Entries organized under Harry

Plant Now for Flowers Next Year!

November 9, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

As the weather cools down, you may find yourself dreaming of NEXT year’s flower bouquets.

bouquet_june_486Now is the time to prepare for at least some of your future garden, because many plants, usually biennials (plants that have a two year life cycle), need a period of cold before they will bloom.

larkspur-row-farmagrostemma-farmPlants like Agrostemma (corn cockles), Bupleurum, bachelor buttons, larkspur, Nigella, Saponaria (soapwort), Scabiosa (pincushion flower) that bloom in early spring can be planted now by direct seed. (Though it may be too late in some areas –check with your local cooperative extension office.) Follow the directions provided on the seed packet or catalog for soil depth and exact timing (larkspur, for example won’t germinate if the soil is too warm).

snap-dark-pink-farm

Other biennials/perennials, like foxglove, Echinacea, snapdragons, lupine and Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), Dianthus (sweet William) and others should have been started as seed back in mid- to late summer, but if you can find starts (young plants) at your local nursery, now is the time to get them in.foxglove-farm-perennial-bed

 

Yet other flowers like cosmos, zinnia, sunflowers and many more are annuals and are planted in spring.  So dream on and make your plans for them in patience.

 

 

august-flower-fieldOr, if you would rather have Nature do your gardening for you in a ‘wilder’ setting, there are some native wildflowers with which you can assist.

cardinal-flowerI am having a hard time thinking of a brighter red naturally occurring in wild Nature than a Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) other than its namesake, a mature male Cardinal himself. The North American native Cardinal Flower grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 9 in wet, poorly drained places, though they also grow in drier conditions. (Cornell University claims they may survive even in Zone 2!)

Cardinal Flower prefers full sun in cooler climates but needs part shade in the warmer part of its range. (They are very happy in the middle of our wet Zone 6 mountain meadow.)

To have your own intensely red insect attractant, collect the seed when the seed heads have matured (or purchase from a reputable seed source) and scatter the tiny seeds where you want them to establish. (Where you can easily see them, of course!) Scatter these seeds in late fall soon after they ripen or through early Spring since they also need to be “stratified” by cold to germinate. Do not cover them because, as with most tiny seeds, they need light to germinate.

Since Cardinal Flower is a short-lived perennial, let the plants reseed (which they should do naturally) to maintain the population.

joe-pye-yellow-swallowtailThe tall pink-lavender topped Joe-Pye Weed (there are several Eutrochium species) with its whorled leaves is native to Zones 4 through 9. Growing and germinating conditions for Joe-Pye Weed are similar to Cardinal Flower. You might want to plant these as more of a ‘backdrop’ since these plants can get quite tall.

 

great-blue-lobelia-fieldAnd Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is also native to Zones 2 through 9, from the Atlantic coast to the Rocky Mountains and blooms in late summer with the other two flowers above. Growing and germinating conditions are the same as above for this beautiful, though somewhat shorter, plant.

These three plants bloom in late summer (late July to  early September around here) when the bees need to be collecting nectar for winter honey stores and before the later Asters and Goldenrod begin blooming.

 

Get out there and beautify the future!

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Crawfishing

September 23, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

crawfish

Yesterday, I was scooping water from our little stream to water in some transplants and caught this little critter.  It brought back many memories.

 

In Louisiana, there are hunting seasons, fishing seasons and seasons for harvesting the various indigenous shellfish: shrimp, oysters, crabs and crawfish. You may know these crustaceans as “crayfish” or “crawdads” or “mudbugs”, but I grew up calling them “crawfish”.

There are several ways to crawfish (verb).

I remember going out at night with my parents and grandparents collecting crawfish as they traveled from their burrows to who knows where… maybe to visit their girlfriends. Their burrows where easy to spot: the crawfish would build a ‘chimney’ around the entrance to the hole with little balls of mud. I have seen crawfish chimneys several inches tall.

Each person had a pail and a light: either a flashlight, or headlamp or white-gas lantern. We roamed around a field near a swamp searching for the crustaceans. When we found one, we would step gently on its head and pick it up by its tail. You pinned its head with your foot so it would not pinch your fingers with its big claws that it waved around in self-defense.

