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Herb of the Month-Thyme

With the summer heat now upon us, it’s time – no pun intended- to harvest some of our herbs. Here in the Central Valley of Oregon, things are a bit trickier, gardening wise, so we need to pick hardy perennials. With that in mind, let me introduce you to our Herb of the Month-Thyme.

Herb of the Month-Thyme
Thyme in a raised planter (Photo by Terry Lynn Pellegrini)

Thyme is a member of the mint family. It is generally a low growing perennial, winter hardy to zone five. Leaves are dark, gray green in color and the labiate flowers are tiny and generally pink. Blooms in early to midsummer. There are many tiny oval-shaped leaves on each slender, woody stem.

Thyme comes in over fifty varieties with different fragrances and flavors. Fresh or English thyme are used most often in cooking.

A native of the Mediterranean, Thyme was spread throughout Europe and used frequently by the Romans. Their soldiers added it to their bathwater to increase bravery, strength, and vigor. It enjoyed a long association with bravery. In Medieval England, ladies embroidered sprigs of thyme into their knights’ scarves to increase their bravery. In Scotland, highlanders brewed tea to increase courage and keep away nightmares.

Thyme is also a purificatory herb; the Greeks burned it in their temples to purify them and so thyme is often burned prior to magical rituals to cleanse the area. In spring a magical cleansing bath composed of marjoram and thyme is taken to ensure all the sorrows and ills of the past are removed from the person.

It is said that places where wild thyme grows are blessed by fae, and due to this association thyme is often used in work regarding fae.

Thyme

  • Plant: Thyme
  • Latin Name: Thymus vulgaris
  • Family: Lamiaceae
  • Folk Names: Garden Thyme, Common Thyme
  • Elements: Water
  • Energy: Feminine
  • Planet: Venus
  • Astrological Signs: Aries, Capricorn, Libra, Taurus
  • Deities: Aphrodite, Aries, Freya, Hecate, Mars, The Fae
Thyme in Bloom- Photo by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Magickal Uses of the Herb of the Month-Thyme

Parts used – Whole Herb

  • Banishing Negativity
  • Cleansing
  • Courage
  • Divination
  • Dream Work
  • Fairy Magick
  • Happiness
  • Healing
  • Health,
  • Heighten Empathy
  • Love
  • Prosperity
  • Psychic Abilities
  • Purification
  • Sleep

Magickal Ways to Use Thyme

  1. A pillow stuffed with thyme dispels nightmares and promotes positive dreams.
  2. Wearing a sprig of thyme in your hair makes you more approachable.
  3. Add thyme to your bathwater to increase courage.
  4. When working hard to achieve a goal that seems un-achievable, thyme can be used in spells to help you keep a positive attitude.

Growing Thyme

Thyme can grow in the ground or in a container. Either is left outside in wintertime. New leaves will emerge within the early spring. Thyme thrives in full sun and loves heat. Thyme likes well-drained soil as it doesn’t like “wet feet.” In the garden, plant with other drought-tolerant perennials.

It’s hard to grow thyme from seeds as they are slow to germinate and easily “drowned”. It is much simpler, and more satisfying, to buy the plants from a garden center or take some cuttings from a friend. Over time, you can propagate from your own cuttings.

Plant cuttings or young thyme plants any time after the ground temperature reaches 70°F. This is usually 2 to 3 weeks before the last spring frost in well-drained soil about 9 inches apart. 

Space young plants 12 to 24 inches apart, depending upon the specific variety. They will spread out quite a bit so they need plenty of room.

Thyme does well in greenhouses and even indoors with proper grow lights and moisture levels. This is important in Central Oregon as are many micro-climates can make growing any herbs a challenge.

Culinary Uses

Thyme is used most often to flavor soups, stews, meats and veggies. I use it in my pasta sauce, beans and sprinkle it into chicken soup. It’s great on roasted potatoes, and even in fresh bread.

Thyme can be used either fresh or dried. Dried has a more powerful flavor so use less than you would fresh, roughly one third of the dried herb compared to fresh. When using fresh you can use the entire stem (remove the stem before serving) or remove the leaves from the stems and sprinkle into your dish.

Thyme infused vinegar is a wonderful way to add flavor to salads and veggies. Fill a jar with fresh thyme (dried can be used in a pinch but it is harder to strain) and then cover with white wine vinegar. Let the jar sit for several days to a week. You will know when it is ready when the vinegar has a strong thyme taste. Strain the vinegar and discard the thyme. Place back in the jar or a fancy serving decanter.

Medicinal Uses of Thyme

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Before using any herb medicinally, always consult with your physician.

  • Antifungal
  • Antiseptic
  • Antitussive
  • Carminative
  • Disinfectant
  • Expectorant

Thyme is often used for acute respiratory infections including coughs and colds. It can sooth gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, gas, and indigestion.

Thyme is a powerful disinfectant and antiseptic when used both externally – as a wash – and internally in a tea or tincture.

Some benefits of using Thyme are:

  • fighting acne
  • lowering blood pressure
  • helping to alleviate cough
  • boosting immunity
  • disinfecting
  • repelling pests
  • aromatherapy
  • boosting mood
  • preventing bacterial infections
  • helping to treat yeast infections
  • possibly helping against certain types of cancer

Our Herb of the Month-Thyme, is an amazing plant. It is hardy, easy to grow, great for cooking and packed with medicinal benefits. May this humble yet amazing plant grace your garden and bring you joy.

