Praying mantis eggs as placed in my garden.
In 2 weeks or so, I’ll be the proud grandma of about 200 voracious little predators. Organic gardening is so exciting!




Gardening is my new favorite.

Great photo set showing how to lay down cardboard and newspaper as a week barrier, and then straw for compost! What are you going to plant?


Grow Your Own.

It’s that time of year when kale, spinach, cabbage, and other leafy veggies are lush and bountiful. In greenhouses and fields plants are peeking up and soaking up the early-spring rains and, in the early morning hours of march, the Farmers Markets of the south are starting to open up.

Now is the time to buy plants from farmers, to start little herb gardens, or backyard sets, and to buy fresh groceries. It is also the time to start asking questions, to chat with your local farmer about soil temperature, planting phases, compost types. It is also a time to start investing your consumer dollars into something a little more worth-while than your local Food Lion or Whole Foods.

Building a diverse, but simple menu is important, but the things that comprise the menu options are even more important. A consumer has the ability to do many things within their kitchen; being a sponsor of their agricultural community is one of them. “There’s no point in planning to make a fresh berry trifle when it’s the dead of winter or if the raspberries or strawberries at the market are days old,” Gordon Ramsay says, “start by selecting a few top-quality ingredients and working from there.When your farmers’ market is bursting with apples and pears, a rustic tart is in order.”

Ramsay makes an excellent point; buying what is local and in season has a great impact on the taste of a dish. Featuring ingredients from local producers allows a market browser to become an important part of their community. 

To use one of my home cities, Asheville as an example, one can see a quick rise in consumer interest and chef commitment to local food. Everywhere you look in downtown there are signs advertising the ingredients from local Farmers being featured in their dishes. This allows the consumer to be more connected to the agriculture in their community and the chef to be a part of a community through their cooking. Sponsoring local farmers, a cook is able to put money back into the community they rely on. “The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacations,” says author and local food advocate Barbara Kingsolver in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miraclel where Kingsolver gives up most store-bought foods for an entire year for local, in season, and self-grown/slaughtered foods. This is a scary realization; that many people don’t know where their food comes from or, further, the amount of waste that is put in the environment to get it to them.

“If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week” (Kingsolver). Reducing the amount of emissions put into the air by trucks carrying food from far away is as easy for a chef as making a deal with a local farmer; not many people are in this position of power. Non-local produce is treated with mass amounts of chemicals to preserve them for shipping. Further, they are often picked before ripe to ensure that rot will not occur in transit . This compromises the taste and quality of the ingredient completely. By working with local farmers, chefs are at a position to help the environment, their farming friends, their local communities, and the health of their consumers as well as ensuring that the food they are producing tastes its best.

Now is the point where I might loose a few of you— cost. Why does a small bag of kale cose 3.50 when at Food Lion it’s only 99cents? As a farmer, I know how much work goes into producing food organically and safely. This work is apparent in the ‘higher’ price tag of local food. For me, paying extra for something that comes from someone who actually invests their lives in farming rather than a large corporation is worth it. When buying from a local farmer, you know what has been done to that piece of food from it being planted in the ground, to it showing up on your plate. There are no secrets with local farmers; you know their growing methods and you can actually build a relationship with them. Large coorporations grow mass amounts of the same crop, grown from seeds from one industrial company, use mass amounts of chemicals for a large yeild, and ship all around the world to give you the ‘cheap’ food you can grab up at your local no-face mart. Or you can pay an extra two dollars and know what seed your food came from ,what soil it was grown in, how it was handled etc. You can build a relationship with your food.

This sense of community and symbiotic relationship between cook, consumer, and farmer seems more than worth it to me. These relationships lead to business transactions on a larger, bulk-sale level that helps both farmer and chef: the farmer doesn’t have to worry about ten crates of fresh beans going to waste, and the chef doesn’t have to pay as much for a large amount as a small amount. In this, chefs and consumers like you aren’t just feeding their customers or thier  families with great food, their feeding their community fiscally.



