Thursday, July 20, 2017

How to grow cucamelons

Every year I try to grow something in my garden that we have never had before. It gives us a chance to try something new that we normally wouldn't have access to. There are so many cool fruits and vegetables out there, that I just have to try as many as possible! Last year I decided to grow Cucamelons (Melothria scabra).

Melothria scabra is a vine with Ivy-like leaves and grape sized fruit that looks like mini watermelons but taste kind of like a cucumber. Cucamelons are also known as mouse melon and Mexican Sour Gherkin. They're common name in Spanish is “sandiita” (little watermelon). They're are really easy to grow and they produce fruit for months!

how to grow cucamelons

Cucamelons originally come from Central America. They are fast growing once established and require very little care. Even though cucamelons are pretty common in the southwest, they are still fairly rare up north. While cucamelons may look like some kind of fancy new hybrid, they are not. They are non GMO and have a long history of use. 

When growing less common plants you'll need to start from seed as your local plant nursery will probably not have cucamelons. You probably won't be able to find seeds in stores either, but there are several sources online. I ordered my seeds from Bakers Creek. They were not expensive and I had a high germination rate.

Monday, July 17, 2017

How to grow, harvest and dry Valerian

If you've ventured into the world of herbal medicine you've probably heard of Valerian. Known for it's sleep inducing and anxiety reducing qualities, Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is an easy to grow perennial that absolutely stinks to harvest and use!

 grow, harvest Valerian

That's actually a very funny fact because the valerian flowers smell quite nice, in fact they attract all sorts of pollinators to the garden. The white or pale pink flowers have a sweet, almost vanilla like scent. Plus they grow to be about 6 feet tall so that scent wafts all throughout the garden. The roots however don't have anywhere near as pleasant of a fragrance! They've been compared to the stench of dirty socks. 

Truth time: I thought there was absolutely no way valerian roots could smell like that. I was wrong. I also find that absolutely hilarious!

Valerian is fairly easy to grow but can be difficult to start from seed. It took me 3 tries before I got them started but luckily 6 took that time. I haven't had to start more since. They multiply pretty well and oddly enough they self seed pretty well too.

Friday, July 14, 2017

6 Easy ways to reduce plastic use

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about this plastic free kick everybody's on. I took a look around my house and I realized everything is plastic. There's literally plastic in every room, on every surface and in every drawer. It's almost impossible to avoid plastic.

I've heard the phrase plastic is forever a lot lately. The meaning of course is that plastic doesn't break down and it doesn't deteriorate. It is not biodegradable. Once plastic is created it never goes away and that's a sobering thought. I don't want to make a big impact on the environment however I don't know how to live a different way. This is just the way that things are now. 

living plastic free

Plastics make life convenient and are considered disposable so they are literally in everything. You touch plastics thousands of times a day from the moment you get out of bed and step into your slippers, which probably have plastic in the soles....till the last moment of your day when you brush your teeth at night. Think about this, your toothbrush will exist longer then you will even though it's only made to be in use for 3 months. That's scary. 

I know I need to make some changes but I also know that the harder these changes are the less likely I'll stick to them. That's just human nature. So I've been trying to make changes in my plastic use without it being painful or a giant change in my life.

At the same time, I also don't want to be wasteful! I'm seeing so many people freaking out about BPA's and all the sudden dumping every bit of plastic in their kitchen and bragging about how they threw these big garbage bags full of plastic away. Well where do you think it's going now? It's going in the landfill and it's still not going to rot. It's still going to be there. 

I don't see myself throwing everything plastic away to have it just sit there in the landfill forever and then having to buy something else to replace it with. That seems just as wasteful! I've started to make changes that make a lot of sense to me because I need this to make sense if I'm going to stick to it. These are 6 of the changes I've made to reduce my plastic use over the last year

Friday, July 7, 2017

Marigolds: grow your own pest spray (who knew?)

I'm sure by now you've heard that you should plant Marigolds in your garden to keep insects away. While there are conflicting studies and first hand accounts, by and large it seems like many people give it a try anyway....and why not? Marigolds are pretty, hardy and easy to grow. Plus, they might help. 

Marigolds are a very easy to grow flower, plus they bloom continuously through the summer. Marigolds range in color from pale ivory colored to bright orange with rust colored variations. 

Make marigold pesticide

There are more then 50 different species of marigolds, but the ones we're discussing are the carnation like flowers know as the common marigold (Tagetes) not Calendula (Calendula officinalis) aka pot Marigold. 

The only reason I mention this is because whenever anyone talks about using marigold, they usually are referring to Calendula. Calendula has a ton of fabulous properties and it's often used in soaps or lotions and even teas. Calendula will not have the desired effect in this application though. You need the normal marigold that you can buy in any plant nursery. (see photos)
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