Gardening Jobs in June

Gardening Jobs in June

There are plenty of gardening jobs to do in June!

If you thought that now the growing season is in full swing you can kick back and relax, you are mistaken. June is a rather busy month in the garden, especially if you want to continue harvesting veggies in the fall and winter.

 

But first things first:

Slugs and snails are very hungry at this time of the year. You will have to beat them to it if you want some of those veggies for yourself. Regular slug hunts at dusk and dawn are the most effective way to keep them at bay.

To keep the soil cool and prevent it from drying out, mulch all around your plants, especially around thirsty ones such as tomatoes and zucchinis. Mulching also helps to control the slugs.

Water regularly, but not excessively.

By now, your tomatoes should be in the ground. Gently tie them to their support and pinch out the side shoots.

On hot days, make sure you don’t forget to ventilate the tunnel or greenhouse.

Harvest herbs, such as savoury, oregano and lemon balm before they begin to flower.

 

Sowing:

Hurray, it is finally warm enough to sow Basil and Coriander!

You are probably already harvesting lettuce, rocket and radishes, and maybe even snow peas. For successive crops, continue sowing them until the end of July.

You can sow beans now, but protect them well against slugs – they love the young shoots!

If your season is long enough and the climate reasonably mild, you still have a chance to sow courgettes and pumpkins -but hurry up, it is getting late! Young plants can be planted into their permanent position now.

Autumn/winter veggies like autumn leeks and brassicas like kales and cabbage can be sown until the middle of June.

The middle of June is the end of rhubarb and asparagus harvesting time.

 

Wildlife

Don’t forget the animals at this time of the year – they really appreciate a source of clean cool water and some seeds or fruit.

 

Image by Krzysztof Niewolny from Pixabay

Permaculture – Paradigm Shift for a Sustainable Way of Life

Permaculture – Paradigm Shift for a Sustainable Way of Life

It is easy to get down on the way things are going in the world – climate change is no longer a fringe topic, yet any plans to address it fall far short of what would be needed to halt it. Growing levels of pollution, consumer goods designed for the landfill, destruction of habitats and ecosystems all contribute to our demise.

It is easy to give up and resign oneself to the ‘that’s just the way it is,’ mentality while burying one’s head deeply in the sand. One person alone can’t do much anyway, so why bother worrying about anything, right?

Wrong! It doesn’t have to be that way. And right now, as we are beginning to see the light again at the end of the tunnel, we have a unique chance to do things differently. One thing many of us have learnt to appreciate over the past year or so is the importance of nature when all the entrapments of our postmodern lifestyles begin to crumble.

Paradigm shift

Things are changing, quietly and persistently. People are looking for a quieter, more sustainable way of life and the idea is spreading, sprouting at the grass-roots level, from one community to the next.

It has been said that the next revolution will be fought in our gardens, and I am beginning to see it that way, too. It will be fought with peas and love – a non-violent, lifestyle revolution called ‘Permaculture’, a growing movement, not just across the country, but across the entire globe.

You may have heard of it. Sometimes referred to as the ‘no-dig system of gardening’, many conventional growers, and even organic growers, dismiss it as a naive and impractical way to feed the multitudes around the world. And, perhaps that would be true if the aim was to swap industrial farms for permaculture farms while continuing with ‘business as usual’ with our economic system.

But that is an illusion. Industrial farming is on the brink of collapse – its ‘paradigm’ based on ‘war against nature’ and ‘war against insects’, its soils are depleted and ecosystems have been degraded, just to maximize short-term profits. To that end, GMO seeds are engineered to withstand being doused with toxic chemicals. The result is predictable: resistant ‘competitors’ – so-called superweeds and insects from hell. Has the message got through yet, that we cannot win this war? And that continuing to fight it will mean our certain demise?

paradigm shift

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The paradigms of Permaculture, on the other hand, are based on abundance, cooperation, and sharing. Permaculture seeks to restore rather than exploit ecosystems. ‘Thinking globally and acting locally’ – If yields are higher than what is needed, they can be sold on a wider national or international market. But, let’s produce local food for local people.

Presently the marketplace is based on cash crop economics, exploiting disenfranchised communities. Their land is ‘grabbed’ by multinationals and turned into monocultures – like palm oil, coffee, or bananas. Peasants have no land nor time to grow enough food to feed themselves. Instead, they barely survive on the pennies they earn for their labour in this ‘feudal’ system that has its roots in colonial times.

