Common Hemp Nettle - Galeopsis tetra hit
It seems to me that Autumn is the right time for growing native plant seeds, not the Spring. Now is when the seeds naturally ripen and fall to the ground, where they lay dormant for the winter months, get a blast of that all important cold weather, which aids germination and a good soaking of sweet rain.
I have I have been collecting native plant seeds from their natural environment if there has been a great profusion of them and also from my own plants which I have been growing over the years and are now beginning to offer seed yields. I have also been buying native plant seeds so that I can choose which plants I wish to grow more of and which plants I will grow for next years guerilla gardening spring planting out.
There are many good sites to use. This year I have used Chiltern Seeds, which have a very good selection of native plant seeds - chilternseeds.co.uk - as do
Making Seed Bombs
This is my method, and is largely experimental. I will throw the bombs into various locations and return next year to see what grows, and also will drop some into plant pots at home to observe. Bear in mind that some plants may take two years to germinate so give them time.
We mixed compost and clay together to make a sticky mixture that held together well.
A mixture of sun loving meadow and wayside plant seeds were added. We called it our 'Sunny Edge Mix'. (Another day we will make a woodland edge mix.)
We rolled the mix into balls and left them to partially dry in egg boxes
My Native Plant Nursery
I have been collecting and growing native plants for many years. It began because I couldn't find the native medicinal plants I wanted to make herbal medicines from, so it seemed the best idea was to grow them myself. I then began to become aware of how depleted our native plants have become and since then I have been on a mission to help them regenerate in my locality. At this time of year I am a bit of a 'Johnny Appleseed', picking seeds from where they are growing in profusion and re distributing them into new locations. I am also growing them, in pots and in dedicated holding beds in the ground, to see which is the better way to grow them. I am keeping them together in plant species and I use a shop-bought organic compost, as this will help me identify them when they come up.
This is a fabulous booklet that is a free download and the producers encourage us to spread freely. Many thanks to them!
Download: A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship and Seed Sovereignty by the Seed Ambassadors project
September is the very best time for walking this high moors. There is something wonderful about that mix of sky and land as you walk the high places, that fair takes your breath away.
Heather - Calluna vulgaris
Heather is associated with the Autumn Equinox, seen as a gateway between the inner world of spirit and the manifest outer world. It is number eighteen in the Celtic Tree Ogham: Ur. U. How you go about your life is very much a reflection of your inner world, and demonstrates a loyalty to one's true self. If you are at peace with yourself, you will do what is right without ulterior thought of reward or advantage. This is the message of heather. Spending time with heather will lift the spirits and bring a calming soothing energy. Heather inspires us to go about our lives with this same lightness of spirit, which we can then pass on to others. Seek out any areas of your life which are causing you stress and find inspiring ways to increase your inner peace. Walk the wild places, spend time with heather and soak up its inspiring energy.
This September I have become an avid collector of seeds of all kinds. Not only from the native plants in my garden, but where ever I have found them growing in abundance on the land. I have been sure to keep a supply of handy paper bags in my pockets, rucksack and bag. Seeds should always be picked on a dry day, and are best when the seeds readily shake out of the seed heads.
1. Choose a dry day when the wind and the sun has dried the plants
2. Shake the seeds into paper bags and label
3. Keep the bags somewhere warm for a while, shaking them often.
4. When sure they are completely dry, put them in old envelopes and label.
5. Share seeds with your friends
In addition to native plant seeds I have also become very aware and fascinated by the great abundance of tree nuts, fruit and seeds that have been produced by the trees this year. This year has been a 'Mast Year', a term that describes a year when the forest trees produce a more than usual amount of nuts and fruits. Why they all do, is not known, but the trees this autumn have certainly been abundant with their seeds.
The EU and Seeds
European Parliament is soon to vote on changes in plant laws which will threaten availability of heritage and rare seed varieties. The original draft made saving and swapping any unlisted plant and tree seeds illegal, but due to Europe-wide lobbying, some 11th hour concessions have been made for individual and small scale growers, seed banks and networks. The amended draft was presented to the European Commission in May and is expected to go to the European Parliament later this year.
Once again the EU seems bent on restricting and limiting our plant selection and our access to the great wealth of plants that have been with us for millennia. With our personal gathering of seeds and by supporting small scale heritage seed companies such as The Real Seed Catalogue and Garden Organic (whose heritage seed library saves and distributes heirloom seeds), we, as individuals, can all become guardians of the precious seeds that we need for a diverse and healthy plant future.
I am told just three companies control 50&percent; of the Global Commercial seed market. It will become increasingly difficult to get hold of any seeds other than a small selection of varieties bred for large scale production. This is why it is imperative that we support and buy our seeds from small heritage seed companies who are at present holding so many of our heritage varieties. And of course collect your own seeds ~ which is so easy to do and very fulfilling and connecting.
