Nature and plant lover since birth, Evelyn has been using herbs (wild and edible) for cooking and healing purposes for over 35 years. Trained in traditional Feng Shui, Sculpter, Organic and Native Plant Landscaping, Labyrinth Design, to name a few; plants and design have always been a part of her life.
“I have an eye for pattern; the contour of the land. Recognizing and seeing how it can be utilized in a natural way for people, while being in right relationship with the Earth and the sacredness of life,” chimes in Evelyn.
Residing now in at Earthaven, a permaculture eco-village in western North Carolina, Evelyn continues to design and build in ways that benefit community and planet.
Wonderful article written by Karen Chapman on Great Garden Combo: A Fall Landscape Scene That Lasts. Karen beautifully covers the steps and details necessary for anyone to create beautiful garden vignettes. She also has a new book titled Fine Foliage with Christina Salwitz. The layout of the book is beautiful. Though the book offers a designer’s perspective on using foliage color, shape and texture to create beautiful planting combinations, the ideas are presented in a very user-friendly way.
On one side of a page spread, you have a bit of inspiration that is beautifully photographed.
On the other side you have everything you need to know about the planting combination clearly spelled out for you: sun or shade, season, soil, and zone.
Karen and Christina also tell you why the combination works and introduce you to each of the plants involved.
In an article Karen writes…
Fall is one of the most exciting seasons in the garden, when we can take advantage of the many fall foliage superstars to create a framework for late-blooming perennials. Rather than thinking in terms of selecting a favorite flower or two, create a colorful vignette of trees and shrubs that will span the seasons and give your garden a picture-perfect look in autumn.
When decorating a room, we typically start by choosing a wall color. With that in place, the fun begins to find the perfect flooring or accent rug before we finally consider the placement and style of furniture. The overall color palette is often kept restrained, with accessories providing the finishing touch and extra color punch.
Creating a garden vignette is a little like that. Begin by choosing the key vertical elements — the trees, selecting those that will look good over several seasons but that also have wonderful fall tints. For the ground plane, seek out shrubs and grasses that bring color, different leaf shapes and exciting textures to the scene. Finally add a swath of your favorite late-blooming perennials and accessorize with a fun container or two for a bright splash of color… (click image below to continue reading Karen’s article for some great ideas for your own garden).
Most people do not realize that there were no honey bees in America before the European settlers brought hives from Europe. Native pollinators, especially bees other than honey bees, have been pollinating the continent’s flowering plants since long before the arrival of honey bees. Even in today’s vastly altered landscapes, they continue to do the yeomen’s share of pollination, especially when it comes to native plants.
Here are excerpts from one of the best resources I’ve found online regarding native bees from the USDA Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership (I highly recommend printing out or saving this beautifully illustrated and valuable PDF to your desktop)
Bee Basics an Introduction to Our Native Bees
What is helpful for new gardeners to know is that the honey bee, as remarkable as it is, does not know how to pollinate tomato or eggplant flowers. The honey bee also does very poorly compared to native bees when pollinating many native plants, such as pumpkins, cherries, blueberries, and cranberries. Native bees come in a wide array of sizes, shapes, and colors. They are also varied in their life styles, the places they frequent, the nests they build, the flowers they visit, and their season of activity. They remain ignored or unknown by most of us. Yet, they provide an invaluable ecosystem service, pollination, to 80 percent of flowering plants.
Bees are efficient foragers. One example is the southeastern blueberry bee, Habropoda laboriosa, a hard-working little creature capable of visiting as many as 50,000 blueberry flowers in her short life and pollinating enough of them to produce more than 6,000 ripe blueberries. At market those 6,000 blueberries are worth approximately $20 or more. Not every bee that you see flitting about may be worth $20, but all of them combined keep the world of flowering plants going. The world as we know it would not exist if there were no bees to pollinate the earth’s 250,000 flowering plants.
Bees are descended from wasps. Most wasps are carnivores; they either prey upon or parasitize other insects or spiders, and use this rich protein source to feed their young. About 125 million years ago, when the first flowering plants evolved, some wasps made a switch from hunting prey to gathering pollen for their brood. Perhaps they were hunting for insects that visited flowers and ate some of the pollen or drank the nectar along with their prey.
It didn’t take much to find the advantages of consuming pollen over hunting. Pollen is rich in proteins and doesn’t fight back, so it is easy to imagine why the bees became vegetarians. Gathering pollen and nectar requires certain adaptations different from those of hunters, so they started to change, to evolve to meet these requirements and consequently became bees.
Some bees are generalists and will use pollen from a wide variety of flowering plants. Bumble bees are generalists as they depend upon a succession of plants flowering from early spring when the queen emerges to late summer – early fall when the colony dies. Other bees have some degree of specialization in foraging; they resort to using pollen from only one or two families of flowering plants. Fortunately plant reproduction has redundancy in floral visitation already built-in. Each flowering plant species usually has a small guild of bees and other pollinators which coevolved with them to ensure their pollination. Typically, bees collect nectar from a wider range of blossoms than they visit for pollen.
