May Events at Red Road Herbs

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May 5th – National Herb Day/Plant Giveaway  10 am – 2 pm – open to the public

May 9th – Herb Gardening Class  6 pm – 8 pm – registration required

May 12th – Mother’s Day Tea  4 pm – 6 pm – registration required

May 20th – Herbal Home Spa Class  6 p m – 8 pm – registration required

May 25th – Wildcrafting Class  1 pm – 3 pm – registration required

Register by calling or e-mailing us: (402) 640-0744 or

The class size is limited to 12 students to ensure personal attention.

More information available at


The Sounds of Spring

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The sights delight and the smells are sweet, but the sounds of spring are an unparalleled symphony that is soul-soothing.  Birds are chirping, cawing, twilling, and cackling. Frogs are singing “background” in the creek.  Bees are busily buzzing around every blossom. Even the wind rustling leftovers from last fall adds to the concert.

While raking the leftovers and recent storm debris I heard a humming sound and thought it might be a distant vehicle or farm equipment.  Then I realized that the top of our 20′ tall Pussy Willow was buzzing with hundreds of bees.

Pussy Willow with Mulberry Tree in the background.

Pussy Willow with Mulberry Tree in the background.

Bees swarming around top of Pussy Willow.

Bees swarming around top of Pussy Willow.

Single bee on a single blossom of a lower branch.

Bee on a Pussy Willow blossom –
one of the lower branches.




Luffa Gourds – make your own sponges

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Botanical Interest Loofa Seeds

Botanical Interest Luffa Seeds

Luffa gourds are easy to grow if you have a place for them to climb and a long enough growing season.  We use an old A-frame that was once a greenhouse – an old “Mother Earth News” project that didn’t work.  The growing season is up to Nature and a little “pushing” on our part.

First, the seeds are soaked to encourage quicker germination.  These were left in water overnight.

Soaking Loofa seeds

Soaking Luffa seeds

Next, the soil is shaped into a mound, which is also done when planting most types of squash.  This allows the soil above the ground to warm quicker in spring.

Mound up soil and plant Loofa seeds about 1/2" to 1" deep by poking them in the soil - water and mound up soil again as necessary.

Mound up soil and plant Luffa seeds about 1/2″ deep by poking them in the soil – water and mound up soil again as necessary.

We also cover the newly planted seeds with plastic jugs to keep them warm and moist.  When the soil warms to 60 degrees and the seedlings emerge, the jugs are removed.  We usually need to cover them once more for a late frost so we keep the jugs handy.

Loofa arbor with mini greenhouse jugs warming the soil for quicker germination.

Luffa arbor with mini greenhouse jugs warming the soil for quicker germination.

Luffa vines can grow up to 20′ – “vigorous” grower, indeed!  Each vine will produce several (3-4) gourds by fall.  The gourds, about 12″ – 18″ long, are peeled,  The inner “skeleton” of fibers are cut and cleaned to make the familiar “sponges” sold in specialty shops.

Growing luffa is fun and easy.  It’s also a great way to create an herbal home spa – affordable luxury!

Nebraska Life – May/June 2013 issue

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Nebraska Life  May/June 2013

Nebraska Life
May/June 2013

If you’re reading through the latest issue of Nebraska Life and get to the Nebraska Poetry page, check out the photo heading.  One of the photos I sent to the editor for an article on Red Road Herbs they are doing in the next issue was used as part of a gardening theme for the poetry page in this issue.  I feel honored to be on that page because I am a “budding” poet myself.  Maybe I’ll get brave enough to share them with you…  For now, I better get out in the gardens on this gorgeous, much-awaited spring day!

Come visit us at The Plant Fair – May 3rd & 4th in Norfolk

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21st Annual
Northeast Nebraska Master Gardener Plant Fair –
May 3 & 4, 2013

Northeast Community College, Cox Activities Center, Norfolk

Friday 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Educational Speakers and Other Events:

9:30 am  Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator
 “Just WHAT are Rain Gardens and Why Would I Want One?

