Feeds:
Posts
Comments

DSCN0147

We’re blessed with a bounty of medicinal herbs in the Westgarden, and in addition to enjoying their fragrance and blooming presence in the garden, we love to preserve some of the harvest by turning them into herbal medicine.

Apprentices Sonya and Abigail drying rose petals

Rose petals

unnamed-15

Rose, Lavender, Feverfew, Calendula, Sage, Mullein, and Motherwort

There are many ways to transform herbal flowers, leaves and roots into medicine. One of most simplest ways is to make tea with fresh or dried herbs. Above are a few of the Community Gardening and Leadership Apprentices drying rose petals for tea.

DSCN0135

Calendula and St. John’s wort oils

 Another herbal process we engage in, in the Westgarden is making Oil Infusions. Our herb oils are usually later turned into salves, so we tend to use herbs that are meant to be used topically, such as Calendula or St. Johns’ Wort. St. John’s Wort is a particularly fun one to use because although the flower is yellow, the oil is deep red!

To make an infusion simply harvest the herbs on a sunny day so that there is little moisture on the plant, fill a jar with the herbs, cover with olive oil, close the jar with a piece of cloth as shown above so that moisture can evaporate, and place in a sunny window. Allow the herbs to infuse for two weeks, strain out the used plant material and use!

DSCN0134

Herbal Infusions in the windowsill of the greenhouse

This summer, Maggie also made an astringent herbal concoction called “Queen of Hungary’s Water”  from many of the herbs found in the Westgarden. To make the herbal facial toner you simply infuse Apple Cider Vinegar with a collection of flowers and herbs for 2-6 weeks. Once complete, you strain out the herbs and you’re left with a toning and cleansing herbal infusion. Some of the herbs you can use are Calendula, Comfrey, Lemon Balm, Chamomile, Rosemary or Sage.

Making the "Queen of Hungary's Water"

Making the “Queen of Hungary’s Water”

Calendula, Rose, Chamomile, Sage, Rosemary, Comfrey, and Lemon Balm

Calendula, Rose, Chamomile, Sage, Rosemary, Comfrey, and Lemon Balm

Another favorite herb project of ours is Herb Salt! It is very simple to make and is an incredibly delicious addition to any soup, stir fry, or salad dressing. We use it on just about everything! All you have to do is harvest an assortment of fresh herbs and combine them with salt in a food processor at a ratio of 1 to 1. Once the mixture is ground down to a thick paste, lay it out onto a baking tray and cook in the oven on the lowest temperature possible for a few hours until it is completely dehydrated. Store in a jar and enjoy!

Some herbs that we used this season were: Rosemary, Sage, Basil, Lovage, Dill, Garlic Scapes, Chives, Thyme, Lemon Verbena, and Parsley. You can use these or any others you have growing in your garden!

Apprentices prepping herbs

Apprentices prepping herbs

unnamed-2  DSCN0153

Most people are familiar with oat as a cover crop or as a cereal grain, however, here in the Westgarden we grow it for medicine! Milky Oat is among our favorite herbs to grow because of its subtle beauty and strong medicinal value.  Milky Oat is a Nervine, meaning it is incredibly nutritive and restorative to the body’s nervous system. It is known to help subdue anxiety, calm nerves and help those who are feeling exhausted and stressed. It is a particularly gentle and safe herb as well.

We sowed our oats from seed in the spring and watched them grown throughout the season. Once the oat tops have emerged it’s important to check them often because they must be harvested when they’re in their ‘milky’ stage. In order to tell if the plant is ready, gently squeeze the tops to see if a sweet, milky substance emerges from the flowers.

DSCN0150

Milky Oats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the milk appears, then the oats are ready to harvest! Run your hand along the flowering tops to remove them from the stalk as shown below.  We tincture some of our oat tops fresh with alcohol, and dry some to have in tea throughout the winter!

