiac and to stimulate the intestinal tract. There are a few important things to know about damiana, such as the two species of plant, its common forms and uses and the risks associated with it’s use.

Types of Damiana

There are two species of the plant both referred to as Damiana.  The first, Turnera aphrodisiaca, has long been used as an aphrodisiac as the name implies and can be traced back to use in the ancient Mexican culture of the Mayans.  The second species of the plant, Turnera diffusa, is also commonly used in herbal healing to treat symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression.  Because many of these symptoms may be tied to sexual inadequacies both are employed as an aphrodisiac for both men and women.  The small shrub-like plant blooms in late summer and produces small but brilliant yellow flowers that are quite fragrant.  Once the plant blooms, small fruits, which have been compared to figs in flavor, appear on the plant.   The shrub itself has a very aromatic spicy odor that is comparable to chamomile.

Damiana’s Herbal Uses

Although many parts of damiana have been used in herbal remedy throughout history, today’s most common forms come through the use of its leaves.  Damiana leaves are commonly found in pill form and as a tea for consumption.  There are many different effects for damiana so it is important to consult an herbalist in order to best understand what each form is used for, the proper dosage and not to mention possible side effects.  It is also important to note that while the FDA has not approved damiana, there have been many recent studies that have confirmed the medical uses of damiana.

A large number of studies have concluded that there are clear increased sexual drives in both male and female rats (“Stimulating property of Turnera diffusa and Pfaffia paniculata extracts on the sexual behavior of male rats” Arletti, R., Benelli, A., Cavazzuti, E., Scarpetta, G., & Bertolini, A. September 1998).  Pills for use as an aphrodisiac are commonly found today and are said to stimulate the intestinal tract, bringing oxygen to the genital area, which serves to increase the users energy levels thus increasing libido and desire for a partner.  Most pills are made from the leaves of the plant.  The recommended dosage is 2-200mg tablets 3 times daily but it is highly recommended to consult an expert prior to consumption.  It is not recommended to take damiana if you take medicine to treat diabetes or to control blood sugar levels such as insulin, glipizide (Glucotrol), and many others.

Damiana Tea

Damiana is possibly better known in the form of tea brewed from the various parts of the plant.  The tea itself is quite easy to make yourself if you decide to go forward with cultivation of your own plant.  However, one must be responsible and diligent to follow your local laws, as it is illegal to cultivate damiana in the state of Louisiana (Legislature of Louisiana: Regular Session, Act No. 565; House Bill No. 173, 2010). One key to the benefits of damiana tea may come from the variety of different essential oils and minerals, including phosphorus, tannins, and flavonoids.  The combination of these oils and minerals and their effects on the central nervous system is still not completely understood.  What nutritionists and herbalists understand is that damiana tea produces calming effects for those of us who are stressed out or over worked. Drinking damiana tea has been shown to help increase general energy levels, control irritable bowel syndrome, and even improve asthma symptoms. Some of the other benefits include relief from depression and anxiety.  The recommended dosage for the tea or tonic is a 1:5 mixture of 5 mL, 3 times daily.  It is rare but some users have reported allergic reactions to damiana. If you think that damiana is something you would like to try and you enjoy tryingsomething new and exciting in your garden you can cultivate your own damiana plant!

Growing Damiana

Growing your own damiana plant is an easy and enjoyable way to add a little something special to your garden.  The basics for excellent cultivation lay in your ability to provide the plant with a well-drained environment in which to thrive.  Because the plant is indigenous to southern parts of America, Mexico and South America it does require a fair amount of sunlight.  If the temperature of the environment is consistently cooler such as coastal southern California, place your plant in direct sunlight for the majority of the time.  However, the further in-land you go, the hotter and hotter the environment becomes and therefore you will need to base your plants location around a well-balanced mixture of shade and sunshine.

Growing Damiana from a Seedling

There is a very small and simple list of ingredients needed to get you started.