We can’t change the whole world at once, but we can start in our own backyards. We can create cooperative permaculture farms sharing harvests with neighbours and friends, thus reducing reliance on industrial agriculture that brings us products from around the world at an enormous human and environmental cost.

How is Permaculture different from Organic Farms?

Permaculture design is fundamentally different from all types of conventional agriculture – even organic farms. Permaculture seeks to imitate and cooperate with nature. One of the ‘fathers’ of Permaculture, Bill Mollison, grouped its philosophy into three ethical paradigms and 12 principles.

The ethical paradigms speak for themselves:

  • care for the earth,
  • care for people and
  • fair share

The 12 principles of permaculture require a bit more of an explanation:

1. Observe and Interact:

Permaculture aims to work with nature. The gardener observes and tries to understand the processes that are at work in a given habitat, then interacts with these to support some features and maybe discourage or relay others.

2. Catch and Store Energy

Resource management is a crucial aspect of the system – water and compost are crucial resources. By recycling greywater and building catchment areas for rainwater, it can be harvested and retained instead of losing it to run-off.

Likewise, biomass is returned to the soil in the form of compost and mulch. The continuous process of nurturing the soil restores its vitality. Instead of becoming depleted it is invigorated and restored.

3. Obtain a Yield

Permaculture is not intended as an act of ‘self-sacrifice’. We all need to live and our ‘input’ must produce some kind of worthwhile ‘output’. Ideally, our gardens would provide for all our needs, but it is limiting to think of ‘yield’ only in terms of consumable ‘products’. Aesthetics or relaxation can also be a ‘yield’.

4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback

In a world of limited resources, we need to strive for balance and ensure that not only our present needs are met, but that the needs of generations yet to come can also be met. And that the ecosystem as a whole (with all its interactions) must be taken into consideration. Permaculture aims to produce abundance for all the species that share a particular space. The effects of our actions take a while to manifest. We should always observe and respond to the ‘feedback’ we are getting and be prepared to change our ways if the effects turn out to be damaging to any part of the system as a whole.

5. Use and Value: Renewable Resources and Services

Nature supplies us with everything we need. Make use of all the resources that are already available, share and trade, upcycle or repurpose things that are already at your disposal instead of buying new stuff.

6. Produce No Waste

As an extension to the 5th principle, consider the impact of everything you buy or produce. Kitchen scraps can be composted – but what about all the plastic? If it can’t be recycled, reused, repaired or repurposed it is ultimately designed for the waste dump and will continue to be a burden on the planet for a long time to come. Aim for zero waste.

7. Design: From Patterns to Details

Before starting to work on a plot, consider the seasons and weather pattern, geological patterns and features. Clever design can save you work. Utilize whatever is available to maximum effect. Focus first on the overall patterns, then fill in the details.

8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate

Nature does not create monocultures – they leave crops vulnerable to pests and diseases. Instead, nature creates eco-systems that thrive in unison. The pests of one plant are the ‘helpers’ of another or food for the birds. The balance is kept in check and neither becomes dominant if the garden is geared towards producing abundance and diversity.

In Permaculture, garden plots are not planted with single varieties, as plant communities composed of various species that can thrive together within the garden ecosystem.

9. Use Small and Slow Solutions

We frequently think that we need ‘big’ solutions to deal with big problems. But often the opposite is true – especially when it comes to gardening. The earth is made up of millions of micro-environments that call for special adaptations rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. Working at a smaller scale also means it is more manageable.

10. Use and Value Diversity

Diversity is a key concept of permaculture. Natural conditions are constantly changing and organisms respond by adaptation. Different species have evolved to thrive in different conditions. We never know what sort of weather we may have during the growing season – and given the effects of climate change, weather extremes have become the norm, rather than the exception. The best way to safeguard food security is to plan for these extremes by planting different varieties of the same species to spread the risk. Depending on actual weather conditions that year, certain varieties will thrive while others won’t. Food security depends on diversity – not on just a few, patented seeds that have been manipulated to resist the chemical weapons of industrial agriculture.

11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal

The margins are the most interesting areas of the garden. This is where different elements can interact and adapt. In nature, marginal environments are often the most diverse. Socially, too, the ‘fringe’ is where new ideas are born.

