Low Low Loquats!

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

Loquat Pic courtesy of Karen Fayeth


The Loquat is a decidious tree in the Rose family originating from Southeastern China. It has also been naturalized into the Japanese landscape as well, with cultivation dating back 1,000 years. With its large tropical-looking leaves and delicious fruit it is amongst one of the most common landscaping trees in the Southeast United States. In history it has been mentioned in numerous Chinese poems and in Dutch historical writings. Japan is the leading producer of Loquats followed by Israel and the Brazil.

The Uses

The Loquat is most notably used for its fruit. The sweet yellow fruit ripen in Spring pocket option address verification and have one or two large seeds. The skin is a lot like that of a peach, with a bit if fuzz, and the flesh tastes similar to a plum, which has nicknamed the fruit the “Asian or Japanese Plum” (Although there are other species that have this name). However, don’t expect to find Loquats in your local super market, as they have a very short shelf life and are frequently sold as jams or other preserves. You can however freeze Loquats with good success.

Loquats also possess a number of medicinal uses. In China, the fruit is a common ingredient for cough drops, and a paste made from the leaves is taken as a demulcent and an expectorant. There is also evidence of a sedative effect when consumed in large quantities.

How to Grow It

Zones 7a-11

Height: 20-30ft

Drought Tolerant

Full Sun

Edible Fruit Tree

Loquats are very easy to grow, even in mild temperate climates, which is what makes them common as landscape trees. There are named cultivars that vary depending on fruit color, number of seeds, to fruit size. The flowers are fragrant and do attract bees. Most are not self-fertile.

Loquat Jam Recipe






I made about 6 jars and gave them out to friends and teachers, all of which thoroughly enjoyed trying something new and something so local! If you have loquat trees or any preservable fruit tree near you, I highly suggest giving canning a try!

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Dirt! The Movie

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden


Dirt! The Movie is just what you expect it’s about. It’s a movie discussing dirt, or the skin of the Earth, and our interactions with it. With interviews from people like Vandana Shiva, Paul Stamets, Andy Lipkis, Wangari Maathai, and many other interesting participants the movie gets a variety of perspectives on different issues involving dirt. DIRT! the Movie–narrated by Jaime Lee Curtis–brings to life the environmental, economic, social and political impact that the soil has. It shares the stories of experts from all over the world who study and are able to harness the beauty and power of a respectful and mutually beneficial relationship with soil. [1]



Dirt! The Movie adds a very interesting discussion to the table and that is the element of soil related to our life here on Earth. Jamie Lee Curtis’s narration is a bit awkward at times, but the interviews are where this movie truly shines. With a slew of experts in the field, you get many interesting topics to think about and many different world perspectives. Being a personal fan of Vandana Shiva, her interviews are extremely inspiring to me. The other other interview I thoroughly enjoyed was that given by Wangari Maathai, who is an excellent story teller. Her inspirational folk tale about a hummingbird doing the best he can to put out a fire, gets me every single time I hear it. The video and sound quality is exceptional in this documentary, something many lack. The animations are bit whacky at times, and are one of the only things I’d like to see refined or scrapped. Overall, Dirt! The Movie is an exceptional film to make viewers aware of the many different aspects of dirt, and what we need to do to protect this valuable resource

Similar Movies

Food Inc.

Future of Food

The World According to Monsanto

Food Matters

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Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden


The Yaupon Holly is a native American Holly, indigenous to the Southeastern United States. It’s an evergreen shrub or small tree that is much different from conventional hollies (European Holly) in that it’s leaves are small with scalloped edges. The plant looks A LOT like a box wood, but scalloping on the leaves, white/ash gray stem, and red berries differentiate them. It generally occurs in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils, and can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sand hills, maritime forests, non-tidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods. [1]

Birds of a Feather

The fruit are an important food for many birds, including Florida Duck, American Black Duck, Mourning Dove, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey, Northern Flicker, sapsuckers, Cedar waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, and White-throated Sparrow. Mammals that eat the fruit include Nine-banded Armadillo, American Black Bear, Gray Fox, raccoon and skunks. The foliage and twigs are browsed by White-tailed Deer. [1]

The New Old Tea?

