Drying Herbs The Wild Child Way

Drying herbs to store for later use, now that the season change is upon us, is a very simple way to continue using the herbs you have grown to love, even when the temperatures don’t allow them to stay fresh in the garden. Herbs like dill are great to dry for pickling in the summer. Cool season herbs like parsley, rosemary, thyme, and oregano store so well dried and can be used in so many recipes.

The method I am going to show you today is easy and beautiful. It is a great exercise to do with little ones. They will benefit from the aromatics of the herbs and they love to make pretty things.

Start By Picking As Many Stems As Possible

Cut as many fresh stems as you can from your garden beds. I like to do this at the end of the season when I have used all the fresh I can. Right before I say goodbye to the plant, I cut as many stems as possible for drying.

Timing is important when it comes to drying herbs, too. They should be picked before the flowers develop, which is why I like to designate a day at the end of the season to day good by to my herbs and begin preserving them. If you wait until mother nature ends their life cycle, you won’t have good quality herbs to save. You should also harvest them on warm, dry morning after the dew has evaporated.

Prep Your Herbs For Drying

Next you will want to take some time prepping your herbs before drying them. Do this by discarding any damaged leaves, and only keep the best looking stems possible.

Finally, you want to place your herbs in two categories. One will be those soft and feathery herbs that will stay on the stalks to air dry. The second will be herbs like mint, lavender, rosemary, and sage that have large leaves and more more stiff. These flat leafed herbs will dry differently. More on that later. For now, let’s keep working on herbs that are soft like thyme, oregano, dill, cilantro, and fennel.

Bundle Your Herbs

Next, just tie stems in bundles and hang the herbs upside down. TIP: Use twist-ties so you can easily tighten the bundles when stems shrink as they dry. Then tie a string around the bundle so that you can hang them.

Tie your bundles small like the picture above, so that they dry quickly. If your bundles are too big they will mold before they can complete the drying process. Air flow is important, so keep your bundles small.

Find the Right Spot To Hang Them

Success with this process greatly depends on where you hang your herbs. Effective drying relies on abundant dry, fresh air more than heat. A well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight is ideal.

A Few Things To Remember

The internet makes hanging herbs really pretty. In fact every picture I have included in this post is beautifully bundled herbs. The reality of herb drying in South Louisiana is that it is going to take a while in our humid climate. To keep dust from settling on the leaves, slip the bundle in a brown paper bag before hanging. This will keep dust off and catch any dropping leaves as they drying process progresses.

The herb drying process will take ten days to two weeks to dry, depending on the size of the branches and humidity. Wondering if they’re completely dry? If the leaves sound like crisp potato chips when crushed, they’re good to go.

Storing Your Dried Herbs

To store herbs, crumble the dried herbs with your fingers (discard the hard leafstalks and midribs) and store in small, airtight containers. If you use clear glass containers, store them in a dark place so the herbs don’t lose their color.

Remember, drying concentrates the flavors of herbs, so you don’t need to use as much in recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs instead. 

Cabbage Soup with Dried Garden Herbs

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cabbage, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 1 carton of quality chicken stock
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • water

Directions

In a large stock pot, brown breakfast sausage. Then add diced onion and continue cooking until onions are clear. Add cabbage and cover pot to smother. Once cabbage is smothered down and tender, add jar of spaghetti sauce and chicken stock and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring well.

Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and water if the soup seems thick.

Serve with a nice loaf of crusty bread or cornbread. Delicious!

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.

Setting Up A Brooder For Your New Baby Chicks

Before you ever go to the feed store and feel the temptation to bring home all the fluffy cuteness, get supplies together and set up a brooder for your new additions. A brooder is just a fancy term for anything you make a home for baby chicks. They will live here for about 4-6 weeks before they outgrow it, so it needs to be spacious and comfortable for them, and also safe from other pets too. Here is my favorite way to set up a brooder for baby chicks.

Supplies You Need For Your Brooder

Setting Up The Brooder

The first thing you will want to do when setting up your brooder is make a way to attach the secret weapon for brooder happiness. The guinea pig waterer.

This little bottle will change your life from frustration to easy street, trust me. With a traditional chick waterer, the chicks can turn it over, get shavings in it and even use it for a bathroom, leaving you cleaning the brooder two and three times a day. If you take a little bit of time, cut out a small rectangle on the side of the Tupperware bin, and replace the plastic with a small piece of hardware cloth, you can attach the guinea pig waterer to your brooder in no time and keep clean up to a minimum.

