Awesome Information Resources (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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We’re guessing that, like us, you’re constantly striving to improve your garden and your gardening methods … to make your composting processes a little bit more efficient … to strengthen the microbial activity in your soil a little bit more … to improve your favorite vegetable variety through seed saving and experimentation … and the list goes on!

And while you can achieve those goals by yourself, no one would argue that getting a little help from others makes the process a whole lot smoother, faster, and more fun!

So where do our Community members turn when they’re looking for advice and information on gardening, homesteading, and home medicine (besides The Grow Network, of course!)?

We asked them recently and compiled the following list of recommended resources. (Many thanks to Fibrefarmer, Marcia, Mary Kathryn, Permies949, Scott Sexton, tracyWandling, and all the other TGN Community members who contributed their ideas!)

Wildcrafting, Foraging, and Plant Identification

  • Eat the Weeds (blog and educational resources about foraging and edible wild plants)
  • Plants for a Future (database containing the edible, medicinal, and other uses of more than 7,000 plants)

Gardening, Farming, and Permaculture

  • Acres USA (Marjory says, “Mostly geared towards small farmers, the in-depth articles on a particular crop are great.”)
  • Your local Extension office (Merin says, “The climate and wildlife here (SW Colorado) are so different from those where I used to live (SE Texas) that it has been really helpful to be able to speak to our Extension agent and fellow Master Gardeners in this area to learn how to tackle some of the differences. A lot of them are also a wealth of information on organic and permaculture practices that work in this area….”)
  • MIgardener.com (gardening products and information)
  • North Texas Vegetable Gardeners Facebook group (“I love this group because it’s focused on gardening in my region,” says TGN’s social media manager Ruth Reyes-Loiacan. “It’s nice to have a large community of local people doing the same thing. Currently, the group has 29,000 members!”)
  • Permies (Of this forum for permaculturists and homesteaders, tracyWandling says, “It has a category for just about everything, and a wide variety of contributors of all levels who share their experiences and expertise with readers. It’s a great place to ask questions and interact with others who are doing the same things you are and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Great site.”)
  • PermaEthos (educational and community-building site)
  • Permaculture Apprentice (permaculture-related resources)
  • Permaculture Design Magazinere (contains articles on eco-regeneration, broadscale farming systems, agroforestry, home garden design, and community action)
  • Permaculture Magazine (magazine for permaculture enthusiasts covers all aspects of life)
  • Praxxus55712 YouTube channel (Marcia says she also recommends the YouTube channel WisconsinGarden.)
  • Self-Reliant School (information on growing, cooking, and preserving food)
  • Stacey Murphy/BK Farmyards (offers educational training about backyard farming and real food)
  • Tenth Acre Farm: Permaculture for the Suburbs (information on micro-farming)

Homesteading and Sustainability

  • BackYard Chickens (Merin adds that, with nearly 100,000 members—many of whom are both knowledgeable and willing to share information—the related Backyard Chickens Facebook group is also a great resource for backyard chicken keepers.)
  • Food in Jars Community Facebook group (Wendy Meredith says it offers “great ideas and new recipes on how to can much of what I produce.”)
  • MelissaKNorris.com (information on raising, preserving, and preparing food; home of the Pioneering Today podcast)
  • Mother Earth News Magazine (articles on homesteading and organic gardening, with a focus on self-sufficiency and sustainability)
  • The Prairie Homestead (blog offering homesteading advice)
  • Starry Hilder’s Off-Grid Homestead (blog about off-grid homesteading)
  • The Survival Podcast (online talk show about modern survivalism, sustainability, and alternative energy)

Health and Herbalism

Finally, regardless of the category, remember that your local library likely offers myriad excellent, free resources. “My library is a tremendous source of inspiration,” says TGN Community member Fibrefarmer. “They have the best books for the best price (free), but I have to give them back after a few weeks :(.  But still, it saves money, and they let me borrow the books as many times as I need. If they don’t have the book, they can order a copy or borrow it from another library via interlibrary loan.”

What about you? Is your favorite resource on this list? If not, let us know about it by leaving us a note in the comments!

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The post Awesome Information Resources (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!) appeared first on The Grow Network.

