Welcome November

Art by Edith Holden

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Top Five Essential Oils –what are they and how do they work?

What are essential oils?

A-essential oils are compounds extracted/obtained from plants via distillation.

What is distillation?

A- distillation is the action of purifying something through heating and cooling or the extraction of the essential meaning or most important aspects of something.

I’ve been using essential oils for a very long time. I bought my first essential oil a long time before essential oils became a billion-dollar business. My first essential oil was rose oil and I used to use it diluted partially with water as a face mist. My second essential oil was orange blossom oil and I used to steam it and/or put it and a bit of water in a pot on the stove and call it aromatherapy. The year was 1985 and I was experimenting with plants and oils and aromatherapy. Both of these oils worked wonders. To this day I still use them the same way I used them 33 years ago only now instead of steaming them or boiling them in water,  I use them in diffusers.

Time and money constraints keep me from buying every single oil I hear someone rave about. I don’t have the time to look into every recommendation or use, and I don’t have the money to waste trying every single oil to see if it works for me like it worked for someone else. That said there are five essential oils that I have used for a long time and would never be without. They are–

  1. Lavender essential oil- my husband uses this to fall into a deeper sleep at night and by using it and falling into a deeper sleep he is better rested and snores way less.
  2. Copaiba- I use this for pain and inflammation caused by arthritis.
  3. Frankincense- Frank loves skin and I use Frank for all skin issues.
  4. Lemon Balm- I use Lemon balm for pms, inflammation, and upset stomach.
  5. Bergamot- this oil is so good–smells wonderful and mixed with mandarin orange is the perfect cologne.

Recipes for my five favorite oil

I put 10-15 drops of lavender in a roller bottle and fill with coconut carrier oil. I roll this oil on my husband’s big toe (underside) every night and roll a bit on his pillow an hour before bed.

I mix bergamot with orange oil and use as a cologne. I put 10 drops of bergamot with 10 drops of mandarin orange oil in a roller ball and fill the rest of roller ball with coconut carrier oil.

I use copaiba straight out of the bottle on my feet when I massage them with coconut oil. So for each foot I drop 2 drops in palm, add coconut, mix and rub. I have arthritis in my feet and this helps with the pain and inflammation. I have used ibuprofen for years but grew tired of worrying about the adverse effects of using nsaids.

I use frankincense on my skin. I put 10 drops of frankincense in a roller ball and fill the rest with coconut oil and use on my face, neck, and hands. I also use frank on cuts and burns. Lavender is good for burns as well.

Recently I purchased a Lemon Balm hydrosol online from someone I follow and buy tomato seeds from (yougrowgirl on Instagram). I use lemon balm to help me manage pms, tummy issues, and inflammation. With the hydrosol (yougrowgirl handcrafts her herb waters herself) I can add to water, or spray on the area of skin that has issues. So as far as Lemon Balm goes I am going to continue to buy it in hydrosol form vs. oil from here on out. I love that the hydrosol I purchased is user-friendly and so pure smelling that it’s unreal. The benefits I get from using it seem to come faster using the hydrosol vs. the essential oil.

Disclaimer- everyone that uses and sells oils or knows someone that does has a different opinion about them and may or may not use them differently than I do. In the section prior to the recipes I listed what my five favorite oils are used for in my family. You may or may not have the same experience as I do. I’ve been using these five oils and the rose and orange oil for a long time.  Aside from these oils I do not use any other essential oils. I purchase my oils from a couple of companies online finding good quality oils at both companies.  Please consult your physician before trying anything new.

