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It's Gardening time . . .

I am a big fan and supporter of local Greenhouses and plant sellers,
but I wanted to share some of my favorite sources for Garden Essentials
that aren't always available close to home.
There are some seeds that are available in many and splendored varieties,
like Cosmos and Sweet Basil, and annually I do order seeds from the
following suppliers. I also buy many packets at the grocery store and
local feed-stores --and pretty much  anywhere else I see displays.
It's like with fabric, or books: you never have enough

But first a few handy garden hints you may find useful:
Recent find! Mix one part milk--any kind--to two parts water as a deer repellent. It really works!

Reading Your Weeds
Sue-Ryn Burns     Hill Woman Productions

Nothing can replace the value of a good soil test to aid in creating healthier more productive gardens, but the weeds that pop up in our landscapes speak volume about the nutritional state of their location.
Daisies, Hawkweed, Cinquefoil, Wild Strawberries, and/or Mustard indicate acid soil.
Goldenrod and St. Johnswort indicate low fertility.
Wild Chamomile (Pineapple plant) and Plantain suggest compacted soil. They also indicate overuse of acidifying fertilizers or cultivating when soil conditions are too wet.
Mustard and Shepherds Purse both indicate and help absorb salts in the soil (from fertilizers).
Boneset, Joe Pye Weed, Elecampane, and Horsetail indicate poor drainage.
Mallows, Figworts, and Cinquefoils suggest raw humus and usually appear in pastures.
Stinging Nettles stimulate the transformation of humus and tend to show up in barnyards or other sites where decomposition is occurring. Nettle leaves, stems, roots, and seeds have been used for food, dye, fiber, healing, and fertilizer since before the written word.
Dandelions and plants with deep taproots such as Thistles, Docks, Sweet Clovers, and Queen Annes lace help bring nutrients up to the surface where other plants can utilize them. All deep-rooted plants eventually help loosen the soil and increase circulation of water and air as they go through their cycles of growing and dying off.

Teas For Your Garden

Houseplant & Seedling Tea
        Two parts by volume Nettles and one part each of Chamomile and Kelp.
        Steep a couple of tablespoons full of herbs in a half-gallon of water for at least 48 hours. Strain the tea (compost the dregs!), dilute with another half-gallon of water and give all your houseplants a drink. This tea may also help jump start your seedlings and prevent damping off.
Herbal Compost Activator
        Mix together Nettles, Chamomile, Yarrow, Valerian Root, and White Oak Bark in equal parts by weight. Steep 5 cups of blended herbs in 11/2 gallons of water for 24  48 hours. Make holes in your compost pile with a rake handle or similar stick. Fill each hole with about 3 of tea. Dump the remaining dregs onto the pile and cover with leaves and clippings. Compost should be ready without turning within a month. This formula is good for a pile measuring 2 high by 4 square. multiply the recipe to meet your needs.

The seven day week, 29-30-31 day month, and 365&1/2 day year have origins in the agricultural civilizations of the Middle East and the Nile River Valley 5,000 years ago. Systems of notation about Lunar and Solar rhythms can be traced back to the Neanderthal people. Reindeer and Mammoth bones with lunar rhythm patterns incised into them have been discovered and dated back to the ice age. Humans dependent upon nature for survival have always kept track of their seasons. The word month has  lunar roots.
        Astrology was "old" in ancient Egypt. At that time anyone who was a priest or physician was expected to be knowledgeable in the interpretive art of the mathematical science of astrology. Most Holy Days were directly linked and celebrated according to planetary calendars and many still are. The Pyramids of Egypt, the ancient Mayan Caracol, the Menhirs of France and Stonehenge in Britain, and Casa Grande built by the Hohokum Indians of Arizona in approximately 1300 AD are all believed to have been created to observe and planetary patterns and mark Solstices and Equinoxes that create our earthly seasons.
        The East Indians, Chinese, Sumerians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans all had astrological sciences. It was the Egyptians who developed the most familiar form of astrology that most of us are aware of today.
        The Egyptians divided the skies into thirty-six equal 10-day sections. These were eventually transformed into the twelve categories we know as "sun signs" or astrological signs. Each division was believed to have a planetary association that gave it an archetypal set of traits and an elemental nature. Since not all planets had been "discovered" at that time there were some duplications. Most of the symbolism is rooted in ancient mythology and some is even older. There is quite a lot of "mythological" common ground when one starts to compare "stories" from different cultures.
        Moon phases are divided into four quarters; from the first crescent to the half moon, from the growing half moon to the full moon, from the full moon back to a half moon, and finally from the waning half moon to dark of the moon. Each quarter is believed to be beneficial to specific garden activities. The waxing, or growing phases of the moon are considered the most fertile for planting above ground crops. The first part of the waning moon cycle is considered beneficial for planting root crops and transplanting or root pruning. The latter half of the waning moon cycle is considered an excellent time for pruning to stop growth, the removal unwanted plants, or tilling the soil. In many ancient cultures the growing crescent moon, full moon, and waning crescent moon are considered symbols of the three phases of a womans life.
        The elemental associations and fertility of the "sign" the Moon is in can add an invigorating effect when woven together with planting schedules, and monthly Lunar rhythms. The results can turn the brownest of thumbs to a vibrant shade of green.

