Growing German Chamomile

Single chamomile flowerChamomile is an annual. Chamomile is a member of the ragweed family, so it’s not recommended for anyone with moderate to severe ragweed allergies. An erect annual (Matricaria recutita), German Chamomile seeds are one of the few seeds that need light to germinate,

Also spelled Camomile, this herb is a native of Europe, and was brought by early settlers to North America.

Two main types of chamomile exist: German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. The first is an annual that grows to about 2-3 feet, while the second is a perennial that grows to be about 4-12 inches. Both varieties of chamomile reseed themselves, so you don’t need to plant too often.

PLANT TYPE: Perennial (Chamaemelum nobile), Annual (Matricaria recutita)
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Perennial (Chamaemelum nobile), Annual (Matricaria recutita)
ZONE / HARDINESS: 3 to 5 for perennial
MATURE PLANT SIZE: 9 inches high x varied width due to spreading
LIGHT: N/A
FLOWERING PERIOD: June to August
SOIL TYPE: Light, dry soil
pH RANGE: 7.0
KNOWN PESTS: None
KNOWN DISEASES: None

Water Requirements

Water on a regular schedule, taking care to not overwater.

Potential Pests & Diseases
Aphids, mealybug. Minimal disease issues.

Special Notes
Chamomile may be considered a noxious weed or invasive plant in some areas. Chamomile is known to attract bees, butterflies or birds and has fragrant blossoms. Chamomile self-sows freely; remove flowers (deadhead) if you do not want volunteer seedlings the following season.

Growing German Chamomile

Growing Cultures
Outdoors, containers, landscaping, mass plantings. German chamomile not recommended for containers.

Plant Height
Chamomile grows to a height of 20 to 30 inches (50 – 70cm).

Plant Spacing

Chamomile plants should be spaced 6 inches (15 cm) apart.

Preferred pH Range
Chamomile will grow in a relatively wide pH range between 5.6 (acidic) and 7.5 (neutral).

Propagation
From seed. Direct sow in spring or fall. Fall sown seeds germinate following spring. Seeds need light to germinate.

Seed Germination Period
7 to 14 days.

Seeds Per Gram (Approximate)
10,000 to 18.000.

Soil Requirements
Well drained, poor to average soil.

Alternative Growing Media
Soilless potting mixes, perlite, vermiculite, rockwool, coco peat, Oasis foam.

Time From Seed to Saleable Plant
Seeds to finished plugs, 6 weeks; plugs to saleable plants, 6 to 6 weeks.

Sun & Lighting Requirements
Chamomile grown outdoors prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade.

Growing Chamomile

Buy healthy, green plants with no signs of wilting or disease. Plants should be stocky with plenty of leaves. It’s actually a plus if they don’t have any flowers – they’ll divert their early energy into root development rather than flowering.

It also needs light to germinate. Scatter the seed on top of the potting soil and press down.

Choose a site in full sun with average to rich, well-drained soil.

Plant seedlings in spring or mid fall, spacing them 6 inches apart for a carpetlike ground cover effect, or 18 inches apart in herb and flower gardens.

Keep soil evenly moist. Mulching is a good idea.

Trim faded flowers or shear the plant occasionally to promote new blooms.

Fertilize every four to six weeks, or work in a slow-release fertilizer at planting time.

Tear out faded annual types of chamomile at the end of the season, once frost fells them. Cut back perennial types to just 2 or 3 inches.

Chamomile comes in both annual (grows just once a year) and perennial (returns year after year) types. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is the annual type; Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is the perennial type.

Growing just 3 to 9 inches high, chamomile spreads about 24 inches, making it useful as a ground cover as well. It covers itself from early to mid summer in pretty yellow and white flowers, which can be made into chamomile tea – reputed to soothe upset stomachs and digestive systems as well as calm the nerves.

Chamomile also likes its soil moist but not wet and does well between pavers and stepping-stones.

Chamomile performs well where temperatures in summer do not regularly reach 100 degrees F.

I have German chamomile and beware. It grows and spreads like a weed. The seeds even spread into your lawn and start growing. Still a gorgeous herb.

Chamomile tea has a subtle herbal taste and is famously used as a sleep aid and to calm upset stomachs. Two types of chamomile are commonly planted in herb gardens: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita), a robust annual that grows to about 2 feet tall and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), a petite perennial. When growing chamomile for tea, use German Chamomile which produces an abundance of apple scented, daisy-like flowers. Here is how to prepare it.