Dandelions: 31+ Medicinal and Culinary Uses for the King of Weeds

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This article is part of a series on weed gardens and identifying and using the plants you’ll often find there. For other articles in the series, please click here.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

As you can see, the weed garden is really starting to come to life. I’ve got henbit, sedges, dayflowers, wood sorrel, pokeweed, and a few other visitors. But one weed I would gladly welcome has yet to show up. Dandelions!

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

Dandelions are pretty much the unofficial mascots for foraging and herbal medicine. They can be found on every continent (except Antarctica) and have tremendous value as food and medicine. They invade lawns, fields, and waste spaces despite every effort to control, contain, and kill them.

Dandelions are survivors, and they pass on a little of that to us when we consume them.

Identifying Dandelions

While dandelions do have a few look-alikes, none of them are toxic. Among the common fakers, you’ll find cat’s ear, chicory, shepherd’s purse, and hawksbeard. Here’s your guide to telling the real thing from the fakers.

Dandelions are perennials1)Perennial: Any plant that lives for more than 2 years. that grow in a basal rosette.2)Basal Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves at ground level. You’ll never find leaves growing from the stem. Leaves are anywhere from 2 inches to over a foot (5 to 40 centimeters) long and have jagged teeth.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

The jagged pattern of the leaves can vary quite a bit. On some plants, the indentations will go nearly to the midline of the leaf, while others will have fairly shallow teeth. The tips of the teeth tend to point backward, toward the center of the plant. Leaves are virtually hairless at all stages of growth.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

By the way, the name “dandelion” is said to come from “dent de lion” or “teeth of the lion.” And depending on who you ask, this either refers to the jagged leaves or the flower petals.

The scientific name, Taraxacum officinale, could be translated as “the official cure for every disorder.”

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

The yellow blooms are composite flowers. That is, they look like one flower, but are technically a cluster of tiny flowers. The ends of the petals tend to be flat, rather than tapering to a point, and they overlap all the way to the center of the flower. Blooming happens mostly in spring, and again in fall, with sporadic blooming at any time.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

These flowers turn into the puffballs that kids love to blow on to make wishes. A single dandelion plant may produce many stems and flowers, but each stem will have only a single flower. The stems are hollow and can range in length from 2 to 18 inches (5 to 45 centimeters).

All parts of the plant contain a white, milky sap. This would normally be a warning sign, but dandelions are an exception to the rule.

Read More: “How to Not Die While Wildcrafting: 15 Rules for Foraging Safely”

There are even some rather useful applications for this sap, which we’ll get into below. Be aware that dandelion sap has occasionally been reported to cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.

Dandelions can be found throughout the U.S., Canada, and most of the rest of the world, especially around people. This is another plant that loves us and wants to be near us. You can find them in lawns, fields, pastures, waste spaces, and disturbed ground. They seem to survive everything from drought, to over-picking, to digging, to mowing, to herbicides. But why would you want to get rid of these happy little guys? They’re beautiful, and they’re trying so hard to help us.

Edible Uses and Dandelion Recipes

If you do an Internet search for dandelion recipes, you’ll find page after page of preparations for this versatile vegetation. Recipes abound!

I, myself, have only scratched the surface of dandelion delicacies. There are just so many!

Nutritional Value

And why shouldn’t there be? Every part of the plant is edible, raw or cooked. And not only are dandelions plentiful, they’re very nearly a perfect food. Dandelions are rich in potassium; magnesium; manganese; phosphorus; sodium; copper; choline; calcium; iron; lecithin; biotin; inositol; chlorophyll; fiber; and vitamins A, B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, and E.3)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.,4)Peterson, Lee Allen, and Roger Tory Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.,5)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.,6)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.,7)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.,8)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.

That’s quite a mouthful. Literally.

They have more vitamin A than any other green plant—six times more than carrots—and a single cup of fresh greens will meet your daily requirement of beta-carotene, iron, calcium, and potassium!9)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

That tap root really reaches down to bring up the good stuff. You can see why I call them the king of weeds.

Furthermore, when eaten as a whole (roots to flowers/seeds), the dandelion forms a complete protein, with all 9 essential amino acids.10)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014. That’s a pretty good trick for a plant.

