Cultivating Gratitude In The Garden

This is the season of thanksgiving, and we have everything we need to cultivate gratitude and share it with those we love right where we are. The garden is a place where our senses are awakened, our minds are freed, and our stress is relieved. It is a place where we can meditate, dream, and worship. It is where are hands are dirty and our soul is full. I want you to know this!!

The word cultivate means to “prepare and make ready to use.” In the garden, we cultivate your vegetables. We cultivate our soil. But we also use those things to cultivate gratitude in this season of Thanksgiving. Sound a little crazy? Stick with me! I have said for years that garden people are the best people. Now, let me tell you why. It is because we have this very unique opportunity to bring a smile to someone’s face, to help someone feel loved, to share what we have harvested, and to welcome others into this amazing miracle with us. And as we do this our world changes. Our world literally changes, and it changes right before our eyes.

3 Ways To Cultivate Gratitude In Your Garden This Season

herb bundles

One of the easiest things to share from the garden is herbs, and you can plant them right now!! Herbs need to be harvested, and the more you pick the more they grow. Cutting herbs daily is good for the herbs and it is good for YOU!! Herbs awaken our senses. They release phytoncides that are antibacterial, anti-fungal, they smell amazing, and as we breathe them in they tell our bodies to do amazing things. When we touch them, their essential oils enter our body’s greatest organ, the skin, and go directly to our blood stream for an almost instant boost of goodness. And, they relax our mind with their beauty. It is magic. And we have access to them any time we want. I love to share these little leaves of loveliness with people I visit, and have them on hand for visitors who come to me. I put them all over the house in vases to create my own diffuser, right from the yard, and have been been known to add them to my bath water. It is so simple to enjoy herbs, and yet it is so powerful.

My Favorite Herbs To Grow In The Cool Season:

sharing the fruits of your labor

This goes without saying to most gardeners, but sharing the fruits of my labor is my favorite part of gardening. I think most gardeners would agree that giving away veggies is the most rewarding part of the growing season. To be able to make someone’s day with a bag of produce that you grew is hard to beat. And it brings a smile to a person’s face like magic. The gratitude that comes from receiving someone’s hard earned harvest is about as pure as it gets.

My favorite cool season vegetable to share is LETTUCE!! Lettuce is so easy to grow, and having a salad buffet right outside your door is one of the most rewarding parts of the winter garden.

Here are some of my favorite cool season fruit and veggies to share:
  • lettuce
  • mustard greens
  • green onions
  • chard
  • carrots (tops and all…so beautiful)
  • beets
  • citrus

Sharing a Meal In The Garden

One of my favorite cool season activities is supper in the garden. Whether it is on a picnic blanket or a fully set table, eating outside is a special treat all in itself. Cultivate gratitude in your family and friends by enjoying supper outdoors. When the harvest is plenty, the garden repays us for our hard work by giving right back to us with a menu fit for a king. Invite some friends over for a special evening, or just serve your family in the garden. You won’t regret the effort, I promise!

This season is the perfect season to host a time of togetherness in the garden. Thanksgiving in the garden is a memory for a lifetime! Even if you aren’t hosting the holiday feast at your own house, you can still enjoy the privilege of welcoming others into our happy place and offering them some of our pickings. A large salad, fresh from the garden with all types of topping options will make those seated at your table feel like the are enjoying a vacation experience. The garden has a way of taking your mind to a place of peace and rest….you know that.

Even if you aren’t hosting the holiday feast at your own house, it is a privilege to welcome others into our happy place and offer them some of our pickings.

I had the honor of being featured in inRegister magazine’s November issue, which you can read here. And then, I had such fun talking about table setting rom the garden, which was a real treat for me. You can read the full article here. But here are the highlights for you.

1. Start with the green.

Evergreen branches from shrubs–not from trees–are best. Things like ligustrum, any kind of citrus plant and boxwood branches are a great place to start. And for the grand finale, cut magnolia leaves. I like the ones that are several leaves together with the pod in the middle. So beautiful!

2. Don’t overlook weeds.

Weeds are perfect for this kind of thing. Look around and find what speaks to you. Who cares what it’s called! There’s this tall grass that grows in many yards right now and it’s great for a Thanksgiving table. It looks right out of Little House on the Prairie.

3. Quarantine your plants.

After you cut everything, let it sit for a few hours. Trust me, do this step. It helps get all the bugs out. You don’t want spiders running across anyone’s dinner.

