a quick guide to drying herbs and flowers

It’s getting to be about that time of year to start harvesting and cutting the plants from your garden, or perhaps you’re wild foraging things to take home and use.

First things first, always use either a plant identification manual or get trained in plant identification before harvesting plants that you will be consuming in any way. There are some plants out there which are poisonous to people and/or animals.

Drying Flowers

When we cut flowers for the purposes of drying them, we usually want them to retain their color, aroma, and botanical/medicinal/magickal properties.

Cut the stems to no shorter than 6 inches in length. Tie the flowers in a bunch or hang them individually. They should hang upside down. Don’t dry them where they will be exposed to sunlight. A dark, dry room is the best, such as a basement or interior windowless room.

Flowers usually need to dry for about 3 weeks.

Drying Herbs

Herbs may require some additional work on your part. Depending on the moisture content, you may be able to air dry them, but if they have a higher moisture content like those in the mint family (including basil, spearmint, and lemon balm, as well as garlic or chives), you will do best to dry in an oven or dehydrator.

Herbs are best cut in the early morning, as that is when their essential oils are most potent in their leaves.

To air dry, bundle a few stems worth together and tie with string, floss, or twine. Hang them upside down in a dry area away from light. Herbs with lower moisture content will dry faster than flowers, and can take just a week, but possibly two, to fully dry out. Some sources recommend placing a paper bag over them as they dry. I find this is optional.

To oven dry or dehydrate, set your oven for low heat (~150F) and leave the door open. The herbs can be placed on a cookie sheet and you’ll let them sit in the open oven for a few hours (usually not more than 4). Dehydrators work much more quickly and you may only need 1-2 hrs on a medium heat setting. Check them about every 30 min to see how much the leaves crumble. If they crumble very easily, they are done.

Drying Other Plants

This is kind of the catchall category for other stuff you might harvest or forage that you want to dry and use. It might include tree leaves, weeds of various kinds, or shrubs (the non-fruit parts).

Depending on whether you want them to retain their vibrant hues of greens or other colors, either place them in sunlight (this will dry them faster, but fade the color) or away from sunlight (they won’t fade as much).

If you want your leaves flat for whatever reason, press them in between pages of a book. This method will take a week or more. You may need to check on them from time to time to make sure they are drying out appropriately.

You can also dry these through the same methods as flowers or herbs, mentioned above, but due to the wide variety of plant types and moisture content, plan to check on them semi-often to ensure they are drying out.

plant a goddess garden

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while because I love planting things and I love the concept of planting things specifically for a particular deity, goddess, or just all of them. Creating a welcoming environment for your favorite goddess(es) through the use of nature seems exceptionally appreciative and grateful, IMO.

And, most deities have specific plants they are connected to in some way, or specific colors they resonate with best, so its pretty simple to put together some basic garden plans based on one or more goddesses (and yes, technically you could do this for a god or a deity that is not gender specific).

Indoor or Outdoor?

Before even selecting plants, determine where this garden is going to exist. If you do not have the ability to plant something outdoors, but you do have some space inside, even if you think its small, it still counts, and, while I can’t speak for a particular goddess, most seem to be receptive and appreciative of humans planting things in their honor, especially if you show that some thought has gone into its design and selection.

The biggest thing with indoor vs outdoor is the lighting. If you have the ability to set up sunlamps on your plants all day, then I wouldn’t worry about the question of full sun vs partial sun vs partial shade vs full shade (and yes, technically partial sun and partial shade are not the same thing).

Usually, if you’re indoors, a south-facing window will get what’s considered full sun in most locales, but other things might affect that, like outdoor trees blocking the rays to your window, or tall buildings obscuring sunlight from that spot, so you’ll need to determine this by watching that spot or even taking pics of it throughout the course of a day to see how much light actually filters in through your chosen location.

Make note of how many hours of sunlight your chosen spot gets. Here are some basic guides for hours of sunlight:

  • Full sun is 6+ hours of light, but might be more like 8-10 if you’re growing veggies
  • Partial sun is 4-6 hours of light
  • Partial shade is at least 2, but usually not more than 4 hours of direct light
  • Full shade is 2 or less hours of direct light per day

Your chosen space, depending on how big it is, might even have zones where parts of it are full shade and others are part sun. I have a spot in my backyard where I’m planning my goddess garden and I took pics of it every 30-60 min during a day to determine which parts fall into which category, so I could more effectively choose plants.

Make note of that.

Which Plants Should You Choose?

Here’s the fun part! Regardless of whether indoor or outdoor, you want to first look for plants associated with your chosen goddess(es) and make a list. It can be as long or short as you want. Don’t forget to include a wide variety, not just flowering plants. Think herbs, shrubs/small trees, medicinal roots, and so forth.

