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.
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.
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
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:
- Worm castings
- Sphagnum Peat Moss
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scrolling through my Instagram page I see another post showcasing someone’s spell work. It’s a beautiful shot of an altar with all the trappings of another spell in progress. As I look closer at the picture, I feel it, a sharp sting to my subconscious. Hard as I may try, I can’t fight the feeling, the feeling of a little bit of witch envy.
Yep. I said it. Witch envy is alive and well in this psyche. It shouldn’t be, but it’s there, lurking in the shadows. But why is it there? What is this crazy witch envy that sneaks up on me from time to time?
Witch envy is what rears its ugly head when I feel that another practitioner is being more productive than I am. They seem to be doing more spells, have fancier altars, or appear more “witchy” than I am feeling at that moment. Yes, it seems ridiculous to feel this way and it is showcasing some of my worst insecurities. But there it is, popping up at the strangest moments.
Is there a valid reason for this feeling? Yes. No. Not really. It’s not as if I’m envious of their success or their work. Matter of fact it is just the opposite. I am very proud of all that they are doing and the fact that they are confident enough to share their workings with others. So why the twinge?
Why the Witch Envy?
I’ve been asking myself that question all day, hence the blog post. Having been practicing for more than 20 years I no longer find the need to do spells for each and every little thing (not to question the validity of anyone else doing such). Currently, I am at the point in my life that I do spells and rituals for what I call “the big stuff.” Sabbats, holy days for my Goddess, and for things I greatly desire. I live the magick each and every day, creating and manifesting through deed and thought. So why do these postings bring out the green-eyed monster?
Insecurity is the root cause. Am I doing enough with my Craft? Do I practice enough? Could I be doing more? Yes, I teach, I blog and write about witchcraft each and every day. I create and share spells, rituals and my “magickal moments.” Yet I still often feel insecure, like I am forgetting something important. When I see these posts it highlights that feeling of insecurity, of not doing enough.
Weird, right? I am a successful, powerful woman and witch yet I still feel insecure. Does anyone else feel the same way? Sure they do. Is it okay to have these feelings, this envy and longing? Yes it is. But it’s what we do when we feel that witch envy that makes us the witch, the practitioner, we want to be. If we come from a place of love and introspection then we can begin to understand why these feelings of envy are manifesting. We then have the opportunity of growing from the experience.
Growing from our Witch Envy
How can we grow from our feelings of witch envy? I can’t speak for everyone but for me it’s breaking down why I felt envious and then putting a plan into action to alleviate the feeling. In this particular case, I’m writing this blog as an exploration of the feelings. You, however, may take a different tact.
Perhaps this feeling is telling you that something is missing from your Craft. If so, make plans to find the missing pieces and start putting them into place. Doing something physical and tangible often replaces the feelings of envy with determination or accomplishment. Going to your favorite magickal store or website for a new item to update and enhance your altar will chase that envy away quickly. Creating a new ritual or spell can move you our of envy and into action.
Envy is not a negative emotion if it brings about positive change and progress. Instead, envy can be our helpmate, our good friend that kicks us in the ass and tells us to do something with ourselves. A little bit of witch envy may be just the ticket to kick starting a new chapter in our Craft.
So, the next time you feel a twinge, or start seeing green, remember to use that feeling to your advantage. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish with a little bit of witch envy.
For many in the Pagan community, Imbolc is upon us. Imbolc is the spoke of the Wheel of the Year when we acknowledge the return of the light. In many parts of the world the earth has begun to stir. Tiny shoots are breaking through the soil and reaching towards the strengthening sun, casting tiny shadows upon the earth. We too, are stretching, awakening, beginning to look forward to the longer days and shorter nights. This is the time of new beginnings and of giving birth to new ideas. With the light returning our minds stir and stretch, sloughing off the hibernation mode of deep winter. It is during this time of growing illumination when we may find ourselves seeing our own shadows.
While the world shakes off its slumber, we work to clear away the sleep from our psyches. The mind fogs of winter start to clear and we find ourselves looking forward to planting the seeds of new ideas and goals. Yet we find that there are shadows lurking in the liminal. We catch glimpses of the dark, unwanted parts of ourselves we wish to ignore and hide. Deep inside the spaces between the burgeoning light and winter’s darkness the shadows await our acknowledgement. Until we do we cannot move forward, cannot grow as enlightened beings. But what are the shadows? Where do they come from and what can we do about them?
Seeing our Shadows for what they are.
The shadows are our roots of pain, anger, guilt, resentment, and doubt, the things we least like about ourselves. They are the things we don’t wish see so we ignore them. hide them. We relegate them to the shadows where they lurk, popping out at the most inopportune moments. But they don’t stay down for long, manifesting themselves as fear, paranoia, mistrust and hate. What we must do is see our shadows as the roots of who we are and what we shall become, not as some hideous beast to lock away. When we take the time to step inside ourselves and flick on the light we allow ourselves to see our shadows for what they are, our allies. Then, and only then, can we begin to grow again.
How do we go about seeing our shadows? What does it take to make them our friend and ally? Time, meditation, introspection and quite often, a good therapist or counselor. Your shadows have been there a long time. They are not going to reveal themselves in a day, or two, or even a year. As witches and magickal practitioners we know that facing our shadows is a life-long process. As one shadow fades into the light another may take its place. Only with diligence, commitment and the help of others will the shadows give us their names. Once identified we can summon them, grab hold and embrace them, allowing for reintegration and healing. Tamed, a shadow changes from nemesis to ally, becoming our assistant in planting the seeds of renewal.