Dandelion also seems to help with the absorption and balance of minerals.11)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Overcoming the Bitter Taste

But let’s address the elephant in the room. Dandelions are bitter. Very bitter. Involuntarily-spit-them-out-and-go-wash-your-mouth-out-with-ice-cream bitter.

Perhaps I exaggerate. But how is one to get past the bitterness to access those amazing nutrients? I’ve got you covered.

First, you should select the best dandelions. The best-tasting leaves have had the easiest life. Don’t pick any sunbaked, twice-stepped-on leaves. Harvest from a plant in a shady, well-watered location. Harvest younger greens, earlier in the year. Leaves toward the center of the rosette also tend to be less bitter.

Next, choose the right preparation. It’s the rare individual who enjoys eating a handful of dandelion greens raw. It’s a lot easier to moderate their taste by chopping them up and mixing them with other greens. They also pair well with savory dishes.

Of all the cooking methods, boiling does the best job of reducing bitterness. Drop the leaves into boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes. If you’ve picked a good plant, it shouldn’t take much more than this. If not, you can always boil them longer. Use plenty of water so the bitterness has someplace to go.

Eating the Roots: Stir-fried, Pickled, and as a Coffee Substitute

The root can be eaten raw, but tastes better when cooked. Try them sliced and stir-fried with other veggies. Cooking breaks down the root’s inulin into fructose, bringing out a much sweeter taste. They’re also a fine addition to soups and stews, and—although I’ve never tried it—they are reportedly quite tasty when pickled.

Dandelions - Uses, Eating. Medicine

Dandelion Coffee Recipe

The root is typically harvested from late fall to early spring. Second-year roots are preferred, but good luck on guessing how old a dandelion is by looking at it. If it’s too old and woody to eat, you can still use it to make a caffeine-free coffee substitute. Slice up the root and slow-roast it in your oven until it turns dark brown and becomes brittle. This should take about 30 minutes at 350°F (175°C). Let it cool, and then grind it up to use like coffee grounds. I’m usually not a fan of coffee substitutes, but this is one I really enjoy.

Dandelion Mocha Recipe

If you’d like to take your dandelion coffee to the next level (and who wouldn’t?), you can turn it into a dandelion mocha. This recipe comes from Rosemary Gladstar, and it is delightful.

Use 1 tbsp each of dandelion coffee grounds and cacao nibs. Simmer in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes. Then strain and add ½ cup milk (or milk substitute), ½ tsp. cinnamon, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 1 tbsp. honey (or other sweetener), and a dash of ground nutmeg or cloves.

It’s excellent. I highly recommend you try it.

Eating the Flowers: Sautéed, Fried, and Infused

The flowers make a colorful addition to salads, soups, ice creams, or just about anything else. Two of my favorite ways to eat them are sautéed in butter and as an ingredient in dandelion lemonade.

  • Sautéed blooms are easy. Just melt some butter and sauté away. (Alternately, you could make a simple egg-and-flour batter and fry them. Yum!)
  • To make dandelion lemonade, just add about a quart of dandelion flowers to a half gallon of lemonade. Let the mixture infuse in the fridge overnight, then strain out the blossoms and enjoy.

The less green you have from the base of the blossoms, the less bitter they will taste. Here’s a brief clip demonstrating a super easy way to separate the petals from the bitter greens:

https://youtu.be/fWyA35Cs5e0

The last way to get past the bitterness is simply to build up an appreciation for it. Sure, it’s not the most popular option, but you really can develop a taste for a food by consistently consuming small portions of it. Gradually, your aversion turns into tolerance. And then tolerance can even become a craving. It really works. Try it!

Medicinal Uses for Dandelions

Dandelion’s medicinal effects are not limited to its impressive nutritional profile. It sports a bevy of benefits. Let’s dive in!

As a Digestive Aid

Dandelion’s bitter taste is likely also its best-known medicinal property. It’s a bitter. Bitters are plants that encourage optimal digestion by stimulating the secretion of enzymes and digestive juices.12)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.,13)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

Dandelion stimulates appetite, aids the liver in its detoxification duties, helps to regulate the release of pancreatic hormone, is stimulating to the spleen, supports correct bile duct function, and even helps to repair the gut wall.14)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,15)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,16)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It may even help to resist the progression of cirrhosis of the liver.17)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Dandelion is a remarkable plant!

