Saturday, June 30, 2007

Growing Stevia-the Sweet Herb

Growing Stevia can be difficult (from seeds). Even if you get the seeds to germinate, stevioside levels can vary greatly from plant to plant grown from seeds.

You should try to get Stevia plants that have been grown from cuttings of plants that where high in stevioside. Getting them from someone you know, and trust to know what they have.

Young Stevia plants are sensitive to low temperatures, so you should wait until any chance of frost has past and soil temperatures are into the 50/60's before transplanting them into to the garden.

Stevia plants should be put in to rows 20 to 24 inches apart, and 18 inches between plants.

Your plants will grow a height of around 30 inches high and about 24 inches wide.

Your soil should be rich and loamy . Stevia's feeder roots are near the surface, so ad compost for extra nutrients if your soil is sandy.

Stevia roots are sensitive to excessive moisture. Be careful when watering and make sure their soil drains easily. Frequent light watering is best during the summer months.

Add a layer of mulch around each plant to keep the shallow feeder roots from drying out.

Organic fertilizers like fish emulsion, cow manure, etc., are good because they release their nitrogen slowly.

Waiting as late as possible to harvest can intensify the sweetness of the plants due to cool autumn temperatures and shorter days while they grow into their reproductive state.

You should cover your plants in the early frost so you can gain a few weeks growing and greater sweetness.

When it's time to harvest, prune off the branches before removing the leaves. You can also cut the tips off the stems since they can also be high in stevioside.

If you live in a frost free climate you can leave your plants outside but do not cut the branches to short leave around 4 inches of stem. Your second year harvest will then be more successful. I use row covers to protect the plants during the winter.
If the survive, that is good, if not, I just plant new ones in the spring.

You will need to replace the plants about every 2 years with new cuttings. Stevia is akin to sage in the sense it becomes woody and will stop producing after a few years.

Cuttings must be rooted before planting. You can use commercial rooting hormones for best results.

A great site to learn more about Stevia.....

Bea Kunz/Sage Hill Farms

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summer Herbs....A Fabulous Knowing.

Summer is a time to slow down and foster a renewal of those things close to our hearts...for me, that is family, friends, and community.

One of the most precious gifts we can pass on to those we care about is good, sustainable, information about the foods we eat.

In today's world of mass transit shipments, our food can come to us from thousands of miles from our homes, which most always means it has to be processed for shipping long before it is fully ready for consumption...which leaves it tasteless, without any nutritional value and in so many cases the addition of unhealthy additives.

How can we offset what seems to be a problem with no clear cut answers.

One very attainable option is your local farmers.
Look around, do some research, find the growers closest to you and promote a relationship that will lead you to better foods for you and your family.

Another great option is "herbs"...I grow these for my family and for profit.

You can grow just what you need for meal planning even if you live in a small city dwelling, with no yard space. Herbs will grow in containers and bless you with a bountiful harvest for the season.

Salads are a perfect dish for using your bounty.....basil, oregano, dill, chives, thyme and parsley can all be tossed into any salad you desire.

The health benefits from a salad with a handful of fresh herbs is mind blowing.....

Think "green", give your family a new way to think about food, plant a garden, either in the ground or in pots!

Wishing you a Joyful June!


Bea Kunz/Sage Hill Farms