Once you have your list of associated plants, dig into what color spectrum your chosen goddess(es) resonates most with. Which of the plants on your goddess-specific list also fulfill color correspondences? Make a note of those as 1st choice plants.

Are there other plants that were not on your original list that do match the color correspondence of your goddess(es)? Consider including those, as long as you can’t find any reason why that goddess(es) would not like that plant.

Cross off any plants that just aren’t going to work with the given light situation. Trust me, if you don’t have full sun, don’t try to grow a full sun plant in partial shade. You’ll get frustrated and it won’t thrive.

Also, do some simple googling to find out if a plant you’ve selected can be grown indoors/outdoors. Some plants even if they get full sun inside are really meant to be outdoor plants and may be very care intensive or difficult to grow indoors, and vice versa. If you’re a skilled horticulturist and have access to a greenhouse and stuff like that, go for it, though!

Now, you should have a narrowed down list of plants that match the lighting conditions and the location, as well as the goddess(es) plant and color associations.

In my backyard garden, I made a list of these plants that I wanted to grow in a garden I plan to dedicate to multiple goddesses, but its primarily designed for Freya and Hekate, as those were the two I was most heavily working with at the time:

  • black columbine
  • garlic (flowering)
  • bluebells
  • orange columbine
  • mint
  • lemon balm
  • scarlet pimpernel
  • rue

Plan It!

Scribble on a piece of paper the rough shape of the space you’ve got and anything else in the space structurally that’s part of it. This is sort of like your floor plan (or ground plan).

On your floor plan, make note of the spots that have different lighting conditions, if they do.

Indicate how big in feet or inches the space is, and roughly scribble in bubbles or shapes of where the desired plants will go.

This can be as simple as a couple of pots on your windowsill to a complex landscaped plot on your land. Don’t overthink it, put it down how it speaks to you. You can always change it if needed.

Below is what my scribbled out plan looks like:

seriously, your scribbles do NOT need to look like a really professional design, as long as you can read it!

Now, if you’re working this goddess garden into a space you plan to spend time, you can also consider things like seating and access. I plan to eventually put some nice cushioned outdoor chairs into mine where I can sit and read, enjoying fresh air.

One other thing to have on your mind at this point is pets. If indoors or outdoors, be cognizant of whether your chosen plants are toxic to dogs or cats. Just because they are doesn’t mean you can’t have them, but if you have a pet that will definitely sample your plants, then its best to leave it out. Neither of my dogs have any interest in eating or tasting my indoor plants, so I don’t worry about it there.

Also, if outdoors, will your plants be left undisturbed enough to grow. I have two dogs, one of which is fairly destructive just because he’s big and loves to run around, trampling whatever happens to get in his way, so some pretty fencing around my goddess garden is going to be a requirement for me.

You may also have pests like rabbits or other rodents that will dig up any bulbs or roots you plant, so consider some animal-safe deterrents for pests.

Plant It!

Okay, so this post isn’t going to go into detail about starting from seeds vs already sprouted or grown plants. You can decide what works best for you and your space, as well as your experience and comfort level with plants and gardening.

But the key is, follow through on your design and then follow through on the upkeep. Plants need to be cared for just like any other living being, and, if you’re like me, you may find they really do have personalities and characters that you’ll start to become familiar with (I promise talking to your plants isn’t as weird as it sounds).

I look at a goddess garden like this: if you are dedicating a space to a deity or spirit, care for it as if they actually live there all the time, and keep it neat, beautiful, inviting, and above all else, loved. If you can realistically only do this for a couple of plants right now, that’s completely fine!


One more thing. If you’re going the indoor route, I cannot recommend enough the app Planta (looks like its only available on iOS right now). This was a game changer for me to remember when to water my indoor plants. A year ago, I had like dozens of plant deaths under my belt for the simple reason that I would just forget or it wasn’t a priority.

I now have dozens of happy thriving plant citizens in my home, and I give almost all the credit to this app (some credit needs to go to one of my ancestors who was a legit world-renowned botanist who I have been working with and welcoming into my home).

Planta is geared for already established plants, so if you’re growing from seed, you’ll need to wait til they start to germinate a bit, but after that, enter each plant you have, pics of it, and the app will give you tons of detail, watering schedule, etc.

It also even adjusts watering frequency by time of year and the available light conditions where your plant is, as those will affect if your plant needs more or less water.

I use the free version which is really all you need for watering schedule, but if you’re someone who wants all the extra info like reminders of when to fertilize and when to repot, etc, there is a version you can pay for monthly.