One example of floral specialization is squash bees which are efficient visitors and pollinators of cucurbit plants (squash, pumpkin, and zucchini).
Blueberry bees, globe mallow bees, and cactus bees are also floral specialists.
Some bee species are active only for a few weeks during the growing season and depend on just a few families of flowering plants for their foraging needs. Bees in the genus Macropis depend only on loosestrife flowers (Lysimachia) from which they collect oil and pollen for their larvae’s food. Loosestrife flowers however, have no nectar available so bees in the genus Macropis must visit other flowers for their nectar needs. One highly specialized bee is Anthemurgus passiflorae. This bee is only known to forage on yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea).
A note on Loosestrife: under no circumstances plant the Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), it is an invasive alien species to North America and its sale is illegal as it invades our wetlands, displacing native flora and fauna. More on Purple Loosestrife and its erradication. Insects keep purple loosestrife under control in its native Eurasia, but in America it has no animal to control it. Experiments are under way to see if non-native insects that seem to feed uniquely on purple loosestrife can control it without threatening native species. Purple loosestrife is the only plant that is banned from sale in Virginia. Additionally, responsible gardeners would never share Purple Loostrife with their gardening friends. At theLady Bird Johnson Wildflower Centeryou will find a list of the native loosestrife plants.
There are 4,000 species of native bees in the United States. A number of government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and private individuals are creating pollinator gardens throughout the country that will benefit native bees and other pollinators. The USDA Forest Service, the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, the Pollinator Partnership, Urban Bee Gardens at U.C. Berkeley, and the Xerces Society each supply information to those who want to start gardening for pollinators or improving bee habitat in general.
8 Ways to Help Native Bees in Your Garden
Plant a pollinator garden.
Avoid pesticides or choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems.
Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud. A dripping faucet, mud puddle, or birdbath attracts butterflies and beneficial insects. Mud is an important nesting material for some bee species.
Plant native plants from your eco region.
Provide a variety of native flowering trees, shrubs, and wildflowers that bloom successively throughout the seasons.
Reduce the size of the lawn by creating pollinator gardens will benefit native pollinators and other species of wildlife. It is possible to have a lawn that is good for native bees while being esthetically pleasing.
Provide nesting habitats for bees.
Build or buy your own bee houses.
Helping native bees is essential to our continued survival, health, and well-being. These animals benefit us all because of the invaluable ecosystem services they provide to the environment and to our farms, forests, and gardens. Not only do they pollinate most of our flowering plants, their bodies feed other wildlife and their ground-nesting behaviors aerate and enrich soils. They enrich and sustain our lives. The observation of native bees can become a lifelong pastime and pleasure. Become involved.
Observe bees with close focusing binoculars; plant a small pollinator garden; or help a neighbor, student, or family member drill small holes in scrap lumber to create a bee house. Join a pollinator and plant-friendly organization to learn more about pollinators and their flowers, like the Pollinator Partnership (www.pollinator.org).
Become a pollinator observer as a citizen scientist and report your observations. Some of our bees are declining, and your findings are invaluable to understanding the big picture. Most importantly, get outdoors with your children and experience the amazing natural and urban habitats that we share with pollinators and flowering plants. Do your share to make sure that this precious legacy continues.
Buchmann, Stephen L., Nabhan, Gary Paul. 1997. The Forgotten Pollinators. Island Press, Washington, DC, Covelo, CA, ISBN 1-55963-353-0. 292 pp.
Mader, Eric, Spivak, Marla and Evans, Elaine. 2010. Managing Alternative Pollinators: A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists. SARE Handbook No. 11, NRAES-186. Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Services (NRAES), Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. 162 pp.
Packer, Laurence. 2010. Keeping the Bees: Why All Bees Are At Risk and What We Can Do to Save Them. Harper Collins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada. 273 pp.
Bee Families, Description & Classification:
O’Toole, Christopher, Raw, Anthony. 1999. Bees of the world. Cassell Illustrated. ISBN 0-8160-5712-5.
September 2006, Seattle, WA. – the first Flute Festival I attended. The weather was picture perfect for the first 2-day long Flute Festival. I arrived early so as to not miss a second. The grounds slowly filled as the day progressed. I spent the afternoon in a workshop, a beginner’s flute class, with the very lively and animated Clint Goss. As the afternoon drew to an end and above our beginner’s tones, I could hear through the open windows the mystically serene songs drifting in from the stage outside – the more experienced players had arrived and began to play. My entire soul, every cell in my body, transformed into the lightness of an Owl’s feather drifting silently through the air with the vibration of the sound. This was surely heaven.
For me, there is something about the sounds of the ancient instruments, the hand drum and flute, that resonates with the core of our humanity. The spirit comes awakened. It’s more than beautiful music, it’s the voice of the wind. The long-lost messages and wisdom of our ancestors bringing me home. When I find myself in that place I long to remove myself from the insanity of this modern world. To be back among the wildness of nature, in the presence of that which is no longer tangible in today’s conditioned and regimented world. I wonder how and why we allowed ourselves to become so removed from something so civilized and enlightened of merely being present in this life.
