Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Importance of Experimentation in Gardening + DIY Lemon Balm Cleaner

I'm admittedly picky at times. I'm not always a try-er of the newest things. However, I think experimenting, testing, and "giving things a try" is really important to continued success in the garden.

Our gardens are affected by so many factors- pests, weather, water and soil conditons.. as gardeners we have to be ready and willing to adapt, change our plans, and accept the results that nature gives us.

I've been reading Founding Gardeners (which is a great book, btw) and thinking about experimentation and observation. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Madison and Franklin all had very high regard for the role of trials and experiments in the garden, and devoted whole sections of their land and gardens to that very purpose. This has gotten me thinking about all the little ways I've experimented in my garden over the few years of its life.

Lemon balm in my garden
 Almost every "experiement" I've done in the garden or in the kitchen has probably been done before many different ways, but I still think there's merit in trying things for oneself. Most of my awesome projects; concrete block raised beds, my DIY 5 gallon bucket Root Cellarshomemade Vanilla Extract- those were all "experiments" or trials that I got an idea to do, and did!

Sometimes the idea occured to me first, sometimes I was looking for a solution for a problem and found ideas that I figured I could try out. Either way, because of the room I've given myself to try these things, I now have products and advantages I wouldn't have otherwise; an awesome urban garden with extra space for herbs, a successful way to store carrots and potatoes right up until late spring, and high-quality, low-cost vanilla extract!

An experiment I just stumbled upon recently is this Lemon balm drying project that I wanted to try out.

DIY Lemon balm Cleaner

I planted Lemon balm this year, with no real thoughts on how I would actually use in, whether in cooking, medicial or other useage. I was googling how to dry Lemon balm at home, and I saw a few methods- oven drying, a electric dehydator, but one method stuck out in the reading- laying the Lemon balm out on a towel in front of the dehumidifyer- what a creative idea! We already run a dehumidifyer nearly 24/7 in the summer, so why not use the hot air that is getting sucked in to the machine to dry the herbs? Yesterday night I picked some Lemon balm from the garden and laid it out on a kitchen towel. I spread out the towel on top of the ottoman in the basement, and scooted it up in front of the dehuminidifer, as pictured.

When I came down this afternoon to check, less that 24 hours later, look what I found:

Perfect, right?

I thought the leaves would take at least 2 days to dry out! It's taking a lot of restraint not to fling out into my garden and just start harvesting all my herbs to run the same experiment! I do think I'll try drying some Lavendar this way, as well as some bundles of Thyme, as our nice weather draws to a close in late Fall.

Because the Lemon balm dried so nicely, I was already able to start an infusion to make a Lemon balm scented cleaner this evening!

I crushed up the leaves a bit and add them into a bottle of white vinegar (1 cup) in a spray bottle. Supposedly, the leaves can be left in the bottle for few days to infuse, and then I can strain them out and I'll have a great, fresh Lemon balmy scented vinegar. I'll add 2 cups of water to that, and have a great homemade cleaner! As someone who regularly ulses a just vinegar + water mix, I am definitely looking forward to a more pleasant scent- maybe Lavendar or Rosemary scented cleaner will be next on the list?

I'll definitley report out on my facebook page about the results- I have a feeling I might have to try a different preportion of vinegar to water in order to get that lemony-fresh scent I want.

Keep trying things, even if they don't always work out- Our Founding Fathers would applaud your efforts :)

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