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Journal

Healing Herbs

Created: 21 Jul 2018

The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing, the sun is kissing our cheeks, and we (Calgarians) have an overwhelming sense of relief to feel SPRING. No matter where you are in the world, if you are shedding your winter clothes, watching the rain sweep the dirt from the streets, cleaning out your cupboards or pulling bikes out of the garage it is my hope that you will be enticed to get into your garden. Furthermore, how your garden can also be a part of your wellbeing.

Without plants, there would be no life. They are the sole reason that we are able to eat, drink, and breath. For centuries people have used them for food, and for medicine. In this post we will take a closer look at five therapeutic plants that can be harvested all summer long on your balcony, in a windowsill or straight into the ground.

Apart from the healing effects of the plants themselves, spending a bit of time to grow them yourself is healing. Gardening will bring you joy, get you outside, save you money, and teach you something new. For those of you who simply see having a garden as a bit of an ambitious undertaking, no worries. These herbs are easy to source at many local grocery stores.

Well, without further a-do lets tantalize our senses with recipes and knowledge with my friends: Thyme, Lavender, Stevia, Mint and Lemon Balm.

THYME
Thymus vulgaris

Therapeutic Actions:
Anti-septic, anti-helmintic, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, astringent, expectorant.

We know this dude as a popular culinary herb when in-fact it has a long history of healing and protective qualities. Without being aware, you have likely used it medicinally before. Perhaps Vics VapoRub rings a bell? Thymol is thyme’s most active ingredient and it is used in Vics. The theory behind this is that it is an anti-bacterial expectorant, with an affinity for our lungs. Another common product that Thyme is used in, which you may have come across is Listerine. This is because of its anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Amazingly, thyme also has 75% of our Daily dose of Vitamin C!

Fresh thyme is so much more flavourful than the store bought dried herb. It is absurdly easy to dry yourself, and once it is harvested it can last in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Dried, it is ideally used within 6 months. Check out the recipe below for Thyme infused honey. It is a simple recipe that keeps forever. It can be used in baking, but medicinally it gives you a quick dose of vitamin C, while also helping you fight that soar throat or cough.

LAVENDER
Lavendula officinalis

Therapeutic Actions:
Carminative, nervous system relaxant, sedative, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, aromatic, anti-rheumatic

Lavender, lavender, lavender. Just spouting this plants name makes one instantly feel more at ease. This beautiful herb is effective at clearing depression, especially when used in conjunction with other uplifting remedies such as a nice walk on a beautiful spring day. Not only does this plant have a plethora of uses, it produces soft violet coloured flowers, which add a beautiful hue of colour to your new herb garden. As a gentle strengthening tonic of the nervous system this herb works great with children to have a calming and anti-anxiety effect, or as a sleeping aid. Try putting lavender on your desk while you study or work. Dried it can be used in tea for upset stomachs or sleep. And if you have lavender oil on hand, try 5-10 drops of this alluring herb on your pillow before bed, and allow it to release the stresses of your day, and soothe you into sleep. As an anti-rheumatic and aromatic herb, the flowers can be used in a bath to alleviate sore muscles or a headache.

STEVIA
Stevia Rebaudiana

Therapeutic Actions:
Human use of Stevia originates in South America, and it has been used extensively by the Guarani people in Paraguay and Brazil for more than 1,500 years to sweeten medicines, teas and ‘treats’. With up to 300 times the sweetness of of sugar and negligible effect on blood glucose levels stevia is fast becoming an integral part of a health promoting diet.

Known as “sweet leaf,” “sugar leaf,” or “sweet herb.” This lush plant lives up to its confectionary expectations. It is 200 X sweeter than white sugar. A few years back stevia was all the rage. Advertised as a zero calorie sugar that promoted healthy blood sugar levels. While it does just that, most of the versions that we see on the shelves are highly processed that isolate its sweetening components. Grow this herb, pick a handful of leaves, let it dry, blitz it in a blender or coffee grinder, and you will find yourself with true stevia.

This plant is extremely beneficial for diabetics who need to avoid conventional sugars. It will promote glucose regulation and help balance insulin levels. This, in turn prevents that classic sugar crash.