I have since moved to the mountains of North Carolina and have awaited the opportunity to attend a Flute Festival again. In today’s email my wait is over. As I opened Brent Haines newsletter I became swept away with a little story he included, I would like to share that here…
“I have been inspired and touched by the people with whom I have spent the last week or so with here in Chinle and Nazlini. There are many differences between our cultures. The beauty of the culture I am currently in has captured my heart and filled me.
Brother in-law, Darrel, told me about the joining of the hands when two people meet. Each person says Ya-te-hey. He said the swirls in our fingers tips and the swirls in our palms. The swirls in our bellies and all the swirls of energy in our body. There are lots of swirls that make us up. These swirls are all just like the swirl of the Milky Way Galaxy in which we live. When we great someone we join our hand to their hand and say Ya-te-hey. The Ya means universe. So it is very literally the greeting our our universe and your universe meeting when we shake hands. This is done gently You do not need to show grandma how strong you are by crushing her hand in a firm grip. So the hand shake is ever so gentle. Yet it is the joining of two Universes. And how powerful is this?”
I sat there thinking about what I had read and thought how meaningful Brent’s story is, how it showed such honor and respect – far beyond the sensation or gesture of an ordinary handshake. This is how life should be.
I scrolled slowly down through the newsletter and came across yet again some of the most amazing looking and sounding flutes that he has available right now (see the image above). I know that the Rosewood this flute is made of is quite rare because some years back Rosewood essential oil was no longer available, my half full 15ml bottle of Rosewood essential oil stays neatly in my case and every so often I open the cap to inhale the divine aroma. The preciousness of life.
Brent has this to say about this flute…
“Honduran Rosewood Burl is my favorite wood. With the rich red, purple and black swirls, the beauty to the eye is unparalleled. The aroma is magnificent and will fill the air in the room you play your flute in with a sweet wonderful scent.
The sound is clean and pure yet round and full. Incredible projection. If you are looking for the best possible wood for look and sound, this is the wood.
Unfortunately, it is quite rare. I am always keeping an eye out for the wood, but only am able to find it every four years or so. If this wood is calling to you, give me a call right away as if I do have it now, I will likely not have it for much longer.”
I met Brent at the Flute Festival in Seattle and saw his amazing works of art. I also heard them being played by artist flutists, like Robert Mirabal – who will be the topic of my next post in a few days. Needless to say, Brent’s flutes are the cream of the crop in terms of beauty of appearance and sound. They are quite possibly unmatched.
Scrolling down further in the newsletter revealed a piece of news that took my breath away. On June 6-8, 2013 there will be a flute gathering, Renaissance of the North American Flute Foundation (RNAFF) at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in eastern Tennessee – which is practically right in my backyard!
I have been interested in and learning about herbal remedies for the past 30 years. While in the past my learning has come reading countless books and attending workshop and classes I found a few years ago an online resource that I’ve found to be excellent. Maybe you’ve heard of them, Learning Herbs.
John and Kimberly Gallagher have created the only herbal online resource of its kind. There is a strong focus on both kids and adults learning how to identify herbs in your own backyard and surrounding areas, what they’re good for, how to process and harvest herbs, and ways herbs are used (in detail too).
The Learning Herbs website is abundantly full of free and paid lessons, educational products (I love their herbal Board game called Wildcraft – which I will write about in a future blog post), an Herbal Medicine Making Kit, they even have a herb ‘mentoring’ membership site (called Herb Mentor) which is filled with all kinds of content, fantastic how-to video’s, and much more. How I wish this was available when I was a kid (or even as a young adult), I would have devoured everything!
Of particular note for parents of budding herbal remedy maker’s, Learning Herbs even has a special section of interest for kids who want to learn about herbs, it’s called Herb Fairies. In particular what I like most is the way the Gallagher’s approach learning, through ‘cooperation’ – a skill-set that has been making some ground in recent years which I am delighted to find occurring. This is particularly true in the Wildcraft board game that teaches edible and medicinal plants, which by the way is great fun for kids and adults!
My personal feeling about everything that Learning Herbs has available is this, no matter what your age or herbal skill level is there is a lot of terrific information to take your herbal remedy making to the next level. I am a member of their herb mentor membership site and I’m loving it! I also enjoy their webinars and other things they offer. I am also an affiliate of what Learning Herbs offers, I personally utilize and enjoy what they offer and enjoy representing the best of what I find.
Last Friday my first set of deWit forged garden tools arrived: a trowel, a 3-tine cultivator, and a handfork. It takes a lot to impress me when it comes to things and I am delighted to say that not only have these tools done just that but I will not give any think to purchasing anything lesser quality.
Even though deWit was established in 1898 in Holland, I only learned about this 5th generation company recently. No part of these tools comes from China and they all have a lifetime guarantee!
After eagerly opening the package I couldn’t wait to lift one out of the box and run my hands over it, the steel feels like no other garden tool. Upon running my hand across the trowel I was instantly beamed back to my childhood, my father had a backhoe and I loved running my palms against the silky smooth blade that only seemed to get better the more it was used.