Taken with Instagram

Cute. As. Hell. XD reminds me of my “chicken crossing” sign ornament I have with my sempervivums (aka. hens and chickens). This snapdragon one takes the cake though <3



Taken with Instagram

Cute. As. Hell. XD reminds me of my “chicken crossing” sign ornament I have with my sempervivums (aka. hens and chickens). This snapdragon one takes the cake though <3

The Bearded Gardener: Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)



  • Mistake 1: Growing from seed. When you first start out trying to grow fresh herbs, I recommend you begin by trying to grow from seedlings rather than planting your own seeds. These great little starter plants are widely available in grocery stores in the late spring. For the same price as a packet of fresh herbs from the produce section, you can buy your own little starter plant. Lots can go wrong in the seed to seedling transition (including not thinning out plants properly), so its probably best to begin by skipping that complicated task or you are in danger of washing out before you really begin.
  • Mistake 2: Starting with the wrong varieties. I recommend you start by trying to grow fresh basil. It is the perfect trainer herb. First, basil grows quickly, allowing you to observe the effects of your care more easily. Second, basil leaves wilt visibly when not watered enough, but recovers well if you water the wilted plant. This makes basil a great ‘canary in the mineshaft’ to help you figure out how much water is enough.
  • Mistake 3: Watering herbs like houseplants. Instead, water herbs a moderate amount every day. While some houseplants flourish with one solid watering per week, most delicate herbs require moderate and regular watering. This is particularly true during hot summer months. If you have good drainage at the bottom of your pot (at least a drainage hole, possibly rocks beneath the soil), it will be difficult to water herbs too much.
  • Mistake 4: Not cutting early and often. As a novice gardener, it may seem like your puny little plant just isn’t ready for a trip to the barber, but then you will find yourself sitting there wishing for leaves without much success. Again, basil is a great herb to practice pruning. As with all herbs, you want to cut the herb just above a set of growing leaves. With basil, when you cut the plant that way, the originally trimmed stem will no longer grow. However, two new stems will grow around the original cutting, creating a “V” shape (see the photo above, can you spot the Vs?). If you don’t trim basil aggressively, it will continue to grow straight up, and become too tall and top-heavy. Making your first trim approximately 3-4” above the soil produces a nice sturdy plant. Of course you want to be sure you are always leaving a few good sturdy leaves on the plant (see below). As it continues to grow, continue to prune it approximately every 3-4” for a nice solid plant. I like to let it grow for some time and then cut back to within 2-3 inches of the original cut. After only a few early trial cuts, this usually makes for a nice clipping with plenty of basil to use for a pizza.
  • Mistake 5: Taking the leaves from the wrong place. When you are just starting out it seems to make so much sense to pick off a few big leaves around the bottom of the plant, and let those tender little guys at the top keep growing. Wrong. Leave those large tough old guys at the bottom alone. They are the solar panels that power your herb’s growth. Once your plant is big enough to sustain a decent harvest, keep on taking from the top, as you have been when you were pruning. That way you get all those tender new herbs that are so tasty, and your plant gets to keep its well developed solar power system in place. Plus, if you pluck from the base and leave the top intact, you get a tall skinny plant that will flop over from its own weight (and yes, I know this from experience). When you pluck from the top, instead of clipping off just below a pair of leaves, you want to clip off just above a pair of leaves. It is a bit counter-intuitive as a novice, but trust me it works. The place where the leaf joins the stem is where new growth will occur when your plant sends off new stems in a V.
  • Mistake 6: Letting your plants get too randy. If you are pruning regularly, this may never become an issue, but unless you are growing something for its edible flowers, be sure to cut back herbs before they start growing flowers. My friend once brought me to her backyard garden and pointed, frustrated, at her wimpy, small basil plants. “I just keep tending them, but they don’t even produce enough leaves to put on a salad!” she lamented. I pointed to the glorious stalk of flowers at the top of each plant, “That’s your problem” I explained. Because herbs are kind of like college boys: if you give them half a chance, they will focus all their energy on procreation and neglect growth. If you want leaves, keep cutting off the little flower buds whenever you find them (see photo above), and it will encourage your plant to focus on growing more leaves.
  • Mistake 7: Using tired soil with no nutrients. Tired soil that has been sitting in your garden or lawn for ages often looks grey and a little depressing. Would you want to grow in that stuff? Give your plants a dose of the good stuff and they’ll thank you for it. I grow my herbs in a combination of potting soil, used coffee grounds (with a near-neutral PH, available for free at Starbucks), and organic compost. If I have some on hand, I also throw in crushed egg shells. Those without access to compost (and no deep commitment to organic growing) may find Miracle grow useful. My momma swears by it for tomatoes. A diluted solution of Miracle grow occasionally can help many herbs flourish.
  • Mistake 8: Getting in a rut. There is an element to passion about herb gardening. In order to be good at it, you need to feel rewarded. So don’t stick too long with one or two herbs just because they work. Branch out to a few other basic herbs that you will use regularly in your kitchen. There are few things more rewarding as an urban foodie than being able to pop out to the fire escape to clip fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Once you have become comfortable with basil, I recommend moving on to try growing oregano, mint, rosemary and thyme. All are regularly useful herbs in the kitchen, and all are relatively easy to grow. You will notice that rosemary cleaves after cutting in a somewhat similar way to basil, but grows much more slowly, so the effect is difficult to notice. Some plants also respond to clipping by throwing out more full leaves at their base. I have long wanted to grow cilantro but have not had much luck with it.
  • Mistake 9: You mean there’s more than one kind of mint?When choosing herbs, read the label carefully. For example, there are two main varieties of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. Mediterranean oregano is the more common variety, and what you likely own if you have conventional dried oregano in your cupboard. I have Mexican oregano growing on my back fire escape. I love Mexican oregano in spicy dishes, for making beans from scratch, and often use it in tomato dishes where I don’t want the flavor to seem too much like marinara. Similarly, there are many different kinds of mint. You don’t want to be thinking of the pungent spearmint plant and accidentally take home the much more subtle (and not mojito savvy) applemint by mistake.
  • Mistake 10: Feed me Seymour! If you are planting in soil instead of pots, take care that your cute little herb seedling doesn’t become a giant plant that takes over your garden. A word of warning for oregano and mint: both can be voracious growers. If you are planting outside in a garden, rather than in pots, you may want to consider potting these herbs and then burying the pots in the ground. This will add a measure of control to the root systems of these herbs, which can otherwise take over a garden and strangle nearby neighbors. When in doubt, check out wikipedia, they usually are careful to point out which herbs are in danger of overwhelming your garden.