        " To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven"

Below are listings to resources I use and find valuable.

Gardens Alive 5100 Schenley Place Lawrenceburg  IN 47025 513-354-1482
The subtitle on their catalog cover says,” Environmentally responsible products that work” and I agree. I have heavy clay soil at home and shallow loamy soil at the shop and have used products from these folks successfully at both sites. They carry a broad range of soil builders, lawn maintenance products, non-toxic insect repellants and traps, beneficial insects, garden tools and aids, as well as organic seeds. Most of their products have the convenience and ease of premixed garden center varieties, without the scary ingredients and some are just simple organic soil amendments. The catalog also contains a 32 page guide to plant damage caused by insects, disease, and soil deficiencies, with good pictures and descriptions to help you troubleshoot problems around your home and orchard. And if that’s not enough to attract your attention, they also have a great savings coupon on the front of the catalog to get you off to a good start.

Acres USA  PO Box 91299,  Austin TX 78709   Order Line 800-355-5313
Another good source for organic and alternative gardening books. Great selection, fair prices, reasonable shipping and handling fees, plus they list all of Juliette di'Baracli Levy's books on natural animal care.

John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds 23 Tulip Drive, P O Box 638, Bantam CT  06750   860-567-6086
An excellent assortment of seeds.

Nichols Garden Nursery 1190 Old Salem Rd,   Albany Oregon 97321-4580        800-422-3985 
Nichols has been in business for a long time, and is still giving great service and products. It's the first place I ever bought seeds! They sell seeds, plants, tools, supplies, books and more.

Pinetree Garden Seeds Box 300,  New Gloucester Me 04260      888-52-seeds

Pinetree is another business that's been around for a while - 24 years. They are a woman-owned and operated business, have an excellent selection and are probably best known for their smaller seed packets and reasonable prices, but they also sell a wonderful selection of books, some tools and a selection of soap 
making supplies. They offer an incredible selection of Cosmos seeds!

The Cook's Garden  PO Box 535,  Londonderry Vt 05148    800-457-9703
The Cook's Garden catalog is worth ordering from just so you can see Mary Azarian's illustrations...but they also offer a nice variety of seeds and plants in normal plus larger quantities, along with beautiful hand crafted baskets.

Johnny's Selected Seeds  184 Foss Hill Road,   Albion Me 04910-9731    800-437-4290
Johnny's has a serious selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds for your garden, as well as Organic gardening supplies, tools and books. Many of their offerings are available in "mini" packets, so if you just want a small patch of tomatoes, or to test a veggie variety before you plant a half acre, you can order
a smaller quantity.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds  30 Irene St, Torrington Ct 06790-6658    860-482-3638
Shepherd's has an eclectic collection of gourmet veggie, flower, and herb seeds and plants plus a selection of elegant tools for your kitchen and garden. They also offer "collections" of seeds so you get to try several new varieties at once.

Musser Forests, Inc.  Dept.S-02M, PO Box 340,  Indiana Pa 15701-1340       724-465-5685
I am a planter of Trees and Shrubs. It's something my parents taught me, and something I have lived long enough to understand is as important as it is rewarding. Musser's sells most of their plants in quantities of 5 or  more. Most of their plants start at 2 years old, so they are still seedlings, which is reflected in their prices.
They carry a wide variety of hard and soft woods with good advice on what conditions are best for the seedlings. I've had pretty good luck with survival rates of their stock, despite my heavy soil --though some years I've carried so much water I felt like the Sorcerer's Apprentice!! They also sell Pepperwax Spray concentrate to help keep deer away --and this stuff works if you are vigilant. Also new this year, Witch Hazel Trees!!!

Gardeners Supply Company  128 Intervale Rd,   Burlington VT  05401-2850     800-427-3363
These folks carry an interesting assortment of helpful garden tools and kitchen gadgets, and a few whimsical decorative wares as well. I usually have a 'wish list' order form filled out somewhere on my desk for functional items from this company . In the past they have even been know to refund money for "experimental" items that didn't work! This year I'm hoping to order some Mason Bees from them.

