Nature Grow your Garden
Dancing with the Fairies
an article by Susun S. Weed
What fun - and frustration - await you there! The
best mentor you can choose, as far as I'm concerned,
is Nature herself. Nature likes life everywhere.
Have an open field and plants magically appear!
This is the way plants grow when left to themselves.
We don't have to struggle so much.
It is wisest to let Nature have Her way. Nature
has her own agenda, and your life as a gardener
will be easier if you bow to Her desires. Better
to dance with the fairies than struggle with eliminating
"weeds". What herbs already grow around
you that you can use as teas and seasonings? Most
areas are rich in such plants, both native and introduced.
Many of them will be happy to grace your garden
with very little effort on your part. Some will
appear; others may want to be transplanted. Still
others are simply there, waiting for you to notice.
For instance, pine trees. Pine needle vinegar is
an exquisite treat that is easy to make. I call
it homemade "balsamic" vinegar. Fill a
jar with pine needles. (I prefer white pine, and
pinyon pine is even better, but the needles of any
pine are fine.) Cover needles completely with apple
cider vinegar, filling the jar to the top and capping
with a plastic lid or a piece of plastic wrap held
in place with a rubber band. This vinegar, like
most that I make, is ready to use in six weeks.
Pine vinegar is rich in flavonoids, vitamins, and
minerals. It helps keep the immune system strong,
and strengthens the lungs as well. I love it on
Your home, like mine in the Catskills, offers rose
hips and sumac berries for vitamin-C rich teas;
spice bush leaves and berries to suggest the flavors
of bay and allspice; and the roots of sweet clover
to use as a vanilla substitute.
Grab a local field guide and go looking for all
the plants that are native to your area. For example,
if you live in the northern states like Minnesota,
a great book is "How Indians Use Wild Plants
for Food, Medicine, and Crafts", written in
1926 by Frances Densmore who collected information
from the Minnesota Chippewa. There are many similar
Why use native plants? They are often hardy survivors
and naturally adapted to the area, sometimes requiring
less watering and care. Whether in the wilds or
in your garden, Nature is ever-ready to provide
you with all you need with little or no input from
you. An abundance of edible and medicinal plants
covers every inch of my garden - and I didn't plant
any of them. With only a little help from me (I
spread compost several inches deep on my gardens
spring and fall, and keep them fenced against my
goats and the marauding deer), my gardens grow:
garlic mustard, chickweed, violets, dandelion, curly
dock, nettles, burdock, wild madder, crone(mug)wort,
wild chives, poke, catnip, malva, wild mint, bergamot,
cleavers, motherwort, chicory, raspberry, goldenrod,
creeping jenny, barbara's cress, evening primrose,
The next best thing to letting Nature plant your
herb garden for you is to put in perennials and
let Nature take care of them. You will find the
best plants for your area at a plant swap at a local
church or school. Nurseries, especially the mail
order ones, offer lots of different kinds of plants,
but only a few of them will be both productive and
The most dependable perennial herbs are Echinacea,
comfrey, elecampane, wormwood, and thyme, on the
hardiest members of the aromatic mint family.
Cuttings of various mints are easy to come by and
easier yet to establish. Chocolate mint and red
bergamot are two of my favorites, but don't be choosy
- accept any and all mint cuttings you are given.
Perennial aromatic mints - including lemon balm,
lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, pennyroyal,
and catnip, as well as spearmint and peppermint
- form the "backbone" of most herb gardens.
Just grow them in full sun in poor soil and don't
Anyone who has a comfrey plant will be glad to give
you a "start" (a piece of the root). And,
once put in, comfrey is a friend for life. Ditto
rhubarb, whose root is a formidable herbal medicine.
Magazines offer gardening knowledge in small doses,
and at appropriate times, instead of all at once,
and this is usually more helpful than a book that
tries to cover all seasons and all reasons. These
are my current (spring 2002) favorites:
The American Gardener, a publication of the American
Horticultural Society. Perhaps it is a bit more
formal than I am, but it nonetheless has a down-home
charm. Check out www.ahs.org or call 1-800-777-7931.
When you join, you get the magazine plus the right
to join in their annual seed give-away.
The Garden Gate is very practical and covers a wide
range of topics in excellent detail: from plants
to planters, to planting your feet so your back
stays strong. Every page counts, as there is no
advertising. You can subscribe at www.gardengatemagazine.com
or call 1-800-341-4769.
The Gardener is another non-advertising production.
It is unique in not using photographs. It is illustrated
throughout in a variety of stunning styles. They
offered me a credit worth $20 for plants or seeds
with my subscription. Go to www.thegardenermagazine.com
or call them at 1-877-257-5268.Herbals that include
cultural instructions are good additions to your
Opening Your Wild Heart to the Healing Herbs by
Gail Faith Edwards is one of my favorites. I love
Gail's voice. When I read the book I feel like a
wise teacher is sitting next to me telling me how
to use and how to grow herbs and trees, medicines
and teas. Available from www.ashtreepublishing.com.
Steven Foster's Herbal Bounty is a classic on "The
Gentle Art of Herb Culture." Unfortunately,
it is now out of print, but you may be able to find
one used. (Ó1984, Peregrine Smith Books).
He gives detailed information on the culture, and
medicinal uses, of over 100 popular herbs.
Park's Success with Herbs is also out of print but
a book that I use constantly. Gertrude Foster and
Rosemary Louden fill just under 200 pages with an
incredible amount of information on growing and
using (lots of recipes) an amazing variety of herbs.
Wild Women's Garden is one of a series of books
that tell you how to grow and use herbs. This one
focuses on herbs for women. Another, Serenity Garden
focuses on herbs that are relaxing. A third, En
Garden, is more general. Each book contains a postcard
that you send in for free seeds so you can grow
the plants in the book. Great info and great fun.
The cost of the seeds alone is worth more than the
price of the book. Jillian VanNostrand and Christie
Sarles are the authors; published by Radical Weeds.
When you try too hard, it doesnít work. We
learn to work with the slow interplay of Yin and
Yang. We learn to be in harmony with nature's laws.
Forcing things to fit or going against the grain
is an unskillful way. We learn to be flexible like
water. We use our intuition. We hold, energetically,
a magical spot of ground and watch what grows. In
Taoism they call it "Wu Wei". We walk
in the "effortless", we dance with the
fairies, moving in joyful flow with the undulating,
magical greenery blowing in the breeze.
Wow! You have a garden! With patience, good weather,
and the grace of the Goddess, you and Nature will
create a thing of beauty.
PO Box 64
Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings,
and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one
of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine
and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists
and well-known physicians and are used and cherished
by millions of women around the world. Learn more
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed - Republished here with kind permission.