12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change

Change is the only constant. By anticipating change rather than resisting it, we can use it as an opportunity and adapt to the challenge.

The 12 principles of permaculture apply to small or large scale horticultural projects and even to large scale ecosystem restoration. But permaculture is not only about food. It is ultimately about ecology, which includes human ecology – human/nature interactions. It is about restoring the integrity of the web of life, of which we are but one strand among many.

Resources:

Banner image by John Hain from Pixabay

Plantains – Plantago sp.

Plantains – Plantago sp.

Introduction

Most of us are familiar with the broad-leaved plantain, a common weed that seems to grow just about anywhere. Or, perhaps you also know the Ribwort Plantain, with its long, slender leaves. But did you know that this genus of humble weeds comprises some 200 species that occur all over the world? 

 

As masters of adaptation, Plantains are ubiquitous. They have managed to eke out a living in almost every conceivable kind of habitat. Gardeners curse them as intruders when they cannot abolish them from their neat lawns and paths. But they are oblivious to this humble plant’s remarkable healing properties!

 

Name

Linnaeus named the genus, ‘Plantago’ which derives from the Latin word ‘plantar’ meaning ‘foot’. He intended to convey that these plants go wherever they want – or rather, wherever we go and spread their seeds, via the bottoms of our boots. This property was not lost on the Native Americans either. They called it ‘white man’s footprint’ as they watched it spread across their land.

 

History

In neolithic times, the broad-leaved Plantain (Plantago major) was held sacred for it grew nowhere better than on the old straight track, the ceremonial causeway. They were always kept clean and free of weeds, but the plantain proved unconquerable. Hence it was called ‘Wegerich’ or, ‘King of the road’.

The Anglo-Saxons included it in their ‘Nine Herbs Charm’, calling it ‘Waybread’. This name refers to its use as a sacrament. Sacrificial victims were given a gruel of Plantain seeds as a kind of ‘Last Supper’.

 

Its amazing resilience and determination to return eternally, no matter how often it was cut or removed, were a sure sign of its supernatural powers. Thus, Plantain roots were used as a talisman to protect the traveller and its leaves put into shoes was supposed to keep the feet happy and untiring.

Ribwort Plantain
Image credit: Kathy Büscher from Pixabay

Medicinal use

 

Constituents: mucilage, glycoside (Aucubin – an antimicrobial and liver protective agent), ursolic acid, tannins, silicon, vitamin C, K, citric acid, potassium, and zinc

 

Action: bitter, astringent, anti-hepatotoxic, laxative (bulking agent), antispasmodic, antibiotic, expectorant, cooling, soothing drying

 

Plantain has an amazing range of healing properties. The leaf contains an antibacterial glycoside that is effective against many types of bacteria. 

External use

The fresh leaves make a very effective and readily available anti-bacterial band-aid that can be used on all kinds of scrapes, small wounds and insect or even spider bites. Just take a leaf, rub it between your fingers so that the juice comes out and apply it directly to the sting or wound. The roots are said to be similarly effective on scorpion stings and snake bites.

A paste made from the boiled seeds of broad-leaved plantain draws out splinters and thorns.

 

An infusion of the leaves combined with oak bark makes a good mouth-wash for gingivitis or stomatitis or for cleansing wounds (even festering ones. )or to treat varicose veins, haemorrhoids, ulcers. The leaves contain silicon which strengthens and tightens connective tissues.

 

Internal use:

For internal use, it makes an excellent tea or syrup for treating diseases of the respiratory system. The leaves of the Ribwort plantain are particularly effective as they are anti-inflammatory and expectorant. The antibiotic properties of the fresh juice can even be used for the treatment of tuberculosis. But upon drying the antibiotic effect diminishes.

 

The fresh juice also makes a good blood cleansing remedy and can also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent for treating swollen glands.

 

Plantain can support other organ systems as well. Its antimicrobial properties can improve intestinal health (fresh juice) and its anti-hepatotoxic effect protects the liver better than milk-thistle seeds. 

 

An infusion of the leaves helps to control diarrhoea, while the seeds are a great aid for the elimination of waste products and for weigh-loss. As they are water-soluble (especially those of Plantago psyllium), they bulk up the stomach content and absorb and eliminate toxins. This also makes them useful as a safe and effective remedy for constipation. But drink PLENTY of water to facilitate excretion.

