Thursday, May 5, 2011

Perennial Plant Barter!

Check out this giant sorrel!

I added my keys to the photo so you can see the scale. Much thanks to my Baltimore Foodmakers friend Brian for a most excellent barter. As an exchange for the sorrel, I brought over half a dozen homegrown eggs and some apple jerky.

The sorrel in its happy new home at the Boone Street garden (that's chamomile in the foreground):

As I have mentioned before, it's somewhat difficult to grow some perennial herbs from seed. If you want to grow things like lavender, oregano, sorrel, chamomile, etc. it is often easier to get a cutting of the original plant.

The Baltimore Foodmakers google group is often the place to go when you need kombucha or sourdough starters, a source for good Greek cheese, compost worms, or other esoteric food and gardening resources. So I sent out a question asking if anyone had established perennial herbs growing in their garden. There were so many great replies!

My friends Zeb and Helen shared some purple coneflower and another plant whose name I can't remember, but I think it sends up a stalk with purple flowers. The coneflower is on the left and the unknown flower-stalk plant is on the right:

All of the plants are going into a 'lasagna bed' that we made by layering cardboard, newspaper, wet leaves, and straw on top of the grass. All of those layers help kill the grass and weeds beneath, no tilling needed! Just dig a hole for the perennial and pop it in the ground.

We've also got a strawberry plant in there, and sorrel is another edible perennial. The purple coneflower and chamomile are excellent for tea. I also hope to add more perennial plants that are good for herbal teas.

Although many of these perennials spread voraciously, I'm hoping that growing them all together in one location will balance that out as they all have to compete for space. And if they want to spread beyond the lasagna bed, they'll have to compete with the crabgrass and dandelions!

The perennial bed has also provided us with the first harvest of the year: chamomile!

This blog post I found
describes drying the flower heads with a dehydrator, but I usually just spread them out on a screen in a dark place for a few weeks and they are fine. I take the flower heads that have gone past maturity, and the white petals are either fully drooping or gone completely.

Clipping the flower blooms off the ends of the plant actually makes the plant grow even larger since it's not spending all of its energy on mature flower heads.

It's somewhat time intensive, but I hope to clip the heads off of chamomile, the tips of mint, and all sorts of other herbs every week or so to have a nice collection of dried herbal tea by next fall.

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