It’s time to start prepping the soil for your raised beds and gardens. How many of you are already buying potatoes, dahlias, and herbs? Our staff has been busy fielding questions from customers and the most popular one yet is what’s important when purchasing soil and fertilizer? Where do I start? Here are some topsoil and fertilizer tips to get you started.
“The composition of your soil’s organic matter is a combination of living, decaying, and dead plants and animals. Living organisms include bacteria, worms, fungi, plant roots, etc…As these elements decay, they eventually become humus—the nutrient-rich matter that nourishes the soil.”
Remember that soils with poor drainage can leave the area saturated. Make sure where you’re planting and adding soil is in a good location! Some folks will also check the pH of their soil so consider investing in a pH ‘test’ kit as some plants require certain ranges to grow well.
We’ve compiled a list of the top tips for getting started:
Three topsoil and fertilizer tips for anyone with a green thumb this spring!
Cut existing grass at your mower’s lowest setting.
To smother roots, spread a layer of newspaper about 12 sheets thick. You can use cardboard or newspapers to help keep grass and weeds from growing back. The staff will give you some if you need it!
Spread eight to twelve inches of organic matter (well-rotted manure, compost or a mix of compost and shredded leaves) over the layers of newspaper. Or use triple mix — a mixture of loam, manure, and peat — Rake level. Start tilling it all in!
We use slow-release fertilizers. They are a safe and easy way to feed your plants. “The slow release coating means the nutrients are broken down over time so the plant won’t get burned. This type of fertilizer works because the granules only break down with water and heat. As you water and as your garden soil warms up, your garden plants grow faster, just in time to absorb the fertilizer as it’s released into the soil.”
Avoid prepping soil when it’s too wet! if you clump it together in your hands and moisture pours out it’s too wet. Aim to work when there is some moisture in the soil but it still crumbles in your hand.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll have some idea days for prep but you may have to wait until some of the moisture drys out!
Herbs can be fed directly into the feed or free choice like you do with other types of supplements (e.g. Oyster Shell). You can also add herbs to the dust bath.
Herbs are important for a variety of health issues
Below are the specific reasons my husband and I like to use herbs with the ladies. As a chicken keeper, a lot of the “first aid” you learn in the beginning includes wound care and respiratory issues. Some issues you can tackle proactively as herbs make a big difference when you just want to keep your flock healthy! (Avoid any wheezing and coughing).
More about each of these and how the flock will benefit. Our staff looks to Lisa Steele, chicken expert and author of Fresh Eggs Daily, for advice and learned the following:
Calendula: great insect repellant and makes yolks orange (who doesn’t love orange yolks!)
We also recommend growing Lavender, which repels flies and insects, and Mint, which repels rodents and bugs. You can add these as dried herbs directly in the chicken coops.
Chicken first aid kit: medicinal herbs!
We recommend keeping some dried herbs in your chicken first aid kit. Plants were the original pharmacy for humans and animals and cultures around the world developed remedies that remain in use today. That applies to chickens too!
In addition to Cluckin’ Good Organic Herbs, many chicken keepers keep satchels of other medicinal dried herbs in their first aid kits.
Basil: Used for thousands of years as a culinary and medicinal herb. It acts principally on the digestive and nervous systems, easing flatulence, stomach cramps, colic and indigestion.
Wormwood: A very bitter plant with a long history of use as a medicinal herb. It is valued especially for its tonic effect on the liver, gallbladder and digestive system, and for its vermicidal activity. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and under-active digestion. Be VERY careful that your birds don’t nibble on Wormwood but instead use this in their coop to repel mites. A small satchel attached to the top of the coop away from the roost bars so they cannot nibble on it works well. Wormwood can be toxic!
Ginger and Dandelion: Commonly used for digestion issues. You can add these as dried herbs directly into feed or free choice.
Using herbs directly in the feed works best
There are so many ways to administer herbs but for chickens using them directly into the feed works best. You can also create a wash and rinse for skin injuries if someone gets pecked! This can be therapeutic for a hen. Remember to put them in your “hospital” wing until they’re all healed up! Questions or comments? Please leave them below.
Spring is around the corner! We sell starts of fresh mint and lavender in our garden center opening on March 9th for folks interested in growing your own herbs for your chicken coops.
Medical disclaimer: The staff here are not vets so please check with your vet or holistic vet when you start looking to add herbs for various health conditions. While we do believe in herbs as they have many health benefits, they are not FDA approved so please use these at your discretion.
Master gardeners will tell you that as your houseplant grows larger and the roots begin to grow through the drainage holes, repotting the plant into a larger pot will become necessary.