Plant German chamomile seedlings outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed in a spot with full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. One plant will produce about 3 to 6 cups of flowers (when dried), so plant accordingly. Seedlings are commonly available in spring at well-stocked nurseries or you can see Resources below for a mail order source of seedlings.

The plant typically begins to bloom in mid-summer and continues blooming into fall. Pinch off the blossoms the day they open. These young flowers not only have the best flavor, by removing them you also encourage the plant to bloom more. Get in the habit of checking for new blooms once a day and harvesting them. From my experience, 2 cups of fresh blooms dry down to about ¼ cup.

Immediately after harvest, bring the blossoms indoors and spread them out in a single layer on craft paper. Dry the blossoms in a spot that is indoors, warm and out of direct sunlight.

Allow the blossoms to fully dry (they should crumble easily when rubbed between your fingers). When dry, place them in a glass jar with a lid or in a brown paper bag. Store the chamomile in a dark, cool spot for up to one year.

To prepare tea, pour 8 oz. of boiling water over 2 tbsp. of dried chamomile blossoms. Allow the blossoms to steep for 4 to 5 minutes, then strain the tea into a tea cup. Add honey and a thin slice of lemon, if you like.

Chamomile readily self-seeds, so you will most likely only need to purchase seedlings once!

Harvesting Chamomile

Plan on harvesting chamomile in the morning sunlight after all the dew is gone. The plant should be completely dry! The flower part, petals and all, is what you are after. Flowers tend to open up in the morning and will close up when the sun begins to go down.

Shake the plant gently to remove any pests or debris.

There are two ways you can do this and each has it’s benefits:

(1) Pinch the flowers off at the stem or cut with gardening shears just below the flower head. Pinching the flowers will allow regrowth of the plant pretty quickly. Use this method if you want a continual harvest. Cutting only the flowers will require using a drying screen.

(2) Cut the stems with the flowers attached about 2-3 inches down the stem. Cutting the stems will take longer for the plant to rejuvenate, but you will be able to dry the chamomile by hanging it up in bunches with twine.

Either way, once you have the harvest, find a very warm area in your house or garage. Closets make a good choice. Make sure there is no moisture present and keep the chamomile out of sunlight. Any herb will turn moldy if these conditions are present. Dry, dark and hot is what you want. Check on the drying process frequently.

Once dried, if you chose to dry the herb by hanging it by the stem, now is the time to remove the flower only. Toss the stem. Place the chamomile in airtight dry glass containers and keep out of sunlight. It is best not to break apart the flower head until you are ready to use it. Keep as much of it intact as possible.

Filed under: growing

2012 DDC Garden B Layout

                S
xxxx YYYYYYYYYY RRRRRRRRRRRRR CCCCCCCCCCC
xxxx YYYYYYYYYY RRRRRRRRRRRRR CCCCCCCCCCC
cccc YYYYYYYYYY RRRRRRRRRRRRR CCCCCCCCCCC
x = plant later
c = carrots 5/15/2012
Y = yellow onion 5/15 2012
R = red onion 5/15/2012
C = sweet corn (candy corn)  5/15/2012
Filed under: layout

2012 DDC Garden Layout

W

yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

pppppppppppppppppppppppppppp

ppppppppppppppp

 

Planted Yukon gold (y) and red Pontiac (p) potatoes Apr 11.

Filed under: layout

2012 DD Garden Layout

             N
MMMMM Z     Z       rrrrr1
MMMMM               sssss1
MMMMM               rrrrr2
MMMMM                   O2
MMMMM       R       ssssss
MMMMM       R       llllll
                    yyyyyy
           O
           W
           W
   bbbbbbbb          C
   oooooooo             C

r = radish, champion 4/21
s = spinach, america heirloom 4/21
M = chamomile (annual, self-seeding)
l = lettuce

R = roma tomato
C = cucumber
b = basil
o = oregano
y = cayenne pepper
O = orange pepper
O2 = seeds from orange pepper bought at store
R = red pepper
W = sweet potato

r1, s1 seeds planted 4/21

r2 planted 5/11

Filed under: layout

2011 Garden Layout

Garden layout for 2011

                North
 ------------------------------------
 CCC  B       B     ooooooooooooooooo
 CCC                ooooooooooooooooo
                    ooooooooooooooooo
              B     ooooooooooooooooo
                    bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
              J   J           J
              p   p
                              d
                              b     R
             c         Z      d     R
                                  g R
             c         Z          g R
                                  g R
                       Z
 ------------------------------------