Some really useful info here if you’re new to herb gardening.

Great info!




the only way i’ll get married is if i can hold a bouquet of carrots

The sign of a true gardener!



the only way i’ll get married is if i can hold a bouquet of carrots

The sign of a true gardener!

Farming With the Moon and the Zodiac

This is my first run with owning my own farm, so my Grandfather has been teaching me some of the basics. Even in this age some farmers, like my grandpa, still stick to a few of the basics— one of the most stuck to is farming by the moon and the zodiac. While to some of you this might seem a bit hokey, I have been taught by an herbalist (and now my Grandpa!) to farm, make medicine, and to live by the moon. And why not? If the moon can influence the tide, why can’t it give you great tomatoes too?

Keep in mind that there are dozens of almanacs that suggest something different for each region of the state. Also, sometimes moon phases and weather do not link up— plant with the weather and the moon (even if you can’t use them together).

The Moon:

The moon and plants are very alike— they each have cycles of dormancy and growth. So why not plant in accordance to the growth cycle of the moon?

- The First Quarter-  A Time for Germination — Steady Growth

This Quarter cycle starts with the New Moon. In this phase, the sun and the moon are aligned at the same angle, the moon’s light blocked by the sun. According to many almanacs, this phase of darkness is a time for starting anew, for beginning new projects, an to start endeavors that require growth. This is the ideal time for planting.

Plants that grow above ground are best planted during this quarter.

-The Second Quarter- The Growth of that Which is Planted— Leaf Growth

Halfway between the New and the Full Moon, the sun and the moon are at right angles to one another. This time, when light is starting to peek back out,  is a time of growth for the seeds that have been planted during the New Moon.

During this time, plants whose seeds form within them (like melons, beans, etc.) are best planted. To increase growth in leafy things, like the lawn, mow during this time.
(**it is also rumored that if you want your hair to grow quickly, have it cut at this time**)

-The Third Quarter- The Time of Maturity and Completion— Root Growth

At the start of the Full Moon, this is the time when the moon and the sun are opposite of one another, the sun’s light fully illuminating the moon. During this time of light, the seeds that have been growing are reaching maturity. This is not the time to start projects, but to complete whatever you have already started. In this time, hasty actions can lead to failure. Also, this is a time when animals are moving and awake— deer and other garden pests are more active at this time, be wary of that.

As the gravitational pull of the moon increases at this time, the moisture in the soil is also increasing. That in mind, it is a great time for plants with deep running roots (like carrots, beets, etc.) to be put out. Plants with bulbs or transplants are best moved or planted on these days as well. This is also a good time for pruning and weeding.

There are some arguments between almanacs on composting on the third or fourth quarter. Personally, I am going with the fourth.

