Seed starting season is upon us. I manage a seed grant program for HWB every year, so I manage a lot of seeds in general for others. With the seed grants I intake donated seeds for HWB and then create seed kits for groups based on location and needs, and share the seeds out to HWB members growing HWB chapter, clinic, or project gardens in their communities.
So, with all of the seed grant program happening, and it also being seed starting season for me, I have seeds everywhere. I keep the HWB seeds in large totes and I keep my seeds I purchase in large photo boxes and bins. I literally have a whole space filled with the seeds as I prepare them for shipping.
I like to organize my seeds for our land by seed starting date - so I make folders that are # of weeks before avg last frost. For the indoor seed trays the seeds just go into the folder and I pull the folder for the current week and start those seeds. I note them all in my seed calendar (see last post for a free download). For the direct sow folders, I keep the seeds in baggies so on that week I take the whole bag outside and direct sow those weeks.
Every year I grow medicine and food for my family here, and then I grow extra herbs to donate to HWB. I try to grow all of the herbs we need for our family for a whole year every year - with some items every other year if I know we use them less - so I first calculate our own needs and then see how much space I have left or am creating new for additional herbs for HWB donations and community outreach/mutual aid work. I also try to make sure I am growing some for seed, especially items that are not often donated so that the seeds can be shared out. The goal is that people start saving their own seeds for these less common varieties and then share them back as well, so we have those unusual varieties in perpetuity. What most often happens is that I am the only one saving and donating seeds, but mutual aid over time is the ultimate goal, so the system is not dependent on one single person. Me.
For our family food, we are adding to our perennial foods and food forest ongoing. Every year we try to add more plants - veggies, fruit, perennialied unusual vegetables or landrace varieties or those that were historically popular but have been falling out of the seed catalogs. A goal is always to maintain a rich and diverse garden of varieties that were used or grown historically, and may be at risk or rare. By growing more varieties of food, we are maintaining seed diversity and food diversity that will help us when dealing with issues such as climate change. I love experimenting and trying new things as well. This year a few things we are growing that you might not have heard much about includes duck potatoes, skirret, huacatay, landrace parsley, maral root, garden patience, skulpit, mitsuba, Good King Henry, hablitzia, sea fennal, saltwort, naranjilla, pipicha, yauhutli, altai dragonhead balm, greenthread, papalo, upland rice, and a few others.
This year we may also have our business products open again due to a change in Wisconsin cottage food laws, so we may open custom product sales a few times per year for special events or on farm pickups depending on how that goes. So, we are planning alot of herbs. SOOOOO exciting!
I am also expanding the dye garden this year, so will be growing a few more dye plants. We will grow greenthread, dyer's chamomile, woad, founcy soapwort, weld, indigo (will try!), and dyer's coreopsis, to name a few.
My goal this year with the dye plants is to dye more textiles and yarn, as well as create natural paints and dyes for weaving and art.
The plants that I always grow a lot extra of to donate include those plants that I can harvest throughout the season such as lemon balm, catnip, peppermint, monarda, lamb's ear, comfrey, nettles, elecampane, mugwort, blue vervain, mountain mint, hairy mountain mint, and a few others. I often donate a bit of Tulsi as well, as there is never enough. As well as raspberry leaf, yarrow, violet, and a few others that grow wild here. I will also share pipicha, yauhutli, huacatay, epazote, and prairie sage this year, I think, depending on how well it does.
Hopefully others will also grow a row to donate back, so that the folks who need supplies for their community free clinics, community outreach and education, disaster relief response, and other free community programs, can get what they need! It takes a village.
I had a week or two of garden panic again this year, thinking maybe I shouldn't grow so much, but that passes, and I know it will be fine, I will get it all done, and even if we are able to leave more next summer, things will be OK without me staring at them - plants should be able to survive without babysitting.
As I pack up seeds to go to others and work on my own garden plans, I have been realizing I wanted to write a whole guide on how to grow medicinal herbs with basic monograph information for each plant as well as the growing conditions, zones, parts used, how to harvest and dry, how to save seeds, etc. Just one full page per plant with growing intensive information for each. I have about 50 plants outlined so far, and am filling them all in. I hope to then also add to the medicinal plants with other perennial permaculture plants and dye plants eventually. Perhaps it will become a large book. But it seems people want to grow more of their own. I heard someone once say how so many herbalists are "mail order herbalists" these days- only ordering dried materials from online retailers and not growing their own, and more importantly, not able to identify those plants in the wild. So, sharing information on herbalism not only from the perspective of a practitioner, but someone that wants to have a relationship with the herbs from seed to seed, is so important as we lose more of our precious plants due to climate change, natural disasters, and habitat loss from growing urban areas. Growing our own is easy and can be done even in pots on a windowsill. So, I will be using the growing season this year to photograph more of these plants, input more info into my growing guide/book, and share small videos of the garden all summer long. Can't wait for the snow to melt and for spring to arrive so I can get my hands in the dirt.
What are you growing this year that you have never grown before?
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I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, certified permaculture designer (PDC), organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two young adults in south central Wisconsin.