Monthly Archives: April 2013

More on Herbs: Lemon Balm

Lamiaceae

Lamiaceae (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love the fresh mounds of Lemon Balm, ‘Melissa officinalis‘ in the spring.  Perfect clumps of beautiful new growth full of flavor and scent.  I value my Lemon Balm and use it regularly throughout the summer.  A member of the mint family, it belongs in the tonifying, sedative  category of herbs.  It is a valued medicinal, culinary and cosmetic herb.  It has sedative properties, aids our digestive system and is used to relieve gas. Leaves and stems have antibacterial and antiviral qualities. I have read so many attributes to this plant that it is hard to believe so few people use it!

The plant has lovely serrated  heart shaped leaves and is a perennial that is extremely easy to grow in full sun or part shade, it will reseed and spread in the garden if not deadheaded  after it blooms, a small maintenance price to pay for such great qualities.  Try it as tea in the morning with a bit of honey or as an herbal vinegar to add to beans and vegetables.  I put a sprig in my water throughout the day because I love the scent and lemony taste that it infuses into the water.  Here is how to make herbal vinegars:  Harvest enough leaves and stems to fill a glass jar.  Fill with apple cider vinegar to the top and store in a cool dark place for 6 weeks.  It keeps indefinitely and is excellent with legumes, and a tablespoon in the morning as a tonic mixed with a glass of water is said to cleanse the liver and stimulate your bowels (always a good thing!)  Often, I also make a tasty tea and drink it iced on very warm days; it is very refreshing and calming.  As far as I know there are no adverse side effects to the use of this herb as long as it is used as a simple ingredient and not mixed with other herbs.  So get out there and look around your garden and pick some lemon balm!

“All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the challenge of science is to find it.” Philippus Theophrastrus Bombast that of Aureolus ~ Paracelsus (1493-1541)

 

 

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April Garden Chores

I know many of you are out in the garden eager to see plants growing and blooming.   I went out last week and started cleaning out the huge amount of oak leaves from my neighbors trees that end up in my beds.  Even though they look unsightly, it is a very environmentally sound practice to let the fall leaves stay on the perennial beds thru winter.  Many species of insect and amphibians find shelter and hibernate there for the winter.  So now that the weather has finally changed, off they go to my huge compost bin designated just for leaves.  In the fall leaves that lay on grass get mulched with our mulching mower as I explain here.  Some more spring chores:

  • Pruning.  This is the best time to prune some shrubs  and clean up any fallen branches from the yard.  The general rule is to prune in spring only shrubs that bloom on new wood.  Shrubs that bloom in early spring generally bloom on old wood or stems that formed last summer,  it is best to wait until after they bloom to cut back.  Some examples of early bloomers are Forsythia, Mahonia, Salix, Daphne, Deutzia, Azalea, Rhododendron and Weigela to name just a few. Read more about pruning in this post.
  • Divide Perennials.  Early spring is the ideal time to dig up and divide large clumps of perennials like Hostas, Iris, Pulmonaria, Brunnera and Lilly.  Although you can divide some perennials anytime during the summer, it is much easier to do it now when the crown be easily seen.  More here.
  • Hummingbird Feeders should be out by April 15 when  the first migrating hummers start showing up on their way north, sometimes so exhausted that a sip of nectar can replenish their energy and make a life or death difference.  Some may even choose to make a home in your garden!
  • Feeding and top dressing beds probably the best time to apply a bit of nutrients to the soil as needed.  I use good organic products for  my evergreens, Azaleas and Rhododendrons,  a light layer of composted soil mixed with mushroom manure on the perennial beds and fix any bare patches of lawn.

We all know that the work seems a bit daunting at this time of the year, but it is thrilling to see plants spring into life and discover that once more the cycle of life continues.  Enjoy the outdoors!

  “Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day-like writing a poem or saying a prayer”  -Anne Morrow Lindberg

Project “Wildlife Corridors”

Wildlife corridors2

As gardeners and nature lovers we are on the forefront of preservation.  In a time when our wild places keep shrinking, there are many things we can do in order to make it a little easier on our wild friends that rely on nature for their survival.  As I wrote on this previous post on Habitat Fragmentation, creating ‘ribbons of vegetation’ is one of the best ways to promote biodiversity.  By enlarging our existing garden beds and planting a few more natives,  we would ensure the survival of many species.  I will make it my mission this year, not so much in creating new beds, as much as enlarging the ones I already have.  The wider and more diverse beds provide more habitat for an incredible amount of wildlife, amphibians and insects pollinators.

Wildlife corridors1

 

This photo was taken in my garden last summer.  My perennial beds are on average between four and seven feet wide.  Last fall, I started planting just outside the existing beds to widen them and also making it easier to connect one planting area to another ultimately having a continuous corridor through the entire garden.

I will love for all of us to make an effort to make our gardens a joyful, safe and environmentally friendly space for us and our friends human and wild.

 “In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers and the dreams are as beautiful”   Abram L. Urban