4. Lay it flat.

Tall vases overcomplicate things. They’re harder to arrange and then it’s hard for people to see through them when they’re trying to have a conversation at the table. Instead, layer the different greenery on the table to create dimension that isn’t overwhelming.

5. Spice it up.

Fruits like satsumas and lemons look great. Pumpkins are amazing! I also like to walk around the yard and pick up things like big acorns, pecans, walnuts, and pine cones. Then I go around the house and round up other things like lanterns or deer antlers. It’s south Louisiana–our husbands have things we can borrow. Just use your imagination. Finally, I see if there’s anything else I want to add, like fake birds or pumpkins that I can get from a store.

You don’t have to be hosting the meal at your house to decorate your table and enjoy it. It takes only about 30 minutes to collect all of this stuff, and it’s therapeutic. This process will cultivate gratitude in you as well as those seated amongst the beauty. This is your reward too. Just this 30 minute nature walk around your yard collecting things to go on the table can dramatically change your day. Try it!! Then share with someone else! You are changing the world, plant lady! Believe me!!

Today I will be live at noon on the Wild Child Farms Facebook page decorating my Thanksgiving table. I have foraged my yard for all the good stuff, and I am going to show you how to use what you have to create a gorgeous table to share with those you love. Join me and get all the tips!!

Planting By The Moon

Waxing, waning, new, full…..maybe you are thinking that we should leave the moon phases to the astronomers. But I want to share with you what moon phase gardening is all about, and then you can decide for yourself if this may be a growing method you want to try.

What Is Moon Phase Gardening

Moon phase gardening is an ancient gardening method that follows the the cycles of the Moon and how they affect plant growth. Just as the Moon’s gravitational pull causes tides to rise and fall, it also affects moisture in the soil. Therefore, it’s said that seeds will absorb more water during the full Moon and the new Moon, when more moisture is pulled to the soil surface. This causes seeds to swell, resulting in greater germination and better-established plants. (Okay, I’m listening!)

Moon phase gardening, or gardening by the moon, takes into account two periods of the lunar cycle: 1) the time between the new moon and the full moon (the waxing of the moon), and 2) the time between the full moon and the new moon (the waning of the moon). It’s considered best to plant certain types of plants during the waning of the Moon and other types during the waxing.

But that isn’t all. The moon also impacts plant growth.  All roots grow downward in the direction of gravitational pull and all stems grow upward toward the sun. Even though the sprouting seed is underground, it grows naturally in the opposite direction of its roots. Consider seedlings. When you place a seed underground, you may not always have it facing the right direction. That is okay because if it is positioned incorrectly, it will turn itself around and send its shoots upward, even though it’s in total darkness. Why is that?? It is because of geotropism—which is how plants grow in response to gravity.  Roots grow downward in the direction of gravitational pull and stems grow in the opposite direction.

Gardeners who rely on planting by the moon’s phases are convinced that this ancient tradition produces healthier, more vigorous plants and bigger crops. Many gardeners agree that planting by the moon really works. Others think moon phase gardening is pure myth.  You be the judge!

How To Plant By the Moon’s Phases

This is pretty simple, and there are only two steps, but it is important to understand the distinction between the two to make sure you get the benefits of moon phase gardening.

#1 Plant Above Ground Crops During the Waxing of the Moon

Plant your annual flowers and fruit and vegetables that bear crops above ground (such as corn, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini) during the waxing of the moon—from the day the moon is new to the day it is full. As the moonlight increases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow leaves and stems.

#2 Plant Root Crops During the Waning of the Moon

Plant flowering bulbsbiennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear crops below ground (such as onions, carrots, and potatoes) during the waning of the moon—from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again. As the moonlight decreases night by night, plants are encouraged to grow roots, tubers, and bulbs.

Let’s tease this out a bit to make it a bit more clear. Here is a question to help. What is your goal when you plant a seed that is going to produce a crop above ground? It is to sprout the seed right?? So when the seed sprouts it needs LIGHT, when the moon is waxing it is producing light all night long, more so than when it is in the waning phase of the cycle. See the chart above for detail. The waxing phase of the moon is from the new moon to the full moon. And likewise, when you plant root vegetables and bulbs, and perennials, what is the goal?? To develop strong roots right? And that happens underground where there is no light. The thought is that the darker the night sky, the more the plants are encouraged to do their work underground.