 

Another memory came to me that I cannot shake.  It involves another way to catch crawfish.

When I was very young, maybe 4 or 5 years old, my Dad took me crawfishing across the river. That would be the west bank of the Mississippi River.

You can catch crawfish in a special net or trap. The net we used was a cotton net (My paternal Grandpa could make these nets! It may be a lost art now.) suspended between two pieces of stiff wire bent to form the top four sides of a pyramid with the net being the bottom of the pyramid. The net-bottomed pyramid is placed in water about 12 to 18 inches deep so that the top of the wire pyramid is visible above the water surface. You usually tie a piece of brightly colored cloth to the top so the net is easy to spot as you ‘run your line’. I can still see the bright dark red strips of cloth identifying our traps.

Now, crawfish are freshwater, bottom-dwelling scavengers. They particularly like chicken necks. So most people tie a piece of chicken neck in the center of the net to attract the critters.

If you ‘fish’ from a bank you use a long pole with a hook – sometimes just a nail or screw put into the side of one end – to reach out, quietly move the end of the pole under the apex of the pyramid, quickly lift it out of the water, swing it over a tub or bucket to dump your catch. You have to do this quickly since the net has no sides and the crawfish will swim or scuttle out – backwards, as that is how they move – if you are too slow.

 

Well, this particular crawfishing trip I remember so vividly, was to a pond – or swamp – that didn’t have a shore we could walk along.

Dad had 20 or 30 traps (maybe more or less – it was a long time ago and I was little so everything is probably remembered much bigger than it really was). The two wires that held the net were attached at the apex in such a way they that they sprung apart when the net was flipped once or twice.

All the traps were opened and set out like rows of ghost tents as Dad tied the bait in the center of each net.

Then came the part I remember best.

I climbed on my Dad’s back with my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist as he waded out into the pond and set each trap in a big circle in the water.

When we got back to the start we waited. I don’t remember how long, for a child that young, it was probably interminable. Then I climbed back on Dad’s back and he walked s-l-o-w-l-y around the pond from trap to trap with a pole in one hand and a galvanized washtub floating beside us. You know:  the kind of tub you fill with ice to chill watermelon on a hot summer day, or wash your dog in.

He moved slowly to not scare the crawfish away from their short feast in our nets. In one smooth motion, he would reach out with the pole lift the trap, let is slide down the pole, over the tub and then tip our prey out. He would pick out the under-sized ones and toss them back… probably to be caught several more times before the day was over.

This had to have been a difficult and amazing feat to perform with a small child half strangling him and in such a way as to not dump said clinging cargo into the water. You know, it’s possible I rode on Dad’s shoulders straddling his neck, but that is not the memory that sticks.

We went around and around the pond, me encumbering him, until the tub was full enough for a big dinner for the whole family.

 

Let me tell you, a shellfish dinner in Louisiana (maybe other places, too, but I grew up there and not elsewhere) is quite an affair:

Huge pots of water are brought to a boil and special Cajun seafood spices are added then the entrée are dumped in and cooked. This works for crawfish, crabs or shrimp… and we are usually talking a bushel or two of food at a time!

In the meantime, the dining table is covered in several layers of newspaper.

When the seafood is done cooking – not more than a very few minutes – it is extracted from the pot and dumped into the middle of the table in a huge pile. Shells and other inedible parts are placed onto separate dishes or special metal platters.

When the last crawfish is consumed or peeled and set aside – because it is seldom the case that it is all eaten – to go into a later gumbo or jambalaya, the whole multilayer newspaper table covering is folded and rolled into one big bundle and put in the trash.

 

You don’t have to carry your child into the swamps to strongly imprint lasting memories of the outdoors. There are plenty of other adventures awaiting for you and them.  What wonderful memories can you create with your child?

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

The Growing Season Ends

September 13, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Hopefully, you have had a successful garden this year and, literally, enjoyed the fruits of your labor.

If you have followed our Gardening with Children Guide, you will soon be finishing this year’s activities and harvesting the last veggies and enjoying and cutting the last flowers.

What now?