You can see how it is done here. Screw the hardware cloth on from the inside to make sure that you don’t injure your babies. This system is a game changer. And is well worth the extra effort.

Next, fill your brooder with shavings about 2 inches deep.

Then add food to the feeder and place the feeder on one side of the brooder.

Finally attach the heat lamp to the top of the brooder and adjust it to a low position of about 6 inches from the shavings.

Understanding The Heat Lamp

In the first few weeks of life, chicken require temperatures of about 95-100 degrees. After about two weeks, you can reduce that temperature by five degrees each week until they are fully feathered. You may be wondering how to know the temperature inside the brooder. And the easy answer is that your chicks will tell you. If you chicks are huddled under the heat lamp, piled on top of each other, and making a lot of noise, they are probably cold and you will want to lower the lamp a bit more into the brooder for them. On the other hand if they are spread out in the far corners of the brooder with their wings open or panting, the brooder is too hot, so raise the lamp up immediately. Keeping your chicks warm, but not hot, is super important. They will signal you and tell you what they need from you, so keep a close eye on them for the first few days as you learn how to keep the lamp at a comfortable height for them.

Also remember this as you are taking them out to socialize them. About five minutes or so is all they can stand in the beginning. Love on them for a short period of time and get them back under the heat in their brooder.

Things That May Go Wrong

A few common ailments you may see in your chicks while they are at this delicate stage are pasty butt and lethargy. Here are some solutions to help if these concerns arise.

Pasty Butt

Pasty butt is pretty common and just as easy to fix. Because the babies do a lot of sitting and sleeping, they may end up with waste caked to their backside. This is very dangerous and can be deadly, so you want to watch for it right from the beginning. If you see this happening with one of your chicks, immediately place her in a shallow bowl of warm water and clean her up real good. You may even find that she loses a few feathers in the process. That is ok. It is just important to get her clean again. Her feathers will grow back. Be sure to dry her off really well when you get her clean. And place her right back in the brooder under the lamp.

Lethargy

Lethargy is common in chicks after they travel across the country to get to you. Then getting adjusted to their new home is just exhausting. You can help your baby chicks by adding a dose of Nutri-Drench to their water the first time you fill it. You will only need to do this one time if you use a guinea pig watering system. If you choose to go the traditional route, you will add it to the chick waterer each time you fill it, for the first week. After about a week, the chicks should be adjusted and settling in well.

Not all chicks will make the transition. It is a difficult one. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose a chick. It happens. Choosing strong and healthy chicks are one way to lessen your chances of losing one, but it may still happen, even if you do everything right.

By following these simple steps, your brooder will be a nice and clean home for your chicks’ first month or so of life until they move out to the coop.

4 Common Gardening Fears….And How To Conquer Them!

When I started gardening almost 15 years ago, I had one raised bed and a load of dirt from a local gravel pit where my husband often did business. The man at the gravel pit told us that we needed top soil and that he could fill our truck with it. We said, excitedly, “YES” and got on our way!!

What we didn’t know is that our dirt situation would only be the beginning of what we had to learn about growing our own food. That first year of gardening was complicated, to say the least. I eagerly went to the local nursery, bought around 10 packs of seeds, came home planted them all in my bed of top soil, and covered them with leftover sawdust from a tree we had cut down. Mulch, after all, was going to keep those little seeds happy while they were busy sprouting.

I watered, and watered, and watered. Nothing ever came up. I watched all of my neighbors around me growing beautiful vegetables and couldn’t figure out what we had done wrong. Finally, after asking the elderly couple who lived next door, I learned….EVERYTHING!

Our backyard kitchen garden and chicken coop

Fast forward 15 years, and I have a thriving kitchen garden where we grow a diverse variety of vegetables year round. We have a flock of almost 30 chickens that turn our veggie scraps into true top soil that in turn goes right back into our beds to feed our plants. And, I am more in love with gardening that ever before. I have learned so much, but after that first gardening attempt, I had so many fears about starting again.

What I have learned over the years, is that most people are just like I was when they start their gardening journey. They lack knowledge and make up for it in fear. And those fears will keep us frozen or defeated. At least they did me.