Other Considerations When Gardening By The Moon

You could easily refer to a calendar for the moon’s phases, but we also want to take one more thing into account. OUR CLIMATE!!! You have heard your mom say it a million times, and you have probably said it yourself a time or two. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This definitely applies to moon phase gardening. Just because it is a full moon doesn’t mean that you should plant seeds. There are other things to take into account like the temperature of the soil, how long it will take the seed to germinate, and where the date falls in the growing cycle. I am going to share with you a few resources that have taken the guesswork out of this for us, but I am also going to share how to figure this out on your own too. It isn’t hard at all.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is probably the most trusted resource for planting dates when following the moon phases. Their suggested planting dates factor in not only the moon phases but also growing zone, but there is still more to be done. If we want specific dates to plant or not plant, we will need to do a little bit of homework. Lucky for you, I have done it. And I can’t wait to share.

Let’s Plant By The Moon

So if we factor in planting dates based on our climate, above ground crops and root vegetables, growing zone, weeks to frost, and seed to harvest length in addition to moon phases, we can get a pretty good idea of some good dates to get things in the ground. Let’s look at the moon phase calendar for March just for clarification and to get some dates picked!

Step One: Find the Waxing Phase for the month

The waxing phase of the moon is from new moon to full moon. (March 13th – 28th)

Step Two: Consider Planting Recommendations Based on Climate

For most spring vegetables, the earliest recommended date to plant is South Louisiana is March 8th.

Step Three: Consider Only Above Ground Crops

In the waxing phase we focus on above ground and leafy crops. In the spring that is EVERYTHING!!

Step Four: Factor In Climate

It could still be chilly in early March. So what can we do? We can plant, but we must plan to cover if the temperatures drop suddenly for that one last cold snap of the year. Remember, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. If you don’t want to bother with the hassle of covering, you should probably wait.

One final note is that we want to plant as early into the phase as possible. That is because the benefit of moon phase gardening is the light and gravitational pull of the moon during these phases. If we wait until the end of the phase to plant, we will miss those benefits.

Planting Dates This Month

Okay, I know this is what you want. Did you just scroll all the way down and skip the rest?? It is okay if you did. Here are my recommended planting dates for March and what I will be planting then.

March 14th – 17th – Plant all spring veggies, herbs, and flowers now!

Gardening is a journey of growing, and the plants aren’t the only thing that grows if you know what I mean. We grow right along with those veggies, learning and maturing in wisdom and knowledge and gaining new perspective about nature and the world we live in. We are able to see the Creator in so many ways when we are in the garden, and now we can see Him in the moon as well. It is a beautiful thing!

Need More Help In The Garden?

If this all sounds great to you, but you still feel like you need more help to achieve the backyard garden of your dreams, there are several options for you below!! Please reach out! I would love to get my hands dirty with you this season.

Succession Planting: The Heart of the Garden Symphony

Soil is the foundation of the garden symphony, a good plan is the cornerstone, and succession planting is the heart. The benefits of creating an environment where plants can thrive are multiplied exponentially with succession planting.

A well laid plan and nutrient rich soil allow us to have a garden that never stops producing. Year round we see the fruit of our labor. But succession planting is how we do it.  Succession planting allows us to extend our harvest by staggering plantings of crops, planting varieties with staggered maturing dates, and constantly taking out the old and putting in the new. Succession gardening is possible in the south because of our mild climate, but it requires some careful planning. You will be shocked to learn what you can harvest for your family in your garden space. Here are three methods of succession planting that every southern gardener should know and practice.

Staggered Planting

Space out plantings of the same vegetable every two to four weeks. Many vegetables fade after producing their initial crop, setting a heavy yield initially, then smaller and smaller yields throughout the season. Rather than planting your entire row of beans all at once and having one feast then babying the plants for mediocre yields the remainder of the season, you can plant some at the beginning of the season and then plant more in two week intervals. Doing this allows a new crop to be continually coming in. More beans for you!!

Staggered Picking Dates

Just as succession planting allows the gardener to stagger the planting dates, you can also stagger the dates you will pick your veggies. Do this by planting different varieties. For example, cabbage varieties can be planted for different maturing dates by choosing “early,” “mid,” or “late” season varieties. Blue Vantage and Platinum Dynasty are early season cabbage varieties, meaning they will be ready to harvest in about 60 days. Cheers on the other hand takes 75 days to maturity. And Flat Dutch takes 100 days to be ready to pick. By planting all three, you can stagger your picking dates to give you more from your season.

Here is a great example of staggered planting. Notice the cabbage closest has already formed a head in the center of the plant. This cabbage will be ready to pick about two weeks before the one further in this picture.