  • Damiana plant
  • Large planting buckets
  • Soil and Gravel mixture

Once you have gathered all your planting materials, mix the soil and gravel into the bottom of the bucket so that the root system will have ample drainage.  Place your damiana plant in the planter and cover it with the remainder of soil and gravel mixed together.  Make sure to cover the plants root system all the way up to the stem and water.  This shrub thrives in regions with high drainage, so the mixture you have made should do the job.  All you need to do now is sit back, make sure you water daily and let the damiana plant bring all its mystery and excitement to you!

Growing Damiana from Seed

Damiana can also be started from seed. The best method for starting damiana from seed is to use a “cold stratifying” technique. Damiana seeds will germinate at about a 60-80% rate and take a lot of attention and extra TLC.

Once you have a well established seedling you can transplant and care for it as explained above.

Damiana is a popular plant for both its medicinal and landscaping qualities – enjoy!

What is damiana?

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Posted on November 11th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  9 Comments »

Growing Tulips in Colorado

 

Growing Tulips in Colorful Colorado

An Abundance of Tulips Bloom on Boulder Colorado's "Pearl Street Mall"

“I guess he’d rather be in Colorado
He’d rather spend his time out where the sky looks like a pearl after a rain”

John Denver

Growing Tulips in Colorado

Tulips are part of the Tulipa genus which has over 100 species of flowers.  Tulips are perennials (many tulips are planted in late fall as annuals) and are a welcome emergence of color to your garden every spring.  Tulips thrive in climates where there are long cool springs and dry summers, making them an ideal plant for gardens in Colorado.

When and Where to Plant

For tulip growers in Colorado, the best results are typically achieved by planting the bulbs in late September through October and even as late as December depending on when and where you want them to bloom.   Even though tulips grow well in both sun and shade, you will want to avoid planting tulips in a southerly exposure too early in the year, in order to avoid premature blooming.

If you plant your bulbs too early in the year, at a shallow depth, the heat from a south exposure can make the bulbs bloom in the early heat only to be killed off by an inevitable freeze.  Conversely, if you are late to plant your bulbs you can make up the time by planting your bulbs in a southerly exposure and at a more shallow depth thus allowing the bulbs a better chance of warming up and blooming.  An average depth of 4 to 8 inches should do the trick.  The best rule of thumb for the proper depth is to plant the bulb at a depth three times as deep as the height of the bulb.  For example, if the bulb is one and ½ inches tall, dig a hole 4 and ½ inches deep and place the bulb at the bottom with 3 inches of soil on top of the bulb.   You can group the bulbs together according to a similar guideline.  Spacing the bulbs at a width two times the width of the bulb allows for close grouping and spectacular blooming in the spring.  If the bulb is one inch wide space the bulb two inches from the next bulb and proceed accordingly.

For all of the procrastinators out there don’t worry, if you miss the time window of fall you can still plant late in the year.   To achieve the proper blooming schedule, plant the bulbs at a slightly more shallow depth than normal and pick a space in your yard where the sun will assure warmth throughout the proceeding season.

Planting Tulip Bulbs

Spacing and location are important factors to consider when planting your bulbs

Picking the Best Tulip Bulbs

An all important step to great tulips is picking the best Tulip bulbs.  You want to pick the biggest, firmest, fullest bulbs available.  In the case of bulb picking size does matter, and bigger is definitely better.  You do not want bulbs that are soft to the touch as they may contain mold and thus might lead to bulb rot.

Buying Tulip Bulbs

When choosing your bulbs, select bulbs that are firm and blemish free

Preparing the Soil

Once you have picked the biggest and best bulbs it is time to prepare the soil in which you have decided to plant.  The soil should be quick draining and well aerated as this is where tulips will thrive.  Dig your holes and then begin placing your bulbs.  The bulbs need to be planted with the point up and the flat part of the bulb sitting at the bottom of you hole.  You will only need to water if you feel the ground is particularly dry.

If you follow these simple steps to planting Tulips, you can expect an amazing burst of color come spring and you can enjoy your Tulips for many years!

Growing Tulips

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Posted on September 9th, 2011 by Dr. Greenthumb  |  4 Comments »

Seed Germinating Times and Tips

Germinating seed

Germinating seeds can vary from easy to difficult

“Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas.” Elizabeth Murray

The Art of the Garden

As any seasoned gardener will tell you, gardening is an art and a true labor of love. The art of the garden begins with learning about the needs of each seed. Germinating seeds is not a black and white “by the book” process. Each seed type is different and desires different conditions and levels of patience. Some, like the Radish and many Lettuces, only ask for a little water and a few days. Others, like the Hot Peppers and some Perennial flowers, need specific temperature and humidity and MONTHS to germinate!