I was also wondering if these tools would be too heavy for hours of work but that idea was completely erased from my mind the second I lifted the trowel from the box. They don’t have too heavy a weight to them even thought they’re thick, fantastic!
How I wish I had known about deWit garden tools when I had my landscape business, it drives me insane to have to buy new rakes and shovels once or twice a year because they just don’t hold up well, not to mention they are not even comfortable to use. The good news is, I found deWit tools and I am sold for life!
Can you hear me doing the happy dance and singing “I can buy my garden tools once and never need to replace them again”? Such music to my soul.
The wood for the handles is European Ash that comes from FSC controlled forestry. The steel is Swedish boron steel, you can compare this with the same steel that Caterpillar is using for their digging machines.
Sietse deWit told me, “people come to our factory with a 60 yr old spade to get a replacement handle or to show us it is still going strong.”
You can’t say that about any tool sold at box stores in the USA.
The other thing that impressed me was the price, fine quality forged tools that are so tough they’re guaranteed for life, only cost a bit more than the so-so quality. The handles and blades don’t bend when you put pressure on them. These are an investment for the rest of your life.
If you’re like me and prefer to buy things ‘once’ in your lifetime, and Will them to your kids, I highly recommend deWit tools.
I can’t wait to order their shovels, rakes, a sickle, their tree planting hoe (what a back-saver that one must be!), a couple of different sized axes… OK I’ll stop here, I know I sound like a kid in a candy store who says, “I’ll take one of these, and one of those, oooo and I can’t live without one of these, and oooo look I HAVE to have…
Try one and you’ll see what I mean, then come on back here and tell me what you think in the comments! I would love to hear your impressions.
Your toilet paper, do you prefer it to go ‘under’ or ‘over’? Which is best? That depends on your thinking, preference and how many little tinkering paws you have in your house. Here are some ways of looking at the eternal question and their advantages and disadvantages…
Also known as: Rubus fruticosus, Black Berry, Bramble, Dewberry, Goutberry, Rubi Fruticosi Folium, Rubi Fruticosi Radix, Rubus affinis, Rubus plicatus, Thimbleberry.
Blackberries are sweet darkly colored fruits that grow on bushy vines in small clusters known as drupelets. In Britain, the same plant is usually called bramble, because of its prickly thorns. The plant is also known as cloudberry (in northern Europe) and dewberry (in the American South). Blackberry brambles can become quite invasive if left to their own devices.
Many earth based and Wiccan religions claim that blackberry leaves can help return evil to enemies that sent it, and may also help remove evil spirits from your home. Superstition in the United Kingdom holds that blackberries should not be picked after Michaelmass (September 29th) as the devil has claimed them, having left a mark on the leaves by urinating on them. There is some value behind this legend as after this date wetter and cooler weather often allows the fruit to become infected by various molds such as Botryotinia which give the fruit an unpleasant look and possible toxicity.
Blackberry leaves have been traditionally used in herbal medicine as an antimicrobial and for their healthful antioxidant properties. A laboratory study published in the “International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents” in July 2009, conducted by researchers from the University of Siena, Italy, confirmed the usefulness of blackberry leaves for these purposes. Blackberry leaf extract was demonstrated to be effective against Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria associated with causing stomach ulcers. The study identified blackberry leaves as an effective alternative to antibiotics often prescribed to fight H. pylori.
Young blackberry leaves have high levels of antioxidants, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, according to a study conducted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and published in the “Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry” in February 2000. The USDA study found that the leaves of blackberry and raspberry, the portion of the plant used in tea, were higher in antioxidant compounds than the berries of either fruit.
In this video, herbalist and storyteller Doug Elliott shares the wisdom of Appalachia in performing “Blackberry Boogie” at the three-day RootStalk Herb Festival established by Mountain Rose Herbs
Using Blackberry Leaf as an Herb
Commission E, the German regulatory agency for herbs, has approved blackberry leaf tea for relieving non-specific acute diarrhea. Tannins in the leaves can alleviate this problem, according to Flora Health.
The Commission E advises taking 4.5g of blackberry leaves daily as a tea or other internal supplement.
University of Maryland Medical Center lists a standard dosage of blackberry leaf tea for relieving diarrhea as 1 heaping teaspoon of dried leaves per cup of hot water, and drinking 1/2 cup per hour, and the UMMC recommends talking to a doctor before taking blackberry leaf for treating diarrhea, because certain types of diarrhea can be worsened with herbal treatment.
Both blackberry leaf and sage leaf have long been used in traditional medicine to address a number of illnesses and digestive disorders. Combining the benefits as well as the pleasing flavors of both these leaves into blackberry sage tea creates a delicious beverage with the antioxidant and healing benefits of both blackberry and sage.
Both sage and blackberry leaf are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of gastric distress, including diarrhea and stomach bloating and discomfort. Blackberry leaf is astringent and helps dry up the intestinal membranes to fight diarrhea, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Sage promotes bile flow that aids in the digestion of fats, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Sage is also an anti-spasmodic, and helps to prevent the formation of intestinal gas.