If your plants have finished producing, it is time to pull them out.   “Finished producing” means the plants are dead or dying or all the fruit is harvested and no more flowers are appearing promising more fruit. If they are healthy, you can put them in your compost.  If they are infested with pests or disease, it is best to remove them by putting them in a plastic bag, tying it closed and disposing of it.  If you don’t pull this year’s dead plants out, they may set and shed seed.  This is not a problem, but if you want to ‘rotate your crops’ you may have to deal with ‘weeds’ next year.

I tend to have dill and cilantro all over my garden every year.  A random marigold is a whimsical addition (and some marigolds deter nematodes).  This may be a blessing, not a problem, but some larger plants, like tomatoes and kale might end up crowding out the things you plant next year if left to their own devices.

open-bean-pods-gotfIf you intentionally let some of your crops go to seed, like the dill, cilantro, beans, calendula, sunflowers, etc. (see our Facebook posts on the subject), it should be about time to collect those seeds if you have not already.  Once the seeds are collected you can pull out the plants and add them to the compost.

We assume you have been weeding your garden, whether in the ground or in containers, all through the growing season to cut down on competition from ‘weeds’ for precious nutrients and water.  Even though your garden is finishing up, you should pull out and remove all ‘weeds’ that may have escaped notice.  If they are flowering or have seeds on them you should not put them in your compost.  Compost needs to get pretty hot to kill seeds.

 

“Nature abhors a vacuum.”  That means if some thing is not growing in a space, some other thing will arrive to fill it.  So bare soil will invite seeds blown or dropped in to germinate and root.

You can prevent this in a couple of different ways:

If you are growing in containers and they are small enough to easily move, put them some place where they are not exposed to rain and light.  Any weed seeds will be less likely to germinate over winter.

If you are growing in the ground you can:

1) Mulch the soil with three or four inches of grass clippings, shredded leaves, wood chips, straw, etc.  This will protect the soil from erosion and compaction.  It will protect the bacteria, earthworms and other denizens of the soil from the harsh extremes of winter.  It will also deny weed seeds light so any seeds that do germinate will die due to lack of light.  Those that do make it through the mulch will be easy to remove.  And as the mulch decomposes, it will add nutrients to the soil.

2) Grow a ‘cover crop’ like crimson clover, rye grain (not rye grass) or mustard.  This will do several things.  It will prevent erosion and compaction.  It will maintain the soil microbiology through winter.  And a legume like crimson clover will add Nitrogen to the soil; rye is “allelopathic” meaning it prevents other plants from growing, so it is a natural weed prevention; mustards kill or suppress diseases and pests.  (Many farmers plant all three for maximum over-winter benefit!  We used to do that on our farm.)  In the spring, you can either cut these to put them in your compost or chop them up (mow them down) and turn them into the soil to break down and add more organic matter to the soil.  If you do grow rye as a winter cover and turn it into your soil, wait two weeks before growing.  The allelopathy will dissipate by then.

3) If you are in a Hardiness Zone which is not too extreme, you can grow a cold tolerant crop into the winter!  If you start your winter crop early enough (now or earlier, depending on the crop and your location), you can be eating kale, carrots, beets, parsley, spinach, collards, lettuce, etc. for quite a while, maybe all the way to spring!  In our Zone 7 farm, we fed customers 10 months a year and ate from our fields all year round!

onionsIf you like garlic or onions and have the room, now is the time to plant some so it will be ready next year.  The onions in the photo at left are bunching onions.  We will pull them through the winter to add to recipes.  Notice the straw mulch to keep down weeds.

 

[If your containers are large or immobile, you can do these things to them also!]

 

Also, if you grow in the ground, now is a good time to have your soil tested.  If needed, agricultural lime applied now will have time to “sweeten” the soil for your next year’s garden.  The results of a soil test will tell you how much to use.

So, a little flurry of activity now as autumn advances will help give you a head start on spring – or you can continue enjoying produce for a while yet.

We hope this helps you continue to enjoy your garden and Nature.  Remember to explain to your young helpers what and why you are doing.  Don’t let good ‘teaching moments’ escape.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Good Plants to Know, Part 1

September 7, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

When out and about, whether in the ‘wild’ or wandering through ‘civilization’, there are several plants useful to be able to recognize.

 

The first is Plantain. This common weed came with the European colonists and is everywhere.