The Japan Woodworker 1731 Clement Avenue,  Alameda CA  94501    800-537-7820
A woodworking catalog? Well, these folks do have some amazing woodworking tools, along with a selection of hand-crafted knives and other kitchen implements. But the Troll stumbled on a catalog from these folks, and ordered some of their very nice and reasonably priced gardening tools for Sue-Ryn. The have a couple grades of folding pruning saws, bulb planting tools, sickle-saws, and other handy tools for working in the garden. Fast service, reasonable prices, nice tools.

Green Prints  PO Box 1355,  Fairview NC 28730
A Quarterly Magazine, subtitled 'The Weeders Digest' is not a how-to garden magazine.
It is a collection of short stories, ingenious ideas, poems,  quotes and stories and gardening bloopers with wonderful original artwork scattered throughout its pages. Its cost of $22.97 per year is higher than most, but I read it cover to cover and find great inspiration in it's pages.

As I said, I strongly believe in supporting local nursery businesses, and I do my share of shopping there. But these are some of my favorite mail order sources for seeds, tree-babies, and other supplies. For more resources, please check Herbnet and the NEHA sites, links to be found on my home page and the Hot Links Page.

Peace in the garden

Many of us are trying to garden without resorting to drastic or toxic measures. I almost gave up gardening a couple of years ago because of the booming deer population. I took up serious container gardening and it was fairly successful despite my crazed summer schedule, but it was no substitute for digging in the dirt. I still have plenty of containers around the house and yard for growing flowers and herbs. I have been reclaiming my former garden space from the perennials and sod that the Deer didnt eat. While I love to grow food, flowers, and herbs, I am at heart a planter of Trees, I think it must be genetic. Many a summer I've felt a strong kinship with the sorcerers apprentice while carrying my water buckets to the tree babies.

There are a few really good deer repellants on the market that are non-toxic and do work, but most need reapplication often enough to make them expensive to use. A few years ago my Mom discovered a formula for home-made deer repellant that really works for ornamental plants, shrubs, and trees. In a recycled gallon jug mix:
    1 egg (some people like to use 2 eggs, but 1 seems to work )
    1 tablespoonful of chopped garlic (1/2 tbsp if using  powdered don't use garlic salt!)
    1/2  gallon water.
    Shake until thoroughly mixed and foamy looking, then top it off with water.
    Set the mixture in a warm place for 2-5 days to ferment. I usually put mine in the warm back of  my truck or on the sunny side of the deck if I need it fast. DO NOT open this in your house the odor is impossible to be rid of. YES, you can learn from another's mistake!
Once it is fermented, slosh it onto your ornamental plants, trees, and shrubs. After about 25 minutes the
scent will dissipate and humans cant smell it. Deer can smell it and will not eat plants that have been treated with the mixture. There wont be any obvious residue. It will need to be replied after heavy rains, fog, or dew, but it is economical to keep a supply in reserve. When you start using one jug, start another. Applying it in the evening works best, since that seems to be when Deer are prowling the all night buffets in our yards. I have used it on all sorts of ornamental plants with no ill effects.

It may be possible to slosh this mixture on a thick border of plants around a bed, and leave the middle plants unsullied for your own use. I intend to experiment with this concept around my yard this season.
Some books recommend planting a thick border of fragrant herbs or prickly Blackberries around your garden as Deer mostly leave these plants alone. One neighbor swears a thick planting of catnip works around her garden, and another gardener told me she plants a thick border of radishes that Deer will not cross. Many folks swear by hanging bars of soap, sweaty clothing, dirty socks, and a variety of  unpleasantly scented products (fish meal and blood meal come to mind) around their garden perimeters, but these all impact our sensibilities as negatively as they effect the Deer.
After Labor Day when my shop hours revert to weekends only, I usually lose track of the heavy fogs and
dews down along the river. Because the deer have become accustomed to the plants at the shop being
inedible, they usually leave them alone until October. I have used this mixture successfully to protect
young trees and shrubs as well, even White Cedars. I planted several Spruce trees in the yard about fifteen
years ago. Two are almost ten feet tall because I planted them in a prickly copse. They only have tufts of
branches above the browse line and Ive used this mixture to protect their trunks. The other survivors look
like carelessly pruned Bonzai trees. I have used this mixture during the winter and they do leave the trees
alone if I am vigilant.