Blessings!

Sources: Gladstar, Rosemary, Medicinal Herbs, a Beginner’s Guide, Storey Publishing 2012; Tierra, Michael, The Way of Herbs, Pocket Books, 1988

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Finding Beauty in the Little Things

You would think that living in a forest amongst the Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines that beauty would be easy to find. And it is. As the autumn progresses the land here is dipped in shades of green, gold, red, and umber. It rained yesterday and the droplets on the trees reflect the rising sun, looking like diamonds amidst the pine needles and aspen leaves. However, I am not speaking of the obvious sort of beauty. The beauty that assails your senses and leaves you breathless. No, I am talking of finding beauty in the little things. Beauty in the less obvious places.

Have you ever looked at a weed? I mean, really looked at it. Have you noticed the whorls, the geometry, the beautiful simplicity it projects? I hadn’t either until I started taking photos of plants around my property. The perfection, the beauty of a weed is amazing. We may still want to remove them (though many are actually beneficial and/or medicinal) but we can’t deny that they can be lovely-especially when they are in flower.

Finding Beauty in the Little Things - a whorled weed from my yard.
A whorled weed from my yard.

Little Things Can Be Amazing

Have you ever sat and watched a bee? For 20 minutes? I have. I got caught up the other day marveling at the industry, the loveliness, of this tiny little creature. Many of the flowers are gone, but they have found the sweetness of the hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds have since migrated away (a different species than I was familiar with in the Central Valley) so the bees have appropriated the feeders. I was going to take them down but now instead, will refill them just for the bees. Forget the bird watching. Now I am an avid bee watcher as well.

Once you start looking at life differently, finding beauty in the little things is easy. Take dust motes for example. I never realized how beautiful they can be when you watch them whirling about in a beam of light. Makes your household chores that much easier to accomplish when you can have something wonderous to look at around every corner. And trust me. In this environment, I’ll always have dust to marvel at.

Finding Beauty in Unusual Places

As I continued on my quest to find the beauty around me, I began to look in unusual places. At least they were unusual for me. I began to look at (and under) rocks, twigs, and brush. I found beauty in a petunia that had sprung up between the cracks of a retaining wall. The last owner must have planted petunias last year, giving us a splash of color to greet us this season.

Finding beauty - a petunia between the rocks in a retaining wall.
Last year’s petunias add to this year’s beauty.

I then found myself marveling at the moss growing on a rock. Moss you say. Is a rock really that interesting? It is! The textures, the shades of green and brown with a smattering of rust and gold. It looked to be as soft as velvet. It was, but a bit spongy as well. Yet, look at how lovely the texture it, how delicate the moss seems. Amazing!

Luscious moss covered rock.

Little Things are Beautiful

The vastness of the blue sky, the soft whiteness of the clouds, the seemingly endless forest scape – these things are beauty portrayed on a grand scale. But a single drop of water shimmering on a one needle. The flicker of a tealight candle. The tip of a warm, wet, black nose directly in your eyesight as you awaken in the morning. This are the little things that we can find beauty in. They are all around us. From the sun reflecting off of a puddle in the parking lot of the grocery store to the smile of your neighbor as they wave from across the street. Keep looking for the beauty that is all around you, hiding in the unusual, the little, and the weird spaces around you. It will make you smile, your heart sing, and bring you joy.

Blessings!

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Vervain – Herb of the Month, February 2020

Vervain, commonly known as Verbena, is an extremely versatile herb, both magickly and medicinally. Found all around the world, it has a rich and useful history. Vervain has been considered a magickal and sacred herb in many different cultures throughout the centuries. It is best remembered as a sacred plant to both the Druids and the Roman priesthood.

Vervain - Verbena Officinalis
Verbena Officinalis

To the ancient Romans the name “verbena” meant altar plant. The twigs of the plant were put into bundles and then used to sweep the altar and temple areas.

The name “vervain” comes from the Celtic term “ferfaen;fer” meaning “to drive away” and “faen” meaning “a stone”. Healers would gather this herb to be used to treat kidney stones – something it is still used for today.

Vervain is a slim plant that may grow to be about 80 cm (32 in) tall. It is a hardy perennial and self-sows. It grows freely in the wild and is often found along roadsides and in dry or stony grounds. Today it is a favorite in many a garden and a staple in every witch’s herbal cabinet and apothecary.

Plant: Common Vervain

Scientific Name: Verbena

Genus: Verbena, L.

Latin Name: Verbena Officinalis, Verbena Californica, Verbena Hastata (Blue Vervain)

Family:  Verbenaceae

Folk/Secret Names: Van Van, Dragon’s Claw, Enchanter’s Plant, Herba Sacra, Holy Plant, Frog’s Foot, Juno’s Tears, Pigeon Grass

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Water

Planet: Venus

Astrological Signs: Gemini

Deities: Venus, Cerridwen, Isis, Mars, Venus, Aradia, Jupiter, Thor, Juno

All of my posts contain affiliate links.  If you click on a link and make a purchase I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  This small commission keeps the website up and running and the author in wine, chocolate, and books – not necessarily in that order.