C = German chamomile (seeded from last year)
R = radish, seed planted 04/25 (about 25)
o = yellow onions, 4/27, 5/5  (about 20/row)
g = green onions, 5/7
b = basil, 6/1
c = cucumber, 5/7
Z = zucchini (black beauty), 5/7
B = big boy tomato, 5/20
d = dill, 6/1
J = jalapeno, 6/15
p = red pepper, 6/15

Filed under: layout

Growing Potatoes

Garden potatoes on the vineGrowing potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) have been easy to do in the DDC garden. My favorite is Yukon Gold which I have a lot planted this year (2007). Others we have grown successfully in the past are Red Pontiac and the white Kennebec.

Potato Location

Do not grow potatoes in the same location until 3 years have passed. Disease and bugs persist and need this long to die off.

Temperature

Potatoes are a cool season vegetable. They grow best in soil that is between 60 and 70 degrees. They will not form when the soil is 80 degrees or higher.

Varieties

There are literally over a hundred varieties of potatoes in a multitude of colors. As mentioned before we have had very good luck with Yukon Gold, Kennebec, and Red Pontiac. Another variety I have seen at the stores is Viking which is a red skinned potato.

Choosing Seed Potatoes

Use seed potatoes, not ones from the grocery store. Grocery store potatoes have been sprayed to prevent the eyes from sprouting. Good seed potatoes are chemical and disease-free.

Planting

Potatoes are among the first crops planted in the spring. I usually plant them the mid April or when the soil is workable. Planting too early may result in rot if the ground stays wet. Cut the seed potatoes in quarters and make sure there is at least one eye in the quarter. Once cut let them sit for a day or two so a crust develops over the cut part. This reduces the chance of rotting. The eye(s) will become the stem so it needs to be planted facing up. There should only be one or two eyes on the cut potato. Full sun is the best for potatoes. Potatoes mature 90 to 120 days after planting, depending on the variety.

Spacing

I have always used seed potatoes rather than ones left over from the year before (though many farmers practice this). The seed potato is cut up in pieces where each piece has at least one “eye”. Each piece is planted about 12 inches apart in a trench about 3 inches deep. I use a hand plow to dig the trench. Each row is 2 feet apart. Placing straw about 4 inches thick or mulch in between the rows help keep moisture in and lower the ground temperature by 10 degrees.

Watering

Yukon Gold have low drought tolerance so keep an eye on them. The soil should be well-drained and fertile. Compacted soil or clay soil will produce misshapen tubers. Keep the potatoes evenly watered so they do not get knobs (secondary growth). Water early in the day and try not to water the foliage.

Fertilizer

After the plant has grown several inches, mound soil around the plant so the potatoes do not turn green from sunlight. After the plant is about a foot high, side-dress the potatoes with 10-10-10 fertilizer about 6 inches from the plant lightly scratched into the ground.

Harvesting

potato fork, 4 tinesNormally potatoes are harvested after the vines die but if you want new potatoes (small, 1 to 2 inches in diameter) harvest them two or three weeks after the potato flowers. Since potatoes are about 8 inches underground I use a potato fork. Normal yield is about eight potatoes per vine. Late potatoes are harvested around August or early September. Two to three weeks before harvesting, cut the potato plants to ground level. This gives the potato skins time to toughen which makes for better storage.

Storage

Most potatoes can be stored in a cool (40 to 50 degrees), dark place (not the refrigerator since the starches will be converted to sugars and give the potato an oddly sweet taste.) for several weeks. Yukon Gold do not store as well as others. If parts of the potato turn green just remove the green part and eat away. Potatoes do not freeze or can well. Do not wash potatoes until they are ready to use. Washing them shortens their storage span.

Recipes

Here are some excellent ways of serving potatoes. They go over big every time. Garlic Red Potatoes and Herb-Roasted Potatoes

Filed under: growing

Growing Cucumbers

Instructions

Cucumbers  do not like their root system disturbed, so if you decide to start them indoors, use a peat pot so they can be directly transplanted.

Planting Cucumbers

Cucumbers can grow as a vine or as a bush. Growing as a vine on a trellis keeps the fruit clean.

Purchase some cucumber seeds according to what you intend to use them for. Cucumber varieties are divided into pickling, slicing, burpless and space-saver variety categories. Burpless cucumbers, both American and Asian types, contain low or no cucurbitacin, the compound that causes bitterness and increases one’s susceptibility to ‘burping’ after eating the fruits.