You might consider growing plants Deer wont eat. These include Daffodils (which are toxic), Delphiniums,
Foxgloves, most varieties of Dianthus and Artemesia, Yellow loosestrife, Soapwort, most fragrant, lemon,
or camphorous scented herbs. Plants they will most likely eat according to most nursery people and
experienced gardeners are anything in the Lily family, anise flavored herbs (including tarragon), and pretty
much anything else if you live on Wellesley Island.
If all else fails, you can always use Deer netting. I put a double layer of netting about six feet high around
my small vegetable garden and hung recycled CDs around the outside to alert creatures to the boundary.
I had to rescue a couple of Dragonflies who got caught between layers, but other than that there were no
casualties. A wild wind storm took the netting down to a few feet, at which point the deer got in and ate
my late season greens. I will be putting it back up this spring.

Some Other Alternative Pest Repellants

            Ants are repelled by Lemon scented herbs, oils, and soaps. Use Lemon scented dish soaps and hand soaps, and try using Murphy’s oil soap or similarly citrusy scented cleaning products during Ant season and you may reduce their attraction to your home.
            Mice are repelled by minty scents, Pennyroyal and Peppermint being their least favorite. I’ve used the crushed herb, really strong teas, and sprays made from pure essential oils mixed with distilled water to repel mice. Catnip is a mint that may draw Cat’s attention to Mousie haunts and may work to keep the critters away.
 Sometimes, drastic measures are required. Extremely wet and low snow winters can drive the little creatures to invade your home when it’s inhospitable outside. If nothing else works and you must be rid of them, try leaving out a small plate of Betty Crocker's Instant Mashed Potato Buds. The mice will feast on the salty products, then go outside to find water. Fatal bloat will kill them. No, it’s not nice. The one good aspect of it is that if someone’s pet or stray or an opportunistic predator eats the carcass, they will not be poisoned.
            Squirrels have very sensitive noses, it’s how they find their buried treasure. Have-a-heart traps baited with peanut butter usually work like a charm. Take them for a long ride to someplace with many trees and not too many visible squirrel nests. Clean out any nest they may have created and leave something strongly scented in the area; like perfume samples or soaps. Small samples can and will be moved, you may need to secure them in a recycled jar with holes punched in the lid.
            Raccoons are regular Houdinis at getting into and out of places and usually make all kinds of a mess wherever they go. Care needs to be taken because they can carry rabies. Any Raccoon exhibiting suspicious behavior – irregular movement, unprovoked aggression, or looking obviously sick should be left alone while you contact your local health department. Landowners can legally use Have-a-Heart traps, or contact your local nuisance trapper. Use Marshmallows for bait and you will get a quick response, without having to release curious other curious pets or critters..
            Skunks and Woodchucks are repelled by Pinesol. It has to be the original, not a knock off version. Saturate a rag with Pinesol and stuff it into a hole or burrow or under your dwelling and the critters will leave. You can also saturate an absorbant material like cat litter and use it to create a boundary that they will not cross. Skunks are also repelled by Fox Urine, which can be obtained at trapping supply stores. Woodchucks don’t seem to be reliabley repelled by much else. Skunks can also carry rabies, and the same rules apply as mentioned above, report animals that are behaving suspiciously to your local health department.

Garden Tips
Companion Planting:

Let a couple of "Lambs Quarters" plants (pigweed) grow near your Beets if leaf miners are a problem,
and they will feed on the weed. Old timers say Chards and Beets planted after the old fashioned Lilacs
have bloomed won't be bothered by leaf miners. 
Let a few bitter Nightshade plants grow around your Potato patch and Colorado potato beetles may prefer it to your crop.
Plant 1/3 Radish seeds with 2/3 Carrot seeds . . . you will harvest the Radishes to eat and never have to
thin the Carrots. 

When to plant:
Plant your Tomatoes indoors when the first Geese fly over.
The soil is warm enough to work when there are Earth Worm castings visible.
When Dandelions are in bloom in the yard (not next to a warm foundation), the soil is warm enough to plant.
Plant root crops when the Shadbush starts to bloom.
When tent caterpillars start appearing it's probably warm enough to plant most tender crops.
When Jewel Weed and Purslane are up for a few days, it's probably safe to transplant most very tender crops.

Cold-tolerant vegetables  such as Lettuce, Kale, Peas, Spinach and Chard can be planted when old fashioned
Lilacs are in "first leaf". That's when the widest part of the first leaves are extended beyond the bud scales.
Corn and Beans may be planted when Lilacs are at least 50% in bloom.
When Lilacs are in full bloom it's usually safe to transplant very tender plants like Tomatoes, Peppers,
and Sweet Potatoes.
Plant your Peas when the Partridge drums.

The above information originally published in and thankfully shared from old copies of North Country
Gardener, by Phil Harnden of Richville, NY. Contributors included: Shepherd Ogden, MaryAnn Cateforis,
Myrtle Pellitier, Dorothy Holt, and Preston G. Miller, residents and organic gardeners in  St. Lawrence
and Franklin Counties.

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