Vervaain - An artists rendition of vervain

Magickal Uses of Vervain

Vervain is a sacred plant, potentially the most mystical plant on earth. It is used on altars and is a staple plant in magic ceremonies. It is a versatile herb that has many magickal uses.

Parts Used: Flowers and Leaves

  • Bestowing peace
  • Catalyst – use to make spells “go”
  • Cleansing the altar
  • Consecration of tools
  • Healing
  • Herb of Immortality
  • Keeping evil at bay
  • Protection
  • Purification
  • Romance and love
  • Turning your rival into an ally
  • Used in fortune telling and prophecy
  • Vervain is the herb of poets, singers, and bards.  It was often carried by these performers for to bring inspiration and increased skill
  • Vervain was placed around fields to prevent bad weather and to ensure a good harvest.
  • Vision questing

Substitutions: Motherwort, Skullcap, California Poppy

Verbana hastata
Verbena Hastata

Growing Vervain

This easy to grow plant is a favorite in many home gardens. The Verbena genus is large, contains both annuals and perennials, and has a range in height from 10 cm through to 1.4 m. Vervain (Verbena) as an annual grows in zones 1 to 10, as a perennial: zones 3 to 10. In general the plants have dark green toothed leaves, and bloom from summer until the first frost of winter. Depending on the variety they may have clusters of tiny flat fragrant flowers or spikes with tiny flowers, making Vervain a great attractor of butterflies and bees to the garden.

Vervain can easily be started from seeds. Be sure to stratify the seeds (follow link for definition) to increase the germination rate. Sow seeds outside after the last frost of spring. Seeds can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to germinate, so don’t get discouraged. Alternately you can pick up plants from your local nursery.

Plants need full sun and well-drained soil. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Spacing of your plants will depend on the variety.  Consult the information on the seed packets or plant tags to determine the planting space required for your variety. When in doubt, consult the staff of your favorite nursery or garden center.

Depending on your soil quality and acidity, Vervain needs very little fertilizer.  I usually add a bit to the soil before I sow seeds or add new plants and to any established perennials in the early spring.

Blooms are very long lived.  However, Vervain is self-sowing so if you don’t want your garden overrun with these beautiful plants cut the flowers before they go to seed.

Medicinal Uses

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional Information

Verbena Officinalis is most often used medicinally.  Alternately you could use Verbena Hastata. Some of Vervain’s properties are:

  • Analgesic
  • Antibacterial
  • Anticoagulant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antispasmodic
  • Astringent
  • Diaphoretic
  • Diuretic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Galactagogue
  • Nervine
  • Stimulant

Vervain is most often used to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Ascites
  • Cirrhosis
  • Colds
  • Depression
  • Flus
  • Gout
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Jaundice
  • Kidney Stones
  • Liver disorders
  • Mastitis
  • Painful or irregular menses

Please consult a licensed Herbalist and your Physician before using any parts of the Vervain plant medicinally.


Sources: 

Beyerl, Paul The Master Book of Herbalism Blaine, Washington, Phoenix Publishing Inc. 1981

Dugan, Ellen Garden Witch’s Herbal, Woodbury, MN, Llewellyn Publications 2009

Mueller-Ebeling, Claudia, Ratsch, Christian, and Storl, Wolf-Dieter Witchcraft Medicine Vermont Inner Traditions 2003

Tierra, Michael The Way of Herbs New York, NY, Pocket Books, 1998

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Pulling the Weeds from Your Path

Pulling the Weeds From Your Path

Softly she walks, her feet skimming the cobbles along the path. She knows where she is going, guided by a combination of intuition and sheer will. Walking quickly she notices that the path has changed from pristine and clear to overgrown and broken. Undaunted, she stoops and begins pulling the weeds from the path. While this may slow down her progress. in the end, it will allow her to think, to contemplate on where she needs to go next. Looking to her left she sees another at work. You are there as well, pulling the weeds from your path. She smiles, waves, and continues on her way, leaving you with a hand full of weeds and a head full of questions.

This was the vision I had during a meditation this morning. I’d been contemplating whether I should continue down the life’s path I had chosen for myself, continue the work I have been doing. To say it has been a bit challenging lately would be an understatement. My creativity seems to be waning, my energy and enthusiasm levels are at a definite low, and I need a bit of direction. I cleared my mind, asked my questions and She appeared, along with the weeds.

Apparently even my visions have garden metaphors. No grandiose visions for me. No Goddess on a golden throne, no trumpets blasting or unicorns dancing. Nope. I get pathways and weeds. Gardens are kind of my thing so its no wonder it’s where my inner thoughts hang out. I get it. But I don’t have to like it.

Weeds from your Path as Questions – and Answers

Pulling Weeds from Our Path - garden path with weeds between the stones
My garden path

Back to my original question about continuing along the path I’ve chosen for myself. What does it all mean, this pulling the weeds from your path? I can’t answer for everyone but for me it means that unexpected things are going to pop up now and again. Like the dandelion or stinging nettle that seems to always find its way through the cracks, so too do problems and incidents that at first seem to be a deterrent, a nuisance. You try yanking them out but they just return, stronger than ever. Toiling and sweating you just keep working away at ridding your path of anything you had not intentionally planted, yet the weeds remain, resilient and plentiful.

