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  • Writer's pictureBee Brown

Duke Farms Spring Newsletter

Updated: May 15, 2020

Hiya, Duke Farms Gardeners! 

Welcome to another lovely season of gardening, one that feels especially important as we navigate the changes we're experiencing as a collective. 

I'm Bee, and I've been gardening at Duke since our first season two years ago. My style of gardening is intentional permaculture, and I've created this little newsletter as a way of helping us all to better connect to our gardens in an organic, thoughtful way. Intentional gardening is doing so with the mind that everything can harmonize together. 

Take Permaculture for example, "Permaculture is a set of design principles centered on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields from regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience."

If you've walked by my plots before, you may've noticed a seemingly wild and/or out of control garden, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Permaculture uses companion planting to ensure that plants grow better and with minimal human intervention, flavor and assist each other, and naturally ward off certain pests. Permaculture is easy and fun, and I'm here to assist you if you'd like! 

There is so much pressure when gardening to control! Pulling weeds that may be beneficial to our ecosystem, our health. Spraying chemicals that are harmful to the bees, butterflies, and ourselves. Tilling the soil with sensitive microbes and systems already in place, planting rows of vegetables only to see them struggle a bit.

Intentional gardening begs us to slow down and observe our gardens. Aphid problem? Get some ladybugs! Caterpillars on your dill? Hold up! Those are endangered Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars! Our little victory gardens exist not only to serve us, but to serve the flora and fauna around us as well. Before we rush to control, let us take the time to slow down and observe the systems around us. Who needs what we've planted? How does our garden contribute to the ecosystem around us?

Leave the dandelions for the bees, then harvest for your health! As a friend and Herbalist, I am here to help you garden with softness of heart, if you should be so willing to receive!

If you have any questions on Permaculture, natural/chemical-free pest control, etc., don't hesitate to reach out! And if you see some wild red hair bopping around the garden, give me a shout.

I've included below some photos of things you might see growing in the garden already this spring, as well as my favorite companion planting chart on another post, to help you get the best yield with the most minimal intervention. There are so many fun, wild, self-propagated foods around Duke Farm that might be overlooked. Have a gander, and of course, happy gardening!

Dandelion is a great liver detoxifier! Use the greens in a mixed salad or juice them for a nice cleanse! The roots can be washed, dried, and roasted or dehydrator and drunk as a liver detox tea with some cinnamon and ginger! 


Feverfew! When flowering, this beautiful medicinal herb has white flowers resembling chamomile. Brush your hand over the leaves and smell the medicinal, minty, lemony scent. 

Uses: Treatment of fevers, migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, and problems with menstruation and labor during childbirth.

Prep: Mix leaves and flowers with brandy and store in a jar, shaking daily, for 6 weeks to make a potent medicinal tincture! 

Sweet Fennel! Sweet fennel is popping up all over the garden. Give it time and harvest later.

The green fronds can be harvested whenever for use in salads, The rule of thumb here is to harvest bulbs when they are about tennis ball-sized. Slice each off cleanly at ground level with a clean knife, and slice the elongated stems and profusion of leaves off at about three to six inches above the bulb.

All parts are edible.

Dead Nettle! The opposite of stinging nettle. "Purple deadnettle is not only a wild edible green, but a highly nutritious superfood. The leaves are edible, with the purple tops being even a little sweet.

Since the leaves are relatively fuzzy, they are better used as an herb garnish or mixed with other greens in recipes, rather than being the star of the show. Purple dead nettle also has medicinal benefits. It is known in the herbal world as being astringent, diuretic, diaphoretic and purgative. It’s also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. The leaves can be used on external wounds or cuts, or as a poultice, similar to how you would use yarrow or plantain. This would also make it a good candidate for a homemade herbal salve. More on dead nettle here.

A whole patch of dandelions next to our farm! I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't mind a little weeding! And remember, if you don't know, ask! We're here to help!  Be well, Bee 

Have a gardening question?

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