Spring Has Sprung (In March)

We’ve got a few things growing in our garden beds…

Chamomile
Lemon Balm
Kale
Ginger Mint
Volunteer Tomatoes
Lavender
& Chocolate Mint

I’m hoping to add more mints, calendula, basils, sages, and various veggies & fruits to our beds.

We still have a few weeks before we get our big plants in the ground and plant our cucumber seeds.  We’re going to build a new bed as well.

A Chamomile Love Story

Last year I purchased two lanky German chamomile  (Matricaria recutita) plants.  It was still early in the Spring (call it the early start of an excited grower) and so the plants sat in our summer room for quite a while with other herbs.  A few weeks in I noticed little clear/white bugs all over the stalks.  After some online searching I realized I had aphids on these two beauties.  At the advice of the websites I found, I separated the plants from the others.  I decided to put them on the windowsill above my sink, where they could get plenty of sun and TLC.

The advice I read offered all kinds of solutions to ridding myself of these little aphid bugs, and in the end I decided to just diligently squish each one as I found them.  Since the plants sat at my eye level in an area where I was frequently standing, I was able to pick off these little bugs multiple times a day.  After a week or so they seemed mostly aphid free.  One of the plants was withering badly due to the bug abuse, so I was propping it up on the window for support.  The other seemed strong, and it may sound silly but I thought that maybe keeping them together would aid in some “moral support”.  As my squishing methods worked I waited patiently to see if my weak plant would make it.  Slowly, it did.

In fact, by the time I was ready to transplant these two chamomile plants in our freshly made garden bed they were both strong and aphid free.  I was able to fit them between our cucumbers and tomatoes, as I read chamomile is often known as a plant that aids in the strength of those planted around it.  It is a helpful bed mate.  I waited to see what would come.

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Three stages of drying chamomile

Now I need to be honest, as someone wanting to grow and sell chamomile I have to confess that I have never had a chamomile tisane that I enjoyed.  In fact I found the drink disgusting in most cases.  My husband, on the other hand, has always loved it.  After doing much research on both the known and understood benefits of the tisane, I thought I should attempt it.  Why not grow such a gentle, helpful herb?  (Since this time, I have found even more studies proving it’s worth.)  But when I first tried my own grown and dried chamomile, I actually tolerated it.  It was at that point my belief in quality was fully realized, and it secured the understanding that most of what I have purchased in the past was not up to nutritional or medicinal quality.

So we had a great season with our chamomile, the only hiccup being that our tomatoes grew to such amazing heights that they started to block the sun’s rays.  Our chamomile simply started spreading out the sides of the bed to get sun.  We did miss out on a greater chamomile crop due to this organizational mishap, but our tomatoes were delicious!

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Tightly seated between cucumbers and tomatoes

I left the bed to sit all winter, not pulling any of the plants.  I wanted them to settle, and many insects use these dead or hibernating plant shells during these times.  We had some early warm weather and I decided to go out and pull everything that was dead, in order to get an idea of how the soil was doing.  We pulled everything but let left the soil as it was.  I wondered what would volunteer itself to us this year.  Turns out it would be our chamomile.

On another abnormally warm day I went out to check on our kale growing in another bed and noticed little chamomile plants growing in a few placed.  I was not expecting to be given chamomile this year, as I had already written it down on my list to purchase in May.  But there it was, in March.  I continued to watch it grow through temperature highs and lows.  It held strong, spreading and growing without any care from me.

This week I was able to pick blossoms from the plant.  It has flourished, way ahead of any other herb I have growing (even the native Lemon Balm is behind).  I am quite impressed with this chamomile and decided to give it a good 1/4 of our garden bed to spread its legs.  I still do feel a connection to this plant, the child of the one I so carefully aided on my windowsill last spring.  It is true that the more we put into something, the more we care, the more connected we become.  I hope many will come to enjoy the fruits of this plant this season.