In addition, pests (gross!), diseases, and mold often infiltrate the soil of a potted plant. To prevent further damage or a recurrence of the problem, get rid of the old soil!
This post is another Q&A with one of ourexperts and nursery department head. if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to stop in and ask our staff about up-potting!
A Q&A with Granville Goff, Nursery Department Head, Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
What is Up Potting?
Up potting is what we do when a plant has become root-bound in its current home. This means that the plant has cycled through several growth periods and has “outgrown” its current home.
Indications: When you water, it runs immediately through (not enough soil for retention). Yellowing leaves that don’t respond to adjusted watering or fertilization,Visually if you can see the roots coiling (worth popping the plant out of the current pot to examine), If the plant looks too big for the size pot it is in(remember everything you see above the soil has relatively equal mass below the soil [roots]).
You will need a new pot, fresh potting soil (an appropriate blend for the type of plant), a watering can (with a narrow spout), materials for drainage if the pot has no drainage holes, a rubber mallet for jostling loose especially stuck plants.
Important stepsfor repotting a plant
In many cases, you can simply take the pot and tap it against a work surface in along the circumference and the root mass will “let go” of the pot walls.
Other times you may need to cut a plant free from a plastic stock pot or tap the bottom and sides of a pot with a rubber mallet to loosen the plant.
I would not recommend placing a coffee filter in the bottom of a pot since it is designed to absorb water and will begin to decompose increasing bacterial growth in the root zone which is a recipe for root rot and ultimately plant death.
Dawn is one of our botanical partners and Maple Twig Medicinals provides medicinal herb plants for sale including home-grown seedlings and botanicals in Portland. They also have an Etsy store that sells custom tinctures. We know them best for their wide variety of medicinal herb plants for sale that are available to our customers. We sell several of their starts including Elecampane, Valerian, Sweet Woodruff, Spilanthes, Tulsi Basil, and Marshmallow currently.
Maple Twig is more than a grower of accessible, medicinal starts. Dawn also offers garden consultations, herbal consultations and peer wellness support, educational workshops and, a lineup of wildcrafted herbal tinctures, and salves.
“Providing food and medicine for my community and supporting others in their own self-determination is what it’s all about. Anyone can grow herbs! Many are very easy to take care of and are perennial, requiring a lot less water after getting established,” explains Dawn in this brief conversation.
Have you heard of nettles and elderflowers? Curious about why they’re so special?
Dawn has a fascinating background and we take a look at some of these plants that anyone can grow. More in the below Q&A:
Maple Twig Medicinals:
1.- What inspired you to start growing medicinal plant starts, and why the Maple Twig name?
1A. I have a background in farming and am inspired to grow medicinal herbs because I see community members empowered to connect to their health and have a reciprocal relationship with plants. Maple Twig is the translation of my mom’s family name, Lonnqvist. I grew up producing honey and harvesting raspberries with my mormor and morfar, (maternal and paternal grandparents) and believe that everyone has the right to access the plants their ancestors have used.
2. Acknowledging that plant medicine is a storied culture that reaches back to our early years as humans, what do you feel is most important about it in the context of our modern lives?
2A. There are so many ways that society disconnects us from each other and the living world. Power dynamics promote doctors and professionals to be the experts on our health. While modern medicine has a great role to play in community well-being, connecting to plants that have been used for ages puts some of that power back into the hands of the people.
3. I have several plant allies that I keep in constant “conversation” with, as I am sure you do as well. Would you mind sharing a little about some of your “go-to” herbal friends?
3A. It’s really hard for me to hone in on just a few, but I love elderflower and berries building immunity, along with working through grief and connecting to the underworld. I also love nettles! Soups, tea, stocks, sautéed… it is a great plant to grow yourself because out in the wild it is over-harvested and grows prolifically in polluted areas where it takes up heavy metals. Nettle provides a lot of good minerals but only if grown in good soil!
4. Many people may approach the cultivation and use of medicinal herbs with trepidation, either because they are unsure about invasive qualities and what that means for their gardens, or because they are unsure of efficacy and safety for use. Does someone need to be an herbalist/naturopath to use medicinal plants and what do they need to know about welcoming them into their garden landscape?
A4. Anyone can grow herbs! Many are very easy to take care of and are perennial, requiring a lot less water after getting established. I can totally see why the diversity of medicinal herbs can be overwhelming, but I would say if you have interest give it a shot! If you are worried about a plant spreading further than you would like, try a big pot! You can always transplant into the soil in the spring or fall if you find it will be manageable. Start slow and grow plants you truly want to use and have a purpose for!
