Well, this might finally be the edible chrysanthemum day!
We had some really nice weather last week so the bug hit. Someone helped me to do some indoor jump start planting. Taking into account all that was learned last year and regretting the late start, I got a seedling heat mat from a hydroponics supplier. We put the Ayurvedic herbs on this mat because bhringaraj germination requires heat. The mat raises the temperature under the germination station by 10-20 degrees so hopefully we are not too far short of the required heat. The first 200 starts were seeded Wednesday afternoon and some of the salad greens, including the shungiku chrysanthemums were already appearing above the surface yesterday.
Last year, I tried the usual nursery supply black plastic pots as well as various other pots, including all sorts of alleged miracles. I was rather disappointed in all of them so this year, thanks to a tip from Nadamayi and Phil, we used soil blocks. Basically, what is involved is playing in the mud. We made our mixture with garden soil, added minerals (from the sprouter supply page), compost from my bin with the red wigglers, and some coconut husks. Then, you pack the brass soil pot with thick mud and eject it. The 200 units required 2 x 4 feet of surface space and the room where Fiesta and I spend the day seems to be much warmer thanks to the seedling mat. Yesterday, we made another 200 and put those in the room with the cockatoos because the rest of the house is really not warm enough.
Learning from the past, I concentrated really hard on my bee seva. I was so moved by the picture of the bee inside the crocus that looked like a bee hatching from an egg that I not only bought a copy of the picture to have framed but I have concentrated on providing flowers that are nourishing to bees from as early in the season as possible to as late as possible. In my first year of bee seva, I found the bees liked sedum better than what some web sites tell you. I had lots of basil, but when I watched the bees, I thought to understudy them rather than the web.
First, they like false dandelions. These actually have the same medicinal properties as the genuine items and they appear to be excellent soil remediation plants. I therefore decided not the weed them. Celeste specifically told the animal communicator that she also prefers dandelions to some of the offerings I bring her. She was specific about what she likes and apparently spends considerable time exchanging information on colors with Sky who seems to be an authority on this subject. From their window, they can see everything in the front yard so they tell me what to bring them. Their preferences tend to run along the same lines as the bees, and when I give the flowers to Celeste, she begins by licking the inside of the flowers. She holds them by the stems and spends rather a lot of time carefully savoring the tastes and sometimes she looks a little quizzical, like try that one again. All my birds love rosemary and lavender, but the dandelions caught me by surprise. Moreover, like the bees and butterflies, they prefer flowering plants to lettuce and arugula leaves.
In any event, the primroses and some tulips beat the crocuses to bloom this year. My sweet white ones are just pushing up now but the bees are here already and must be hungry indeed. While adding the new seeds to landscapingrevolution.com, I completely reorganized the presentation so now there are separate pages for Ayurvedic herbs, bees and butterflies, cover crops, soil remediation, and edible plants. The medicinal plants are sprawled across four pages so the next goal is to present ways for you to process the plants into medicine, but first, of course, you have to grow them. Depending on the plant, the first harvest could be weeks or years. So, on the quick list are the edible chrysanthemums. They are ready for the plate quite a bit earlier than other salad greens which is only one argument for starting them now.
Shungiku can be eaten raw or cooked. Here are some nice links:
About a decade ago, Gabriel Howearth and I were invited to Minnesota/Wisconsin to consult with a famous person about some new ideas he had for commercial products. He had rather a lot of acreage and wanted to grow some things himself. Gabriel, who has eyes like a hawk, emphasized the importance of urban gardening as the best way to protect seeds and plants from the onslaught of genetically modified crops. He urged everyone to plant everything they could, even in small spaces, as the best way for preserving native species plants and shielding them from cross pollination. This included every space available from school yards to window sills. You can see how far ahead of his time he was back then. So, while mentioning Gabriel, I have not provided many progress reports because his process seemed to be increasingly personal. However, after more than a year of life and death adventures with hospitalization, medications, and physiotherapy, he is finally back in Baja California where he is recovering some lost motor skills. His memory has remained perfectly in tact but he had some neurological issues. Throughout this time, he has had absolutely immense support from family, friends, and colleagues and even personal visits by Dr. Andrew Weil. Maybe in a few months, I will add to this report, but I still believe he needs some privacy to process all he has been through. Life-threatening challenges either get us or they don't, but if we survive, we are surely deeper and wiser for our experience.
