Monday, December 29, 2008

January Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

January is almost upon us, so here is my gardening calendar for the month, once again gleaned from various sources including the Master Gardener's Handbook and the Alabama Gardener's Calendar.

•Make a garden plan! Plan the garden to include various vitamin and mineral groups.
•Consider planting a few new varieties along with the old favorites.
•Plan the amount of each vegetable to be planted, including enough to can and freeze (preserve), if you're able. Allow about 1/10 acre of garden space for each member of the family.
•Buy enough quality seed for two or three plantings to lengthen the season of production.
•Take soil samples if you have not already done so, and take them to your county extension office for analysis. Your local extension office is an invaluable resource if you plan to garden!
•Apply manure or compost and plow/turn it under if you did not do so in the fall.
•Apply lime, sulfur and fertilizer according to your soil-test results and vegetable requirements. Buy 100 pounds of fertilize for each 1/10 acre to be planted (if manure is not available, buy at least half again more). Use 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 analysis, depending on soil test and vegetable requirements.
•Get plant beds or seed boxes ready for growing plants such as tomato, pepper and eggplant. Have beds ready for planting in early February.
•Check on your compost pile and make sure it is ready for use in the spring.
•And once again, go by your county extension office and get copies of their gardening publications.

If you like to be an early-early bird with your planting (like me!) here in Zone 7, you can transplant cabbage and cauliflower plants after January 10. Onions should be transplanted and lettuce seed can be sown after January 25.

Remember, above ground plants like cabbage, cauliflower and lettuces do best when planted when the moon is waxing, or growing. Below-ground plants like onions should be planted when the moon is waning, or shrinking. And don't forget to try and plant everything during a fruitful sign! There's a link to a handy moon phase/sign calculator over there on the right.

Happy gardening! :)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

December Gardening Calendar, Zone 7

Yes, I realize the month is halfway gone, but I thought I'd share this since I'm already sitting here, glad to have one more excuse not to get up and clean my house :D

Thanks to the Alabama Gardener's Calendar, The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, and the Alabama Master Gardener Association handbook!


•Vegetable Seed - You can still plant cabbage and lettuce in cold frames.
•If you haven't already, spread manure, rotted sawdust and leaves over beds and turn under; this organic matter improves the fertility, physical structure and water-holding capacity of the soil.
•Take a soil sample to allow plenty of time to get the report back. Lime applied now will be of more benefit next year than if it is applied in the spring before planting. Apply Dolomitic limestone in order to get both calcium and magnesium.
•Continue saving leaves for the compost heap. Take an "inventory." Maybe you had too much of some vegetables and not enough of others - or maybe there were some unnecessary "skips" in the supply. Perhaps some insect, disease or nematode problem got the upper hand. Make a note about favorite varieties. Start planning next year's garden now!
•It’s wise to order flower and vegetable seeds in December or January, while the supply is plentiful. Review the results of last year's garden and order the more successful varieties.
•Check the viability of seeds left over from last year by placing some in damp paper towels and observing the germination percentage. If the percentage is low, order new ones.
•Before sending your seed order, draw a map of the garden area and decide the direction and length of the rows, how much row spacing is needed for each vegetable, whether or not to plant on raised beds, and other details. That way, you won't order too many seeds. This same advice applied to the flower garden. Try new cultivars, add more color, change the color scheme, layer the colors by having taller and shorter plants - don't do it the same way year after year.
•Look around for tools you do not have and put these on your Christmas list.
Dig potatoes or buy more, put carrots in buckets of sand, hang onions, etc. Put up any additional cold frames and mulch plants to over-winter. Preserve remaining food if necessary. It's also not too late to gather nuts - my side yard is still full of hickory nuts!

It's not too late to make up some baskets of homemade goodies for Holiday gifts!