MINT (Peppermint)
Mentha Piperita

Medicinal Actions:
Carminative, antispasmodic, aromatic, nervine, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, decongestant, vasodilator

Peppermint is a classic digestive aid and carminative. This makes it the perfect drink to ingest after any meal. Not only will it take down the bloating, but it will also feeling energized yet relaxed. It is also rich is antioxidants and has been shown to be very useful against many common bacterial pathogens and candida. This is one herb (as an oil) that I never travel without. When you have a headache, or cramps us it topically to provide instant relief. There are endless uses for mint, from baking to throwing a few leaves in your water to spruce it up. Below, mint is featured in a savour recipe that can be used on anything from potatoes to sandwiches.

Mint will thrive anywhere, it is a perennial that spreads like wildfire. Keep it contained in a pot on its own or let it loose to fill the cracks in your garden bed.

LEMON BALM
Melissa Officinalis

Medicinal Actions:
Nervous system tonic & Relaxant, carminative, sedative, antidepressant, antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-histamine

In the Middle ages this herb was used as a sedative and the ancient Greek & Romans used it for wound healing. That is precisely why you find it in creams and salves. In present, this herb is used as an effective mood enhancer, for anyone with anxiety and/or depressive mood. Lemon balms calming and anxiety-reducing properties render it effective for restlessness, headaches, mild-palpitations, and excitability. Digestive upsets related to nervousness often find relief with Lemon Balm, With its tonic effects on the heart, circulatory and nervous system try this herb in your next batch of lemonade or sleepy time tea.

Soon, the aromatics will softly fill the room, the tastes will delight your bellies and as you look onto your garden you will be jubilant knowing that you have experienced something new and accomplished so much with so little.

To get your herbs from your garden to your kitchen so that they can do what they do, here are a few recipes that feature one, some or all of the plants that we have talked about.

Herbal Tea

6 Tbs Chamomile
4 Tbs Lavender
4 Tbs Lemon Balm
2 Tbs Spearmint
2 Tbs Licorice or Stevia

Throw in a jar, toss to combine

Brewing: A heaping tsp for every cup of hot water. Let steep for 5 minutes.

Thyme Infused Honey

1-2 Tbs Dried thyme sprigs
1 cup raw honey
Jar with a tight fitting lid.

Place herbs in a jar large enough to fill it with the cup of honey. Fill the thyme filled jar with the honey. Stir the honey, preferably with something wooden such as a chop stick. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth and then cover the jar tightly. Label the jar with the contents and date. Let the herbs infuse for 5 days – 2 weeks. Once you have reached the potency/taste that you are happy with, strain the honey into a similar sized jar. The honey will last until it is all consumed!

Note: It isn’t necessary to strain the honey

Green Harissa

1 clove garlic
I cup cilantro
1 cup mint leaves
½ cup parsley
2 jalepenos, stemmed and seeded
juice of one large lemon
½ tsp of fennel seed, caraway, sea salt
1 tsp cumin

In a food processor add everything except the olive oil. Once the motor is going, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until it is mulched. Transfer to a container, and keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Lavender Infused Cream

250ml heavy cream
2 lavender tea bags
1 ½ tbs honey

heat half of the cream over medium heat until bubbles start to form around the edges of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags to the cream. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove the tea bags and let the cream cool completely. Once cooled, add the remaining cream, and honey. Beat with a mixer or by hand until you get a thick luscious whipped cream.


Diagnosing Plants

Created: 21 Jul 2018

Plants can sometimes be a mystery to us, whether we’re a beginner or a experienced plant owner. At Plant we receive a lot of questions, often paired with the worried expression of a concerned plant-parent. Am I watering enough? Too much? How do I know if my plant is getting enough light? Am I doing something wrong? Here to (hopefully) help is a guide to diagnose an ill-looking plant, or to simply reassure that you are doing something right.

As plants require a balance of sunlight and water, finding that balance is often the key to solving your plant worries.