 

Recent research has shown the seeds of the broad-leaved plantain to have potent anti-cancer properties.

 

Foraging

Plantains are edible. The young leaves can be added to salads or used as a potherb when combined with other herbs. (Older leaves tend to be rather tough and stringy.) The leaves make a great addition to green smoothies, while the roasted seeds can be mixed into the porridge or muesli, and the birds love them too!

Gardening Jobs in May

Gardening Jobs in May

Gardening Jobs in May

What gardening jobs are there to do in May? In my neck of the woods, April has been unusually cool and wet. I didn’t manage to get all my April jobs done and my ‘gardening jobs agenda’ for May is rather full. The wheel of the year is turning, and the garden does not wait.

Potatoes

If you managed to get all your potatoes planted in April, they are probably developing their first leaves by now. That is the time when you can start to earth them up for the first time. Cover the leaves with soil so only the tops are peeking out. Repeat this process regularly as the plants grow and develop.

Sweet Corn

If you are planting sweet corn you can sow them in deep pots indoors now. That way they will get a head-start. Transplant them to a sunny spot in June.

Beans

Once there is no more risk of late frosts you can begin to sow all kinds of beans outside (runner, broad, dwarf). They like a sunny spot, but not too hot. Protect them from the slugs and snails – young bean shoots seems to be their favourite snack. If slugs are a big problem it is best to start the plants in seed trays and transplant them only once they are strong enough to withstand a slug attack.

Warmth-loving plants: Tomatoes, Peppers, Courgettes, Aubergines

Your tomato, aubergine and pepper plants are probably growing fast now. There comes a point when they seem to be yelling ‘get me out of here and plant me into the garden!’ Resist the temptation unless there is no more danger of late frosts in your growing zone. But, to appease them, you can start to harden them off. Take them outside during the day, but bring them back in at night.

You can also still sow cucumbers and melons – but keep them warm and protected for now.

Salad Veg and Greens

Sow batches of salad vegetables like radishes and lettuce as well as Swiss chard and rocket to ensure a continuous supply.

Root crops

You can still sow root crops such as carrots, beetroots, leeks and turnips.

Winter Veg

Sow Leeks and brassicas for overwintering. It is best to start them off indoors to protect them from slug- and insect attacks.

Kitchen Herbs

It is also the perfect time to sow warmth-loving herbs such as basil and coriander. These also need to be protected from ravenous slugs.

Weeds

May is lush! Everything sprouts and grows – including the weeds. But no need to curse them – if you can’t beat them – eat them! Check to see what wild edibles are among the garden weeds that could be turned into a ‘foraged’ dinner. Bishop’s Weed, Stinging Nettles, Ground Ivy, Wild Garlic and Dandelion are all excellent in the ‘wild food cuisines’.

Flowers

If you have open spots in the borders you can sow annuals like Californian poppies, or nasturtiums for extra colour in the summer. The bees and insects love them, too.

Maintenance Jobs

There are always maintenance jobs that need to be taken care of:

  • If you have a pond, check for pondweed and algae and clean it out if necessary.
  • Build supports for climbing plants.
  • Keep bird feeder and birdbaths clean.

Happy Gardening!

 

Happy Beltane!

Happy Beltane!

On May 1, we celebrate Beltane, the festival of spring. Mother Earth is donning her lushest gown of flowers and blossoms, and birds are singing from the trees. The heart rejoices as the spirit soars! At Beltane, we celebrate the magical powers of creativity, fertility and abundance – the sheer miraculous beauty of life. The God and the Goddess who preside over the undying force of life are in love, turning the land green and lush wherever they go. Every fragrant flower – a kiss and a blessing of their adoration. Let’s share in their passion and celebrate life’s miracle! Beauty, love and merry-making are their rituals. Taste the zest of life! If you have a garden, you are witnessing and partaking in this magic as you nurture your young seedlings. Pouring energy into your budding projects produces a similar experience of participating in this magic of creating. The magic of manifestation lies in the nurture and love that nurtures the seed ideas. Take time to reflect on nature’s generosity and practice gratitude and mindfulness to attune to every nuance of this blessed time of the year.   Photo credit: Image by Ronny Overhate from Pixabay

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