What would happen if we stopped fighting the “weeds” and instead looked deeper into the “whys” and “what ifs” behind their presence. Take Stinging Nettle for example. A tough little weed that stings and burns if you touch it. Yet treat it gently, pulling it up carefully from the stem or using gloves, and you can capture its benefits. Not just a nuisance, nettle is a powerful natural antihistamine, is chock full of potassium, calcium and vitamin C. Cooked it loses its sting and is a tasty addition to soups and stews. Nettle has changed from just a weed into a helper, something that could benefit us.

If I take a look at some of the weeds popping up along my path I begin to discern patterns and hidden advantages. The lack of energy is telling me that I need to rest, to regroup and take care of myself. The weed labeled “lack of creativity” is instead a dandelion of new ideas, waiting to flower. Don’t pull your weeds before taking the time to study them, contemplate and meditate on them. These weeds may be just what you need.

Clearing our Path

Pulling Weeds - a weed in the crack of the sidewalk
A weed springing forth from a crack

Not every weed is going to be beneficial. Some of them choke out the path – our ideas and purpose. These weeds need to go so we can move forward, continue our work. Weeding our path clears the way so we may walk swiftly, unhindered, towards the goals we set for ourselves. However, weed carefully. Don’t become so caught up in weeding your path that you forget to walk it. Sometimes it’s better to just to step over and around the weeds than to stoop to pull them. Keep your eye on your goals, your path, not just the weeds.

Take a few moments today to look at your own personal path. Do you have weeds to pull? Will these weeds help or hinder? Can you turn your weeds from pest to asset and make them work for you? Or will you ignore them and leave them to grow where they may?

As for me, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and I have a path of my own that needs tending. Who knows, maybe we’ll pass each other along our paths, garden trowels in hand, pulling the weeds along the way.

Blessed Be!

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The Witches Garden: Part Three – Maintaining

The Witches Garden: Part Three

In our last two installments we planned our garden and then planted our seedlings and sowed our seeds. In this, “The Witches Garden: Part Three” we will be discussing how to maintain your newly planted garden.

Our first step in maintaining our garden is to thin our newly sown seeds. If you’ve planted nursery plants, you’ll be able to skip this step.

The Witches Garden Part Three - newly emerging cilantro plants
The Witches Garden: Part Three
Emerging Cilantro plants

As your seedlings emerge, use the information on your seed packet to thin them out. The cilantro plants shown here need to be thinned to 6 to 8 inches apart. Thin your plants when the second set of leaves have appeared. Thinning your seedlings, gives them the space the require to grow to maturity without being crowded.

If you placed a mesh screen over the tops of your seedlings, remove it once the new plants are pushing up against it. Otherwise, your plants will bend sideways and their growth may be stunted.

Protecting Your Witches Garden

Maintaining your garden includes protecting your plants and seedlings from the attack of predatory insects. Snails, slugs, earwigs, aphids and mites love to munch on young plants, often with devastating results. There are several organic methods that can deter or eliminate these predators.

  • Diatomaceous Earth – This powdery substance can be used to both deter and desiccate slugs, snails, earwigs and other insects. Sprinkle it around your new plants to act as a barrier. Note: Be sure to get “food grade” product for best results.
  • Organic pest control products – There are several pellet pest control products to save your plants from the onslaught of insects. I recommend Sluggo or Sluggo Plus (registered trademarks by Monterey) for snails, slugs and earwigs. Both products contain Iron Phosphate and the plus adds in Spinosad. While the labels say it is safe around pets and wildlife if you have animals that may ingest the pellets, I would suggest placing them under pots and out of reach. Iron poisoning can occur if large amounts are ingested.
  • Organic Soap Insecticide Sprays – For aphids, mites and other flying insects that may insist on eating your plants, an organic insecticidal soap spray is best. There are many on the market – just be sure that the label reads “OMRI-listed and USDA-approved for organic gardening”. Soap sprays kill on contact, they do not penetrate the plant membranes. These sprays are very effective in eradicating pests, but they can also kill beneficial insects as well so be mindful.
  • Homemade Soap Sprays – For the ultimate in DIY pest control you can create your own soap spray. There are many recipes out there for these sprays, but I personally like to use a combination of Castile Soap, cayenne pepper and water.
Containers of Sluggo, Sluugo Plus and Insecticidal soap
Organic Pest Control

Weeds – Your Gardening Nemesis

Weeds are the bane of most gardeners existence. These persistent plants seem to pop up exactly where we don’t want them. Unfortunately, if you wish to keep your garden as organic as possible the best method to rid yourself of weeds is to pull them.

Note: Let your seedlings grow a bit before weeding. If you are unfamiliar with how your new plants look you may inadvertently pull them instead of your weeds. When in doubt, do a quick internet search. Information and images of your plants in all stages is readily available to you.

Pulling your weeds doesn’t have to be a chore if you do it a little every day. Weeding is actually a wonderful way to enjoy the sun, play in the dirt and listen to the earth around you. The act of pulling weeds can even be meditative as long as your entire focus is on the repetition of pulling out the weeds.

The most effective way of ridding your garden of pesky weeds it to be certain to pull the entire root of the weed. Merely yanking the tops of the weeds does nothing because the roots will continue to shoot up new plants. Loosen the soil gently around the weed and then pull the plant close to the root ball or tendrils. Weeds such as clovers may have an intensive root system so they may require a bit more work to eradicate. Be patient!