5. I really appreciate your mission to keep plant medicine alive and attainable at all levels of the socio-economic spectrum; can you tell us how you’ve arrived at a system that makes this possible?
A5. Right now, this is obtainable through working a full-time job in a psychiatric ER (haha).
Besides that, my medicinal herb plants for sale are at fixed prices to community nurseries, so they don’t bump the prices to fit a more boutique price point. I greatly value trades, sliding scale for Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), accessible educational events, and donating plants and products to BIPOC groups as reparations. I keep my costs really low, mixing my own soil, using recycled pots and building materials, and am all about finding great deals on Craigslist, NextDoor, Buy Nothing, and such. I was recently was awarded the Mercy Corps IDA, which will help me to grow my business while still being accessible and community-focused.
6. What Medicinal Herb book do you make the most use of, currently?
8. Can we also send out a quick shout out to all the independent garden centers that you work with apart from Fang! Pet & Garden Supply where you have medicinal herb plants for sale? We like to support our friends and neighbors in the plant industry.
8A. I’m sad to say that City Farm was the main nursery I sold to, which is closing and a huge loss for North Portland and St Johns in particular. I also sell to Thicket on 23rd and Alberta. I would love to hear from folks about places they would like to see my plants and medicinal products!
So if you’ve enjoyed learning more about Dawn, we encourage you to reach out about upcoming workshops or check out their Etsy store where you can find these tinctures. The book referred to above is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in medicinal plants and herbs! Or if you are looking for additional information on medicinal herb plants for sale, our staff can answer anything about the plant starts that we sell!
And there is nothing more entertaining than watching your chickens scratch and peck! Many say chickens are the gateway bird to other livestock but perhaps you’re just considering a few hens. Whether it’s three hens or ten, look no further!
Chicken expert advice from Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
When it comes to raising chickens, the experts at Fang! Pet & Garden Supply can help with advice ranging from feed to feeders. There are a lot of different breeds and varieties to choose from for your flock and the staff can answer questions about which are best for laying or meat. Chickens are also like potato chips! You’re going to want more as time goes on.
You can also give your birds herbs! Here’s a list of the herbs they will love. They can be scattered all over the coop and added to nesting boxes.
You’ll need metal tins for feed storage (you don’t want rats eating your feed), oyster shell as a calcium supplement and grit. Chickens don’t have teeth, apparently, they are very rare, so to grind down their food, they use a strong muscular organ called a gizzard. Chickens pick up grit while foraging, which is kept for a while in the gizzard to perform this grinding process.
What about fermenting feed? Here are tips from Scratch and Peck:
There are many benefits and it’s easier than you think. Why Ferment?
Make the feed easier for the chickens to digest and it improves the overall bioavailable nutrients.
Fermented feed has increased levels of Vitamins B, C, and K
It also has increased protein which can help with egg production
Our staff can advise you further on these steps.
Treats! Worms & Bugs
They love bugs! You can help attract bugs into the coop by adding fresh grass clippings and sticks from the yard. Or ask our staff as we sell bugs too (they’re dead).
The rooster’s role is invaluable. They can be mean but they’re simply protecting the ladies. It takes time to build a relationship with your flock but one of the most important things you can do in the beginning is simply watching them and listen to their various noises. You’ll be amazed at how they communicate with each other and over time you will appreciate how the rooster tells them if he found a yummy bug or to run into the coop – “there is potential danger outside!” – a hawk perhaps! Of course, roosters are not allowed in all counties so check the rules first! You don’t need a rooster for your hens to lay eggs!
At the end of the day, raising chickens is work but they’re smart and the eggs are delicious. They can even be clicker trained if that sounds like fun and you’re a behavior junkie like all of us.
At the store, please ask our staff about raising chickens if you have any questions about what you should feed or perhaps you’re just doing some research. And then head over to the garden center so you can choose some herbs that your chickens will love! Grow some calendula or lavender in your garden and feed it to the hens!
Weeds are great when they’re planted in the right place. When we typically talk about weeds we talk about “invasive plants” and we thought we should flip the coin and look at the many weeds with benefits instead!
Everything you read talks about how to prevent weeds from spreading by mowing or trampling before the seeds form. But did you know they actually help the soil?
This post is a Q&A with one of our experts and nursery department head. if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to stop in and ask our staff about the weeds you can eat!
A Q&A with Granville Goff, Nursery Department Head,
Fang! Pet & Garden Supply
Q 1. How do weeds repair the soil – generally speaking? What do weeds do that’s good?
A 1. “Weeds” add biomass to the soil and as they die they help create topsoil and available nutrients for other plants not to mention feeding the microorganisms present in the soil. Additionally, they help with moisture retention which keeps the soil alive and provides habitat for beneficial and nonbeneficial insects which encourages birds. Plant-like Comfrey drive down deep taproots that mine minerals and other nutrients thus reinvigorating the nutrient cycle.
