Drying peppermint leaves

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Excited to try out my new to me food dehydrator, I collected some peppermint leaves from my 2 year old peppermint plants which is fighting the confirms of the 1 gallon pot I have used to keep it from consuming my entire flowerbed, lawn, house, etc.

For the best potency, it is best to collect mint right before they start to flower and first thing in the morning when their oils are at their peak.  Given it is a couple months before they will be flowering I picked them in the early afternoon.

If they were dirty you should wash them off and pat them dry with a paper towel and add directly to your dehydrator.  In my case we had a rain the night before and they were very clean so I skipped the washing step.

Next I simply put them into the dehydrator at 100F degree and in a few hours later they were all crumbly and looked like what you see below.

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To store the leaves I went with the poor man’s vacuum packing technique…Ziploc bag and sucking the air out with a straw which should keep the herbs fresh for a few months.

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Lastly I tried out the product by taking a pinch of the leaves and quickly breaking them up with my fingers and added them to a tea strainer.

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After a few minutes of steeping I had some good looking and tasting peppermint tea.

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I would say my testing of my new dehydrator was a success…now off to see what else in the fridge I can dry out.

pH needs of plants in soil or hydroponics

With the exception of some of my acid loving plants and flowers I normally do not have to worry much about the pH of my soil.  This is because I have amended my gardens with nutrient rich soils in raised beds over my alkaline clay I get naturally in my area.  This and the fact that due to natural and manmade causes the rainfall is slightly acidic and given the average range for the sweet spot of most edible vegetables (see table below) is 5.8 to 6.0 having your soil slightly acidic this is perfect.

Now when it comes to hydroponics this is entirely different.  My tap water has a pH of around 7.5 and the fluctuation of plant using nutrients and transpiration can cause great havoc on the pH on your hydroponic system.  Now this creates a challenge but also an opportunity to have control with great precision your pH and keep your plants growing in the sweet spot for the healthiest plants and the greatest yields.

So whether you are growing hydroponically, or simply trying to figure out why your Fennel didn’t do so well last year take a look at the table below, hopefully for some hints of what happened.

Recommended pH Ranges of Vegetables/Herbs

Plant Low High Plant Low High
Artichoke 6.5 7.5   Millet 6.0 6.5
Asparagus 6.0 8.0   Mint 7.0 8.0
Average 6.3 7.8   Mushroom 6.5 7.5
Basil 5.5 6.5   Mustard 6.0 7.5
Bean 6.0 7.5   Okra 5.5 6.0
Beanroot 6.0 7.5   Olive 5.5 6.5
Beet 6.0 6.8   Onion 5.5 6.5
Broccoli 6.0 6.8   Paprika 7.0 8.5
Brussel Sprouts 6.0 6.8   Parsley 5.0 7.0
Cabbage 6.0 6.8   Parsnip 6.0 6.8
Calabrese 6.5 7.5   Pea 5.8 7.0
Carrot 6.0 6.8   Peanut 5.0 6.5
Cauliflower 6.0 6.8   Pepper 5.5 6.0
Celery 6.0 6.5   Peppermint 6.0 7.5
Chicory 5.0 6.5   Pistacio 5.0 6.0
Chinese Cabbage 6.0 7.5   Potato 4.5 6.5
Chives 6.0 7.0   Potato, Sweet 4.5 6.0
Corn Salad 6.0 6.5   Pumpkin 6.0 6.8
Corn, Sweet 5.8 6.8   Radish 6.0 6.8
Courgettes 5.5 7.0   Rice 5.0 6.5
Cress 6.0 7.0   Rosemary 5.0 6.0
Cucumber 6.0 6.8   Rutabaga 6.0 6.8
Eggplant 5.5 6.0   Sage 5.5 6.5
Fennel 5.0 6.0   Shallot 5.5 7.0
Garlic 5.5 7.5   Sorghum 5.5 7.5
Ginger 6.0 8.0   Soybean 5.5 6.5
Horseradish 6.0 7.0   Spearmint 5.5 7.5
Kale 6.0 7.5   Spinach 6.0 6.5
Kohlrabi 6.0 6.8   Squash 6.0 6.8
Leek 6.0 8.0   Swede 5.5 7.0
Lentil 5.5 7.0   Swiss Chard 6.0 6.5
Lettuce 6.0 6.5   Thyme 5.5 7.0
Marjoram 6.0 7.5   Tomato 6.0 6.5
Marrow 6.0 7.5   Turnip 6.0 6.8
Melon 6.0 6.8   Upland Cress 6.0 6.5

EcoSmart Garden Insect Control Review and Giveaway

One of the major disadvantages to growing plants indoors is the lack of beneficial insects.  In a larger environment like a greenhouse you could release some ladybugs to initiate an aphid slaughter though the thought of 1500+ ladybugs investing my garage where my grow box resides does not seem like a good idea.  I am always open to trying out new products so when EcoSmart contacted me if I was interested in trying out their garden insect control products I jumped at the opportunity.

ecoSmartI explained the problems I have with pests in my indoor growing and they suggested “Garden Insect Killer” Their documentation states, “Kills and repels garden insects and mites. Kills exposed eggs, larvae and adult stages.”  This seemed to be exactly what I was looking for so once the first onset of pests arrived I applied liberally to tops and bottoms of leaves and so far the results are great.  Not only were this effective on the little buggers, given the selection of Rosemary, Peppermint, Thyme, Clove oils it actually makes the garage smell pretty nice as an added bonus.