Where ever possible collect, buy and grow native plants and bulbs. By re seeding our gardens and countryside with native plants, we are helping to strengthen nature's own resilience and demonstrating our allegiance to the natural world.
Please keep an eye on this situation with seeds. The 11th hour changes to the new EU law on saving seeds and seed restriction may only be temporary. There are clauses in place that mean key concessions could be removed in future without returning to the European parliament for a further vote.
The Earth's energy is settling, the outer growth cycle is finishing and it will soon be time for the Earth and us, to rest again. There is a shift in the weather, a wildness blows in on colder winds and there is a sense that summer is over. We begin to feel the pull to prepare for the winter months as new possibilities begin to reveal themselves.
The life force goes into swelling the fruit and the seeds within the fruits. It is a time of nature's wild abundance and a natural time to give thanks for all the abundance the Earth has given us this year. We also become aware of our personal harvest, our friendships, the adventures we have had, all that we have loved and appreciated, remembering to honour our losses too as part of the balance and the whole.
It is time for wild blustery walks on the land, picking fruit from the wild edges of the fields and lanes. At this time of year never set out without plastic tubs for Blackberries and Elder berries, paper bags for Sloes, Rosehips, Haws, seeds, nuts, wild apples and wild plums. At this time of year there are always new treasures to gather and finding edible mushrooms is always a treat.
This is different from the other syrups as it has additional spices added. Highly prized and praised, and well worth making! It does the same job as the tincture but without the alcohol, so it is good for children. Elderberry syrup is wonderful for chesty coughs and sore throats. It boosts the immune system and when taken at the first sign of a cold can prevent it from happening altogether!
1. Strip elderberries into a large pan. Add a cinnamon stick (broken up), chopped lemons, a few star anise, cloves, all spice, some slices of ginger.... Be intuitive with these! Stir it up and let the mixture stand overnight.
2. The next day warm gently on a really low heat, bringing it up to boiling, and letting the juices flow.
3. Leave to cool, strain through muslin or a clean cotton pillowcase, squeezing all the juices out.
4. Measure the liquid. You will need the same amount of clear honey to liquid.
5. Return to a clean pan. Heat gently and when hot but not boiling, stir in the honey and when it has completely dissolved, pour into warmed dark bottles, label and date.
6. Once opened it needs to be kept in the fridge, otherwise unopened it will last for a year until you are ready to make your next batch!
Drink as a warming and healing cordial by adding hot water.
The dose is the same as the tincture (Halve the amount for children. Do not give to children under 3.)
Elderberry, Blackberry, Crab Apple
All of these fruits make excellent fruit honeys, well worth making to enjoy during the winter months. Pour over yogurt or ice cream and to zing up other puddings
Making Herbal Honeys
Honey draws out the goodness from plants so you can put herbs directly in honey and this makes it easy for children to take them. Not all the native medicinal plants taste nice, so they can be flavoured with more palatable tastes such Rose petals, Lemon Balm or Mint. The herbal honeys can be taken by the spoonful, added to yogurt, ice cream or fruit, or made into delicious drinks. They are great to make with children, helping them become active in their own medicine making.
* Do not give honey to babies under 12 months.
As always appreciate and thank the plants you use and send your thanks to the bees for making the honey.
1. The simplest method is to simply tear up leaves and/or flowers into a dark jar and pour on clear honey. Use a chopstick to poke and prod the plants to release any air bubbles, which could cause oxidisation and help break up the plants to release their vital juices. Don't forget to label and date and write up in the contents your herbal.
2. Leave the leaves in the honey and spoon out the plant matter and the honey to make a honey-herb drink when needed. Place a teaspoonful of the honey-soaked plant matter in a teapot and pour on boiling water. Drink hot or cold.
3. Gently heat the jar by placing in a bowl of boiling water, strain off the herbs when the honey has become runny.
1. Gather the flowers or leaves on a dry day.
2. Warm some clear honey in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, until it begins to get a little runnier. (Don't over heat) or stand the jar in a bowl of hot water to warm the honey.
3. Lightly fill a dark jar with herbs of choice, tearing the leaves and grinding any seeds. Cover the herbs with the warmed honey. Prod well with a chopstick to remove air bubbles so that it does not oxidise.
4. Let it infuse for 4 to 6 weeks, stirring frequently.
5. Heat gently and sieve to remove the plant matter and rebottle in another clean dark jar. Remember to re-label, date and name your honey. Some of the honey soaked herbs can be eaten, added to puddings or eaten on toast, or pour boiling water over them to make a delicious drink. If you are making it with children, encourage them to make a decorated label and give it a fun name.
This will keep for several years, although the honey will eventually crystallize.
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