The Yaupon Holly has a long history of use amongst Native Americans, as it contains caffeine and anti-oxidants. However, the name may seem as if this plant is an emetic or induces vomiting. This is far from the truth

There have not been any emetic elements found in the plant.

Commonly thought to be called asi or black drink it was thought to be used for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredient is actually caffeine, and the vomiting was either learned or as a result of the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting. Others believe the Europeans improperly assumed the black drink to be the tea made from Ilex vomitoria when it was likely an entirely different drink made from various roots and herbs and did have emetic properties. [1]

Some have even suggested that it was named by someone in the tea industry to deter European drinkers.

The plant is a viable tea alternative as it is relatively hardy, drought-tolerant, and is even as local as being in some of our own backyards.

Preparation is simple too:

  1. Gather leaves
  2. Bake at 350F for 5-8min (until a medium shade of brown)
  3. Crush or chop leaves in a food processor
  4. Steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes
  5. Enjoy! (Personally I like mine with honey)

How to Grow it

Zones: 7a-10b

Height: 1-20 ft depending on variety

Extremely Drought Tolerant

Full Sun/Partial Shade

Small Tree/Shrub

Sandy/Well-Draining Soil


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The Mighty Fig

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

The History

The Common Fig (Ficus carica) is a fruit that many people have heard of but little have tried more frequent than the occasional Fig Newton. But the rich history of fig use stretches far back, past the time of Ancient Rome. Biblical texts claim that Adam and Eve were even garbed with fig leaves after eating the “forbidden fruit”. There is even a chapter named after the fig tree in the Qur’an and Buddha was said to have gained enlightenment from underneath a Ficus religilosa. Even the national tree of India is a species of Fig!

The “Fruit”

The edible part of the fig is it’s fruits or rather the false fruit. The part that’s eaten is actually a hollowed stem which contains a cluster of flowers. The flower is not visible, as it blooms inside the fruit. The small orifice visible on the middle of the fruit is a narrow passage, which allows a very specialized wasp, the fig wasp, to enter the fruit and pollinate the flower, whereafter the fruit grows seeds

There are basically three varieties of common figs:

They “fruit is also a huge source of both calcium and antioxidants, but can produce a laxative effect if great quantities are eaten.


How to grow it

Zones: 7-11

Height: 10-30 ft

Extremely Drought Tolerant

Full Sun

Small Tree/Shrub

The common fig is an extremely diverse and adaptable plant being able to cover a wide range of climates. Varieties such as the Celeste can even handle down to -5F! The soil should be rich and well-draining as too much standing water can be detrimental to the health of the plant. Because of this, they can do well in drier areas such as the Southern US. The plants are frequently propagated by hardwood stem cuttings rather than seed or grafting. For the best results in your area, check with your local nurseries and see which variety is most adapted to your environment, as there are MANY.

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Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

What is it?

The genus Comfrey is comprised of about 7 species and a few hybrids. The plants are generally herbaceous perennials and are a member of the Borage family.

What can I do with it?

Comfrey is a popular garden plant due to its ability to activate compost. The plant, because of its massive taproot draws a lot of essential plant nutrients to the surface. Because Comfrey has little fiber in its leaves, they break down incredibly fast thus releasing all those nutrients into the compost or soil and making them easily available to plants.  The chief nutrient comfrey makes available is Potassium. It also doesn’t exhibit any signs of nitrogen leaching which can be present in decomposing materials.

Aside from its use in the garden, Comfrey also can act as a helpful medicinal. The leaves contain a chemical known as Allantoin, which acts to speed up cell regeneration of wounds. Comfrey is also reported to contain mucilage, steroidal saponins, tannins, pyrrolizidine alkaloids, inulin, and proteins.