Thornless blackberry fruit and leaves have antioxidant properties, according to a study published in the February 2000 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The study found that blackberry leaves had higher oxygen radical absorbance capacity than the fruit.
How to Make Blackberry Leaf Tea
There are two ways to extract the medicinal properties of herbs or plants to make tea, infusion or decoction.
When using leaves of blackberry you will want to use the infusion method.
Blackberry Leaf Tea is prepared by adding 2 teaspoons of dried leaves to a cup of boiling water, cover and let steep for 8 minutes then strain.
In order to achieve a greater medicinal effect a decoction can be prepared by using about a handful of dried blackberry leaves in a quart of water. Boil until half of the water boils off. According to medical research, it is recommended to take about 2 to 3 small cups every day. Many say that Blackberry leaf tea has no side effects and it is tea you can drink daily. I would like to add that it is a safe herb for those who are not sensitive to tannins, fortunately most people are not over-sensitive.
Blackberry leaf tea as a compress for wounds and skin rashes: it is recommended to make a compress for treating skin irritations and wounds. The best way is to make a decoction (see above) with the blackberry leaves then soak a cotton cloth in the liquid. Wring out the cloth then lay it over the affected skin area. Cover with a plastic wrap for about 30 minutes. This process can be done several times a day.
Additional Herbal Uses for Blackberry Leaves
Chewing fresh blackberry leaves releases tannins and vitamin C which can soothe and heal canker sores and inflamed gums.
Anthocyanocides contained in blackberry leaves act as powerful antioxidants that are essential for reversing cell damage resulting from free radicals which makes drinking the tea a very useful herb for wellness.
Blackberry leaf tea also helpful in regulating both heavy and light menstrual flow as well as intestinal inflammation since its leaves contains the astringent tannins. It is advisable to blend 2 oz of blackberry leaf tea with 1 oz of peppermint leaves in order to get the most effective relief.
Minor sore throat pain: blackberry leaf tea is recommended for those individuals suffering from sore throat pain as it acts as an anti- inflammatory for both throat and mouth normally caused by cold. Using the decoction method is best because it has a thicker consistency. Honey can be used to sweeten the bitter taste then simply use it as a mouthwash or as a gargle. When symptoms of sore throat are first observed, it is highly recommended to take this tea to prevent increased severity of the condition. Two to three cups of blackberry leaf tea daily is recommended to provide the effect.
Blackberry leaf is also approved in Germany for treating mild inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. This makes it beneficial for relieving sore throat, mouth sores and gum inflammation. For these purposes, it can be used as a gargle, mouthwash or tea.
Tannins, gallic acid, villosin, starch, and calcium oxalate.
Tea Steeping Time Reduces the Bitter Tannin Flavor
Tannins tend to have a ‘bitter’ flavor when the tea is steeped for too long. Therefore, it is recommended for ‘normal’ drinking of the tea that the steeping time not exceed 6 minutes.
Try a test yourself… take two individual cups of hot water and add to it the same amount of Blackberry leaf. Steep one of the cups for 5 minutes and the other for 15 minutes. Taste. Do you taste the difference?
Washes, compresses, and baths. Can be taken internally as a tea, capsule or extract. Leaf is slightly sweet and may be sprinkled on food.
The properties of tannins should always be kept in mind while applying extracts from tannin-rich plants for medicinal purpose. Tannin is basically an astringent that means that it tauten the pores and pulls out liquids from plants. In plants, tannins are large astringents molecules that easily attaches with proteins. To find the truth about these properties of tannins you may try a few small experiments. If you put tannin on your skin, you will witness it to shrink and if you apply if on your face you will notice wrinkles appearing. At the same time, tannins help to draw out all irritants from the skin. These properties impart medicinal qualities to tannin which is applied on the skin to pull out poisons from bee stings or poison oak bringing in instant relief.
The other remedial values of tannins include application on burns to heal the injury and on cuts to stop bleeding. Tannin’s ability to form a strong ‘leather’ resistance on the exposed tissues helps in protecting the wounds from being affected further. While it stops infection from above, internally tannin continues to heal the wound.
In case of third degree burns using strong tannin sources will not only prevent septicemia, but also help to save life. This traditional method has been practiced by most medicos in all countries. On the other hand, when a tannin-rich solution is poured on the flesh, it generates a sealing ‘eschar’ that often helps in growing new skin albeit temporarily. This technique requires repeated washing of the wound with tannins and this helps to eliminate the bacteria too. Hence, tannins are also said to have antiseptic properties. Interestingly, this practice is still followed in the primary health care centers in China and is also recommended as a first-aid treatment at places where emergency medical services are still inadequate or faulty.
Tannins can also be effective in curbing hemorrhages as well as restrict bare swellings. While tannins are proved haemostatics, they are also beneficial when applied on mucosal coating in mouth. Hence, herbs possessing tannins are widely used as mouthwashes, eyewashes, snuff and even as vaginal douches and also treat rectal disorders.