Decide if you want to give your cucumbers a head start by germinating them indoors (in peat pots, planting cells or pots) or waiting until there is absolutely no chance of frost left (2 weeks after last frost), and planting them right out into your vegetable garden.

Choose where in your garden is best suited for growing cucumbers. Cucumbers require full sun and plenty of warmth to grow. They also require soil that is quick draining; cucumbers do not tolerate having soggy roots.

To plant directly in the ground, prepare the area you want to plant your cucumber seeds. Turn the area over with a shovel and work in fertilizer at approximately one pound per 100 square feet. Use your rake to level and smooth the area.

Make a hill before planting the cucumber. Just a small rise in the ground is adequate. Build the hill, or mound, about a foot in diameter and about three inches high; this is to drain water from around the stem. Plant the cucumber in the mound.

With your trowel, dig 1-inch deep holes that are six to eight inches apart. Each row should be spaced at approximately three feet apart. Place two to three seeds in each hole and cover the hole up firmly with dirt. Now is a good time to use garden stakes so that you know exactly where you planted your seeds.

Check the seeds every day, keep the seeds moist, not drenched. Once your cucumber seedlings get to be approximately three to four inches tall, thin them out so that only one plant remains in each planted area.

Continue to keep your cucumbers well watered. The National Gardening Association recommends keeping the soil evenly moist to prevent cucumbers from becoming bitter. Try not to get moisture on the leaves which will help prevent leaf-related diseases.

The National Gardening Association also suggests that when your cucumbers reach about four weeks of age, to fertilize them with a 5-10-10 fertilizer (5% nitrogen, 10% phosphorus and 10% potassium).

In approximately 55 to 65 days, your cucumbers should be ready for harvesting.

Planting in Pots

Start cucumbers inside 2 to 3 weeks before bringing outside. It is best to use peat pots so they do not have to be replanted as cukes do not like having their root system disturbed.

Fill up each peat pot, or planting cells, three-quarters full with seed starting mix. Water each thoroughly, making sure you have a tray underneath to catch the excess water.

Place two to three seeds into each planting receptacle, cover with one inch of the seed starting mix. It’s imperative to maintain an adequate amount of light for your cucumber seeds to germinate. They should receive 12 to 14 hours of sunshine a day. Temperature should be kept above 55 degree F.

Check the seeds daily, keep them moist by spritzing with water as soon as the soil dries out. After the seeds have sprouted, it’s recommended you thin them down to only one cucumber seedling per planting receptacle. When seedlings achieve about three inches in height, you can plant them out of doors right into your vegetable garden.

Transplanting Outdoors

With your trowel, dig holes that are double the size of each of your planting receptacles.

Do not need to remove the seedlings from the peat pots. To remove your cucumbers from pots, support the base of the plant with two fingers, turn upside down and gently tap the edge of the pot with your trowel until the pot begin to slide off. To remove from cells, simply push up from the bottom. Put the cells/pots aside.

Position your cucumber plant in a hole, make sure to line up the base of the plant level with the ground. While holding the cucumber in the hole, use your trowel and fill in the hole with plenty of dirt. Firm the soil with your hand, to remove air pockets.

Water each of your cucumber seedlings carefully, don’t saturate them, but water at the base of the plant and let the water soak in thoroughly. (Proceed from Step 7 above, in the section titled Planting Cucumbers).

Tips

Add cukes as succession plantings. Because cucumbers crave heat, they can follow cool spring crops of peas, spinach, and lettuce.

Provide steady moisture. A continuous water supply is necessary for the best quality fruits. A drip irrigation system is ideal in the cucumber patch. If this is not possible, water deeply once a week, applying at least one inch of water. Frequent but shallow watering will reduce overall yields.

Feed cucumbers well. Cucumbers, like other cucurbits (squash, melons, and pumpkins), are heavy feeders. If organic matter was incorporated into the soil prior to planting, fertilizer will not be needed early in the season. However, when the cucumber plants begin to blossom and set fruit, a side dressing of balanced soluble fertilizer will help keep the plants in production.

Use mulch to regulate the ground temperature.

Make sure that you see both male and female blooms. Male blooms usually appear first and then drop off, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Within a week or two, female flowers will also appear; each one has a small cucumber-shaped swelling at the base that will become a cucumber.