Let’s conquer four common gardening fears, so that you can get busy growing your own food!

Purple Basil grows all summer long, and one plant will provide a family with more basil than they can eat. And it is beautiful! The pollinators love it!

Fear No. 1 – “I Don’t Know How To Garden”

Let’s get this one out of the way right off the bat. This is an easy one to conquer because all it takes is agreeing with it to get over it. That is because it’s true, you probably don’t know a lot about gardening when you first start. Nobody does. You learn as you grow. I learned so much from my first garden, and I didn’t even have the internet. This is the year 2021 baby, you can know just enough about anything to get started. Conquer this fear right now by admitting that you don’t know it all about gardening….just yet. And instead of being frozen by this fear, ask a neighbor, someone you trust, or join the Wild Child Garden Club. It is re-opening again February 15th. This is your chance to get in for spring. Subscribe to the mailing list to make sure you know when the doors open.

Fear No. 2 – “I Don’t Have The Time To Garden”

There are many gardening options today, so we don’t have to spend hours upon hours tilling rows to have a successful harvest. It is actually just the opposite. In an organic raised bed kitchen garden, where the focus is on soil building and companion planting, around 2 hours a week is all that is needed to maintain a beautiful space with more than enough vegetables for your family.

If you can’t spare two hours, how about an hour a week? If you have an hour a week to spare, you can plant an herb garden where you will have an abundance of herbs for your family including rosemary, thyme, basil, mints, lemon verbena, lavender, and sage. You can grow herbs in any season. So why not start there?

You can even start with one container on the patio for a tomato and enjoy them all summer long. That will take about 30 minutes a week.. Don’t let time stop you from getting your hands in the dirt. Get creative and think of ways that you can still start your garden, with whatever time you have. Time slows down in the garden too, so you may be surprised at how much time you find to spend out there.

Fear #3 – “I Don’t Have Enough Space To Have The Garden I Want”

This fear goes hand in hand with time. If you conquer this one, the fear of time will take care of itself. First, again, this is the year 2020. People grow gardens on the roofs of their kids playhouses. Have you seen that? The options are literally endless. There are patio or terrace gardens, hanging gardens, gutter gardens, you name it, it is out there. Space is no long a problem for today’s urban gardener.

Herb gardens, potted vegetables, and grow bags make gardening in tight spaces a breeze. If you just work with what you’ve got, you will fall in love with gardening and you will begin to find more and more space to work with, carving out little plots everywhere to add just one more plant.

This terrace garden is not only functional, but it is beautiful and only takes up a small space.

Fear #4 – “I Don’t Have A Green Thumb”

I am going to get bossy here for just a second on this one. Alright, ready? Okay, here goes.

YES YOU DO!

I used to say the same exact thing until I realized that humans have been gardeners since the beginning of time. Literally. Where were Adam and Eve? In the garden!! You do have a green thumb. We all do! I let this fear hold me back after my first gardening attempt so many years ago. I thought that the reason nothing sprouted in that first disastrous garden attempt was because of me. I told myself that I just didn’t have a green thumb, and that I should just give up. What I learned was that I just didn’t know the most basic principle of gardening.

be good to the soil, and it will be good to you.

When I learned that soil is EVERYTHING in a garden, it all turned around. Now, I grow all kinds of vegetables that I never thought I could grow. I have more time for gardening than ever before, and I am always looking for one more space to put a new raised bed. I know that I have a green thumb because I am a human. And I know that you have one too. We were made to grow our own food.

Don’t let these common fears keep you from planting a garden this spring. You will be shocked at how much you learn, at how much you can grow, and at how much you grow as a person. I am telling you….there is magic out there!

If you need a group of gardening buddies to help you along and encourage you in your efforts, the Wild Child Garden Club will be opening its doors for Spring on February 15th. If you join, you will receive the entire month of February’s material, which is a short course from the Kitchen Garden Academy….WHATTT?? Yeah, all new Garden Club members will get a short 4 week Kitchen Garden Academy course in February so you will be ready to plant in March. If you aren’t already subscribed to the mailing list, make sure you do that so that you will know when the doors open! We would love to have you join us. Get all of the details here.

Now get out there and find a spot for some veggies this year. No matter how small. Just start growing!

Our kitchen garden in the summer.