Keeping Your Plants Growing Strong

The Witches Garden: Part Three - a bag of organic all purpose fertilizer
Organic All-Purpose Fertilizer

In order to keep your garden blooming and thriving you must have two things: 1) Water; 2) Food – in the form of fertilizers.

Different plants have different water and food requirements. Always check your seed packets and information provided with your plants to determine how much water they require. Some plants may like moist soil, which means you will have to water more frequently than those who like dry or sandy conditions.

How you water is up to you and your location. Some areas get a great deal of rain in the spring and summer so your plants may only need an occasional hand watering. Here in the California Central Valley our summers are extremely hot and dry. I have many of my plants on automatic drip watering systems to insure that they are not getting parched under the summer sun.

Be cautious. You can overwater your plants. If your plants are yellowing or losing leaves, back off on the water. Conversely, if your plants are drooping and turning brown, they need more water. It takes a bit of trial and error to determine a successful watering schedule. A few minutes each day observing your plants should be all it takes to determine what they require.

Feeding your plants is fairly simple as well. Most plants will require additional nutrients every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the type of plant and the fertilizer being used. Check your labels for amounts and timing, as each type differs.

Following the manufacture’s direction, sprinkle or spray your plants about three weeks after planting or after new seedling have gotten their second set of leaves. Fertilizers may have to be worked into the soil around the plant a bit. Water immediately after fertilizing to help release it into the soil.

Watching Your Witches Garden Grow

You’ve planted, watered, fertilized and then protected your new Witches Garden. Now is the time to sit back and watch your garden grow. Maintaining your garden doesn’t have to be overly time consuming or difficult. On the contrary, if you take a few minutes every day to maintain your garden you’ll find that you’ll spend more time enjoying and less time working.

Part Four of the Witches Garden – Harvesting and Preserving – will be coming in a month or so. Until then, may your garden bring you hours of joy, lots of beautiful flowers, herbs and veggies.

Blessed Be!

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The Witches Garden: Part Two – Planting

Collage of planting a garden

Spring is finally here and in the California Central valley it is planting time. Part Two of our “The Witches Garden” series will discuss some of the ins and outs of planting our garden. From soil and amendments, to placing our seeds and tender plants into their pots and plots, let’s get our witches garden planted!

In Part One we decided what type of plants we wished to add to our gardens. We discussed the pros and cons of seeds versus purchased plants. Today I will walk you through both planting seeds and transplanting nursery seedlings. Let us begin by making sure we have the optimal bed for our new plants by looking at soil and fertilizers.

Soil for The Witches Garden

If you are going to be planting in raised beds or pots you will need to purchase a good quality, organic soil. Prices and quality vary greatly from area to area but I would suggest you purchase a soil that includes a combination of the following ingredients:

  • Compost
  • Worm castings
  • Hummus
  • Sphagnum Peat Moss
  • Perlite

I love using “Happy Hippie Mix”. It is contains all of the above ingredients along with a few more. While not technically organic, it is pretty darn close. It does not contain any added fertilizers so I am able to add in the organic types that work best for me. As always, when in doubt as to the correct soil, check with your local garden center professional.


Happy Hippie logo
Logo for Happy Hippie Garden Mix

When planting in-ground, preparing your plot is key. I could spend an entire book going over how to dig and prepare your beds for planting. However, there are three key areas I’d like to mention:

  1. Digging your rows: Make certain that when digging your rows that they are deep enough for the type of plant you will add. Root vegetables need deep, loose soil in their beds – around 12 inches. Most herbs and leafy greens only require about 6 inches of depth to grow strong and healthy.
  2. Soil conditions: Check the labels on your plants for the preferred soil conditions. Do they like the soil moist or dry? Do they require a special PH to grow properly? Do they prefer sandy, loamy or dense soil?
  3. Amendments: Depending on your soil conditions you may need to add amendments such as peat moss, vermiculite, or even a bag or two of potting mix, to get your soil soft and ready to plant.

Adding Fertilizer for a Successful Start

After testing the PH levels (kits are available at garden centers) and checking what the optimal soil conditions for your plants are, you will need to “feed” your soil by adding some fertilizer. To begin, I would suggest an all-purpose organic fertilizer be added to your raised beds and plots.

Sprinkle your fertilizer into your pots, raised beds and garden plots according to the directions. Till it in thoroughly and then give it a good watering. If possible, let it sit overnight so the fertilizer has a good chance to begin its work on the soil.

Some plants such as blueberries, grapes and specialty flowers will require individual fertilizers to optimize their health. I have special food/fertilizer for my camellias, fruit trees, blueberries and orchids. When in doubt what type to use on your plants check the internet. Google has a wealth of information on gardening to help you out.

Getting Your Hands Dirty – Planting

Now comes the fun part – getting our hands dirty and planting. Before you begin you will need to gather a few supplies and tools:

  • Pots and/or containers: Choose a pot or container that will give your plants room to grow. It should be of sufficient depth for the plants root system, should drain well (you may have to drill some additional holes in the bottom) and be easily moved.
  • A small hand trowel or shovel for transplanting into raised beds or rows.
  • Planter row markers for plots, containers and beds.
  • Permanent marker (to write on your row markers).

