Plant A Seed

OG Calendula Seed

Seeds are magic.  Hold one in your hand and you might mistake it for a grain of sand, a fleck of dirt, nothing very impressive.  Yet a seed is a compact package of nutrients, enzymes and genetic information needed for plant reproduction. With soil, water, sun and a little TLC, in about two weeks (sometimes months or years for wild herbs) a seed will transform into a seedling, or baby plant.

Under a waning Aquarius moon we planted seeds today.  Inula helenium, Arcticum lappa, Althea officinalis and Echinacea angustifolia was written on little signs as we prepared rich dark soil for the little guys.   A general rule of thumb for seeding is to bury the seed twice as deep as the seed is thick. We scratched the dark earth held in seed trays, dropped in one or two seeds and tamped down.  Tamping is the act of securing the seed tightly into the soil by pressing down.  Many small seeds like Valerian (Valeriana officionalis) and Maca (Maca peruviana), are so little they can be placed on the surface of the soil, tamped and covered with a thin layer of fine soil.

Many seeds have special needs.  To propagate Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) I soaked the berry overnight in cool water.  In the morning I separated the seed from the berry’s flesh.  To simulate an overwintering, I am storing the seeds in my refrigerator for about 90 days.  Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) prefers a cool shaded environment while Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) enjoys consistent warmth for germination.  Almost all seeds want consistent moisture to germinate, so regular watering is crucial.

Plant propagation can occur from a seed, cutting, rhizome or root division.  However only a seed provides a new and unique set of genetic information.  In this way, seed collection is an important part of a sustainable garden because it provides a strong genetic pool and the security of new plants.  Seeds can often be collected from the flower or fruit of a plant in fall and stored in cool, dark conditions until late winter or spring of the next year.

Horizon Herbs is a fantastic source for organic medicinal herb seed.  Their website is packed full of information on propagation methods, tips and picture of tiny herb sprouts. So cute!

In a medicine garden seeds are the solution to future dis-ease.  The Echinacea we planted today will be harvested for its root in the fall of 2017.  There is foresight, excitement and so much potential in seeds.  Future blooms, future medicine.  As we round the bend of winter,  I am sowing seeds in my mind too.  It all starts with a seed.

Pictured: Seeds of Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis).




There is a secret spreading across the hills and valleys of this city.  It started with the cherry trees.  The plums are next.  Apples are soon to follow.  I get the feeling of great potential this time of year.  My mind wonders from one excitement to the next as I thumb pages of seed catalogs.

It feels a bit discouraging to scan the garden.  Most of our crops are perennial and thus are still in the midst of a long winter’s nap!  With the little rain we got this week oxalis and a wild lily have flushed the garden with an unwanted green and yellow.  Echinacea is entirely under ground — easily mistaken as dead to the untrained eye.  Mullein appears to have frozen in time, no noticeable growth.  Vitex has lost most of her leaves and looks more like a couple of sticks in the ground than a bush.  Yet Self-Heal keeps the faith alive, she slowly spreads green runners and leaves across the dark earth.  I’m surprised at the array of yellows and oranges from a calendula patch I planted late last summer.  I saw a bee today!

It smells like January in the morning when the morning fog sits low and the wind starts to pick up.  But where is the rain?   The garden tasks are fewer but with a greater impact.  I pruned the fruit trees, grape vine and extended the garden beds a bit.  The sun makes a low sweep across the sky, leaving much of the garden in full shade.

Slowly the days grow longer but for now I use the sun moving west as a reminder to wrap up work in the garden.  I spend a few hours a day on the computer; I am working on a plan to sustain the work I do at Guerrero Street.

Harvest: echinacea

making plant medicine

This week we made medicine from the aerial parts of second year Echinacea, what I like to call the poster child of herbal medicine. As I popped off the flower head and leaves to make the tincture I could already taste the salivating effects of the plant’s alkylamides. Traditionally used as emergency medicine for snake bites, modern usage calls to Echinacea at the first sign of a cold. To eliminate, shorten or lessen the symptoms, if used in high frequent dosing the body will respond with an increase in white blood cells.  As the #1 seller in the herbal supplements industry, could the pretty flower have anything to do with Echinacea’s popularity?

it must be the echy

DSCN6933_2There is a unique calmness that comes over me when I push open the door from the garage out into the sunlight of the Guerrero St. Garden.  When the plant spirits greet me, the bustle of the street melts away.  I become entranced by the life of the garden.  Thanks to the hard work of those who tended the space before me there are figs and loganberries waiting to feast on.  During the past few months’ things have started to fall into place, the project has begun to take shape and now the garden is in full bloom.  We have begun to harvest, process and tincture as flowering herbs come into their peak season.

Currently in bloom, second-year Echinacea (pictured above) gives Guerrero blissful color and energy.  I have received this flower essence from the field, weeding and harvesting it at Herb Pharm last year.  For me it delivered immense joy and excitement and a good deal of singing at the top of my lungs!  “Echy days” felt long and strenuous but I loved every minute of it. This blissful feeling, the enjoyment of hard work is something that will be vital to the resilience of the Guerrero St. Garden project.  Rule #1: Enjoy it!!