Facing our Shadows
All of us have to make the conscious choice to meet our shadows head on, to face our fears. It is not easy seeing our own shadows. It can be very uncomfortable and often downright nasty. But unlike Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, seeing our shadows will not prognosticate six more weeks of a winter in our souls. Quite the contrary, facing our shadows allows the light in and spring to return. By uncovering the roots of our struggles, cleaning away the old soil and tending to them, we have made viable what once lay dormant. When we allow the light to show us our worse, we can put a name to it and see it as an ally, a friend. Now, we can begin to plant those roots where they belong, in the light of our being.
Our shadows, no longer a threat, become tamed, a helpmate. That which was shadow ceases to exist as such. Transmuted, integrated, they now become a vital part of who we are, working with us instead of fighting against us. As the Sun continues to grow in strength so shall you, warmed by the knowledge that you have survived another winter of the soul. Your shadows dispelled, you can now move forward, sowing the seeds of possibilities along your way (read more about possibilities here).
During this season of renewal, beginnings, and the waxing light, make a choice to find yourself, face those bits and pieces of yourself that need tending to. Take a deep breath, reach inside yourself, flick on the switch and search for those shadows. At times the work will be difficult, sweaty and gritty, but the benefits are worth the fight. When your spring does arrive, all that you’ve sown, planted and nurtured will dispel the shadows, allowing room for change and possibilities to blossom.
It is a cold, dark day here in California’s Central Valley, fairly typical for December. We’ve had a bit more rain than normal, so soon the yearly fog will drop down, blanketing the valley in endless murky gray. It is the kind of day when I want to do nothing more than grab my favorite afghan, curl up in my recliner with a cup of peppermint tea and binge watch Netflix. However, the witch in me sees this as a time to embrace the darkness, immerse myself in it, feel it wrap around me like cozy sweater. As the winter winds and rains send me inside, the lure of the dark is overwhelming. It is this season when I let the dark guide me, giving me the clues for what I need to know or do in the upcoming year. It is the time when I let the darkness show me how to find the light.
Our ancestors knew a thing or two about the darkness, of flowing with the seasons. Winters could be very harsh and cruel for them. Forced inside for days, even weeks, at a time they learned how to cope with this time of darkness and many would even spiritually thrive. The dark was the time to tell our stories, to teach the children our traditions, a time to perfect skills such as weaving, knitting, and sewing. While the wind blew and the snow fell, we rested, conserving our energies in order to conserve our resources. The dark was a time to petition and commune with the Gods, asking that the food last until planting time and that the fire never go out. Frigid temperatures, fear of starvation and waning light has a way of humbling even the haughtiest of souls.
While the majority of us never have the fear of freezing to death or running out of food, the dark of winter can still be a frightening time. The cold and early darkness brings us inside – not just into our homes, but into our psyche, our souls as well. We may find ourselves gazing out the window at the rain or snow, contemplating life as it is, life as it was, or life as it should be. We search for warmth, not only of the hearth and easy chair, but the warmth of friends, family, our chosen deities, anything to dispel the darkness invading our lives. The dark draws us towards introspection, the examination of our lives, thought processes, our spirituality. It is now that all inner work – meditation, trance work, divination – calls to us, implores us, to go inside ourselves and listen.
Use this dark time of year to rest, rejuvenate, become. Follow the dark into the light by finding your authentic self again. Create and refine the you that you wish to be in the coming year. Learn new skills and relearn old ways. Spend time speaking to your soul and even more time listening to it. Give yourself breaks during the hectic days of the holidays for some “you” time. Allow others to do for you instead of you always doing for others. Shrink your circles, keep those you love close – you can expand again as the light expands.
The dark is here for a reason, to allow you to slumber, to withdraw into rest as the earth also sleeps. Yet the dark also calls for action. Your shadows are no longer visible in the dark. Instead, they are the dark and as such demand that you acknowledge them, see them for what they are, learn from them, and then release them before the light again casts them onto the path before you. Deal with what you have ignored, pushed aside. You have time during these long, quiet nights. Push aside the fear. It has no place here. This darkness is your companion, your partner, your friend.
As you journey through the dark toward the light, a lantern, a road map, can assist you in finding the right path in the waning light. Illuminate your way by creating a list of the things you wish to accomplish during the year, use it to guide you towards those things that will let your mind, spirit and heart grow, blossom and thrive. What do you want for yourself? Your family? What will add to your happiness? What would allow you to feel fulfilled, useful, creative? What would make you glow with love, hope and joy? Place these points on your map and then plot a course to reach them.
As the light gains strength outside, so shall the light within wax and grow stronger. The dark, once embraced, becomes our ally, not our nemesis. Darkness becomes the fertile soil where we plant our dreams and ideas for the future, ready to let the light bring them into being. The gloom and gray which chases us indoors gives us the same opportunity it gave to our ancestors, the opportunity to share, to grow, to speak to our Gods, to be thankful for the life we have and to plan for the future.
It’s okay to plant ourselves on our couch and our comfy chairs and dream as the winter surrounds us. Just remember to cultivate the seeds we’ve planted in the dark soils of the winter season, give them the energy and light of your attention. As you gaze into your hearth fires or watch as the candles flicker beside you, remember that it is only through the dark that the light shines the brightest. Enter into the darkness and let it show you the promise it holds. Allow the darkness to show you the light, moving you forward on the journey that is you.