Tannins sour the mucus secretions and contract or squeeze the membranes of the stomach and other digestive parts in such a manner that secretions from the cells are restricted. Tannins’ anti-inflammatory effect helps to control or curb indications of gastritis, enteritis, oesophagitis and irritating bowel disorders. This action is possible by involving lymph stasis and neutralizing the autolytic enzymes.
Conventionally, tannins have also been used to cure diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused by the irritation of the enteritis or the small intestine and is the reason for many deaths worldwide. Although diarrhea initially affects the large bowel, but a reflex action origination higher up aims at eliminating the disturbing material in the system as early as possible. Diarrhea many be considered to be a healthy action as it helps to remove the unwanted or disturbing substance from the system, but if it prolongs, it may lead to dehydration and nausea often resulting to death. Thus, in order to control the fierceness of diarrhea, application of an effective astringent medicine is recommended. An effective astringent does not stop the flow of the disturbing substance in the stomach, but helps in controlling the irritation in the small intestine.
Blackberry tea contains tannins, plant substances that can have negative effects. Blackberry tea contains hydrolysable tannins such as gallotannins and ellagitannins, which can have toxic effects on the liver in large quantities. Do not drink blackberry tea if you suffer from any type of liver disease without talking to your medical practitioner. Signs of liver damage include yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, upper right quadrant abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
Tannins can also interfere with absorption of calcium and iron. Taking blackberry tea with milk helps to neutralize its effect on calcium and iron absorption. Adding lemon, which contains vitamin C, also helps to increase iron absorption. Don’t drink blackberry tea at the same time as meals. Low calcium levels could lead to bone disorders such as osteoporosis; low iron levels can cause anemia. Signs of anemia include pallor, weakness, low energy levels and shortness of breath on exertion.
In smaller to ‘normal’ amounts Blackberry leaf tea has no negative warnings and is thought of as a very safe herb to use with the exception of those who are very sensitive to tannins.
Likewise, those who experience shortness of breath and/or nausea after having a Tamiflu shot, this is due to the Tamiflu vaccine being very high in tannins.
Each Blackberry plant can produce 10 to 20 pounds of fruit, so four to six plants can easily produce ample berries for a family of four.You might choose to plant more if you like to can or freeze crops from your garden.
Another option for some is to plant a large enough Blackberry patch to share or trade their harvest with friends, family and neighbors. Having a neighborhood where community members trade various garden harvests is a popular and excellent way to eat locally, eat fresher and ‘in-season’ foods, and help form closer bonds with those who are nearby.
Blackberries are vigorous growers that establish themselves quickly with heavy yields, excellent for home gardens. They thrive in most soil types. Cane berries are versatile and hardy in the coldest climates where other fruits fail.
Selecting A Blackberry Variety to Grow
Blackberries are divided by their growth habit (trailing, semi-trailing, and erect), and by the presence or absence of thorns (thorny or thornless). All blackberries benefit from some sort of support such as a trellis or poles to support their canes. If you have room for several plants, select early-, mid-, and late-season varieties to extend your harvest. And, some varieties, such as “Triple Crown” thornless have a very long harvest season, over 5 weeks. So spend some time considering which variety best meets your needs.
Horticulturalists have been hybridizing blackberries for nearly a century so there are many to choose from. Take note when shopping for Blackberry bushes that different varieties grow best in different sections of the country, and it’s important to select a variety that is well suited for your climate and region.
Here is an online nursery guide of berry growers from Cornell University with listings across the US and Canada with scores of cultivars and nurseries that sell them. Includes nurseries that sell blackberry and raspberry plants among others.
Selecting a Site for Your Blackberry Patch
You will want to prepare an easy-to-access location for your blackberries a year before planting as this would provide you time to clear the area and prepare the soil with greenmanure / covercrop.
Blackberries need full sun and plenty of room to grow. The soil should be a well-drained sandy loam soil.
A soil high in organic matter is beneficial under non-irrigated conditions.
If the soil is not well-drained, establish the plants in a raised bed.
All blackberries grow best in full sun, and almost all varieties are self-fruiting, meaning that you need to plant only one cultivar. As a rule of thumb, five or six plants will produce enough berries for a family of four. Each blossom will produce a sweet, juicy blackberry, and when the flowers get nipped with spring frosts it is said that the remaining good flowers will produce berries that can be more vibrant.
Very important, when selecting your site be sure to consider the variety of Blackberry you are going to plant…
Erect and semi-trailing blackberry plants should be planted about 3 to 4 feet apart.
Trailing blackberries need 6 to 8 feet between plants.
How to Build a Trellis for Blackberries
No matter which variety of Blackberry you choose, upright/erect, semi-trailing or trailing, all will benefit from being trellised.
Chuck Marsh uses the tall metal fence posts (seen in the video below) and spaces them about 20 feet apart. I agree that this is the most cost-effective form of trellising and I do not recommend pressure treated posts for gardening or landscape purposes for a number of obvious reasons.
For a ‘trailing’ variety of Blackberry plants you will want to place between your metal posts a sturdy wire from one post to the next starting at about 3 feet off the ground. Then, run another line of wire about 4 1/2 – 5 feet off the ground from post to post.