Caring for Houseplants–Snake Plants, Violets, and Succulents

This week I have pictures of my houseplants since my garden hasn’t changed much in seven days! All of my houseplants are in my home office. My home office is the only room that has a large desk that sits in front of a window with northern and western sun. We get zero southern sunlight which the experts say is best for all plants. My succulents, ferns, and English ivy grow in greenhouses bought at IKEA. If they weren’t in these greenhouses they would be dead. I have had over 20 succulents die in the last 5 years, and have never ever kept a fern alive. I tried growing the first two English ivy plants outside the greenhouses and they lost all their leaves. So I bought two more and put them in the greenhouses and they are doing fabulous. Our apartment is too dry to keep these kind of plants alive. Greenhouses=humidity. I group all of my plants together to help me efficiency water them on several different watering schedules–I have 8 Christmas cactus, 2 orchids, 9 African violets, 5 succulents, 1 ponytail plant, 1 organic wheat cat grass, 1 Opuntia cactus, 2 ordinary cactus, and 1 Nerve plant (Fittonia)also kept in a greenhouse. My last purchase is my lovely Snake plant which had 3 babies coming up shortly after I bought it. I didn’t know how to propagate it correctly so I think I killed the first two. Happily I read a bit about propagating in close quarters (the baby was growing tightly between plant and container)and was able to save the last one and replant it. We shall see how successful I was with that. This year I started watering all my plants from the bottom. I stick all of them in a wash basin with about 1-2″ of water. After about 15 minutes most of that water is gone and soaking in the plant’s root system. Watering this way has made all the difference. This week I bought 3 snake plants from our local coop and I’m very excited to find a suitable place for them to sit and look forward to taking care of them. Until next time–Happy Gardening!!









2018 Container Gardening–Week 12

Finally a sunny day for picture taking–everything is doing fabulous! Gardening is amazing therapy. It keeps you on your toes no matter how big or small your garden is. And the rewards–everyday there is a reward. This year is the first year I kept not one but two new guinea impatiens alive and surprise surprise a fuschia. This year’s trick was keeping them in their original containers and NOT transplanting them into one of mine. My container garden started as a few 6 inch plants or seedlings and here it is at week 12–









2018 Container Gardening- Week 11

This past week we’ve been dealing with cooler rainy weather. Not necessarily good for what I’m growing. I can’t remember if I updated last week, but I’ve lost most of the blossoms on my pepper plant–so probably no peppers this year, though there are new possibilities. This happens they say (the experts) when temperatures are too warm. The week they dried up it was very hot here with heat indexes of 103 degrees. Last week I picked my first tomato and it had blossom rot– I know what causes this and that’s too little calcium in the soil. So I went out and gave all my plants some Purple Cow Compost tea and a few days later picked my second and third tomato and they are just fine. My peppers had this issue last year and I was too late in catching it.  My lavender is getting leggy, but my rosemary and hens and chicks plant are thriving. We trimmed the lime coleus and now have two healthy branches that are flourishing.  Currently, that geranium and petunia plant I picked up at a local nursery is filled with gnats. This happens a lot with plants and soil that sit outside in the wet for long periods. I’ve bought many a bag of big box dirt(never again) that was filled with fungus gnats. Looks like this geranium and petunia were planted in some of that stuff at the nursery. So, I will probably get rid of that plant this next week before they start flying indoors. That’s it for this week. All total I’ve been planting, watering and caring for my container garden for 5 months now– with almost 3 months of it spent outside gardening.

 