Want to try this out for yourself the great people at EcoSmart have offered to give away a bottle of any of their products.  So under normal rules, enter a comment and a winner will randomly be selected and sent a bottle of their choice.  Comment must be submitted by Friday, December 18th 2009 at midnight (Pacific) to be considered for the drawing.  Good luck.

Lemon Verbena Lemonade Recipe

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I am moving into a new office this week so I had to bring a couple of my lemon verbena plants home and given the great weather we were having I decided to move them right back into the garden. Fortunately they were a little leggy from lack of sunlight in my office so I cut off some of the dropping stems and was about to put them in the compost until I got the idea to make some Lemon Verbena Lemonade.

The basic idea is the same as regular lemonade though you add Lemon Verbena leafs and use fewer lemons.  It has been said that lemon verbena can have calming effects and can reduce stress; sounds like a great summer drink to me.

Lemon Verbena Lemonade

  • 24 Lemon Verbena Leaves
  • 2 lemons
  • Sugar (or artificial sweetener)
  • Water
  • Peppermint sprig (optional)

Directions: Squeeze lemon juice lemons into a small pot.  Add Lemon remains, Lemon Verbena leaves, 2 cups of sugar, and approximately 4 cups of water to pot.  Bring to boil and let boil for 4 minutes.  Strain mixture into 1-2 gallon container and fill with water.  Add more sugar to taste (kids like the stuff tasting like Kool-Aid though I would recommend less sugar)  Add ice and enjoy on hot summer day.  Given Max and Ruby’s grandma “secret ingredient” to lemonade is peppermint we can’t make any lemonade without it so this part is completely optional.

Propagating peppermint and lemon verbena – UPDATE




As you can see from the picture, my peppermint and lemon verbena propagation has come a long quite well. I did have a little aphid infestation on the peppermint plant which I attempted to take care of with manual pinching, but eventually I gave up and chopped off the top off the plant. I then followed up with a hefty dose of insecticidal soap to the soil and the remaining stem. I would have preferred an even more natural method such as ladybugs but sure my officemates would prefer I didn’t.

The lemon verbena did pretty well on its own with one exception I think I mistakenly broke or cut the top off the plant so there was no vertical growth and just crazy shoots horizontally so I cut most of these off and replanted to 3 new starts which have taken off as well as their parent.

Propagating peppermint and lemon verbena

Starting next week I will have an office at work with a window so of course I have to start thinking about what sort of vegetation I can put on that ledge. The first thing that came to mind was peppermint and lemon verbena seemed like a good choice since they provide an excellent fragrance and I can eat/drink them if I have to stay late and get tired of free soda. They can also be neglected for a weekend or brief vacation without relying on someone else to take care of them.

Unless this is the first post of mine you have never read or didn’t look at the title of this blog, I am cheap. I could have easily just payed $4-5 for a couple plants but I wanted to do this for free. First I prepared two terracotta pots with a mixture of potting soil and perlite and got the mixture about as wet as possible and set them aside.

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For the peppermint, the process to propagate is pretty simple. The stuff is tough and most talented people can not successfully kill the stuff if they try, so dig around in your existing peppermint until you find a good bunch of roots. Now the tricky part pull/cut/tear/scream whatever it takes to separate that clump of peppermint from the rest. Very obvious why this stuff can take over a bed. Take that clump of roots with hopefully some of the peppermint plant still surviving the extraction ordeal and place in a pre-dug hole and cover up with potting mix.

The lemon verbena is a little calmer process, to propagate this you use a process of taking a softwood cutting, which includes simply cutting a stem in which shows some decent life (green) in it. You want to make sure that your cut does not crush the stem so a sharp knife my work better than shears/scissors but that depends completely on the quality and sharpness of your equipment. Cut off any leaves on the bottom one third of the plant and place in potting mix leafing the remaining two thirds above the soil line.

Both of these plants currently have a pretty fragile root system at the moment so keeping their roots (or soon to be generated roots) moist is very important. To help with this I have covered both plants with plastic, if all goes well I will not kill these things and will have a nice addition to my new office come Monday.

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