Out With The Old In With The New

Some crops, such as radishes, have short growing seasons and the space they were using can be replanted with a later season crop, like onions. The best vegetables for succession planting this way are root vegetables!! When one vegetable matures and is picked, another plant comes in to fill its space in the garden bed. The key to this method is two fold. First, you must choose two plants that have complimentary maturity dates. Second, your plants must like the weather conditions at the time of planting. That is why radishes and onions work so well with this method. Radishes can take a little heat, so plant them early. They take a few weeks to harvest and by then, the weather has cooled off a bit, and onions can be planted in their place. Do your homework with this method and get so much more from your garden.

Some Of My Favorite Fall Succession Companions

  • Carrots —-> Onions
  • Radishes —> Onions
  • Beans —> Mustard
  • Spinach —> Strawberries
  • Pumpkins —> Strawberries
  • Beets —> Garlic

Succession planting allows so much more to be grown in the same space as traditional planting. I encourage you to try it, and I think if you do, you will be amazed at what all you can grow!

Need Help Getting A Succession Plan?

Check out my print and plant plans for fall HERE. All the work is done for you and you can enjoy your garden without any of the planning work! I have it all ready for you. Just print and plant!

This plan will give you delicious greens all winter long. A teepee in the middle of the bed adds height, a trellis for climbing greens, as well as a beautiful artistic element. The garden should be a feast for the body, the eyes, and the soul. These plans will help you achieve that.

Learn more HERE.

What Is Kombucha? And Why Should I Drink It?

Kombucha originated in the Far East around 2,000 years ago, and this beverage is a super food with tremendous health benefits extending to your heart, your brain and (especially) your gut.

Because it is fermented, it contains a large number of living healthy bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria line your digestive tract and support your immune system, as they absorb nutrients and fight infection and illness. Since 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut, and the digestive system is the second largest part of your neurological system, it’s no surprise that the gut is considered the “second brain.”

I still have a lot to learn about kombucha, and making it at home, but I want to share what I do know. I hope to inspire you to just start where you are and release your inner wild child to make your own batch of kombucha.

The Quick Story of Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented beverage consisting of black tea and sugar that’s used as a functional, probiotic food. It contains a colony of bacteria and yeast that is responsible for initiating the fermentation process, once combined with sugar.

Following fermentation kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, B vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid. The sugar-tea solution is fermented by bacteria and yeast commonly known as a SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”

So what does kombucha taste like? There are a number of different flavors available, but it’s generally fizzy, tart and slightly sweet. Some people find it a healthier substitute for sodas, which can help satisfy that craving for a fizzy drink.

Kombucha is great way to get the benefits of fermentation, and it is delicious. If you enjoy carbonated drinks such as Lacroix or Waterloo, or if you have a coke habit you would like to kick, kombucha might be something to try. While you can buy it in most stores, it is something really fun to brew at home. And, you can make sure only the purest ingredients are included. I love to brew kombucha in the summer when I can use the fruits and veggies from my garden for flavor. It doesn’t get any more organic than that.

Why Should You Should Drink It

Kombucha is Full Of Antioxidants

Kombucha contains a ton of antioxidants that will help to detoxify the body and can help protect your body against disease. Those anti-oxidants can help reduce inflammation, and inflammation is a big precursor for many chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. While normal black tea does contain antioxidants, research shows that the fermentation process of kombucha creates antioxidants that are not naturally found in black tea.

Your Gut Needs It

Kombucha supports digestion is because of its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics, amino acids, and enzymes, which are so important to the health of your gut. And it contains good bacteria, known as probiotics, which are critical to everything from immune function to mental health and nutrient absorption. By balancing out the digestive system, kombucha is aiding so many other systems in your body as well.

It Is Anti-Bacterial

In our guts we have both good and bad bacteria. We see bad things happen when the bad bacteria overpowers and outnumbers the good bacteria. While it may seem weird to drink bacteria to get rid of bacteria, that is exactly what happens. The bacteria in our digestive systems are like an army, working around the clock to defeat the bad bacteria. The more good bacteria you have, the easier it is to eliminate the bad like staph, E. coli, and salmonella.

Every Wednesday in June, I will post a video to the Wild Child Farms Facebook page, sharing the process of making my own kombucha. I will be sharing a step each week, and by the end of June we will have our own home brewed kombucha to enjoy. I hope to inspire you to make your own as well. It is so good and so good for you, and it is fun to make. Join me on Wednesdays and get to brewing your own. This is one way to release your inner wild child right where you are. Using fruits, veggies, and herbs from the garden in your home brewed kombucha is as organic as it gets. I hope you are inspired to stay well by being wild.