2018 Container Gardening- Week Nine

So this week things have stayed pretty much the same in my container garden. Missing are both Walmart non-smelling
geraniums. Not only did they not smell like geraniums, they basically bloomed once and died. I have since visited a nursery and purchased a new geranium plant along with a new petunia plant plus more Purple Cow composting soil. My husband and I live in an apartment complex for now. We are hoping by this time next year to be moving. A few years ago maintenance came around and planted shrubs etc. near everyone’s front door. I am assuming they felt that the tenant should thereafter be responsible for all care and maintenance of said shrubs and plants. Well, the soil these plants were planted in was all wrong, not to mention the kinds of plants planted, and the fact they were hastily put in and during one of the hottest days of the year. For over a year I watered an entire courtyard near our door and four plants right next to our front door. I also fertilized all the plants that were around our unit. Unfortunately, most could not be saved–mostly due to the fact of the soil they were planted in, they were planted shallow, they were planted late fall during a heat wave, and then come spring the area was sprayed by them with a toxic weedeater. This spring nearly everything was dead so we decided to go out and buy hostas at our own expense. I thought hostas would do well near our front door and they still might. However, the spot near our front door gets extreme heat in the afternoon and shade in the am. Hostas need warm sun in the am and shade in the afternoon. This information did not deter us, instead, we went ahead and dug holes, filled them with Purple Cow composting soil, and planted the hostas. Today I made a sunshade for both plants and will cover with said sun shade for part of every afternoon. Keeping fingers crossed. My lavender is doing well since being cut back, and so is my rosemary. Our tree is still recovering, the lime coleus continues to flower and is about 2.5 ft tall, and I have a total of 14 green tomatoes waiting to ripen. How’s your garden doing?

2018 Container Gardening–Week Three

Here’s what is going on in my garden this week– this week I transplanted everything that I had in containers and smaller pots to their final pot destination. I also used Purple Cows BioActive All-Purpose Fertilizer on all my veggies, fruits and flowers. My total garden this year consists of 2 patio tomato plants bought approx. 6 weeks ago at 6″-that are now 12″ plants. I bought my tomato plants from Bauer’s Market Place in LaCrescent Mn which is about 90 minutes from home because they are the only tomato plants that can survive how extremely hot our deck is winter, spring, summer, and fall (north face). They’re hardy plants for sure– I brought them home as 6″ plants and after a couple of days replanted them in smaller pots filled with Purple Cow Soil. Now today, 6 weeks later, and double in size they were ready to be transplanted into larger pots of Purple  Cow Soil.

I also have two heirloom pear tomato plants, one pepper plant, one large bunch of lavender, a lavender topiary, a prairie grass plant, two red geraniums, a small fuchsia, a small new guinea impatiens, a small rosemary plant, a lime coleus, and my big planter full of hens and chicks. Also, my lovely rehabbed evergreen tree, which took me three years of TLC, but finally he is back and all green and healthy again! The first year both of these trees were fine on our deck. The second winter they both turned brown. I read somewhere that what was wrong with them was winter burn–sunscald. That second spring I shook all needles off both of them, but by fall only one looked close to being alive. So that winter I covered it up halfway with a blanket, mulched it, and of course continued to frequently water it. That next spring the soil it was in seemed to be rotten, so I replanted it in Purple Cow Soil (my first year using it), I fertilized it, and this past winter wrapped just the root area of the pot. I watered it every 3 weeks or so, and once warmer weather began, I started misting it. Voila!

My sugar snaps for the third year were a fail, and my nasturtiums don’t seem to want to flower. No clue what is up with that? Something new I am trying this year with my tomatoes is a ground cover around the bottom of the stems and on top of the soil. I am hoping to keep my plant foliage dry and warm up the soil a bit. Warm soil=lots of ripe & juicy tomatoes. This year I am focusing solely on growing great tomatoes. Hence why I have so few containers of plants growing on my deck this year.  The sun can get to be 108-110 degrees on our deck during summer, and the wind 20-25mph or more if tornado-like weather comes through. For me to container garden at our current place I have to start with good hardy plants and last year learned–top of the line good soil.

This is my tenth year gardening at this apartment. My goal has always been to learn how to grow my own food. Along with that, I have learned that gardening is good therapy for me. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it is so very true. I think the therapy for me, and probably for others comes from the process of gardening. I used to think people meant planting, weeding, and watering was therapy. When it wasn’t working for me, I wondered what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t until we moved into this apartment and my PTSD was getting hard for me to manage that I decided to give it another go on our deck. From the challenges of growing things in containers to keeping plants watered in front of and after the days’ hot sun, to producing a yield, showing up, and accepting the challenge. Gardening has become very therapeutic for me indeed. Not giving up is also very therapeutic.  I have never let living in an apartment stop me from gardening. Though until last year, when I finally found some good soil, previous years were kind of in vain. I could grow good, but not great plants, and my yields were little to none. Also my flowers would last a month and then stop flowering and basically die. Last years garden was absolutely fabulous–in October I still had geraniums flowering and tomatoes on the vine!