To Treat Colitis

In one experiment, participants with non-specific colitis were given dandelion along with calendula, lemon balm, and St. John’s wort. Complete relief from spontaneous and palpable pains was reported by 96% of participants, and stools were normalized in those with diarrhea symptoms.18)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

As a Spring Tonic and Diuretic

Dandelion is also well-known as a spring tonic. It helps to flush and tone the body after enduring the rigors of winter.

The entire plant is diuretic, flushing excess water from the body and generally giving us a good cleansing. The leaf is more powerful than the root, and is comparable to the drug furosemide in terms of strength.19)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Don’t take it right before bed or you’ll be up all night. Trust me. I know.

Dandelion’s diuretic properties help to relieve fluid retention.20)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It is also used to dissolve calcium stones and to prevent new ones from forming, and can be used safely over long periods.21)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,22)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

Dandelion’s diuretic nature may also help to explain its effectiveness in relieving arthritic complaints.23)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

With conventional pharmaceuticals, as the body flushes out water, it’s also flushing out our supply of potassium. This can be rough on your heart and cause problems for anyone with a heart condition.24)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. Dandelion, on the other hand, is so rich in potassium that even while it flushes out the body, it still provides a net gain in potassium.25)Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016. This makes it an ideal diuretic herb for people with heart issues.26)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.

For Skin Health

The natural latex in its sap is helpful in getting rid of warts.27)Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012. However, this is not a quick process. The sap must be applied several times a day for 2 to 3 weeks. Direct application of the sap can also help with moles, pimples, canker sores, and other skin blemishes.28)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014., 29)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

To Fight Cancer and Harmful Bacteria

Dandelion may have anti-tumor/anti-cancer properties, though it is not clear whether this would be from a direct action or indirectly through its ability to cleanse and support normal body function.30)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,31)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Dandelion also appears to have selective antimicrobial properties, supporting healthy gut bacteria while discouraging unhealthy ones.32)Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.,33)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.,34)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It even helps prevent plaque buildup on teeth.35)Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.

Other Medicinal Uses

Dandelion is also cooling and drying, and can be used as a fever reducer.36)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. It’s a mild laxative and has an alkalizing effect on the body.37)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,38)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.,39)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Dandelion may also help some people with allergies and food intolerances.40)Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.

In animal studies, dandelion has been shown to have hypoglycemic activities.41)Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003. This may make it a helpful plant for those with diabetes, but could be a contraindication for those with hypoglycemia.42)Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.,43)Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

Medicinal Formats and Dosages

You can use dandelion via any of the normal methods: fresh, dried, tincture, decoction, infusion, etc. The dried leaves make an excellent addition to green powders.

Outside of some very specific circumstances, dandelion is widely considered to be safe. Recommendations vary from herbalist to herbalist as to how much you should take.

I will present some amounts that I think are reasonable, but you should view them as suggestions, rather than rules. Other quantities/frequencies could be equally valid, depending on your situation.

Root Tincture

1:5 ratio in 60% alcohol. Use 2.5–5 ml, 3 times daily.

Root Decoction

Use 2–3 tsp of root material in 1 cup of water. Simmer for 10–15 minutes. Drink this 3 times a day.

Leaf Tincture

1:5 ratio in 40% alcohol. Use 5–10 ml, 3 times daily.

Leaf Infusion

Pour boiling water over ½ tsp of dried leaf and allow to steep for 10–15 minutes. Drink this 3 times a day.

Long Live the King!

Dandelions are so impressively versatile that I could never fit everything into a single article.

For example, did you know that the sap can be used as glue, or that the stem can be fashioned into a working flute?

What else did I leave out? What’s your favorite recipe or medicinal use? Do you have any dandelion stories (or horror stories about the bitter flavor)? Are dandelions really the king of weeds, or should that title belong to a different plant? Let me know in the comments!

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Psst! Our Lawyer Wants You to Read This Big, Bad Medical Disclaimer –> The contents of this article, made available via The Grow Network (TGN), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information provided by TGN. Reliance on any information provided by this article is solely at your own risk. And, of course, never eat a wild plant without first checking with a local expert.