Several pests bother cucumbers. Squash bugs may attack seedlings. Slugs like ripening fruit. Aphids can colonize leaves and buds. Straw mulch helps keep slugs at bay, as can trellising vines to get the fruit off the ground. Vines are also bothered by cucumber beetles, which chew holes in leaves and flowers and scar stems and fruits, but worse than that, they spread a disease that causes the plants to wilt and die. Powdery mildew is a disease that leaves white, mildew-like patches on the leaves. Apply fungicides at the first sign of its presence. To minimize disease spread, avoid harvesting or handling vines when leaves are wet.

You can pick cucumbers whenever they’re big enough to use. Check vines daily as the fruit starts to appear because they enlarge quickly. Vines produce more fruit the more you harvest. To remove the fruit, use a knife or clippers, cutting the stem above the fruit. Pulling them may damage the vine. Don’t let the cucumbers get oversized or they will be bitter, and will also keep the vine from producing more. Yellowing at the bottom (blossom end) of a cucumber signals overripeness; remove the fruit immediately. Harvest lemon cucumbers just before they begin turning yellow. Although they are called lemon cucumber because the little oblong or round fruits turn yellow and look like a lemon, by the time the fruit turns yellow it may be a little too seedy for most tastes.

You can keep harvested cucumbers in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days, but use them as soon as possible after picking for best flaor. If you don’t eat a slicing cucumber all at once, cover the unused portion in plastic wrap to prevent dehydration in the refrigerator. In fact, it’s a good idea to wrap your whole cucumbers in plastic or store them in a zipper bag in the fridge to keep them crisp.

Bitter-tasting cucumbers are a common problem caused by high temperatures, dry soil, low fertility, or disease. Unhealthy plants produce poor-quality fruit. Once a plant produces a bitter cucumber, it must be removed because all subsequent cucumbers will be affected the same way.

Filed under: growing

2014 Garden Layout

2014 DDC garden layout
last update: 5/23/2014
cu = cucumber
pp – pie pumpkin
Ro = Roma tomato
R = red pepper
th = Thai hot peppers
c = cayenne pepper
z = zucchini

Garden 1 layout

^
N

                                         R     c     R

                                               Ro
     z                                               th
                      Ro

cu               cu                 cu
cu               cu                 cu

Garden 2 layout

cu       cu      cu
z        z       z
pp       pp      pp
Filed under: layout

2013 Garden #1 Layout

Layout of garden #1

N –>

col1 col2 col3 col4 col5 col6
 T  T T T
Z T S1
 Z T R1  C
S1 P2  C
 G R1  CI P1 B1  C
  • S1 = spinach row, 4/13/2013. about 20 plants
  • R1 = radishes row, 4/13/2013. about 20 plants
  • Z = zucchini (seed), 5/18
  • C = cucumber (seed), 5/18
  • P1 = hot pepper column, 7 plants, 5/20
  • B1 = basil column, 2 plants, 5/20
  • T = tomato, 5/20
  • P2 = pepper column, 5 plants
  • G = garlic
  • CI = cilantro
Filed under: layout

Mistakes I have made in Vegetable Gardening

It is time to fess up and talk about some mistakes I made gardening.

1. Using garden soil to grow seeds.  Big mistake. The soil I took from the garden turned hard as a rock when I put it in seedling containers (I use 1 quart yogurt containers with small holes punched in the bottom for drainage). Fortunately, I tried this only on two plants. They are still hard as a rock even after transplant.

2. Thinking varmints will not disturb my plants.

After many plants were nipped, it turned out that rabbits were the culprits. I put a 2 foot poultry fencing up and had no problems after that.

3. Planting tomatoes too early.

My Dad always says to plant them May 15th. I circumvented this advice and planted May 1st until the year a hard frost occurred on May 3rd and 4th.

4. Not watering deep enough.

Last year (2012) was a drought year, bordering on severe. I sowed carrot and corn seeds and hand watered them. Turns out not thoroughly. None of the carrots grew and the corn was very sparse. After a typical watering, I dug down with a trowel to see how deep the water went. Just below the surface was barely wet. My thinking was the water would seep down but it did not. By the way, the soil was prime Illinois soil with excellent drainage.

5. Not putting weeds in a bucket.

I use a claw type tool to remove most weeds. It works well, especially after a good rain, though many times it leaves part of the taproot. I would yank the weed out and put it on the ground, instead of putting it in a bucket. Why? Leaving it on the ground, especially dandelions, has a good chance of seeding. Lately, I would tear off the dandelion head.

Filed under: gardening