-The Fourth Quarter- The Time of Disintegration and Reflection— Rest

Between the Full and the New Moon, the sun and the moon are once again at right angles, light becoming less and less as the New Moon approaches once again. As the light fades away, so does the livelihood of the mature plants. It is important to honor this phase of growth as the land has given a great amount to be a home for your crop. In this time, it is great to give back to the soil by adding compost and other nutrient dense products to it. This is a time to appreciate what you have gathered and to reflect on your hard work.

This is a great time to harvest your plants, to prune, to weed, and to mow around your garden for stunted growth of grass.

The Moon Signs:

Each zodiac sign is aligned with an element as are plants. Things like root veggies are aligned with Earth, leafy veggies are aligned with Water, flowering plants are aligned with Air, and things with fruit are aligned with Fire.  One could research this further, but it would take at least another wall of text. For easy reference, see this chart. 

Aries (fire) — Barren

A time for starting things, but not in long-standing growth. This period of growth is rapid in it’s initiation but does not last. During this phase, green house work can be wonderful, but extensive work can lead to small, disappointing yields. Store roots and cultivate for pests and weeds.  Harvest for root and fruit storage.

Taurus (earth)— Productive
When starting plants in this sign, remember that what is started will grow in abundance and can be hard to altar. Plant things that you want to use continually and that will flourish in excess— think mint and renewing plants like lettuces. This is a great time for planting and transplanting.

Gemini (air) — Barren
Like the two faces of this sign, things planted under Gemini are often inconsistent and changing. Things started now are often vulnerable to changing based on outward stimuli. For consistent growth, do not plant under this sign. Again, weed and work to rid your garden of pests at this time. harvest for root and fruit storage.

Cancer (water)— Productive **
My Grandfather swears by planting under the sign of Cancer. This is a time of great nurturing and good relationships between farmer and plants. This sign is often brings great growth and establishment in new plants. Most almanacs agree that this sign is the best for optimum growth. It is also a good time for plant irrigation and grafting.

Leo (fire)— Barren
This is a time for very showy plants to shine. In this time of barren land, it is a good time to examine your plants for pests, to spend time in your garden, and to become familiar with the plants you’re working with. I swear by flattering your plants while working with them. I have an aloe plant that grows away from the light and towards my bed simply because I compliment him every night.

Virgo (earth)— Barren
This sign is a time for details and commands. In this time, it is good to organize future endeavors as well as planning out the small details of your garden. Some flowering and vine rich plants prefer this sign, but as usual, stick to cultivating.

 Scorpio (water) — Very Fruitful
Plants that are sturdy and have vines are often fond of this sign. Under this sign, transplant tomatoes. This water sign is a great one to start irrigation of to plant. It is also a sign for ending connections. That in mind, pruning under this sign can stunt the growth of weeds and encourage fruit in others. With moist soil, it is a good transplant sign as well.

Sagittarius (fire) — Barren
This sign celebrates the flow of existing life. This is a time to cultivate your soil as well as to set out Onion Sets and fruit trees. Harvesting roots and onions for storage are best done under this sign as well.

Capricorn (earth) — Productive
Root plants (like potatoes) are very appreciative of this sign. Under this sign, grafting and pruning as well as other healing practices are encouraged for plants. It is also said that this is a great sign for applying organic fertilizers. Things with structure grow well under this sign.

Aquarius (air) — Barren
A time for improvements, garden maintenance should be done. It is also a great time to get your home in order after spending so much time in the garden! Weed and do another pest sweep.

Pisces (water)— Productive
This is known as the second best sign for planting. With moist soil at your feet, it is a great time to irrigate and to transplant. Pisces is a sign known for reorganization. If your garden layout is not to your liking, transplanting is easily done under this sign.

Lywellyns Herbal Almanac
Jullian Ellis— Farming by the Moon report
Gardening by the Moon

There was finally one day dry enough for my grandpa to till up our soil. Planting isn’t far off!

We have just started our own adventures in chick en rearing. These lovely ladies are Jersey Giants purchased at a Heritage poultry swap at our local ag. center.
We have:
Georgia V. — the sassiest of the bunch who likes to sit on shoulders…and run away
and Eleanor.
These little sweeties were a bit undernourished when we grabbed them, so we’ve been giving them protein rich feed (oats, barley, pumpkin seeds, etc.) mixed with herbs to get them nice and healthy. We’ve also given them water with a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar for health as well. There will be a post on herbs and suchsuch for chicken health.
As for now, these ladies are doing well. Skittish, but enjoying their new home.



Maybe I planted too much lettuce on Flickr.
The lettuce on the right was from transplants. The rest was all directly sown seeds. We really don’t this much lettuce.

