5 plants that can help heal your cold or flu & Planning a medicinal herb garden

5 plants that can help heal your cold or flu

It’s inevitable that you’ll catch a cold or flu from time to time, even if you eat well and wash your hands regularly. While colds don’t usually last more than a week, being sick is a universally miserable experience. The flu comes in a variety of strains and may stick around longer than a cold, meaning you’ll be bundled up for bed rest and fluids for quite a while.

Antibiotics aren’t an effective treatment for either of these illnesses, but over-the-counter medication can make a difference in your symptoms. However, there are also plenty of natural cold remedies for you to try. Although they’ve been proven to work through various studies, you should always talk to your doctor before starting a supplement to be sure it won’t interact with any pre-existing ailments or prescriptions.

As you work your way though cold and flu season, read about these five plants that can relieve some of the symptoms.

1. Citrus fruits
Vitamin C, one of the first vitamins that people go to when they feel sickness coming on, can be found in citrus fruits as well as supplemental pills. Research from the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnological Information showed that high doses of vitamin C at the onset of a cold can decrease its duration.

“Mint’s main active ingredient is menthol, which thins mucus and loosens phlegm to make your cough more productive.”

2. Mint
The ways you can use peppermint to soothe the symptoms associated with winter illnesses are at least three fold. The plant’s main active ingredient is menthol, which thins mucus and loosens phlegm to make your cough more productive. Putting mint extract or an over-the-counter product that includes menthol under your nose and on your chest can give you these benefits. If you’re experiencing a sore throat or an upset stomach, a steaming mug of peppermint tea could make all the difference.

3. Garlic
Garlic has long been touted for its ability to boost your immune system. You can reap the most benefits from eating garlic if you start at the beginning of cold and flu season, but it can shorten the life cycle of your cold regardless. The University of Maryland Medical Center cited a study that found people who took garlic supplements between November and February experienced fewer colds. Additionally, the illnesses didn’t last as long for people who were regularly taking garlic. While your breath won’t be pleasant, you can mince or chop a clove of garlic to eat each day.

Fresh garlic is best for bolstering your immune system.Fresh garlic is best for bolstering your immune system.

4. Elderberry
This plant has been used for several medical purposes over the years, but it’s been proven to decrease the duration of cold and flu symptoms. People often ingest elderberry in the form of Sambucol, an over-the-counter syrup. According to UMM, a study showed that taking Sambucol can shorten the length of the flu by three days. Elderberry also comes in tablets and tea, but it’s important that you don’t eat uncooked or unripe berries if you’re making your own supplements, as they can be poisonous. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting an elderberry regimen, particularly if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

5. Ginger
Ginger root and extract can benefit your body in a litany of ways, from quelling nausea to relieving congestion. It’s been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, whether in the form of hot tea or ground up in meals. The UMM noted that people who have diabetes, heart conditions or take blood thinners shouldn’t add ginger to their diets without talking to their doctor first.

Planting a medicinal herb garden

These herbs will not only create a beautiful garden but also will be useful to you and your family when colds, coughs, and flu strike. Consult the Compendium of Tea Herbs for specific herb and brewing information.

This pretty garden looks complicated, but it’s really quite simple to plant and maintain. The long rows of herbs will fill out beautifully in two or three years to create a deep border; this will provide enough density to keep weeds at a minimum. To incorporate a diversity of heights, plant linden, elder, and other tall plants in the back, then taper artistically to the low plants in front.

Flu Remedies Garden Plan

Cough, Cold, and Flu Care Garden Plants

• Angelica: 3
• Chamomile: 6
• Coltsfoot: 3
• Echinacea: 4
• Elder: 1
• Elecampane: 2
• Hibiscus: 4
• Hyssop: 4
• Lemon balm: 2
• Linden: 1
• Marshmallow: 2
• Meadowsweet: 1
• Mullein: 3
• Violet: 3–6
• Yarrow: 2

Number indicates quantity of plants needed.

How Gardeners Can Beat Cabin Fever In Winter

Even with spring in sight, we are still stuck in the long dark tunnel of winter. Tom Smart suggests ways gardeners can distract themselves until spring arrives

Snow-covered primroses
‘There’s only one cure for cabin fever – get outside.’ Photograph: David Jones/PA

Even with spring in sight, we’re still stuck in the long dark tunnel of winter. It’s still not yet time to sow. The ground is still wet and cold. It’s over the winter months that many people experience cabin fever – that irritable restless feeling which comes from being stuck inside for too long. But gardeners, with our connection to the outdoors and love of wildlife, seem to suffer more than most. We need space and light and activity; humans don’t thrive in a confined environment. Image result for gardener in winter

There’s only one cure for cabin fever – get outside. It sounds relatively simple. The cure to the problem is, literally, right outside your front door. However, if you’re like me, you leave for work in the darkness and arrive home in the darkness. Up here in the Pacific Northwest where I live, the nights don’t properly lengthen out until March. I do love my garden, but I draw the line at gardening by headlamp.