Narrow-leaf Plantain

Narrow-Leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

Wide-leaf Plantain

There are two species: Narrow-leaf (Plantago lanceolata) and Wide-leaf (Plantago major). They both work equally well. This is a good plant to be able to recognize when you get stung by an insect.

Pick a couple of leaves, chew them up and apply the chewed pulp to the bite. The saliva is important in activating the healing.

 

The next plant it would help to know is Jewelweed or Wild Touch-Me-Not. Its second name comes from the explosive way the fruit shatters to spread its seeds.

There are two species of this plant also: Spotted (Impatiens capensis), with orange flowers and Pale (Impatiens pallida) with pale yellow flowers. Both species get their more common name, Jewelweed, from the silvery shimmer a leaf submerged in water displays.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

Pale Jewelweed Flower

Pale Jewelweed Flower

This succulent plant is often found in moist soil, along streambeds, forest edges and roadsides. It is also often found near Poison Ivy – which is a good thing because Jewelweed is an antidote for Poison Ivy rash!

Just pick some leaves and stems, crush them up and rub the pulp on the exposed skin.

 

 

The next plant is useful to know so you can avoid it: Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, formerly Rhus toxicodendron). It is characterized by three waxy-leathery leaflets and a very ‘hairy’ vine stem. It has white flowers and berries and the leaves turn a beautiful red in autumn.

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy seedling

Poison Ivy Stem

Poison Ivy Stem

The winter-dormant roots and long-dead vines will still have the urushiol toxin, so it is good to know what they look like also. The roots tend to be orangish-yellow with many side rootlets.

If you rub against this plant, wash with cold water and LOTS of soap with scrubbing as soon as possible. If a rash develops, rub the rash with Jewelweed.

 

 

Lastly, Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a good friend to have around.

Put a poultice of yarrow leaves and flowers on a bruise to help it heal quicker.

Yarrow

Yarrow

And Yarrow leaves will stop bleeding from wounds like cuts, punctures and scrapes. You can dry the fine feathery leaves and carry them with you in an emergency first-aid kit.

When going out, know your friends.  Have fun and be safe.

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Grow or Pick Your Own

June 27, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Do you need something to do that is both fun and educational (and delicious)?

There is nothing better to teach an appreciation of the source of the food we eat, and the effort it takes to get that food to our table than a visit to a pick-your-own farm, berry patch or orchard.

P1110803We greatly miss the fresh blueberries we used to grow on our farm and have wanted to visit a blueberry farm down the road from us ever since we found out about it. We finally had the time and memory to go during blueberry season.

The berries were big and juicy and tasty. There were also plum, pear, peach and apple trees and currants – though only the currants were ready to harvest.P1110800

There were several varieties growing there. Some varieties ripen early, some later. This allows for a longer harvest and less fruit is likely to go un-harvested if it all ripens at once.

During your picking, ask the farmer how he or she takes care of the crop. Are the crops grown organically? How are the crops fertilized? How are they watered? Does she prune the plants? When and how? What varieties does she grow? Why? What special soil conditions do the crops need? What pests eat his crops and what does he do about it? (Our blueberry grower plays a loud series of bird alarm calls to keep several species of hungry birds away so people can eat them first! It seemed to be working since there were a lot of berries to pick.)P1110808

 

We also visited a local nursery. Not the kind with human babies; the kind with lots of plant babies. They had lots of tiny seedlings just starting and bigger plants ready to plant in a garden or put on a table.

You can learn how to start your own seeds, how to attract butterflies and more by talking to the people that own or work at a nursery.

There is SO much to learn from people who grow our food and help us grow our own food and make our home pretty.

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Local Treasures

May 10, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

Over Mother’s Day, we took a trip to Ohio to celebrate the family matriarch’s 90th birthday!

Two of the small towns we visited displayed perfect examples of being able to find ‘Nature’ just about anywhere you choose to seek it.

P1100581P1100654Chagrin Falls, Ohio has the picturesque Chagrin River (what else?) flowing through the center of town. What fish, reptiles (we saw a black water snake sunning on a rock in the middle of the river), amphibians, mollusks and birds (there were Canada geese strolling in the shallows between the two falls) would one find on close exploration?P1100601

Chagrin Falls also provides a beautiful park area next to the river and downtown with formal plantings, grassy lawns and shade trees. What other birds and insects and other creatures would provide study there?