It looks wonderful! Maybe you just need to start having salad with everything! :)

Eat ALL of the spring veggies!



Maybe I planted too much lettuce on Flickr.

The lettuce on the right was from transplants. The rest was all directly sown seeds. We really don’t this much lettuce.

It looks wonderful! Maybe you just need to start having salad with everything! :)

Eat ALL of the spring veggies!


Look at that happy tomato! Are those crushed eggshells to keep the slugs and snails off? That works great, imo, and also, as the shells break down, they add much-needed calcium to the soil.


Look at that happy tomato! Are those crushed eggshells to keep the slugs and snails off? That works great, imo, and also, as the shells break down, they add much-needed calcium to the soil.

Strawberry-Goat Cheese Muffins

These guys are more savory than sweet. I’m really excited to serve these with some scrambled farm fresh eggs and Orange coffee. {:

Modified from: Fete

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Start by whisking 3 cups of all purpose flour (I did a crude mix of  1 1/2 cup regular all pur and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour), 1 tbs baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup of sugar in the raw, 1 tsp finely chopped, fresh thyme. (I used Lemon thyme to spice it up — see what I did there?)

In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups plain greek yogurt an two large, fresh eggs, and 1/2 tsp of pure lemon extract.

Gently fold the egg-yogurt mix into the dry.

In another bowl, melt 8tbs (or one stick) of unsalted butter. As it cools, whisk in another pinch of lemon thyme.

Coarsely chop up 1 1/2 cups fresh organic strawberries and mix with 1/4 of a 1/4 of a tsp of fresh lemon zest.

Without over mixing, fold in half of the strawberry mix and half of the butter mix.Fold in 2oz of gently crumbled goat cheese. Fold in the remaining strawberry and butter mix and 2 1/2 more oz of goat cheese.

Pour small amounts of batter into the muffin tins (about twelve— I got 17 muffins total) and top batter with a sprinkle of sugar in the raw and a thyme sprig.

Bake 25- 30 minutes.

The Importance of Heritage Breeds

(my friend Jennifer and her Orpington pal)

For some of us, it’s easy to pretend that the chicken strips on our plate or the packages of meat we buy in the grocery store were never alive. But the harsh reality is that they were and that chicken in the grocery store was probably not treated very well. Commercially raised chickens are kept in tiny quarters with hundreds of thousands of other chickens, all competing for hormone rich feed and water. Since these tiny conditions are perfect breeding grounds for hundreds of bacterias, the chickens are usually given  antibiotics to keep them from getting sick— these antibiotics being used to readily only produce antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria that thrive in the cramped quarters.

Further, these chickens are usually of the same type of chicken bred for their rapid growth and for their large amount of meat. That said, many other breeds are rejected by commercial industries because they grow at a slower (NORMAL!) rate. These breeds, ignored for years at a time are going extinct. But this isn’t meant to be an article that makes the reader afraid, it’s an article meant to give you hope and information about what you as a farmer or consumer can do.

Breeds of fowl and livestock come in as many varieties as there are varieties of vegetables. There isn’t just one type of chicken like there isn’t just one type of tomato. Think of how many different tomatoes you see at Farmers Markets: Cherokee Purples, Early Girls, Ox Hearts, Bull Hearts, German Strawberries, Amish Pastes, etc. Now think of how many types you see in a grocery store: big red ones. The same goes for poultry and livestock! There are hundreds of chickens: Buff Orpingtons, Campines, Anconas, etc.  But, like vegetables, commercial breeding and mass production is limiting the natural variations in species. This is  where local farming comes in to save the day. Many farmers prefer the taste of heritage animals (animals that are not artificially bred or enhanced) to breeds that have been modified by artificial breeding. Often, these heritage breeds are able to gather for themselves more efficiently than artificial breeds, live longer, and even taste better! To save these breeds, many farmers have turned away from the commercial birds, cows, etc. and have started to nurture the populations of heritage breeds back to healthy numbers.

We at Summer Thyme Gardens are doing our part by buying meat and eggs from local farmers who raise heritage breeds and are even starting to raise a few of these heritage breeds for eggs ourselves. As a consumer, you can invest in meats and eggs found at local farmers markets, asking your local farmer about heritage breeds, and even investing in them yourself!


(picture from Hillcroft Chickens)

You can find lists of these breeds like the Buff Orpington hens pictured above that we will be grabbing from a Heritage Poultry swap at our local AG Center on Thursday on The American Livestock Breed Conservancy website. Stay tuned for our very own chicken adventures and tips on caring for your heritage birds!