The image to the right is a line-drawing of the trellis system for ‘trailing’ varieties of Blackberries. This is the system used in the following video.
For ‘upright’ and semi-trailing Blackberry varieties a two-wire system is also best as it provides more stability for the plants when they are heavy with fruit. Keeping plants and berries off the ground is good practice as this creates a much healthier environment for plants to grow and helps prevent disease problems.
The image to the left shows how the weaving of Blackberry canes through the two wires provides support.
For semi-trailing blackberries, use two wires at heights of 3 ft and 5 ft from the ground.
The erect blackberry varieties do not require support if the tops of new canes are pruned during the summer to keep growth below 3 to 4 ft. Erect blackberries that are not topped may be trained to a one-wire trellis. For erect blackberries, use one wire attached to the post about 30 inches from the ground.
In this video, our friend and Permaculture Designer Chuck Marsh of Useful Plants Nursery in Black Mountain, NC demonstrates how he trellises prima (‘vining’) canes and prunes out flora canes, providing useful tips throughout the process of growing a Blackberry Orchard.
How to Prepare Soil for Planting Blackberries
Blackberries are perennial plants that come back year after year, it’s worth your time to get the soil prepared correctly.
Blackberries grow best in fertile, well-drained soil. Unless your soil is already perfect, you will want to add a 2″ layer of composted cow manure (preferably homemade not store-bought), compost, Rock Phosphate and Green Sand (follow package instructions for application) on top of the soil and work these in to a depth of 8″-10″.
Blackberries do best if the soil pH is slightly acidic, somewhere between 5.5 and 7.0. Take a soil pH test and, if necessary, add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower the pH.
Planting Blackberry Canes
It’s best to plant blackberry shrubs in the early spring or, in warmer climates, in late fall. Blackberries can be purchased either bare-rooted or containerized. If your new plants are bare-rooted, shake the packing material off the roots and set the plants in a bucket of water for several hours. This keeps the roots from drying out, which you want to avoid at all costs.
In most cases, the canes of a blackberry shrub will have been cut back at the nursery before you purchase them. If your new blackberry shrubs have not been cut back already, cut the canes to 6″-8″ inches. By pruning back the canes in the first season, you will not have a crop the first year, but you will allow the plants to put their energy into developing a strong root system. The plants will be healthier and more productive in the long run.
Dig a hole that is large enough to allow the roots to spread out evenly.
Set bare-rooted plants into the soil at the depth they were grown in the nursery.
Fill in the hole and tamp down the soil.
Water the newly set plants well, but don’t fertilize until 3 or 4 weeks later.
Fertilize after growth starts.
In established plantings, fertilize in March well before the plant starts to produce flowers and fruit and again in July.
In this video, Chuck returns to the blackberry patch in early summer to check on the earlier pruning and shows a little more love to the plants…
Blackberry Patch Maintenance
As the canes emerge in the spring, evenly distribute them on the wires to form a fan pattern.
Once the canes have reached the top wire, remove the tips to encourage branching.
Trailing types set further apart require a different system; for trailing canes start with a similar trellis with wires at 3 and 5 feet, except do not tip the canes. Instead, allow them to grow to the top wire and then weave them back down to the bottom wire and back up to the top wire to fill in the space between plants.
Erect blackberries, such as Cherokee and Cheyenne, require pruning out of the root suckers that arise from the crown. During the growing season, it is desirable to allow root suckers to develop to about a 12-inch-wide row. Any growth beyond this should be eliminated.
When the new shoots of erect blackberries reach 30 to 36 inches in height, cut off the tips. This will force branching lower on the canes and will cause the canes to thicken, making them better able to support a heavy fruit crop. During the winter, prune the laterals to 12 to 14 inches for convenient harvesting and larger berries. In late winter, remove any remaining dead or weak wood. Leave healthy, vigorous canes spaced at 6 canes per linear ft.
Watering Your Blackberry Patch
Blackberries require about 1 inch of water each week during the growing season.
During fruit development, the plants will need about 2 gallons per plant each day.The best way to accomplish this is by putting out a drip irrigation system that runs for 30 minutes twice a week, this is of course a watering method for a Blackberry orchard that is well mulched to prevent soil moisture loss.
Mulch placed around the base of the plant reduces the need for water and helps keep weeds under control. Pine straw, wood chips, and seedless native low-growing grasses are good mulches.
Harvesting Ripe Blackberries
The fruit is ripe and at its peak sweetness when berries are a dull black color. Ripe berries will pull off of the plant ‘easily’, if they don’t come off with a gentle pull they are probably not quite ripe yet.
Pick fruits that are shiny black if you need to store them in your refrigerator. They won’t be as sweet, but they will last longer.
Harvest will continue for 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the variety.
Blackberry Care ‘After’ the Harvest
As soon as the last fruit has been picked in summer, cut all the old canes and burn them. This is also a good time to tip prune and thin new shoots.
Prune out all the old fruiting canes and remove them from the garden, as they no longer produce fruit. Continue to tie, tip, or train the new canes that have not produced fruit to the trellis until growth stops in the fall.