Once you have gathered your supplies, head for the beds to start planting. To demonstrate each step, I have planted Calendula seeds in my raised planter.

The Witches Garden - planting calendula in depressions
Planting Calendula

To begin, I read the directions on the package to determine how deep my seeds need to be planted and then how far apart they need to be for optimal growth. Using my pinky finger, I poked holes into the soil, pushing to just below my first knuckle – about 1/2 inch deep – and made each one about 3 inches apart. I dropped two seeds into each hole. This is because not all seeds may germinate properly so adding in two gives me the best chance of success. I can always thin them out at a later time if necessary.

The Witches Garden - Markers in raised planter bed
Markers placed in planter bed.

After I placed the seeds into each depression, I covered them lightly with soil and gave them a good watering. When completed, I marked the bed with a row marker noting the name of the plant. Here, I am using craft sticks as they are inexpensive. I have also opted to cover my seed beds with a mesh material because my yard is a bird haven and they like to eat my seeds. The screen allows the light and water to come through but keeps their little beaks out.

A mesh screen laying over a newly planted flower bed
Mesh screen over raised planter bed

Transplanting Your Nursery Plants

Transplanting is a bit simpler. Again, read the nursery label for instructions as to depth and spacing of your plants. If adding them into containers, try not to overcrowd them. While it can be fun to mix and match varieties into a pretty pot, just give each individual plant some room to grow.

6-pack of Nasturtiums at the nursery

Six packs of Nasturtiums at my local nursery.

Using your trowel, prepare the bed, row, or pot by digging a hole deep and wide enough to fit the root ball of the plant. Carefully remove your plant from its container by turning it upside down, while holding the plant gently, yet securely, at its base. Tap on the bottom of the pot (and maybe the sides) to release it. Place your plant into the prepared hole. You may need to adjust the depth by removing or adding soil to the bottom until the plant is in the correct position. Fill around the root ball with soil, covering it completely. Your plant should sit securely, the soil no higher than its first set of leaves. Give it a good drink, place a marker and you are done!

Enjoy Your Witches Garden

Your planting is done and you can sit back and watch your garden grow. But your work doesn’t stop here. In our next installment we will talk about maintaining your Witches Garden – keeping it growing strong, healthy and beautiful. So go on. Go get your hands dirty and plant away.

Blessed Be!

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The Witches Garden: Part One – Planning

Witches Garden - A beautiful garden in front of a cottage

Basket in hand she slowly walks down the cobbled pathway of her witches garden. Her bare feet make not a sound as she wends her way through herbs and flowers. Humming a happy tune, she looks right and then left, studying the plants that line the path. Adjusting her broad-brimmed hat she peers down at a lush green Mugwort plant. Reaching into her basket she pulls out a sharp, white handled knife. Skillfully, she makes several cuts to the plant stems and then places the cuttings into her basket. Bowing her head towards the Mugwort, she thanks it for its sacrifice. She pulls an offering of fertilizer out of the voluminous pocket of her garden apron. Sprinkling it around the plant she bows again in thanks. Smiling, she turns and continues down the path, scanning her charges to see who else may be ready for harvest.

This is a glimpse of the iconic Witches Garden, a garden that seems a dream to the majority of us. However, a witches garden doesn’t need to be located on a huge plot of land or even in a country setting. Your garden can be on a balcony in the city, a patio in an urban area, or in raised beds in your suburban back yard.

Planning Your Witches Garden

In this the first installment of The Witches Garden, we will discuss how to plan and create your own magickal oasis no matter where that may be. To begin, let’s discuss the types of plants you may wish to include. Please note: When in doubt about a plant and its ability to grow in your area, check with your professionals at your local garden center.

In order to decide what I would like to add into my witches garden I think of the herbs and flowers that I use most in my magick. For me these include:

  • Alyssum
  • Calendula
  • Dill
  • Lavender
  • Mugwort
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

Next, I will make a list of culinary herbs that double as magickal herbs as well. My favorites are:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Savory
  • Thyme

Already we have quite an extensive list going. If you have limited space you may have to pare your list down to accommodate the planting area.

Witches Garden - pots and planters in my garden
Using both containers and raised beds in the garden.

Next, check to make sure that a) the plant will grow in your area; b) if the plant will grow best in containers and/or in the ground and; c) how much sun each plant requires during the day (Full sun, part sun/part shade, full shade). You will have to spend some time watching your intended garden plot to see when the sun hits each area. Full sun plants require 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Part sun/part shade plants will need 3 to 6 hours of sun. Full shade plants will require less than 3 hours of sun per day. Plan accordingly!

Once you have determined which plants will grow in your area, the proper amount of sun required, and how they need to be planted, we can move on to the next step. Here, we determine whether or not we are going to purchase our plants ready to transplant or if we will start them from seed.

Giving Your Witches Garden a Good Start

Making the decision to begin your garden with transplants or seeds depends on a few factors: 1) Cost- Plants at the nursery tend to be more expensive than starting plants from seeds; 2) Some plants like Tarragon, cannot be started from seeds. A quick Google search can show you how best to start your plants, and; 3) The amount of time you are willing to invest in starting your garden – Starting from seeds takes considerably more time.