Tropical Plants

For tropical plants the “guidelines” are flexible. Depending on the type of tropical the lighting and watering requirements vary greatly (for example, fern care is drastically different than snake plant care). With that said, the signs for underwatering, overwatering, and lighting conditions will present themselves in similar ways.

“IDEAL” CONDITION

Signs:

  • Leaves are green and perky
  • Soil is neither dry nor soaking
  • Plant looks generally “happy”

Solution

  • Plant is receiving enough indirect light (think bright, but no sunshine touching the plant)
  • Plant is receiving water at regular intervals (once the top inch or so of soil dries out it gets water)

UNDERWATERING
Most common in bonsai, ferns, and certain palms

Signs:

  • Crisp, wilted leaves
  • Yellowing leaves with brown, crispy ends
  • Soil is bone dry, and possibly pulling away from the pot

Solution / Prevention

  • Adapting a more frequent watering schedule (feel the top inch of soil and water when dry)
  • Misting the leaves (especially helpful for ferns)

Plant Recommendations

  • Snake plants (Sansevieria)
  • Zamio (ZZ or Zamioculcas)
  • Pothos
  • Spider Plants
  • Ponytail Palm
  • Succulents/Cacti

OVERWATERING
The unsuspecting result of loving our plants too much

Signs:

  • Leaves are wilted but not dry (think of wilted lettuce - limp and floppy)
  • Leaves are yellowing, or turning a blackish-brown
  • Soil is constantly wet, possibly growing green algae (bugs could also be present)
  • In extreme cases, root rot

Solution / Prevention

  • Repot with new, dry soil
  • Let soil dry to the touch, and water again only once soil is dry
  • If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, add drainage with a layer of gravel (it won’t help against soaking, but will provide a bit of a buffer)
  • TIP: If you’re prone to overwatering, split your watering schedule up into two days. It’s better to water the plant with less water, more frequently.

Plant Recommendations

  • Ferns
  • Bonsai

TOO LOW OF LIGHT

Signs:

  • Extreme leaning towards light source (all stems/leaves grow towards one side)
  • Leaves losing colour or becoming yellow (and possibly dropping)
  • Slowed growth

Solution / Prevention

  • Find a new, brighter home for your plant (or take your plant into a bright location a few times a week, then return to original spot)

Plant Recommendations

  • Zamio (ZZ or Zamioculcas)
  • Snake Plants (Sansevieria)
  • Pothos

TOO MUCH LIGHT

Signs:

  • Leave edges are crisp and brown (essentially burnt)
  • Dry, brown spots elsewhere on the leaves
  • Soil is drying out too quickly

Solution / Prevention

  • Move plant away from direct sunlight, or filter light through a sheer curtain

Plant Recommendations

  • Bird of Paradise*
  • Yucca*
  • Umbrella Plant (Schefflera)*
  • Crotons*
  • Herbs
  • Succulents/Cacti
    * These plants can tolerate some direct sun, but not full exposure all day

Succulents/Cacti

For succulents and cacti, neglecting them is more or less the key. As long as they get enough sun and aren’t overwatered, they’re happy.

“IDEAL” CONDITION

Signs:

  • Signs of a happy succulent are hard to spot, not to mention describe. Typically if they are growing, without the signs mentioned below, you’re good to go

Solution

  • Plant is receiving enough sunlight
  • Soil is left to dry out completely in between watering

UNDERWATERING
Most common in jade and aloe vera

Signs:

  • Leaves are wrinkled and pruney
  • Tips of the leaves are drying out, shrinking, and turning brown
  • Soil is pulling away from the pot

Solution / Prevention

  • Water more frequently (be careful not to overcompensate and overwater!)

Plant Recommendations

  • Cacti
  • Agave
  • Lithops (Living Stone)

OVERWATERING
A common culprit of succulents and cacti dying

Signs:

  • Leaves become mushy to the touch
  • Leaves falling off (but not drying out first)
  • Leaves/stems turning blackish-brown
  • Soil is constantly wet, possibly growing green algae (bugs could also be present)

Solution / Prevention

  • Repot with new, dry soil
  • Let soil dry out completely, and water again only once soil is dry
  • If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, add drainage with a layer of gravel (it won’t help against soaking, but will provide a bit of a buffer)
  • TIP: If you’re prone to overwatering, split your watering schedule up into two days. It’s better to water the plant with less water, more frequently.

