Autumn Equinox – Harvest Time!

The cooling nights reminds us it’s time to get the last of our harvest in or move those sun-loving planters inside soon.

Many get so excited to plant in spring, but autumn is a great time to plant perennials, giving the plants an opportunity to get roots firmly grounded before having to express energy in the spring for leaves, flowers and fruit.

Autumn is also a great time of year to reflect on the year’s accomplishments and visualize those things undone being finished.  The cooling temperatures give us time to finish the year’s projects that have been lingering.

If you are walking in the woods now, look for fruits and seeds that you may scatter to help proliferate the species of various forest plants. We like to throw a handful in the four directions in the same environment that the plant is already growing. You can be your own Johnny Appleseed wherever you may be (pictured below left is American Spikenard – Aralia racemosa found in Appalachia).

Another fun thing to do is seed save from your herb garden and organize a seed swap with friends in winter or early spring. We are so fortunate to have a partnership with The Lord’s Acre, a produce garden feeding families in Fairview, NC. Jacquelyn Dobrinska and other volunteers have created TLA herb garden, chock full of medicinal plants. Red Moon Herbs has been harvesting and seed saving from this plot and will coordinate a seed exchange in the near future. Pictured below, center, is toothache plant, Spilanthes acmella, and right, Tulsi or Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum).

We are also busily preparing some locally grown and dried herbs for the upcoming SE Wise Women Herb Conference on October 10-12, 2014. It’s a great time of year to collect some of you favorite herbs such as mint, lemon balm, tulsi, dandelion leaf, plantain and others from the garden or in pristine wildcrafted places. Hang in bouquets upside down with string to dry for your own tea blends to savor mid-winter.

 tulsi

September 24, 2014 — Jeannie Dunn

Marvelous Mints for the Family Herb Garden

by Corinna Wood and Lee Warren

First published in the Mountain Xpress, 2010

Imagine a glass of ice-cold peppermint tea on a hot day. Or the cheerful, earthy fragrance of lemon balm when you pinch a leaf as you walk by. Or a playful young cat rolling with ecstasy in the catnip in the nearby herb garden.

Cooling in nature and filled with aromatic oils, plants in the mint family delight us in countless ways. In particular, peppermint, lemon balm and catnip are some of our favorite, easy-to-grow herbs.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
First of all, when transplanting peppermint, make sure to put it in a place where you’re prepared for it to expand, as it spreads aggressively by roots. Our peppermint patch sends out runners several feet beyond its bed, even in the midst of a gravel path (you can also pull it out of those places you don’t want it). Planting in an outdoor planter is an option for containing it.

Fresh peppermint leaves can be picked and chewed for an instant hit of flavor or used in recipes that call for mint such as tabouleh (a middle eastern salad) or lamb dishes. Traditional herbailists used peppermint for easing digestive distress of all kinds.

Because it smells good, tastes yummy, and is very safe, it’s often used for children. In fact, since Corinna’s son Dylan was a wee toddler, he’s harvested fresh peppermint for the family at teatime. At grandma’s house, with the peppermint patch at the edge of the driveway, he would routinely pick a handful of stalks to play with, sniff, and eat, to stave off carsickness on the curvy roads back to their mountain home. 

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Super easy to grow, lemon balm thrives in the cool season (spring and fall), withstands the heat like a champ, and even tolerates some shade. Red Moon Herbs recently expanded from a few lemon balm plants to a lush bountiful circular bed more than 20 times the size of the original plants. We duplicated the plants from cuttings by taking the top couple of inches off an existing lemon balm plant, stripping the bottom leaves, and keeping these watered in some sandy potting soil. The cuttings soon grew roots and were ready to be planted. In less than a year, we had as much as we could harvest!

Just crushing the leaves of this plant and inhaling deeply will give you, immediately, a sense of its traditional use as a gentle mood supporter.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
As the name implies, cats love this plant as it contains a constituent that causes them temporary euphoria! Not euphoria producing in humans, it is nonetheless a lovely plant to include in the home garden for beauty and function. As easy to grow as the others, we usually start them from transplants. Catnip is a pleasant and relaxing tea for the stomach or just winding down before bedtime. As you plant your garden, note that catnip crosses with lemon balm, so it’s best to keep them separate.

August 24, 2012 — Red Moon Herbs