Personally, I like to use a combination. I tend to start with purchased plants for my tomatoes and other veggies because I tend to have better luck than I do starting them from seed. Most of my herbs and flowers are all started from seeds, bought from my favorite on-line vendors.

I would suggest using organic seeds and plants, especially if you are going to be harvesting them for food or medicinal purposes. While I prefer that my magickal plants be organic as well, they are not always easy to find. Rule of thumb – if you are ingesting it, keep it organic. Otherwise standard plants or seeds will work.

Making Your Witches Garden a Success

Our planning is nearly complete. All that remains is laying out our Witches Garden. Take a few minutes to sketch out the area that you have available (you don’t need to be an artist to do this – Goddess knows I’m not). Take notes as to the amount of sun in the area and whether or not the plants are going into the ground or containers. Jot down the square footage (see here for instructions on how to determine this measurement), for either the in-ground or container area. Once you know how much space is available you will have an idea of how many plants you can grow and/or how many containers (pots, raised beds), you can place in your new garden area.

Careful planning of your garden may seem like an awful lot of effort, but the time you take now will determine how successful of a start all of your plants will have. As in all of Witchcraft and magick, prep is key! Take the time to get things organized and started right and I believe, green thumb or no, you will have a successful garden that you can take pride in. Happy Planning!

Next Week: The Witches Garden: Part Two – Planting

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Creating Crystal Water for Your Garden

Creating Crystal Water

Creating Crystal Water for your garden is a fun and easy way to welcome in Spring. In this week’s Magickal Moment, I will show you how to create and use this powerful water to give your plants a kick-start towards strong growth.

What is crystal water? Crystal water is created by placing clear quartz crystals into spring or filtered water. Full Moon water may be substituted for the spring water for an extra added boost of magickal energy. The crystals then steep in the water, imbuing it with energies of growth and strength.

To create your crystal water you will need:

  • Clear Quartz crystals – Any size will do.
  • A quart jar with a lid
  • Spring, filtered, or Full Moon water – enough to fill the jar.

Cleanse your crystals in your usual manner. Once clear of any old energies, hold them in your hand. Then, picture your garden in your mind. See it with the plants growing big and strong, disease and insect resistant. As you hold that picture of growth and strength in your mind, push that energy into your crystal(s). Feel them fill with the power of growth, the power to provide strength to your plants and garden. When you feel your crystals are ready, place them into your jar.

Crystal Water - a jar filled with water with crystals inside.
Creating crystal water

Fill your jar with the water and leave a bit of room at the top. Tightly screw on the lid. Holding the jar in your hand, envision your garden once more. This time see yourself sprinkling the crystal water onto your plants. As you do so, watch as they grow strong and beautiful before your eyes. Continue holding the jar, keeping this vision in your mind for as long as possible. When you feel you are ready, place the jar in a sunny place for three to seven days.

Using Your Crystal Water

Once the crystals have steeped in the water for the allotted time they are ready to use. Place one cup of the crystal water into a one gallon watering can. Fill the rest of the can with clear water. Sprinkle lightly at the base of your plants. As you do so see them growing strong, tall and happy. I like to sing to them as I do so, but that is entirely optional. I will water them at least four times: once when they are first planted; second when they have developed their first set of leaves (or second if they are a transplant); a third time when they are about two weeks from harvest and the last time; after I have harvested the first fruits or herbs.

Crystal Water - A watering can sitting next to a savory plant and a crystal
Getting ready to water my newly transplanted savory.

Creating crystal water is a simple, fun and magickal way to help your garden grow. May all your plants thrive and bring you joy.

Blessed Be!

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Camellia – Plant of the Month

Camellia Plant of the Month - March 2019

Our plant for March 2019 is the ornamental Camellia flower, Camellia japonica. Known as common camellia, Japanese camellia, or tsubaki in Japanese, this is one of the best known species of the genus Camellia. The other most common type is Camellia sasanqua. The Camellia is an evergreen shrub which is related to the tea plant. It is grown for its showy flowers and shiny leaves.

The name camellia is of Latin origin, and means ‘helper to the priest.’ It was named after a Jesuit botanist Georg Joseph Kamel, although he knew nothing about the plant.

Camellia Flower - 4 red camellia flowers
4 Red/Pink Camellia flowers

Plant: Camellia

Higher Classification: family Theacaea

Scientific Name: Camellia japonica, Camellia sasanqua

Folk Names: Rose of Winter

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Water

Deities: Benzaiten, Shichi Fukujin

Planet: Moon

Magickal Uses of Camellia

Parts Used: Petals or Whole Flower

  • Confidence
  • Decision Making
  • Divine Feminine
  • Friendship
  • Good luck
  • Gratitude
  • Humility
  • Perfection
  • Reasoning
  • Riches
  • True Prosperity

Substitutions: Roses can often be used as a substitute for Camellia

Growing Camellia Plants

Camellia Plant - A tall camellia tree
A Camellia Tree

Camellias are long-lived trees and shrubs that provide year-round glossy-green foliage and cool season flowers.  There are 100 – 300 describes species with perhaps thousands of different hybrids.  Ranging in colors from pure white, to pink, to red, purple and yellow, these easy to grow plants are a favorite with gardeners everywhere.