Plant Recommendations

  • Jade*
  • Aloe vera*
  • Tropical Plants
    *These plants still require a minimum amount of water, if you’re still overwatering then succulents may not be for you

TOO LOW OF LIGHT
Another common enemy of succulents and cacti

Signs:

  • New growth is “reaching” towards the light source, with increased spacing between leaves
  • Colour starts to fade
  • Soil stays moist for too long

Solution / Prevention

  • Find a new, brighter home for your plant
  • You could try to prune off the “stretched” growth, but it may not grow back normally

Plant Recommendations

  • Haworthia*
  • Gasteria*
  • Rhipsalis*
  • Hatiora*
  • Tropical Plants
    *These plants will still require direct sun or as much bright light as possible

TOO MUCH LIGHT
Believe it or not, succulents and cacti can get too much sun! This usually happens when moving the plant from lower light into full sun exposure.

Signs:

  • Browning discolouration of the leaves
  • Unusual rough patches (think burnt)

Solution / Prevention

  • Before moving a plant into full sun, gradually increase the amount of sun it gets
  • Unfortunately the only fix is to trim the burnt leaves away, but they may not grow back the same

Plant Recommendations

  • Cacti
  • Firesticks
  • Echeveria

FROSTBITE
In our climate, as soon as the temperature dips below -5°C our plants can get frostbite when taken outside. It’s important to cover up plants when taking them home or transporting them.

Signs:

  • Wilted leaves (similar to underwatering)
  • Blackish discolouration

Solution / Prevention

  • Unfortunately there isn’t a way to recover a frostbitten plant, other than trimming away the affected areas
  • Wrap plants up (specifically the foliage) before taking them outside in colder temperatures!

Dark Leafy Greens are Good for Your Home, too!

Created: 25 Apr 2018

There are benefits to having plants indoors that you already know about. Not only can they complement or complete a space, they also soften and enliven them, and lend a

The Art of Pest Control

Created: 29 Mar 2018

You work hard to make sure your plants get everything they need to grow big and strong. You water when you should and give each plant exactly the light it needs. So why do your plants have pests? An infestation can happen to even the most diligent of gardeners, but there’s no need for alarm. In this article you while find the tools and tricks necessary to handle common pests and keep your plants healthy.

First off, you’re going to need some supplies. The arsenal below contains all the items you need to effectively treat and remove indoor pests safely and without harmful chemicals.

1. Spray bottle

2. Rubbing Alcohol

3. Toothpick / chopstick : Optional, but handy for picking off scale bugs, but you can use your fingers.

4. Neem Oil : Find in Bulk or Health Food stores.

5. Castile Soap : Dr. Bronner’s, Green Beaver, etc.

6. Gloves : Optional, but bugs can be sorta gross.

7. Cloth or Paper Towel

8. Sticky trap : Available at most hardware/ home supply stores

9. Fresh Soil


General Prevention

Ideally, our plants wouldn’t get pests in the first place and there are some things you can do to prevent an infestation before it even starts:

  • Wipe down leaves regularly with slightly soapy water. In addition to keeping pests away, this helps your plant photosynthesize efficiently.
  • Avoid overwatering. Excellent advice in general, but letting the soil dry out in between waterings prevents gnats and other pests from taking up residence in your soil.
  • Spend time examining your plants. Grab some tea and take a few minutes to check out the condition of the leaves, stems, and soil. This way you can catch an infestation before it gets out of hand.
  • Separate any infested plants from the others. All 4 of the most common type of pest travel from plant to plant.

COMMON BROWN SCALE

Identification
Brown Scale is 1 mm - 4 mm in length, and typically presents as a brown oval bump on the stem or leaf of the plant. Brown Scale feeds on sap, and may go its entire adult life without moving from its spot on your plant. Brown Scale secretes a sticky clear “honeydew” that drips onto plants and creates shiny patches. Ugly, but helpful in identifying scale.