 

Burton, Ohio has a central ‘square’ (a rectangle actually) with trees, lawn and other plantings. Many of the residences have lovely front yard gardens.

Not far from downtown Burton is a wetland area with trails. What plants and creatures make their home, permanently or transiently, there for someone to study with children or grandchildren?P1100645P1100674

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also near Burton is Punderson State Park offering a 150 acre lake and about 10 miles of trails open year-round. There’s a lot to explore there, too.

Surrounding both towns were miles of forest and farmland that were experiencing spring growth. Just from the road we could see skunk cabbage, mayapple and flowering trees and many other plants that would need closer inspection to identify. (Of course, always ask permission before exploring a neighbor’s or stranger’s property.)

Near our previous home there were the Haw River, Jordan Lake, Eno River State Park, Umstead State Park and much more.

And, of course, we now live near the Blue Ridge Parkway with trails to explore at many of the overlooks, the New River, The Watauga River, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Linville Falls,  Elk Knob State Park, our own back yard and so much more.

What Nature can you discover near your home?

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Repeating Spring

April 27, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

I hiked with one of our daughters this past weekend. P1100129

There was an area way up on the mountain, probably about 5,000 feet elevation were there were Spring Beauties and Trout Lilies galore. While we have hundreds of them in the woods above our house, there were Billions, if not Trillions, of them in this one large area along the trail!
‘Our’ Spring Beauties in the forest behind our home were done, but these were right at their peak!

P1100114
It reinforced for me how variable, adaptable and fluid Nature is and how someone could experience the same Spring conditions over and over and over again in a few weeks.
We could have gone down the mountain to the ‘flatlands’ to see these flowers a few weeks before they bloomed near our home. Seen them again a little higher up the mountain, again here at home and again higher up (like along that trail) yet elsewhere.
I see postings that proclaim dogwoods and redbuds bloomed weeks ago elsewhere while ours are just reaching their glory.
Our strawberries are just blooming here while they are already harvesting them at our old farm.

It’s like having a Replay button. Do you have friends or family that live further north or south or at lower or higher elevations you can visit to see Spring more than once?

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Planting Asparagus

April 20, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

The asparagus crowns are in! Next spring we may taste; the following year we’ll eat a full meal! Yum.

P1090995While being serenaded by robins and red-wing blackbirds, ‘we’ dug a trench about 12 feet long by 12 inches wide by 8 inches deep (and had to extend it 3 more feet when we found our bundle of ten was a baker’s dozen). [Ha! Explain the origin of the probably archaic ‘baker’s dozen’ to your little ones.]

 

 

 

P1100025Next we shoveled about an inch layer of compost into the bottom of the trench and laid out the crowns like little octopi, the centers 12 inches apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

P1100027Then more compost, unloaded by Deb, and alternating layers of dirt and compost to fill the trench. Lastly a good watering.P1100039

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some instructions say to only fill the trench half-way until the spears are up. We are expecting rain (The remnants of the terrible deluge that hit Houston, TX?) and we did not want the trench to fill with water.  I wonder how important this half-filled trench step is?  I cannot remember if I did this to the last asparagus bed I planted, but it produced for more than 16 years.

P1100018

‘Help’ from Eomer.

The next step is to mulch the new asparagus bed, which should produce for at least 15 years, if we care for it properly.

The last step is to wait: for the crowns to put up this year’s ‘fern’ growth to rejuvenate the buried crowns, for summer, fall and winter to pass and for the first spears to emerge NEXT spring!

One question I have is this: in North Carolina, the Cooperative Extension Service information pamphlet provided the above depth for setting the crowns. But what about areas that have colder winters (like we do) or areas further north? Should the crowns be set deeper if it is more likely to freeze more deeply into the soil?

P1100028(By the way, very thankfully, there were few large ‘cobbles’ to remove from the new bed!  But a few definitely turned out to be ‘flagstones’.)

 

 

 

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.