So, how can the gardener beat cabin fever in the winter months? What can we do until spring arrives? Here’s a few things to keep you distracted.

Look at photos of your garden in summerImage result for summer vegetable and pollinator garden

Research has suggested that people who look at photos and actively reminisce about their holidays, can extend that holiday feeling “glow”. If it can work for holidays, why not the garden? I take lots of pictures throughout spring and summer to chart the progress of my garden. It often helps to have photos when you’re planning borders for the next year. In winter, I often revisit these photos just to remind me that the northern hemisphere will, eventually, tilt back toward the sun.

Draw garden designsRelated image

I do love to break out a pack of colored pencils and a blank sheet of A4. With a good plant encyclopedia in hand, winter is the perfect time to rework border schemes and develop plant lists for purchase in spring. This year, I’ll be taking a leaf out of Alys Fowler’s book The Edible Garden – I’m going to try to work more vegetables into my flower borders. I love growing veg and I’m running out of room. Her take on a modern potager is romantic and beautiful. Why can’t I have my garden and eat it too?



Image result for sharpen garden tools

Sharpen tools

I have a short attention span. This means that, when I’m gardening, I often wander off in the middle of one task to begin another. All the jobs in my garden get taken care of, just not always in the correct order. This means I can be guilty of leaving a tool on top of a fence post overnight, or losing a trowel in a bucket of compost. Now is the time to line up your tools and get out the metal file, sandpaper, and general-purpose oil. Rub off any rust on tools with a wire brush. Take care with sharpening blades and secateurs; anything extensively rusted should be replaced. Try a bit of linseed oil on wooden handles – it helps to protect and nourish the wood.

Watch gardening showsRelated image

Of course, if all else fails, turn on Monty Don. He is back with a new season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces. Monty’s calm voice is a soothing balm in a confused and increasing chaotic world. Turn off the rest of the noise and Tune in to Monty. If you do, everything will make more sense.  Listen, Learn, Enjoy!

Landscape Plan for Wet Areas, What to grow!

Landscape Plan for Wet Areas

What to Grow in These Challenging Areas

Picture of sample landscape plan for wet areas.


Picture of sample landscape plan for wet areas. David Beaulieu

 If you have a soggy spot in the yard where nothing you plant does well, you may be tempted to give up and leave it unplanted. “I don’t want to go through the trouble of installing drainage or re-grading the site,” perhaps you’re saying to yourself. The good news is, you may not need to go to such lengths. But what you will need to do is develop a landscape plan specifically for wet areas.

I have presented a sample of such a landscape plan above. But if you observe wetlands in your own region, you can acquire enough ideas to develop your own landscape plan.

Some of these specimens you won’t find at just any nursery. But if you conduct an Internet search for “wildflower society” followed by the name of the region in which you live, you may find someone who specializes in the sale of native plants in your area.

In the sample landscape plan for wet areas presented above, the pond serves as a backdrop for three rows of plants. The planting is “layered”: i.e., the tallest plants reside in the back, the shortest in the front, and the mid-sized in between.

The wetland plants shown in the landscape plan are listed below, row by row:

Sample landscape plan was drawn with the landscaping software named, “Realtime Landscaping Pro.”

Vegetables That Require Wet Ground

Finding plants to grow in wet garden soil can be challenging since many common vegetables do not thrive in these conditions. If you are stuck with a wet garden and are committed to growing vegetables in it, try a not-so-common variety to regain control of that problematic spot.

Leafy Vegetables

For greens high in nutrients that also thrive in wet soil, try Tanier spinach (Xanthosoma brasiliense), Butterbur (Petasites japonicas) or Kang Kong (Lpomoea Aquatica). Tanier is a shade-tolerant herbaceous perennial that can be eaten raw, although it is usually boiled to remove the needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals. Butterbur thrives in moist to wet soil in shade or semi-shady conditions, and its leaf stalks are eaten as a vegetable. Kang Kong, also known as water spinach, has even more versatility. It thrives in sunny or shady locations with lots of moisture.

Sweet Roots

For a vegetable more along the lines of a carrot, try skirret (Sium sisarum). Although a minor crop in the United States, the plant is used widely in China and Japan. Skirret thrives in moist to wet soil in semi-shady areas. Once the sweet-tasting root is harvested, it is boiled, stewed or roasted. For best results, plant this hardy, cool season crop in the fall. Roots are usually harvested six to eight months later. Spring shoots are also edible.