Removal
The first step in removing scale is removing the actual insects. Using a toothpick and a soapy cloth, remove the insects from the stem and leaves of the plant. Pay special attention to the underside of the leaves and the nooks along the stem. Once all the bugs have been removed, take some time to scrub off the shiny residue with a mixture of warm water and castile soap. The residue may seem harmless, but it can lead to mold if left on the plant. Finally, treat any areas that had pests with a quick swipe of rubbing alcohol to discourage insects from returning.

Prevention
Keep a keen eye out for scale on plants with large stems and hardy leaves. They can be found on most plants, but prefer those with plenty of sap to feed on. Numbers can climb quickly, so the best prevention is to catch a scale infestation early. Once you have caught and treated the problem, regularly clean and spray your plant with a mixture of 1 Tbsp Neem Oil to 1 litre of water. You got this!

MEALYBUG

Identification
Mealybugs are small, white, soft-bodied insects that belong to the same family as scale bugs. Don’t worry though, you won’t have to scrape these ones off the plant. Surrounding the mealybugs is often a fuzzy, sticky, white mess that makes finding the insects easy.

Removal
The removal of mealybugs is much the same as removing scale. Use a soapy cloth to clean the bugs off of the plant, and follow with a quick wipe of rubbing alcohol. Be extra careful to check leaf ridges and folds in the plant.

Prevention
Mealybugs are excellent at multiplying, so it’s best to catch them early. Mealybugs are also persistent, so you’ll need to check the plant and spray it with neem oil regularly. Completely removing the insects may take multiple treatments, so be thorough.

FUNGUS GNAT

Identification
Fungus gnats are simultaneously the most obvious and stealthiest pest on the list. Very similar in appearance to fruit flies, the gnats present as buzzing, black insects flying around the plant. Though they fly, fungus gnats lives most of their life in the soil at the base of a plant. You may be able to find the larvae if you dig around, but nobody really wants to do that.

Removal
Once you’ve isolated which plant has produced these annoying little creatures, it’s time to get rid of them. You can often make the flies temporarily disappear by simply letting the soil dry and catching the remaining gnats with a sticky trap. This is a temporary solution, and the gnats will likely return when the soil is moist again. For a permanent solution, you need to change your plant’s soil. To start, gently lift the plant and roots out of the pot. Brush off as much of the soil as you can, as gently as possible. You may also run the roots under water to remove any remaining soil, but this can be traumatic to the plant, and should be used only as a last resort. Once your plant is prepped, compost the old soil and clean out the pot with dish soap and water. Return the plant to its pot with new, clean soil and catch the flying gnats with a sticky trap.

Prevention
The best prevention for fungus gnats is always to provide even moisture and let the soil dry slightly between watering. Keep an eye out for gnats in pots that have automatic watering reservoirs, or plants which are being watered heavily from the bottom.

Special Note: Fungus gnats are mostly harmless to adult plants, but can be detrimental to seedling development.

SPIDER MITE

Identification
You may not be aware you have spider mites because of their size. The actual insects are only 1/50 of an inch, and are either red or white in colour. Rather than looking for the critters, the easiest way to identify a spider mite infestation is to look for the signs they leave behind. A plant plagued with spider mites will have a gauzy almost web-like covering on certain portions (This is how the pest got its common name). You may also find rust-coloured spots on the underside of the leaves.

Removal
Removal of spider mites is fairly straightforward. Break out the Neem oil mixture we discussed in the Scale section and give the whole plant a good spray. Don’t forget the top of the soil and underneath all the leaves. Once you’ve sprayed everything, go ahead and give the whole thing a really good wipe down with a cloth.

Prevention
Regular cleanings with the Neem oil mixture are very effective in keeping away spider mites. Spider mites also prefer dry conditions, so keeping humidity up is also a good deterrent.

Now you’ve got all the information you need to fight the good fight and keep your plants free from harmful pests. Good luck!


Plants Really Do Make People Happy

Created: 03 Mar 2018

It’s winter. The cold sets in. Our environment changes. Colours blend to shades, and those shades periodically disappear under blankets of white. For many of us it can feel like

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