10:30 am Terri James, UNL Extension Assistant – Urban Gardening
“Container Gardens” Hands on training

11:00 am Rod Ackerman, Bluebird Nursery
 “Bringing Great Plains Natives into the Garden”

11:00 am Youth Horticulture ID Contest (details below)

12:30 pm Master Gardener & Contest Awards

1:00 pm  Mary Hamer, Loess Hills Lavender Farm
“Lavender: The Amazing Herb”

2:00 pm Terri James, UNL Extension Assistant – Urban Gardening
“Container Gardens” Hans on training

Plant Fair features include:

FREE admission!
Demonstrations: Your Path to Health and Harmony – Red Road Herbs
* Children’s Garden: Special activities for children to learn a love of gardening!
Door Prizes drawn hourly!
Great Vendors selling flowers, herbs & plants as well as mulch, garden décor, sculptures, home décor, garden tools, etc!
Ask The Master Gardener booth will feature a Master Gardener member on hand to answer your gardening questions!
New perennials and annuals on hand for sale!
Locally grown houseplants for sale, grown by Master Gardener members!
Plant Sitter Area: Place to keep your purchases until you have completed shopping and listening to speakers!
Delivery assistance to your vehicle!
Lunch Stand provided by Master Gardeners!
Proceeds from the Plant Fair help support Educational Speakers and Horticulture Scholarships to Northeast Community College!

Weed of the Week – Catnip

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Nepeta cataria – from the Mint family, this herb has been used for 2,000 years to relieve cough and cold symptoms in humans and cause cats to swoon or act a little crazy, depending on whether they smell it or eat it.

Catnip was brought to America from Europe as a medicinal herb.  It is a very hardy perennial and escaped to the wild.  Catnip prefers rich soil, self-seeds profusely and is harvested before flowering for the aromatic leaves.

In addition to its use for colds (induces sweating), young leaves are made into a weak tea that has been used to ease colic in babies.  It is also considered a sedative to ease insomnia and nightmares as well as a digestive aid, like most members of the mint family.

Young Catnip - one of the first plants to come out in spring.

Young Catnip – one of the first
plants to come out in spring.

Most sources state that Catnip grows 3′ – 5′ tall  – this one is almost 7′ tall.

Catnip growing beside a Climbing Rose, competing to be the tallest.

Catnip growing beside a Climbing Rose, competing to be the tallest.

Chickens and Natural Gardening

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Chicken behavior is curious.   They chase each other around for a bit of Ground Ivy even though they’ve been given a pile of it.  They’re still too young to let out to free-range (and it’s been so cold), so we give them greens to supplement their feed.  Comfrey and Nettle are also very good for chickens.

We’re down to three now –  pecking order (another curiosity) seems to have been at work in the case of poor Chickenheart.  The remaining chickens will be joined by two ducks we hope to pick up tomorrow.  That will complete our flock for now.

Bella (Buff), Batman (Rhode Island) and Robin (always curious about what's happening with the humans)

Bella (Buff), Batman (behind Bella)
and Robin (always curious about
what’s happening with the humans.)

These little beauties are part of our natural “arsenal” of pest control.  Chickens and ducks eat almost their weight in bugs, especially grasshoppers, in a day.  They will also provide natural fertilizer for our food garden as well as the best bonus of all, fresh eggs!

We use a variety of natural methods in our gardening – spinning plastic flowers to deter moles, composting and adding it to the soil, Nettle “tea” to add nutrients,  Willow “tea” to root cuttings, leaf mulch and Cayenne to deter bunnies.  We’re always willing to try a  new method – this year we’re trying feathers stuck in potatoes and placed in the garden to deter birds from the strawberries.

One of my standby methods has always been, plant enough for everyone, including the critters.  What are your favorite natural gardening techniques?



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