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References   [ + ]

1. Perennial: Any plant that lives for more than 2 years.
2. Basal Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves at ground level.
3, 32. Foster, Steven, James A. Duke, and Steven Foster. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
4. Peterson, Lee Allen, and Roger Tory Peterson. A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.
5, 25. Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. London: DK/Penguin Random House, 2016.
6, 9, 10, 28, 33, 35. Blair, Katrina. The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.
7, 12, 27. Gladstar, Rosemary. The Beginners Guide to Medicinal Herbs 35 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use. Storey Books, 2012.
8, 14, 21, 37, 42. Elpel, Thomas J. Botany in a Day: Thomas J. Elpels Herbal Field Guide to Plant Families. Pony, MT: HOPS Press, 2004.
11, 13, 15, 19, 23, 24, 26, 30, 38, 41. Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.
16, 17, 18, 20, 22, 31, 34, 36, 39, 40. Mills, Simon, and Kerry Bone. Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2013.
29, 43. Grossberg, George T., and Barry Fox. The Essential Herb-drug-vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

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Companion Planting Favorites (Your Answers to the Question of the Month!)

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What Are Your Favorite Combinations for Companion Planting?

Recently on the site, we’ve been talking about Three Sisters Gardens. Of course, this classic symbiosis is a great example of companion planting …

… which got us wondering …

… what do you do in YOUR garden?

You let us know in your replies to TGN’s March Question of the Month.

Answers encompassed a range of uses for companion planting—from keeping pests away to extending the season by providing shade.

Here’s how your fellow TGN Community members put companion planting to work for them:

  • Frances Graham has found that interplanting herb barbara (Barbarea vulgaris) with brassicas helps keep whiteflies under control.
  • Scott Sexton uses a number of planting combinations to his advantage: “I like strawberries with blueberries. I also like comfrey with my fruit trees. It helps shade out the grass. I’m planning on trying a muscadine cultivar growing up my fruit trees. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it will work. They’d be growing up trees in nature. I’ve had some unintentional overlap between my passion flowers and sunchokes. The passion vines climb up the sunchoke stalks, and they both die back in the winter. So far, they both seem to be okay with the situation.”
  • Tasha Greer uses a clever trick to provide a microclimate for her arugula in warm weather: “Since I am a total arugula addict and really want to eat it year-round, I discovered a trick for germinating arugula outdoors, even in mid-summer. I interplant my arugula with buckwheat. The buckwheat comes up quickly, providing some shade and a bit of a microclimate for the arugula. I don’t know if this will work in extreme heat, but it has worked for me in 80-90ºFtemperatures as long as I keep my buckwheat/arugula patch well-watered.

Read More: “Growing Arugula: The Rocket in Your Salad Bowl and Garden (With Recipe)”

  • Marjory Wildcraft offers this tip for keeping lettuce from bolting so quickly when the weather warms up: “Lightly shading lettuce plants can provide enough of a temperature drop to keep them from bolting, sometimes up to 3-5 weeks. Shade can be from a shade cloth or a row cover on a low tunnel, or by companion planting tall, wide-leafed plants such as some types of pumpkin.”

Read More: “Growing Lettuce From Seed”

  • Riesah likes growing strawberries and asparagus in the same bed, and Kathy does the same with tomatoes, peppers, and lettuces.
  • Carolyn says she gets better crops of both basil and tomatoes when she plants them together. “Although,” she says, “marigolds with about anything is good, too.”
  • Willow likes marigolds, too, and says she places them in her bed borders or rows about every 3 feet. “They work for the broadest spectrum of insects in all stages.” She also interplants mint and chives among her crops, and says she’s found that “plants that taste good together, grow well together.” For example, squash grows well with dill and garlic.
  • Sdmherblady interplants marigolds with bush beans, and also grows carrots and onions together. “I had read they are great companions,” she says. “They repel each other’s biggest insect pests.  I had my doubts, as they are both root crops and I thought they would compete for specific nutrients. But planting them in an alternating grid pattern worked fantastic. Both crops produced very well, made large healthy roots, and there were NO pests to be seen throughout the entire bed.”

What about you? What crops do you plant together, and why? Let us know in the comments!

 

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