How does your garden grow?

The gardens at Hereford are continuing to grow and change. To follow the progress of student gardeners, click here.

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August 19, 2013 | summer in review

As the summer comes to a close, I wanted to take a look back and see how the garden has progressed over the last three months.  

May 23:

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July 14:

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August 13:

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These beds have shown the most change over my time spent in the garden.  They required a lot of care: weeding, watering (well, the plentiful rain in June and July helped a lot), stabilizing with posts, etc…

I think the pictures speak for themselves:

May 25:

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June 13:

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August 9:

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Thanks for reading our blog this summer! I enjoyed being a part of the project!

Meg

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August 14, 2013 | Hops | Humulus americanus, H. lupulus

Today’s feature is Hops.  Hops is well known as an ingredient in brewing beer, but research shows that is has other uses as well.

Plant Family: Cannabinaceae (Hemp Family) 

Plant Type: Perennial 

Place of Origin: Britain, but grew wild in America and was used by the Pilgrims. 

First Jefferson Reference: 1780s (Notes)

Uses: 

Culinary 

Used for the brewing industry for the creation of ale, distinguished by its origins from beer by the Germans or the Dutch 

Medicinal 

Used as an oil (sedative, stomachic, tonic, improve the appetite, and promote sleep) 

The drug, Lupulin, comes from hops and is “mildly sedative, inducing sleep without causing headache” 

Used as a tincture (mixed with water, it helps with heart disease, fits, neuralgia, indigestion, jaundice, and stomach/liver problems) 

As Hop Tea, it is good for sluggish livers and cleansing the blood; externally, it helps in swelling or boils 

Here I’ll show you how I took the hops from the plant to a state where it could be used as an ingredient.  Many of the above uses require the hop to be dried.  There are many methods to drying, and as I only wanted to dry a small amount of hops, this is a very do-able, small scale method.  

First, I found hops that looked healthy (not brown or shriveled), and carefully plucked them from their stem.  These cones are actually the flower of the hops plant.

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Here, you can see my small collection of hops and their various sizes:

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My research indicated that the ideal place to dry the hops would be a warm, dry location.  For me, my basement storage room was an ideal spot.  It was warm and because we run a dehumidifier in the room, it is by far the driest room I have access to.  I set up a screen for the hops to be splayed on to.  I simply took screen material and draped it over two sawhorses, securing the screen to the legs with zip ties.  (This setup worked for me because I already had these materials and because it fit in my storage room.  I read that on a larger scale, you would have many screens set up so that the hops were spread out as a single layer on the screen, and therefore the drying area would be much larger: a garage, a greenhouse with fans, etc…)

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Next, I simply laid the hops on the screen, leaving enough room around each hop so that it would receive the flow of air that would dry it out.

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You can see here that each cone is still emerald green and the bracts (each pedal) are still hugged into the center of the flower.

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Four days later, the bracts of the hops flowers have dried away from the center of the cone and the color is a little lighter green than the freshly picked brilliant emerald green hops.

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Each bract feels papery and each flower is far lighter in weight than four days ago.  I plan to let the hops dry out for a few more days to ensure they have lost all their moisture.  Next, I will store them in an air-tight container and freeze them until I’m ready to use them in a recipe.  

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I have some experience with home-brewing, so eventually I would like to include these hops in my next batch of beer.  However, the recipes I have used before have called for hops pellets, which are little nuggets of dried hops that are easily measured and added during the brewing process.  It will take a little more research and planning to find a good recipe using freshly dried hops.  I’ll keep you posted on my process and results!

Meg

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August 2, 2013 | Garden Update

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end of July has not required a great deal of maintenance in the garden.  As you can see, the plants are growing beautifully and we are reveling in the joy of reaping the benefits of our hard work in June and early July.  Below are a few small tasks we’ve accomplished in the last few weeks as well as a few prize blooms.

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When the nutmeg seed pods dried out, we opened them to remove the seeds to be used next year.Image

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The wormwood and southernwood were getting a little too tall, so we cut them to about a foot tall. (I did this about a week and a half ago, and there is already new growth, as expected).Image

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The sunflowers have finally bloomed!Image

 

Sesame bloom:Image

Cotton bloom:Image

A visiting Luna Moth:IMG_4233

 

We are looking forward to what the garden will produce in the last weeks of summer.  Stay tuned for posts about indigo and hops.

Meg

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July 30, 2013 | Soapwort

Meg brought some of her homemade Sumac-ade to our last workday so we could all sample it. It was mild but quite refreshing! This evening I experimented with making liquid soap from soapwort, one of the wild herbs that we grow in the Demo Garden. Here are some fast facts on soapwort from the TJDG Guidebook:

SOAPWORT

Saponaria officinalis

Plant Family: Caryophyllaceae

Plant Type: Perennial

Place of Origin: Europe

First Jefferson Reference: 1780s

Used Medicinally:

  • Can clear up congestion from colds
  • As an effective sternutatory, or chemical that causes sneezing and coughing
  • European settlers used it to treat acne and skin problems, like the poison ivy rash

Used Industrially: 

  • Contains saponins and glycosides that foam and act like soap when used with water (caution: saponin content makes it dangerous in large doses)
  • Can be used as a body wash, clothing cleaner, or shampoo 
  • Used as soap substitute in the Middle Ages to clean animal fibers

Tonight I used soapwort in two (slightly) different ways to create both a skin cleanser and shampoo. Making the skin cleanser is similar to making tea. You pour a cup of boiling water over a handful of chopped soapwort leaves and let it steep for 5 minutes. Strain the leaves out and allow the liquid to cool before using it to clean your face or body. You could add a couple drops of an essential oil to suit your skin type or add fragrance. I plan on washing my face with my soapwort cleanser and a little lavender oil tonight – I’ll let you know how it goes!