They do also have settings for outdoor and indoor/outdoor, which I think are also part of the premium paid version.

a garden spell for planting

its that time of year that we’ve already begun planting, or maybe you’re a more organized person than i am and you’ve planted everything like a month ago.

either way, how can we infuse our gardens and lovely baby plants with the best positive energy to grow beautiful?

earlier this week, i posted on pest control and a spell for that, but how about a garden spell for healthy soil?

what you will need:

  • a small clay, glass, metal, or ceramic planting pot or glass jar (must be heat-proof)
  • some good quality soil, potting soil or topsoil
  • a piece of paper and something to write with
  • a green or white candle
  • something to light your candle with
  • a length of twine or ribbon that can wrap around your candle at least 3 times
  • a small dish of spring water (about 1/4 cup at most)

the spell:

  1. start out by listing everything you have planted or plan to plant in your garden. be as specific as possible about which plants, which varieties, colors, and so forth. (e.g.- 7 mixed color gladiolus)
  2. light your candle
  3. hold the jar/pot of soil in your hands and close your eyes. picture seeds sprouting from it and stretching toward the light. picture them growing taller and healthier. picture the blooms or fruits they will bear. your visualization here is very important to let your energy know exactly what outcome you expect.
  4. place the soil back down and holding the twine or ribbon in your hand, wind it around the candle once as you say:

may my plants grow

row by row

5. list out loud the plants you have written down as you wind the twine or ribbon around a second time

[state your list of all specific plants here

6. as you wind the twine or ribbon around the 3rd and final time, say the final verse:

with this soil

nourish my plants

feed them well

where they stand

7. tie off the twine or ribbon after it has wrapped around your candle 3 times. hold the piece of paper with your plant names above the jar/pot of soil and light it with the candle. let it burn down on top of the soil.

8. douse the embers with the small dish of water and stir the soil, ashes, and water together. spread the soil over your garden.

weed and pest killer recipes and spell for the green witch

this idea came to me the other day that perhaps the combination of an all-natural herbicide combined with a destructive magic element to rid your garden or a particular area of invasive weeds or other unwanted plants might really enhance the effectiveness of the two.

so here goes.

in my ‘muggle job,’ if you will, i work for a laboratory and we do a wide range of testing, one of which tests for levels of environmental pollutants and toxicants such as pesticides, plasticizers, BPA, and so forth.

after preparing educational materials for this test and deep diving into the literature and research on these chemicals, i was completely freaked out and stopped using all commercial pesticides and herbicides in my home and yard. they are quite terrifying, particularly if you are already someone who is immunocompromised, at risk for autoimmune disease, neurological complications, or have had a number of other toxic exposures already (I have had all of those categories in the past).

i came up with the following list of all natural pesticides (for bugs, spiders, etc) and herbicides (weeds, unwanted plants) and hopefully it also helps someone else who is on a similar journey:

pesticides

  • neem oil- mix 3 parts neem to 1 part liquid soap; put in 6-8 cups of warm water and spray on plants
  • mineral oil – mix about 1 oz with 3 cups water, shake and spray on plants
  • chrysanthemum infusion spray – get about 4 oz dried chrysanthemum flowers* and boil them in about 4 cups of water for 20-25 minutes; strain the flowers out and put the water in a spray bottle; you can also add about 5-10 drops of cedarwood, lemon grass, and/or neem essential oils to boost its effectiveness.

herbicides

  • vinegar – this is usually the most commonly used and its effectiveness at killing weeds depends on its concentration, what types of weeds, their age, the outdoor temperature, and how many applications; household (food-grade) vinegar is 5% acetic acid and may take 3-5 applications to a plant to permanently kill it; you can get more concentrated vinegar, used for canning/food preservation, and it works better; spray it directly onto weeds
  • using landscape fabric – this involves no actual products to spray, and its obviously only effective before weeds grow, but putting down landscape fabric and then cutting small holes into which you place your transplanted plants can be a solution if you prefer to avoid sprays
  • boiling water + 1 Tbsp salt – this works if the water has just been boiled and you immediately pour it onto the weeds; it can kill other plants nearby if you accidentally apply it to them, so caution should be used
  • goats – idk, i just felt like this was a creative problem solver, and i fucking love goats (spend some time on youtube watching ‘screaming goats’ videos sometime); if you can put goats in your yard, they’re good at eating weeds

all right, so pick out whichever method of pesticide and/or herbicide is going to work best for you, and a great spell for ridding your yard/garden of pests might be:

if i didn’t invite you

get the fuck out

this is my land

get the fuck out

leave me be

and leave my plants

you’re not welcome

on my land

recite the spell as you treat or spray and as many times as you need. visualize the weeds withering and the pests crawling away elsewhere.

*the active ingredient in chrysanthemum flowers is pyrethrum, which may sound familiar if you’re knowledgeable about pesticides. industrial and commercial pesticides for the home, garden, and some agricultural practices use a family of synthetic compounds called pyrethroids, one of which is pyrmethrin, which are man-made versions based on this derivative of chrysanthemum. pyrethroids cause neurological damage in pests, which paralyzes them and kills them; they’ve also been shown to cause neurological damage in humans, unfortunately [1,2,3,4]

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