DSCN0157

Harvesting Oat Tops

DSCN0159

Volunteers harvesting Milky Oats together

Bamboo
When Institute staff located non-native, clumping bamboo in the wetlands at Chinook, we were faced with controlling its growth to prevent ecosystem imbalance. A sustainable solution arose when we decided to harvest the poles for use! The garden is now full of bamboo as a construction material: it’s been used for staking hoops for row covers, supporting tomatoes, and trellising beans.One of our most enjoyable staff work parties on the land involved bamboo, as we erected A-frame supports in the pole bean bed out of stakes and twine.Through harvesting this useful plant, we’ve made do with the resources at hand, saving time and resources, and we’ve reduced the potential negative impact on native species in the wetland. As a bonus, we’ve created some fun garden memories as a team!

irrigationThose among you who have visited the Westgarden this year will know it as a vibrant, thriving, bountiful space. The beautiful weather we’ve been having has certainly helped, as has a team of tireless and dedicated volunteers. Another significant ingredient in our flourishing garden is water, and after a lengthy process researching and rehabbing a historic irrigation system and adding new piping and fixtures, watering the garden has become much, much easier!

Maggie, the Land Care Coordinator, said that the project was funded in part by a grant from the Whidbey Island Garden Tour, and that it began with exploration. “There was an old system in here that had been cut off,” she explained. The water line which had once run from the Farmhouse had been interrupted, so techniques ranging from digging and probing to sluicing and dousing were employed. “We thought we were going to have to retrench everything, but we found the buried pipe that came from the Farmhouse. There were many steps involved, but we figured out how to attach it and where it went, then dug many holes in the garden looking for the pipe.” After the main water line was repaired, the team continued to search for breaks in the old system throughout the garden. The project, in which Beno Kennedy and Cary Peterson were driving forces, spanned several months in early 2014. Our May Work Party provided an opportunity for a team trenching effort, and staff collaborated to close in the trenches in June. Now, the garden is graced with new hydrants and an extensive network of underground pipes with connections to above-ground drip irrigation. Maggie said there are just two more steps to completion: the installation of a flow meter, which will allow us to identify any remaining hidden leaks, and the installation of a drain so that the system can be emptied to overwinter.

DSCN0083

Come join us for our new ALL DAY Thursday work parties at the Whidbey Institute Westgarden!

Now that the season is picking up we’re going to extend our Thursday garden work parties from 9am-4pm! Feel free to come at any point and stay for as long as you like!

As always you’ll have the opportunity to learn about small scale gardening, spend time in a beautiful and peaceful garden, meet some great people and help grow food for your community! We’ll be also be serving a simple lunch at noon for everyone and if you feel inspired to bring a dish to share, please do!

The work party runs from 9am to 4pm EVERY Thursday all season long!

For more information contact Abigail Lazarowski (Garden Apprentice)
abigail.laz@gmail.com

 

DSCN0073

Volunteers enjoying lunch together.

DSCN0090

Cary weeding out an herb bed!

 

Come join the fun in the garden!

-18

A few weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have an group of students from the University of Washington join us in the Westgarden. They were incredibly helpful and such a joy to work with!

The group of 10 students were part of the UW Urban Farm class doing a farm tour of Whidbey Island. Some of their classmates also helped out Cary Peterson at the South Whidbey Academy farm field and others joined Camille Green at the Good Cheer Food Bank garden.

We had the students help us weed out and build up some of the Westgardens’ oldest medicinal herb beds. The students were able to learn about some of the medicinal herbs we have growing in the garden including Yarrow, Apothecary’s Rose, Feverfew, Echinacea and Comfrey as well as hone their weeding and bed building skills.

-14

-16

-12

-8

Thank you all for your help!

-2

Earlier this spring we were lucky enough to have the third grade students from the Whidbey Island Waldorf School join us in the Westgarden with their teacher Kat Carlson. We started off the day digging up the cow horns that the students buried in the garden last fall as a biodynamic preparation. Within Biodynamics, the tradition of burying manure filled cow horns in the earth is thought to bring fertility to ayour garden. The students discovered that the horns were not yet ready to leave the ground to be turned into a special fertilizer so we put them back in the earth. We planted California Poppies, Bachelor Buttons and Calendula Flowers over top of them and we will check the horns again in the summer.

-7  waldorf students

The students also learned how to prepare a bed for planting and we collectively removed the bed mulch, weeded it out and transplanted our spinach and lettuce starts. We’ll see how well they grow this spring!

A big thank you to Kat Carlson and her students for their help in the garden!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.