My first garden was on a wedge-shaped hillside that was shaded most of the day. I was 18, I had no tools, and I had no idea what I was doing. I remember clearing the site of weeds and using a borrowed shovel to make rows. I don’t remember what I planted. I don’t remember if anything grew there. I do remember that the soil was rich, and dark, and soft in my hands. I instinctively knew that it was good soil.
A year later I met my father’s aunt who rented us a little cottage house next to her bigger house, and we shared the garden she had been gardening in for decades. She was an organic gardener and she taught me many good things that year. I learned to double dig wide beds, adding compost to the deepest layers. The double digging aerates the soil, making it easier for root crops to grow large.
Currently, I ready my garden beds differently. I add the compost to the top layer and I use a broad fork to loosen the soil and gently work the compost in. This way, instead of double digging the beds, I can still loosen and aerate the soil, but it does not disturb the beneficial organisms and earth worms in the soil layers as greatly.
My love of growing plants took root in those first gardens. I continued my garden explorations and planted my crops using a moon calendar. You can use the Farmer’s Almanac to learn what phases of the moon are good for planting crops, weeding and pest control, harvesting and pruning.
Years later I took a ¼ acre lot and created a botanical haven. Living in Seattle, a temperate climate, affords you the ability to grow almost everything. On this site we had full sun, deep shade, boggy shade, woodland, and mixed sun shade. My plant list was in the thousands. I became a crazed plant collector. Our garden was featured in Seattle Magazine, and I loved sharing it with tour groups of fellow gardeners.
While ornamental gardens offer their unique pleasures, I truly missed growing plants that I could use more medicinally, and for nourishing my family. I wanted to be able to provide all of the botanical components that we were using in Essential Apothecary Alchemist products. I loved Seattle, but after over 30 years of living in the city, my spirit longed for a quieter and more nature filled life.
We looked for a long time for something we could afford, and that checked off all the boxes on our wish list. We finally found our spot and moved to North Idaho in the spring of 2019.
In our first year we have:
When you use several inches of chipped bark material on your garden beds, it helps to control weeds, keeps moisture in the soil, saves water, and provides nourishment for beneficial soil organisms. It also helps keep the soil under it from becoming compacted.
In our vegetable garden this year we started with a very compacted parcel that was covered with grass and thistles. We covered the ground with several layers of cardboard and then covered that with compost and on top of that we added 4-5 inches of chipped bark. We are currently growing cucumbers, peas, beans, tomatoes, squash, and melons. With time the soil will improve. We have rich soils here, but they are heavy clay, therefore they compact easily. With compacted soils, plant roots struggle to penetrate, and water tends to sit on top.
Next year we will construct a distillation kitchen for making our hydrosols, add a heat source to the green house, and possibly plant several acres of lavender. We have still a lot to accomplish, but after only being here for a few months, I was able to grow and gather, chamomile, wild rose petals, lavender, calendula flowers, and comfrey. This year we have added more volume and will add dandelion root, Saint John’s wort, and rose geranium to our list.
We add chamomile, an ancient remedy known to sooth and heal wounds, including psoriasis and eczema, to our RADIANCE gentle face scrub. It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, helping to address acne conditions. Chamomile is high in antioxidants, and helps to lighten and brighten the skin. It accelerates skin cell regeneration, and also helps to tighten pores.
We use lavender in our LUSH moisturizer, NECTAR serum, LUSTER cleanser and FRESH deodorant. Lavender is used for it’s remarkable healing properties. Lavender has beneficial antibacterial properties, helping to address acne conditions. It is soothing and balancing for all skin types. Lavender has anti-inflammatory properties, helping to address redness and soothing skin that has been exposed to too much weather. Lavender’s antibacterial, wound healing, and calming qualities, make it a very potent ingredient.
One of our favorite ingredients, and one that is already plentiful on the homestead is Rose. Known for its antioxidant properties, it's naturally helpful for slowing the aging process. Rose petals are added to RADIANCE, and we use rose oil in LUMINOUS honey mask and our NECTAR serum. Rose contains vitamins that heal and nourish the skin. Rose helps hold moisture in the skin. It’s gentle anti-inflammatory action sooths red, itchy, inflamed skin.
Calendula has been shown in clinical trials to increase cell proliferation and encourage the process of wound healing. We add Calendula to our LUMINOUS honey mask.
One of the best botanicals for use with skincare, especially for aging or irritated skin, comfrey has a mucilaginous texture, and its allantoin compound has shown to have a soothing, firming and tightening effect on the skin. Comfrey is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving qualities and helps to promote moisture retention, while soothing the skin. It promotes rapid skin cell regeneration, and is very nourishing. Comfrey is commonly used to assist in healing wounds as well as preventing and treating scars. A great gentle cleanser for the skin, comfrey removes excess oil and detoxes impurities. It has been known to decrease skin dryness, and has shown to be effective in addressing atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema. We also add comfrey root to our RADIANCE scrub.
Dandelion root has many nutrients for treating hungry skin: Beta carotene, iron, vitamin K, vitamin C, minerals, B6, and protein, to name a few. Taking dandelion internally and topically helps heal acne. Dandelion is a great detoxifier, we add it to RADIANCE.
There is very little more rewarding than having our hands on the plants that make up the bulk of our products at EAA. Planting them, tending them and the soils that nourish them, makes for a very powerful product. We give thanks for the ability to co-create our nature made ingredients, and for living in harmony on the land we so humbly occupy.