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2008 Southeast Women's Herbal Conference

As for my previous lack of conference photos and details, there is yet another story which has something to do with why I bummed out on posting. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my dear eldest daughter took it upon herself to remove the memory card from the digital camera before I left and I was only able to take six, yes SIX, photos of our weekend. Not sure why she did this, but needless to say I was upset. I'll post the six photos (maybe five ... I think one of them is a silly pic of Mel she possibly will object to me posting), but they really aren't much to get excited about. I haven't even loaded them onto my computer yet and it might take a day or two to find where said memory card-ejecting daughter has stashed the camera.

Luckily, the lovely ladies at Red Moon Herbs have posted their Conference pics HERE. Enjoy!

Mel and I had a marvelous time. We camped beside the beautiful Camp Rockmont Lake, ate like organic queens, and learned an incredible amount of valuable, herbal information. I met Corinna Wood as soon as I arrived and she was even more down to earth, warm, and friendly than I expected. I attended the Southern Appalachian Medicinal Plants Herb Walk with Patricia Kyritsi Howell, Astrology for Health workshop with Phyllis D. Light, Herbs and the Immune System and Women's Apothecary with Bevin Clare, Herbal Toolkit for Moms with Jessica Godino, and spent the last evening in the company of 300+ women being led in song, dance and celebration under the guidance of ALisa Starkweather. Rising Appalachia performed a fire dance that took my breath away.

I wish I could describe the food at the conference, but I'll just say it was nourishing to the body and soul, and truly divine. I've never eaten so well in my life. The meals were fit for royalty and included local organic meats and vegetables, artisan breads and cheeses, fresh, juicy fruits, organic nuts and seeds, mouth watering salad greens with herbal vinaigrettes, herbal teas, local raw milk, and lacto-fermented dishes that were so good they made me want to cry! The Sweet Monkey, a delightful bakery and catering operation out of Asheville, NC, were set up in the vendor area and furnished us with warm apple cider, hot chocolate, one huge and delicious breakfast burrito that Mel and I split between us, and organic pumpkin muffins that made me want to smack my grandma.

The camping was fun. Okay, it was colder than a well diggers butt at night up on that beautiful mountain, and having to get up in the dead of night, wrestle a belligerent (and loud) tent zipper, and stumble around 15 feet from a deep dark lake to pee on the ground was maybe not so fun. That's what camping pregnant women and gals with small bladders (neither preferring to walk less than a quarter of a mile to the loo) do, you see. I dare say if you've never lain awake in a cold dark tent for almost an hour vehemently denying the selfish needs of your bladder before painfully relenting, you have not lived. Mel and I are much closer now that we have heard each other pee outside in the wee hours before dawn. Yes, we acted like six year olds in the tent, and it was great, despite the grandaddy long legs invasion.

The weekend wasn't just about herbs. No one cared who you were, how you dressed or what you looked like there (I wore a sweatshirt with pajama pants and hiking boots almost the entire weekend). Women were free to really be themselves with no expectations on them other than to relax, breathe, be aware, learn, and have fun. I was very grateful to be able to spend the time with Mel because she lives about 150 miles away and I rarely get to see her. Truly it was an enjoyable, enlightening, educational, moving experience. I'll never forget it!

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Not dead, just pregnant (conference details in the next post!).

Several folks have contacted me wondering if I've dropped off the planet, or just dropped dead in general. Just before I left for the 2008 Southeast Women's Herbal Conference, I found out that (surprise!!) I am pregnant with my third child. We *are* very happy about the news .. it just took a little time to sink in. I'm 38 years old and mom to a very active, soon to be 15-year-old daughter and a lively little 3-year-old daughter. Luckily, I am able to work from home. This is truly a blessing I am gratefuly for every single day of my life.

So I'm blowing up like a gestating bovine, but fortunately have suffered very little sickness or other pregnancy maladies at all outside of my usual preggo-crazies. Daily nourishing herbal infusions of stinging nettle or red raspberry leaves help tremendously. I'm almost 5 months along and am scheduled for an ultrasound Wednesday, when hopefully the baby will cooperate and show us whether number three is sporting a hamburger or a hot dog.