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To make soapwort shampoo, I brought a cup of water and a 1/4 cup of chopped soapwort leaves to a boil, covered the pot, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. I then strained the leaves and let the shampoo cool. I only used a cup of water, which yielded about three tablespoons of shampoo in the end. Depending on how much hair you have and how much shampoo you need to get it clean, you might want to use two cups of water and perhaps a half cup of soapwort leaves. As with the skin cleanser, you could add your favorite essential oil to jazz it up. Oils good for normal hair include lavender, rosemary, lemon, cedarwood, and thyme. Oils good for dry hair include lavender, rosemary, and sandalwood. Oils good for oily hair include lavender, rosemary, peppermint, and cypress. I’ll update the blog after I wash my hair with the soapwort shampoo. 

After I strained the soapwort out of the shampoo, I rinsed out the pot and was very impressed with the foamy suds that formed!

ImageWe’ll see how my skin and hair likes it!

Sources: 

http://econest.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-i-love-soapwort-and-few-soapwort.html

http://www.experience-essential-oils.com/essential-oils-for-hair.html

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July 26, 2013 | Smooth Sumac | Rhus glabra

For the remainder of the summer, our goal is to share with you some examples of how to use the plants in the demo garden.

Today, I am featuring Sumac.

Previous research done by a garden intern shows that there are many uses for Sumac berries, leaves and bark.  Here is a breakdown:

Plant Family: Anacardiaceae (Sumac Family)

Plant Type: Perennial

Place of Origin: United States

First Jefferson Reference: 1780s (Notes)

Uses: 

Culinary 

(Berries) Edible and can be used to make tea or lemonade; good source of vitamin C

Medicinal

(Leaves + Bark) When made into a decoction or syrup, is helpful in treating diarrhea, dysentery, and even gonorrhea

(Berries) Used to treat diabetes, and as a wash for ulcers

(Berries + Bark) Gargle mixture to treat sore throats

Can serve as a simple antiseptic to external wounds

Industrial

(Leaves + Bark) Contain tannins, which can be used as a brown dye

I chose to test the culinary uses of the berry by making the lemonade.

First, I harvested the panicles of berries from our Sumac plants.  I read that it would take about 6 clusters of berries to make a pitcher of Sumac-ade.

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As you can see, the berries are deep red and velvety.

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Next, I rinsed the clusters in water to wash off any dirt or bug residue.  Then I immersed them in a pitcher of cold water.

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I took a pestle and mashed up the berry clusters as best I could.  Then I left the pitcher alone for 4 hours while the berries steeped in the cold water.

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Hours later, the water was a light amber color.  I strained the berries out of the water and was left with Sumac-ade!

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The flavor is very mild.  I’ve had batches of Sumac-ade before that were very tart.  It would be interesting to know if the level of tart was dependent of variety of Sumac, time of year harvested, or maybe hours steeped in water. Regardless, I plan to add a little sugar and a lemon wedge to my Sumac-ade and I think it will be a very refreshing summer beverage!

Meg

 

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July 15, 2013

This week we are continuing to notice growth in the plants, some of which are almost ready to harvest! We had another very rainy week–leaving the ground very damp all week.  As a result, Ava and I took the opportunity to clean out the greenhouse since we didn’t need to water the plants.  It is now very organized and easy to access the tools and other garden implements.

During our group work day we decided to clean out the salsify and wheat beds.  The wheat never thrived this season, so we decided it was best to take it out and plant buckwheat as a cover crop in both beds to revitalize the soil.

Ava and I will soon begin to experiment with the usefulness of plants in the garden and share with you our process and result.  I will be working with Sumac and Hops and Ava will work with Soapwort and Indigo, so stay tuned!

Panorama from July 14, 2013:

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The sesame, corn and cotton have grown taller this week:

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Ava hammering in a bamboo stake to stabilize the Sunflowers:

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We used the same method of staking the Sunflowers as we did with the Jerusalem Artichoke (staking around the whole bed as opposed to each plant).  We also staked the corn, but decided to stake each stalk individually since they are more spread out.

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Ava sowing buckwheat seeds in the salsify bed:

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Each wheat plant should look like this but many of them look like they had been chewed on…

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so we pulled them and planted buckwheat:

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The tansy and cotton are flowering; we are waiting for the nutmeg seed pods to open so we can collect the seeds for next year; the cowpea is ready to harvest.  We tried the cowpea seed pod and it tastes a lot like a green bean–delicious!

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-Meg

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