However, in recent years there has been huge debate regarding the internal use Comfrey. Because the plant contains hepatotoxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids it is said to cause liver damage in high doses. So far, one death has been related directly to over use of Comfrey. Although this plant has been used medically for many years, I want to discourage it’s internal use and that it is a possible risk to do so. With that being said, I personally feel that one recorded death is dwarfed by the copious amounts of Pharmaceutical deaths every year, but find it a tad ironic that the FDA chooses to discourage Comfrey use.

How to grow it

Zones: 4a-9b

Height: 24-36 in

Drought Tolerant (May slow growth)

Full Sun

Herbaceous Perennial

Comfrey is typically propagated via root cutting or seed. Some varieties, like the hybrid bocking 14, are unable to reproduce from seed, in which case root cuttings would need to be acquired. One of the benefits is that this eliminates the risk of widespread Comfrey invasion, although due to the deep taproot and ability to spread via rootball, Comfrey still poses some threat as an invasive.

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Get Out Dog!

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

So my neighbors have what have to be the stupidest most annoying dogs ever! Not to say that responsibility shouldn’t fall on said neighbors to pick up after and watch their dogs, but I have grown to accept that they’re just going to be irresponsible and let their animals run amok. So after around 10 plants being killed and the dogs consistently pooping and peeing in my beds (also compacting the soil), I needed to find some ways to keep them away. And of course me, trying to be environmentally savvy, pursued a flower I could plant or a spray I could make that would keep the mongrels out of my garden. Here are some things I found.

Dog Repelling Plants

Household Dog Deterents

Dan on the Offense

So far I have placed Lemons all around my garden as well as smeared the flesh/juice on any vertical surface. I’m really hoping this works out well! I’ve also ordered an ounce of Pot Marigold seeds, of which I’m extremely excited for because not only do they repel big stupid dogs but also have a huge variety of uses, many of which benefit the skin!

Rue is also something I’d like to have in the garden as it is a natural insect repellent and can be taken internally as an antispasmodic and sedative. However, applying it topically in the summer may not be advisable as it can cause blisters.


Now don’t take my tone as me hating all dogs, for I am traditionally a dog person. However, when owners fail to take responsibility for their animals, of which seem not to care about things like plants, I tend to get frustrated. If you have dogs please pick up after them and watch them. It takes all of five minutes and will help your neighbors not despise you :)

/public service announcement

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Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

What is it?

Coppicing is a traditional forestry practice that uses many tree’s natural ability to re-establish themselves when the trunk is cut. When cut, the tree then sends out suckers or shoots that in a few years time will be ready for harvest again if desired. A tree that is used for this purpose is also known as a “stool”.

Pattern of Coppicing

Trees are frequently harvested in a rotation so that wood can be available year after year. The amount of time between harvest varies depending on the tree being cut, for instance a birch stool can be harvested on a 4 year rotation while an oak tree takes about 50 years to regrow itself.

Fountain of Youth

Because the tree is in almost a perpetual juvenile state, coppiced trees are very unlikely to die of old age. Scientists have found copice stools that are over 30ft (9m) across which would indicate them being coppiced for centuries!

Born to be Wild

Because the trees remain and the area is not usually clear cut, the coppicing of trees tends to allow more light to breach the forest canopy. This allows for more access to understory plants that house small animals and promote insect habitation. This does however eliminate the old growth that some specialized species demand, although, as long as the practice is done with select trees and the forest being managed has strong biodiversity, coppicing can be used to maintain sections of old growth while still being able to harvest usable timber in a sustainable manner. In fact, nature even employs its own natural coppicer, the beaver!

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Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden

What if someone told you that there were plants that could put Nitrogen into your soil without chemical fertilizers? What if they told you that those same plants could supply you and your family with food as well? There is such a plant and you may be a little surprised that Legumes are one of the most commonly grown crops on the planet

What Are Some Examples?