 






Houseplants–wintertime gardening

Gardening is very therapeutic for me. I think for most of my life it always has been, but it has taken most of my life to get semi-sort of good at. Let me tell you what I learned this year that has made ALL the difference–watering plants from the bottom. But first, you must add water the regular way, and then set the plant in a shallow pan with water. This way the entire plant gets properly watered. My overwintering of rosemary did not go well and my rosemary plant died. However, I bought two new plants and at least one will make it to the porch once temperatures warm up a bit. I have 8 Christmas cactuses alive since last Christmas, my 40-year-old Opuntia cactus, which grew little tubers out of each pad, which I later learned was the plant seeking more sun. Once I started giving it, even more, sun it has now begun to grow two new pads. The ponytail plant and bonsai are plants I am growing for my husband, and I have 5 new African violets, several succulents, ferns, and 5 English ivies. I have read that English ivy, and the ferns are poisonous to cats so they are growing either out of reach of him or in my Ikea greenhouses.
Several years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD and realized upon getting home I was ill-prepared to deal with it even though I had worked in mental health for several years. One thing I knew for sure was that I had to find something that was therapeutic–with the possibility that it would be something I could do year-round, maybe make me feel more alive? and definitely a sense of purpose other than my general responsibilities. Growing things year-round has been good for me. It’s not easy, but I don’t like easy anyways. I’ve learned to love a good challenge. The two biggest tips I can give anyone thinking of growing plants both inside and out are– water from the bottom up and don’t overwater, and always provide the recommended and suggested heat/cold, plus sunlight environment for your plants. A third tip would be to buy good strong quality plants from a trusted gardener/nursery.

My next post will be about Microgardening!

Happy Valentines Day –How to keep your flowers fresh!

I like having/buying flowers for my home on a regular basis, not just for Valentines Day or other special occasions. To do this I must buy my flowers at a friendly price within my budget constraints. So I buy all of my flower bouquets from the supermarkets we shop in every week. Often when you look at the bouquets of roses in Walmart they look pretty sad. But for less than $5.00 they’re not too bad. Here’s a trick I’ve learned that a friendly florist once showed me.

When you get your bouquet home from the supermarket trim the ends of each flower diagonally so that they can drink the water you will be setting them in. The temperature of the water should be whatever the temperature of your tap water is when you turn the tap on. So lukewarm to cool but never ice cold or hot. Use the flower food packets that come with. And for roses always remove the guard petal. Florists will have removed this petal, but flowers purchased in supermarkets or stands will have the guard petals still on. The guard petal is the petal on the rose that is discolored, frayed, loosened, ruffled or just has an older look to it. If you don’t remove this petal your roses will never open. Here is a great article all about guard petals on roses.

Here are my flowers a day after removing the guard petals–

Happy Valentines Day!

Container Garden Week 17

Well, summer is winding down to almost the first day of fall. I’ve been at this container garden this year since January. Though only one thing in my container garden remains that was grown from seed. That would be my spindly, never having quite flourished, rosemary plant.  What is left in my garden are four impatiens that have lasted 3 x longer than any other impatient plant–thanks to fertilizer and good soil.  I have two beautiful, still blooming geraniums that look 2x better than they did when I bought them. Usually by now they would have been long gone dead and dried up. Not this year! I have a tree that has experienced sun scorch that I am trying to rehab. Along with that tree is another that also experienced sun scorch two years ago that is green again and thriving. I’ve rehabbed both with epsom salt, tender care, and compost tea. I’m not sure if the most recent damaged tree will survive? Last but not least I have another rosemary plant that is tree like, that I’ve harvested from three times, and I’m currently thinking about overwintering inside the house this year.





Until next time!