In this post we will give you some basic tips for successful germination, information of the various seed “types” followed by a chart detailing expected germination times of specific seed varieties.

The “Must Know”s for Successful Seed Germinating

Sowing the seed

Germinating Seeds

Most seeds germinate best at warm (70°F) temperatures. Plants from temperate regions, the arctic, high mountains and high deserts often germinate best at cool temperatures. Plants from winter-rain areas like California, the Mediterranean, Chile, S. Africa and parts of Australia also like cool temperatures. Warm temperatures will often speed germination of these seeds, but lower vigor, survival and germination rates. Warm desert plants and tropical seeds like warmth. Please refer to the germination chart below for guidance on germination temperatures for specific seed varieties.

Seed Types and General Germination Tips

Germinating Seeds

Below you will find a chart of specific germination times for many popular garden seeds:

For detailed information on HOW to germinate Pepper Seeds, click HERE

Set yourself up for success!

Other important factors in seed germination are the Soil mix and pH, Pre-treatment of seeds, optimal hours of light, and various seed germinating techniques. We will be addressing these issues in upcoming posts so stay tuned!

Knowing what to expect from your specific seeds and how to best care for them will help set you up for successful germination and save you the concern of wondering “when will my seeds germinate?!”

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” Swedish Proverb

Germinating seed

Happy Germinating!

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Posted on July 6th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  7 Comments »

Quick Tips on Watering your Garden

Watering-Blog

“If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water.”
-   Loren Eisley

Do you water the garden or the plants?

It sounds like a funny question but to put things into perspective the garden is where plants grow, not the plants themselves. Furthermore, water must reach plant roots which are in specific places in the garden meaning water should be directed towards those points or it can be easily wasted.

To do this there are all kinds of industrialized drip irrigation systems that aid in feeding crops and can be converted for regular use. However, most homeowners don’t need such specialized methods and are left with two options: the hose or the watering can.

The hose

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow."  ~ Doug Kelly

"Just take a garden hose with your back to the sun and spray. You'll make a rainbow." ~ Doug Kelly

The hose is one of those wonder utilities Americans couldn’t live without. It makes life so much easier when distributing water across property without actually having to carry it bucket by bucket and it’s not uncommon for one house to have two hoses.

Nevertheless, when watering the garden the hose can sometimes be a nuisance. For example, most hoses have settings for long stream or gentle spray, both of which have issues.

The long stream is usually too powerful for many plants easily drowning or knocking them over and at its gentlest spray water distribution still covers a wide area. Neither is economical as both usually end up watering the “garden” instead.

The hose also comes with a few other drawbacks like getting stuck when pulled distances and despite  hose holders it may get tangled and twisted often knocking down plants in its path.

The can

"Water is the driver of Nature." -   Leonardo da Vinci

"Water is the driver of Nature." - Leonardo da Vinci

The concept for the outdoor watering can we know today, once known as the “watering pot,” is hundreds of years old. Depending on its size and the type of spout it either provides a long protruding stream or a more gentle spray without the hose’s power. That being the case it has a better delivery despite some dampening of surrounding soil.

The biggest drawback, of course, is refilling it every few gallons. When using the hose water shoots out endlessly but when the can runs dry you need to walk it back to the spigot.

The verdict

So with all that said is the hose or the can better for watering the garden?

In the spirit of not wasting water but making life a little bit easier a combination of the two works great. Use the hose to carry water to the garden and fill the watering can near plants when feeding.

Aside from a descent summer rain or setting up alternative distribution systems it’s a good compromise that is efficient and effective.

Guest contributor Jakob Barry writes for Networx.com, a growing community of homeowners and contractors sharing and monitoring home improvement projects together. He covers various home improvement topics including green gardening tips and  grounds maintenance

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Posted on June 28th, 2011 by Ms. Sunshine  |  No Comments »