Waterlogged Areas

For areas where water stands, consider taro (Colocasia esculenta). Taro, one of Hawaii’s main crops, thrives not only in wet soils but can even tolerate being waterlogged for weeks. Both the plant’s leaves and tubers can be eaten. Just like Tanier spinach, taro leaves should be boiled to remove the needle calcium oxalate crystals, and the roots can also be boiled like potatoes. Outer leaves of the plant are cut into strips, dried and used in soups.

Productive Vine

For a plant that is both visually interesting and an abundant food source, try groundnut (Apios Americana). The plant has been around for centuries and was part of the American Indian diet and even helped the Plymouth Pilgrims survive after they depleted their supply of corn. The climbing vine produces red, pink or purple blooms July through September. The tuber is as versatile as a potato — it can be fried, boiled or sautéed. The plant requires plenty of moisture and grows best in semi-shady area.

Garden Based Learning Activities

Boy wearing gardening gloves working with starter plants

Schools and community gardens are living classrooms with great potential for learning. In How to Grow a School Garden, Arden Buck-Sporer and Rachel Kathleen Pringle cite the following:

Numerous studies point to school gardens as a means of improving academic achievement, promoting healthy lifestyles, demonstrating the principles of stewardship, encouraging community and social development, and instilling a sense of place.

In addition, gardens are places where students can connect with global issues through the natural resources of earth, advance community development efforts through neighborhood beautification, and leave their green-print in our ecosystem. Gardens, and the people in the community near your garden, are an incredible asset to schools and out-of-school-time programs. Your garden doesn’t have to fit one model. In fact, there are many models that your school or organization can follow.

Below are practical, feasible ideas for you to begin growing these benefits in your community.

Academic Enrichment

A study from Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Learning Through the Garden, shows that gardens can function as living laboratories. Students who participate in gardening have a considerable increase in grade point average, utilize new learning styles, and develop their perspectives and ways of learning to incorporate critical 21st-century skills such as “curiosity, flexibility, open-mindedness, informed skepticism, creativity, and critical thinking.”
Growing plants

Here are some activity examples that could be used in a gardening unit:

  • Create a Garden in a Glove for science observation and discovery, or create a seed book. Have students insert their seed book in an art journal while they observe the growth or decay activity in their plot, or chart what foods are grown in global regions.
  • Build rain gauges to incorporate into math lessons about measurements and volume, or a bulb growth chart to look for growth patterns.
  • Have students read through garden cookbooks, and even create their own recipe books from their garden cooking experiments to enhance literacy skills.
  • For more academic ideas in the garden, visit Kids Gardening, The Educators’ Spin On It, and National Agriculture in the Classroom.

    Food and Nutrition/Food Security

    Access to food and nutrition unfortunately does not come readily to everyone, and millions of children and adults stare into the face of food insecurity every year. According to Feeding America, giving children proper nutrition and access to food can impact “physical and mental health, academic achievement, and future economic prosperity.” Gardens can be an integral part of providing nutrition to children.

    Consider these activities:

    Ecological Sustainability

    Composting and waste reduction teach students sustainable practices. Not only does composting add nutrients to the soil, decomposition is also a large part of science curriculums.

    Here are a few sample activities:

    If such a small act of planting trees on the corner can make a dent in the sustainability of a neighborhood, think about the impact that trees and gardens across the world can make on our global food system! Visit the Green Education Foundation for garden plans and topics such as water conservation and recycling.

    Program Management

    There is no shortage of great resources available for your garden. Here are just a few starting places:

    Collaborating with math, science, and art teachers can bring additional ideas for using gardens as hands-on reinforcement of what they are teaching in those classrooms. Field trips to community gardens and farmers’ markets can inspire young minds. If you are in a cold climate, consider learning about greenhouses and hydroponics. These tools allow farmers to simulate a warmer climate and grow various fruits and vegetables all year long. Gardens — inside or outside, big or small — support academic and 21st-century skills development.

    Post shared from Edutopia
    Written by Kristin Stayer

The Best Gardener’s Tips *Hint, they’re your own!

The Best Gardening tips always come from yourself!

Save yourself some money every year by buying fewer seeds and learning what works.

Garden Journals and Seed Binders:
Seed Binders and garden journals make gardening more efficientseed notebook
By storing seeds this way, you are creating an environment which will promote seed viability.  The pockets lock out moisture, being in a binder protects them from light and then store in a cool environment.