Planting Tips:

  • Camellias need to be planted a little high, so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the soil. This helps water drain away from the trunk.
  • Camellia roots are shallow, so avoid planting them under shallow-rooted shade trees such as birch and maple. They are often grown in the light shade of tall, deep-rooted pine trees.
  • Smaller varieties can be grown in containers. Use a potting mix designed for camellias, azaleas, or rhododendrons for best results.

Timing is critical when planting your camellias. Gardeners in warm areas (zones 8-10) can plant in the fall, winter and spring. If you are in zones 6 and 7 you’ll need to plant in springs so the plants will have a chance to establish its root system before cold weather sets in.

Camellia plant - White Camellia flower
White Camellia

Medicinal Uses for Camellia

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional information

  • Antioxidant
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antihaemorrhagic
  • Astringent

The flowers of the Camellia plant are astringent, antihaemorrhagic, and haemostatic.

Because they are an antioxidant and antimicrobial they are excellent for salves and tonics. When mixed with sesame oil they are used in the treatment of burns and scalds.

Camellias can be a rich source of Omega-9, squalene and multiple vitamins and minerals.

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Tarragon – Herb of the Month

Tarragon is a perennial plant with long, light green leaves. It is not a plant that is normally found in the American garden as it is used sparsely for culinary purposed here. However, tarragon, our herb of the month, is a must have for every magickal herb cabinet.

Plant: Tarragon, French Tarragon

Latin Name: Artemisia dracunculus, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa

Folk Names: Estragon, Little Dragon, Dragon’s Herb, Dragon’s Mugwort,Wyrmwort

 Close up on the leaves of French Tarragon
French Tarragon
Ready for Harvest

Gender: Feminine

Elements: Fire

Planet: Mars

Astrological Signs: Aries

Deities: Artemis, Venus

Magickal Uses of Tarragon:

Parts Used: Leaves – fresh or dried

  • Detoxification
  • Protection
  • Banish Negative Energies
  • Exorcism
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Keeping secrets
  • Sprinkling tarragon upon the windowsills and doorways is said to protect the home from thieves.
  • Often used by Hedge Witches for its soothing and calming effects.
  • Cultivates warmth and feelings of comfort
  • Used as a “fixing herb” in hoodoo and voodoo.
  • Attract Love
  • Luck
  • Aids in personal growth
  • To Elicit desire

Substitutions: Anise can be substituted for tarragon in most spells and vise versa.

Growing Tarragon

French Tarragon growing in the garden
Grow Tarragon in your Witches Garden to have fresh herbs in your magickal herbal cabinet.

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Tarragon, our herb of the month, cannot be started from seeds, only cuttings. Transplant Tarragon in the early spring.  Plant your cuttings in well-drained soil about 2 – 3 feet apart in a sunny area. Tarragon does not care for wet conditions as this may cause the plant to become straggly and die off.

Plants may grow to 2 or 3 feet in height. Prune your plant regularly to prevent flowers and to keep at a height of about 2 feet as any taller and the plant tends to droop.  Every 3 or 4 years divide up your plant in the spring or fall, freeing up space to keep the plant healthy.

In the fall remove any leaves and debris that falls on the plant as it will kill the foliage. Tarragon will die back to the ground during the winter months but will reemerge quickly in the spring.

Culinary Uses

Cut Tarragon laying on a wood cutting board
Fresh cut Tarragon leaves

The French Tarragon variety is the plant most used in cooking.  Tarragon adds flavor to eggs, fish, cheese and poultry.  It is a main ingredient in French Bernaise sauce for Eggs Benedict. Tarragon butter can be used over green beans, asparagus, peas, carrots. Add tarragon to mayonnaise to serve with cold seafood or fish.

Create a Tarragon infused vinegar for use on salads by adding tarragon to white wine vinegar and infuse for 2 weeks.

Medicinal Uses

The information provided below is for educational purposes only and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Additional information

  • Antiseptic
  • Mild anesthetic
  • Emmenagogue
  • Laxative (in large amounts)
  • Cardioprotective
  • Anti-hyperglycaemic
  • Tarragon stimulates the digestive system and also enhances appetite. It helps regulate metabolism by promoting the secretion of digestive juices and activates the co-enzymes that assist digestion.
  • Tarragon herb helps relieve flatulence, constipation, hiccups and dyspepsia.
  • Tarragon is a rich source of Vitamin C, which helps boost the immune system of the body. It helps prevent strain on the immune system, preventing a variety of infections and ailments.
  • Another health benefit of tarragon is its ability to cure oral problems like loosening of teeth, cavities and fragility of gums.
  • Chew Tarragon to relieve the pain of toothache and sore gums.
  • A fine paste made of fresh Tarragon leaves placed on abrasions, ulcers, boils and cuts will assist in preventing infection and facilitate the quick healing of the wound.
  • A handful of fresh tarragon leaves placed into a pot of boiling water will create a fragrant and healing vapor. Place your face carefully over the pot and inhale the fumes to clear sinuses, relieve headaches and migraine pain.
  • Warnings: Do not consume Tarragon while pregnant as it may be harmful in large quantities and to avoid risk of complications and accidental abortions.

Notes: Tarragon is a member of the Asteraceae family. If you are sensitive or allergic to other plants in this family such as ragweed, daisy or marigold you should take caution when adding tarragon to your diet either as a culinary herb or medicinally.