Here’s a list of some common Legumes:

How Do They Help Fix Nitrogen?

One of the biggest reasons to have Legumes in your garden is their ability to aid in the fixation of Nitrogen in your soil. Many commercial farmers run a planting regiment of 1 year of soybeans and then 2 years of corn. This is because the soybeans, being a Legume, fix atmospheric Nitrogen in the soil that help the nutrient dependent corn thrive.

But how do they fix the Nitrogen?

Legumes use a process known as Biological Nitrogen Fixation. In this action the plant’s roots form a symbiotic relationship with soil microorganisms called Rhizobia by forming nodules within their root system. This in turn creates a micro-climate for the bacteria which provides the plant with an extra source of food allowing it to be more competitive. When the plant dies (or in permaculture, mulched) the nitrogen can be released into the soil and becomes available to other plants. Not to say that the plant isn’t also releasing Nitrogen while still alive as well!

Perennial Legumes

Although the most commonly commercially grown Legumes are annuals, there are also an abundance of perennial and tree Legumes. One of the benefits of of these species is there ability to consistently supply your soil with Nitrogen. When pruned at the top to be used for mulch, the roots also self prune. This results in a deposit of those Nitrogen fixing bacteria and the nitrogen itself, in turn fertilizing your soil.

In Your Garden

Considering the vast amount of species available, many of which can serve some kind of purpose in your garden, there is no reason you can’t have these highly beneficial plants in your garden. Many are easily grown from seed or bought from a local nursery. Start supplying your own fertilizer and get planting some Legumes today!

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A Bit On Echinacea

Posted on by Cactusdan

The Earth Garden Blog


Echinacea purpurea or the Purple Coneflower is a perennial herb indigenous to Midwestern North America. The flowers are perched on tall stems and feature brilliant pink to purple blooms. The brown central cone is a cluster of seeds that are frequently quite rough. The leaves also have a rough texture.

Growing Information

Zones: 4a-9b

Height: 24-48 in

Drought Tolerant

Full Sun, Sun, Partial Shade

Herbaceous Perennial


I have seen multiple sites claiming Echinacea’s need to be cold stratified however I can tell you from personal experience that this is not the case. I get 50-90% germination from sowing in moist soil about 1/2 an inch (1cm) deep.


On top of being a brilliant display in the garden, Echinacea is one of the most commonly used herbs today for multiple reasons. Predominantly, it is an extremely effective immune booster. On top of this, there has also been demonstrations of its use as a pain reliever, antiviral, reduce inflammation, urinary tract infections, an antioxidant, among much more.


Echinacea has an array of different chemicals that add to it’s beneficial effects. Primarily it is composed of polysaccharides, glycoproteins, alkamides, volatile oils, and flavonoids. The chemicals contained in the root differ considerably from those in the upper part of the plant. For example, the roots have high concentrations of volatile oils (odorous compounds) while the above-ground parts of the plant tend to contain more polysaccharides (substances known to trigger the activity of the immune system) [1]

Wrongly Labeled

The website found that out of 11 bottles of Echinacea there was a wide variety of quality of Echinacea available. In fact 10% of the products tested had absolutely no Echinacea whatsoever! Only 4 contained the exact species stated on the label, half contained a mixture of different species, and more than half listed more Echinacea on the package then what was actually inside the capsules. With this knowledge you should be sure to buy from reputable companies, or my favorite solution, grow it yourself!

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The Start of the Blog

Posted on by Cactusdan

Hey all,

So for those of you who frequent the chat, you may have heard me talking of starting a blog, podcast, or videos. Well here’s the start of this endeavor, The Earth Garden Blog.

Here I will be posting articles, links, podcasts, and videos in the future to help promote site traffic and to give you guys more interaction on the site!

If you have any comments, suggestions, or anything else, please let me know at

Keep growing!


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