Asking forgiveness, not permission: Repurpose your spouse’s baseball card binders.  Hide somewhere in the garage.  Start wondering how mad he’ll get…
Image result for baseball card binder

Or Breathe Easy Using A Notebook!garden journal

Your observations can be as thorough as you’d like them depending on your need to feel organized.  Limited on time?  This helps you save some.

Using a notebook
Tape the seed packets planted, directions and planting zones are listed for reference.
Include a drawing of your garden.  Label your rows as you plant them.
Take note of what you observe, in the garden and around you.  You might include notes about weather, birds migrating, frogs singing.

After the growing season take note of what worked and what didn’t.  Keeping a Garden Journal | Real Food RN
Optional Journal Entry Suggestions:
From the garden journal of Jeanette Yee Sclar, Mistress of Longears

Image result for funny garden journal ideasImage result for funny garden journal ideas
summer harvest 2018
Image result for funny garden journal ideas





Plants of the Winter Solstice| Celebrating Symbols of the Solstice

The winter solstice falls on December 21, marking the official start of winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year.

After the solstice, the days will start to get longer, and as the old adage says, ”When the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.”

Even so, I appreciate seeing a brighter western horizon when I get out of work in the evening. The sun begins its climb toward summer and each day brings us one day closer to spring.
Image result for sunrise in Lake Stevens


Nearly every ancient culture had myths surrounding the return of light after the winter solstice. As the sun coursed lower in the sky, it seemed to ancient peoples that the sun might be disappearing forever.

To encourage the sun to return, bonfires were built, gifts for the gods were hung from the branches of pine trees, and evergreen plants were brought indoors to symbolize everlasting life. If it sounds a bit like Christmas, many pagan ceremonies were overlaid with Christian holidays.


Plants of the Winter Solstice

Certain trees and plants were important to the celebration of the solstice both as symbols and as decorations:

  • Evergreens were a symbol of immortality, since they were the only trees to stay green when all the others lost their leaves.
  • Yews represented the death of the old year and were a connection between this world and the next.
  • Oak trees were revered for being long-lived. Even though they were not evergreen, they were symbols of eternal life and considered a source of protection, strength, and endurance. In Celtic tradition, the entire trunk of an oak tree was kept burning for 12 hours on the eve of the solstice. If the fire did not go out, it meant the household would be protected and have an abundant harvest and good health in the coming year. A piece of that log was saved and used to start next year’s fire because, as the old log was consumed by the flames, any problems from the old year were thought to go with it.
  • Rosemary, an evergreen shrub in warm climates, was called the herb of the sun.
  • Birch trees symbolized new beginnings.



  • Ivy symbolized marriage, faithfulness, and healing and was made into wreaths and garlands to decorate during the winter.

Celebrating the Solstice

December’s full Moon, which will be visible on the night of the winter solstice, is aptly called the Full Cold Moon. If there are no clouds to obscure it from view, it should shine with all the intensity of the Sun and be bright enough for trees to cast shadows.

In Celtic tradition, one sacred place to be visited during the solstice time is an open area or hill that affords a view of the horizon in all directions. What better way to celebrate than to bundle up and climb to the top of the tallest hill? This is not a time to be hibernating; get outside and connect with the natural world in all its glorious seasons!

18 Genius Homestead Uses For 55 Gallon Plastic Barrels


There are many practical, fun, and unique homestead uses for 55 gallon plastic barrels.

Because of the recent popularity of these barrels, you frequently can find them for sale at a local store that collects from larger retailers.

Often too, you can find them for a decent price online at Craigslist. Still, if you want the best bargain, don’t be afraid to inquire directly with local retailers.

Just make sure that you collect plastic barrels that food grade (made from HDPE), and have contained only food type items.

If you love these barrel ideas, check out all the awesome things you can make for your homestead using 55 gallon metal barrels.

1. Make a raised garden bed to use outdoors or in a greenhouse.


2. Make a trailer ride by using 55 gallon plastic barrels.


3. A plastic barrel can easily be converted into a compost bin.


4. Make a raised bee hive for your backyard.


5. A 55 gallon plastic barrel can make a terrific tree swing.


6. Make a simple DIY outdoor planter.


7. Make your own DIY barrel boat.

8. Build a chair and other outdoor furniture.


9. Make a new dog house.


10. Make a simple rain barrel.


11. Use a 55 gallon plastic barrel as a strawberry planter.


12. Make an outdoor barrel root cellar.

13. Build a floating dock to use in a pond or lake.


14. Make an outdoor washing station for fruits and vegetables.


15. Make a barrel feeder for your goats.


16. A 55 gallon barrel can be used to make a DIY pig feeder.


17. Build a DIY feeder to feed deer on your property.


18. Build your own kayak.