Q2. Which of these have culinary potential and can be used in everyday meals? Like Dandelions?
A 2. Dandelion (root, leaves, flowers), Burdock (roots, stems), Lemon Balm (all aerial growth), Miners Lettuce (shoots, flowers), Chickweed (all aerial growth) can all be used in daily cuisine.
Q 3. Do they really fix nutritional balances in the lawn?
A 3. Refer to answer for number one! Additionally, Poly-culture, as opposed to monoculture (i.e. lawn), has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be more ecologically sound and beneficial for soil health and pest management than any other “method” of cultivation. Let nature lead the way.
Q 4. When removing these weeds – is there a “best practice” or method that should be used?
A 4. If you are removing non-native, invasive imports from your landscape, garden, or natural area a couple of things to keep in mind: “Weeds” as we term them are very advantageous plants that are more than adept at adapting to changes and capitalizing on beneficial conditions including your removal of them. If a weed has gone to seed, be sure, it will be back- bend stalks into a paper bag before lopping off, to minimize spread, you can burn them later. When digging up a weed, remember that many have deep taproots and if you don’t get the whole thing it will grow back, also bear in mind that when you disturb the soil, other seeds that have been dormant will gain a foothold in the “limelight” and you may see new visitors that were previously unknown to you. BEST PRACTICE: suppression= sod flip, sheet mulch with cardboard or other biodegradable light blockers, cover with bark mulch and straw, in this way you rob the unwanted plants of light and begin building a healthy topsoil layer for yourself.
Q 5. Why do dogs seek out Cleavers? And what’s the benefit of the sticky/velcro leaves?
A 5. Cleavers are one of my all-time favorites. They are very advantageous, have medicinal uses, and are actually very easy to remove once you get unstuck from them, of course. They are a close relative of our native Sweet Woodruff also. The hairs on Cleavers allow them to climb to light they require to spread, also since their structure is very fragile it allows them to hitch a ride on passersby and take root some distance away thus spreading its territory. Dogs are likely eating it for the same reasons humans tincture it. It is noted as a blood builder/cleanser, lymph mover, diuretic, coagulant, and anti-inflammatory, basically a great spring tonic to help clean you out and detox your system. Spring is its prime season and this is a good time to flush the system and our canine friends are innately aware of this.
Eight Weeds with Benefits
The info above in number 5. Can be found in tincture and tea blends.
Found growing just about everywhere. Broad and Spear leaf varieties abound in lawns, city parks, forest roads, etc. This is not the banana cousin that goes by the same name. Plantain is an antiseptic, astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nutritive, making it one of the best wound healing herbs out there. Effective when used on insect stings, bites, cuts, scrapes, and even eczema. Fresh leaf is best.
Leaves, flowers, root used. One of the more popular weeds that people will eat and uses as an herbal remedy. Great for detoxing and supporting the liver, however, has some contraindications when used in conjunction with blood-thinners due to its anticoagulant properties. Also useful in helping treat kidney and urinary ailments including infections, due to the magnesium and zinc content it is good for promoting clear skin, can help maintain proper blood sugar. Roasted root is a great coffee substitute.
Leaves and Root used. Demulcent, expectorant, mucilaginous: lung support, wound healing, intestinal support
Attracts bees in the garden. Leaves, flowers, and stems used. Carminative, diaphoretic and febrifuge, antibacterial (internal and external), antiviral. Good for heart and liver, mood improvement.
Postpartum depurative, emmenagogue, galactagogue and circulatory tonic. Helps regulate blood flow generally and specifically in relation to menstruation, increases breast milk production, also help with itchy skin.
Use as a salad green. Miner’s lettuce is pleasingly crunchy, mild-tasting has large leaves, remains tender even when in flower, and is so loaded with vitamins it will cure scurvy. According to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 grams of miner’s lettuce — about the size of a decent salad — contains a third of your daily requirement of Vitamin C, 22 percent of the Vitamin A, and 10 percent of the iron.
Roots and stalks, young growth is tender and easier to eat and prepare. Keep moist if cooking. Aids in digestion, detoxifying the liver and balancing hormones. It is also good for improving skin quality, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure. Similar to Dandelion Root. Can be found fresh in some health food grocery stores, as a tincture, and dried herb.
I bet you didn’t know this about weeds! Perhaps you’re a chef or you simply didn’t know what to do with your dandelions – but consider serving them up in a meal instead of weeding and throwing them into the compost pile this weekend.