Biodynamic Calendar

March 19, 2016

Contributed by HarryHarry closeup glasses

When we farmed, we began using Biodynamic methods in 2003 in addition to the organic methods to which we adhered.

In the early 1920s, some farmers in Europe were noticing negative changes in the general health of their crops, livestock and farms. Some of this decline was attributed to the new synthetic fertilizers being introduced after World War I. Some of the followers of the philosopher Rudolf Steiner asked him for help.   In a single series of lectures he presented in June 1924, he proposed a set of agricultural principals and philosophy, which were actually founded on ancient traditional farming wisdom. His followers took his suggestions, researched them, expanded them and applied them. His teachings are some of the basis of what we call ‘organic’ farming today and more specifically what is now ‘Biodynamic’ farming.

Senposai

A 42-inch wide Senposai collard plant!

 

One small aspect of Biodynamics is a calendar to guide much of our activities. We still use the Biodynamic calendar for our gardening. There are other aspects of Biodynamics, which we will discuss at a later time.

We cannot explain why planting a tomato seed on one day (a so-called “Fruit day”) produces a healthier, more productive plant than starting that seed on another day (like a “Leaf day”). But, our experience showed us it does. It sounds like magic – maybe it is. All we know is it worked for us. Our customers were very happy with our produce and flowers.

The Biodynamic calendar has nothing to do the Farmers’ Almanac, Old Farmer’s Almanac or other almanac calendars. The Biodynamic calendar is based on the astronomical zodiac and the moon and planets, not astrology. (Stella Natura is the calendar we use. The North American Maria Thun Biodynamic Calendar is also available for North America.)

 

Basically, when the moon appears to pass ‘through’ constellations of the Ram (Aries), the Lion (Leo) and the Archer (Sagittarius) it is more favorable to work with plants we grow for their fruit. These are plants like tree fruits (apples, cherries, walnuts and avocados, etc.), legumes (beans, peas, etc.), cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, squash, etc.) the grains (corn, wheat, buckwheat, etc.), tomatoes, peppers and similar things. “Work with” means planting the seeds, transplanting seedlings, pruning, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting.

2-pound hakurai turnip

A 2-pound sweet, crisp Hakurai salad turnip!

As the moon passes through the Bull (Taurus), the Virgin (Virgo) and the Goat (Capricorn) it is preferable to work with plants whose ‘roots’ we want: carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, etc. Botanically, a potato is truly a stem and onions and garlic are actually leaves, but because they reside under the surface of the soil they are treated as roots.

There are similar periods for ‘leaf’ crops like lettuce, kale, chard, cabbage, etc. and yet other constellations influence ‘flower’ crops like all the ornamental and cut flowers and artichokes and broccoli (but not cauliflower, according to research, which is a ‘leaf’ crop – go figure).

In a 28-day lunar cycle, there will be 3 repetitions of Root, Flower, Leaf, and Fruit periods – in that specific order. Each period is a different length because the constellations are different sizes (unlike astrology): the Lion (Leo) Fruit period is 3 full days while the Crab (Cancer) Leaf period is about 30 hours.

 

When I first was learning about Biodynamic methods, it sounded like a lot of hooey and hocus-pocus. I was trained as a scientist not a magician or metaphysician. Well, scientists experiment. So I did. As my instructor passed on from his mentor, “Try it. You don’t have to believe it for it to work.” I tried it. It works. I still don’t understand how or why, but I believe it now.

 

Of course, planting and tending your plants on the ‘wrong’ day will not condemn them to debilitation and death, but why not give them every advantage you can.

 

It is time to garden!  Keep an eye on our FaceBook page, for updates on Biodynamic gardening. There are websites available that publish Biodynamic calendars online, (here is one, another and another) just don’t forget to translate the times to your location for the transitions from one period to the next.

 

Deb, Harry, bee balmNature enthusiasts Harry LeBlanc and Deb Vail are at home in the forest hiking to reach beautiful vistas and searching for native plants in the southern Appalachians. They are co-founders of Grandparents of the Forest, an intimate business offering simple yet meaningful ways for children and their parents to connect to Nature for well-being and healing. They also make Sacred Forest® Flower Essences from the plants they encounter. They are former organic farmers and parents of 5 grown children.