Taking the lesson a step further, the emphasis I have put on sourcing seeds from specific places also has a purpose. In the past, I have used the term "heirloom" but there are other words with equal power, like "native species" or, to use a botanical term, "official." Thanks to hobbyist gardeners, many varieties have been cultivated for their showiness but they might not be the best specimens of their type if they are more dependent on herbicides or if they are less drought tolerant or less sturdy in the face of wind or storms or less nutritious because there are more flowers and less leaves or weaker root systems. Enough said, most of you have the picture now. I have gone to great lengths to tell you how every time I fill up the bird seed dishes, the birds spend the first minutes carefully removing the corn. Sky fell off his perch once and when I asked the animal communicator about it, he said he ate corn and had a headache and lost his balance. They are so apprehensive now about corn that even when I give them home grown organic corn, they leer at it suspiciously for at least 30 minutes before daring to taste a single kernel.
It would be very hard for me to maintain my composure in a room full of suits from Monsanto et al, but to underscore that I am committed is really an understatement. We have to reclaim our planet from the pirates. This said, I am 100% in favor of biodiversity, meaning that growing amla in other places than South Asia protects the future supply of amla in case of disaster. We ought to know this from history. We had the Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s and French grape blight a century later. Recovery was possible because of diversity and the ability to import from areas that had once been export destinations. So, I am experimenting with lots of exotic plants that are not at all native to the Pacific Northwest.
My Fukuoka experiments have been 85-90% successful. I would like to say I have done no tilling or weeding but it's not quite true, 10-15% not true, but I am heading there, I hope. I am totally convinced that no till is the way to go. The challenges are in the early years when you have to get your soil and mulch and compost from somewhere or other. What is labeled "organic" can be yard waste from people who, in fact, were not gardening organically. In short, the word means "no chemicals added after dumping." Frankly, that is a bit of a stretch so it will, in fact, take a few years to rebuild the soil. If I push it to go faster, I will have to import some rubbish from somewhere so I am going to put on the brakes this year and only generate my own mulch and compost.
So, starting all this in my mid-sixties is indeed late, just as planting in May is too late in some instances. As I have just indicated, to get a jump on the season, you do not need a greenhouse, just a few square feet in the house somewhere. I am also taking my kaya kalpa preparations very seriously. I am planting my own herbs and will soon present you the list of the herbs that are most important, but I want to finish the essays on dhatus first. It being Sunday tomorrow, maybe I can wrap up rasa dhatu.
In the meantime, having worked for weeks on the enhancement of landscapingrevolution.com, I want to make a few pitches. First, I replaced the search feature with something that only searches that one site unless you request it to search another site by using the dropdown menu to the right of the search button. This helps you to zero in on exactly what you want. Second, last night, I installed a handy list of herb names that is, thanks to some tips from Ilsa, sortable. If you click on the column title, it will alphabetize by botanical name or common name.
The seed collections always were on a separate page, but now, the exact ingredients in each package, up-to-date with the changes this year, are very clearly listed. These sets are cleverly put together for people who want to produce food, Hoedown Collection; culinary herbs for garnishes and salads, Mother's Kitchen; medicinal herbs, Lifeline Collection. For those with a passion for specific plants, there are also packets of lavender, mint, thyme, holy basil, and asparagus. Little by little, I am also adding enhancements on gardening:
For a new site that is essentially a hobby for stolen hours here and there, the site is developing its own character and usefulness. The store is now operating from the same database as the Ayurvedic Bazaar and Black Cumin Seed sites, meaning that you can jump from one site to the other and use a single check out. Just keep in mind that the cart self destroys after 20-30 minutes so you need to keep it busy to prevent loss of items you have added.
Did I say I am working 'round the clock? However, I am also thinking hard about how to keep going a bit longer in this body and will hopefully be discussing this more and more in months to come. It being spring or almost, gardening is urgent and I know you need to plan your activities also.
One last comment today. I have mentioned that I did not plant enough flowers last year. I know that everyone involved in permaculture is adamant about this, but my flowers needed to be much closer to the edible plants and they needed to start very early in the season and go late. The last flowering annual to bite the dust was cordao. It was fascinating. I only had two plants and they were eventually taller than I am by quite a measure. Using the permaculture method of leaving the roots in the ground to rot and feed the soil, we used a serrated hori-hori to saw through an amazing stalk that was a good two inches in diameter. That was a lot of growth for a few months. The flowers were intriguing and colorful, very late to appear but they remained even after the first snow. The bees did enjoy having something that late in the season but they were gangbusters on the rhododendrons last year, but that was early June. In short, I am planning really hard now to keep a lot more going for longer periods so if someone of you has already created a plan, please share it.