During winter, prune laterals on erect types to 12 to 16 inches, and leave only 4 to 8 canes per square yard for fruit production in the following year.
Good horticultural practices can prevent insect and disease problems. Timely pruning, removing fruited canes, and maintaining a regular harvest schedule will help minimize common pests. If necessary, apply pesticides labeled for use on edible plants to manage insect and disease problems.
Generally, only a small crop of fruit is produced in the first season. If growth is poor during this first season, cut the canes back to several inches in late winter to force development of sturdier, more fruitful canes. In the second and succeeding years, shoot growth is more vigorous and upright. Tie these new shoots to the trellis when they reach a length of 4 to 6 ft.
Some growers prefer to wait until harvest is over and old canes have been removed before tying new shoots to the wires. Pruning the old canes is critical to the prevention of disease. After harvest, prune damaged or weak canes, leaving 4 to 8 new shoots. Tie these canes to the trellis in a fan shape (do not bunch them). In the spring before growth starts, prune any laterals back to 12 inches to encourage larger fruit.
With the way things have been going it’s difficult to know whether we will be forced into becoming more self-sustainable or if we will form regional groups on our own and just instinctively begin taking matters into our own hands. In either event I still think it’s a good idea to start making the shift our of consumer driven ways and getting more into functioning as small communities. I was watching PBS Explorer channel the other night and was quite impressed with the work many had done to make spaces in urban and suburban places more community oriented. You can buy the DVD of the four-part series, “Designing Healthy Communities”, and get some good ideas.
Here is a list of resources to help you get started on thinking, living and working towards making your life more rich and remarkable:
CoGenra Solar – they sell solar panels that combine hot water. This is brilliant because solar panels lose efficiency when the temperature of them gets too hot in the sun. By having water flowing through them helps to keep them cooler and much more efficient! This is brilliant!!!
Eliot Coleman Keynote at VABF 2011 – an excellent 90 minute video of Eliot Coleman discussing winter gardening and harvesting, followed with a Q&A. The first 10 minutes is difficult to hear but afterwards they’ve gotten the mic fixed and the sound is fine.
Shoals Creek Village - a newly planned ecovillage in western NC opens its arms to Farmers and Artisans.
New Earth Living – a blog about the Aurora Pocket Neighborhood in Ithaca, NY, an EPA Climate Showcase Community.
“I AM” via GaiamTV.com – I AM is an engaging documentary about Tom Shadyac, a Hollywood director with fame and fortune, and a serious bike accident that turned his world upside down. Seeking answers, Shadyac talks with some of today’s most revolutionary minds, asking them two essential questions: What’s wrong with the world? And what can we do to fix it? Start a 10-day Free Trial and watch this excellent documentary!
Green Bronx Machine: Growing Our Way Into A New Economy – this is the best video out there! So moving and inspirational!!! Watch South Bronx teacher Stephen Ritz give his standing ovation talk at TEDxManhattan. His students have gone from 40% attendance to over 90% – all from his edible food walls.
Sustainable Gardening Ideas for A Better Community – an excellent video by Shawna Coronado of www.shawnacoronad… she and a panel of organic gardeners speaking at Google Chicago on her dramatic and life-changing experience in the natural environment and the sustainable personal health and economically viable community benefits of gardening. Watch to learn some great ideas and get tips on how a garden can change lives.
Desert Harvesters - is a non-profit, volunteer-run, grassroots effort based in Tucson, Arizona striving to promote, celebrate, and enhance local food security and production by encouraging the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees (such as the Velvet mesquite or Prosopis velutina) in water-harvesting earthworks, and then educating the public on how to harvest and process the bounty.
• It takes roughly a millennium to build an inch or two of soil.
• It takes less than 40 years, on average, to strip an inch of soil by farming in ways that are more focused on current yield than on sustaining fertility.
• A third of America’s topsoil has eroded since 1776.
In the 1970s, the United States lost 4 billion tons of soil per year.
• Roughly a third of all farmland in the world has been degraded since World War II, with annual soil erosion worldwide equivalent to the loss of 12 million hectares of arable land, or 1 percent of total arable land.
• About a third of China’s 130 million hectares of farmland is seriously eroded, and Chinese crop yields fell by more than 10 percent from 1999 to 2003, despite increasing application of synthetic fertilizers.
The Gunnison Sage-Grouse is a spectacular but declining bird of the western sagebrush. It is restricted to seven isolated locations in Colorado and one tiny population in Utah. In early 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed it under consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act. The males have an extravagant spring display in which they puff out their bodies, fan their tails into a starburst, and make low, gurgling sounds with bizarre frog-like air sacs in their chests.
WHERE THE TREES ARE
Amount of biomass (organic carbon) stored in trees across the U.S., dark green areas the most robust forest growth.
“Soil is not usually lost in slabs or heaps of magnificent tonnage. It is lost a little at a time over millions of acres by careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be solved by heroic feats of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints.” ~ Wendell Berry
“Has it ever occurred to you that beauty depends on something being identified as ugly? Therefore, the idea of beauty produces the idea of ugliness, and vice versa.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task; but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” ~ Helen Keller