Jacksonville Seed Exchange is Now a Member of Seed Savers Exchange!

•March 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Jacksonville Seed Exchange has just signed up for a one year membership to Seed Savers Exchange.

Founded in 1975, they are the country’s largest non-governmental heirloom seed bank.

I can’t wait to order some great varieties.. and of course I will make some available! Stay tuned…


Earth Hour this Saturday, March 28

•March 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Folks- it’s lights out this Saturday, when individuals, organizations, companies, and even entire cities will be turning off all necessary lights and unplugging all unnecessary appliances and gadgets from their walls.

For one hour, from 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM local time, millions of people will be shutting off their lights and appliances in solidarity to make a statement that the fight to end global warming and climate change is far from over.

Hopefully Jacksonville’s residents will participate en masse, and I would recommend a nice candlelight dinner followed by wine under the stars.

I hope we all can participate, and if you see neighbors with their lights on, let them know about it. Better yet, you can spread the word now. Talk to neighbors, relatives, friends, coworkers- the more people participating, the better!

Plant Clinics Coming to Local Garden Centers

•March 24, 2009 • 2 Comments

Bring your gardening questions and soil samples to Master Gardeners at one of these upcoming plant clinics.Here is a listing of dates and locations. Most are from 9am to noon, but some nurseries have requested a later start time, 10 to 1. Check signs posted at these locations to confirm times.

March 21

♦ Gecko Gardens @ 8900 Phillips Hwy
♦ Phillips Garden Center @ 4234 Hershel Street
♦ Turner Ace @ 13164 Atlantic Blvd & 784 Marsh Landing Parkway
♦ Lowe’s @ 5155 Lenox Ave.
♦ Lowes @ 13125 City Square Drive.

March 28

♦ Earth Works @ 12705 Beach Blvd.
♦ Gore’s Nursery @ 10357 New Kings Rd.
♦ Pulaski Road Nursery @ 11971 Pulaski Rd.
♦ Proctor Ace @ 580 Atlantic Blvd., Neptune Beach

April 11

♦ Plant Ranch @ 14108 Beach Blvd.
♦ Hall’s Ace @ 5645 Blanding Blvd & 111524 San Jose Blvd.
♦ Hagan Ace @ 12501 San Jose Blvd.
♦ Proctor Ace @ 5723 University Blvd.

Upcoming Classes at the Duval County Extension Office (March and April 2009)

•March 24, 2009 • 1 Comment

Seed exchangers- want to learn something new? The following classes are being offered by the Duval County Extension Office. They run in March and April, 2009.

Registration is required for any of these classes – please call 904-387-8850 to register.

♦ Thursday, March 26th from 6pm to 8 pm – Lawn Care…Selection, Establishment, Maintenance & other Spring Gardening Chores, West Branch Library, 1425 Chaffee Road South. Free program. Call to register.

♦ Saturday, March 28th from 9am to Noon and 1 to 4pm- Make and Take Calamondin Preserves @ the Canning Center. Call to register and cost to attend is $20.00. Checks made payable to DCOHAC.

♦ Saturday, April 4th from 10 am-12 Noon-Heat Tolerant Vegetables Workshop, Duval County Extension, $10.00- Registration required.

♦ Tuesday, April 21 from 10am to 2pm – “Make & Take” Rain Barrel Workshop, Duval County Extension Service, 1010 N. McDuff Avenue, Jax., FL. 32254. Learn some water conservation tips and make your own rain barrel to take home. Payment of $50 must be received by April 16th. Make checks to DCOHAC.

♦ Thursday, April 30 from 6pm to 8 pm – Butterfly Gardening, West Branch Library, 1425 Chaffee Road South. Free!

Composting 101 Workshop at Beaches Community Garden

•March 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The Beaches Community Garden will be holding a Composting 101 workshop on Sunday, April 19. Details follow:

Composting 101
DATE:  Sunday, April 19th, 3:30 PM
LOCATION:  Community Garden, Jarboe Park, Neptune Beach (intersection of A1A and Florida Blvd.)
COST: $8
PAYMENT:  in advance; at Green Market or by mail (see contact info on webpage). Cash or Check.
Checks made to: SEE/BLFN

From the Beaches Local Food Network 3/19/09 newsletter: 

Composting and soil quality are the most important aspects of long-term sustainability for the organic gardener. This how-to class will make it easy for you to recycle nutrients at home, replenishing the soil rather than sending “garbage” to the landfill.

Sounds like a great class! I totally agree about preventing soil nutrition from entering landfills. America is the most wasteful country on Earth; let’s try not to waste a valuable resource and try to start composting more.

Natural Antiseptics and Antibacterials

•March 18, 2009 • 1 Comment

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, seed exchangers! I’m always reading different blogs, and today I was reading about how the overuse of most store-sold antiseptics and antibacterials may create drug-resistant strains of bacteria, and how they often contain harmful chemicals with nasty names like triclocarban and triclosan. Triclocarban is a common additive in many antibacterial soaps and deodorants and affects your hormones. Yes, those hormones, among others. It’s considered to be on of the suspected endocrine disruptors you may hear about on the news or blogs, and it interferes with human sex hormones and reproductive development, causing reduced fertility, early puberty and increases in breast, ovarian and prostate cancers.

Triclosan is also found in some antibacterial soaps, and while it is promoted to be safe for most people in tiny amounts by industry, research suggests that it might cause subtle harm to humans in critical developmental stages including in utero, early childhood and adolescence. It is also a target for further research into the environmental contributors to autism.

Several million pounds of these chemicals are being dumped in our waterways annually in ever larger amounts, and they end up in our drinking water, further contributing to the problem. According to a recent CDC study, 75% of Americans age 6 and older have had detectable amounts of triclosan in their urine. Consider this: triclosan and triclocarban are found in 76% of all liquid soaps and 26% of bar soaps, as well as many other products such as toothpaste, plastics, and deodorants.

Further, in water treatment plants, they get absorbed with the sludge that passes through, and this is then sold as a fertilizer. The chemicals eventually end up breaking down into dioxins, which bioaccumulate, and are in all likelihood human carcinogens. Yikes!

What does all of this have to do with seeds, or plants? Well, I have found out through research that an essential oil in common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial! Cool, eh?

Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Common thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

The name thyme is derived from the Greek word thymos, which means perfume, and was used as incense in Greek temples. Common thyme contains a chemical called thymol, which has strong antiseptic properties. Ancient Egyptians used thymol for its ability to help in the preservation of mummies. It is known to kill bacteria and fungi. Thymol is also found in the bee balms wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and Monarda didyma (whose common names include bergamot, scarlet beebalm, scarlet monarda, oswego tea, or crimson beebalm). The Blackfoot Native Americans recognized this plant’s strong antiseptic action, and used poultices of the plant for skin infections and minor wounds. A tea made from the plant was also used to treat mouth and throat infections caused by dental caries and gingivitis. Thymol has also been found to be useful in controlling varroa mites in bee colonies, thus helping in the colony collapse disorder problem.

The essential oil of thyme can assist with nervous complaints, respiratory problems, poor circulation and problems of the digestive system and the urinary tract.

  • Burners and vaporizers
    • In vapor therapy, thyme oil can be helpful with bronchitis, coughs, respiratory problems, sinusitis, mucus congestion and muscular aches and pains.
  • Blended oil
    • As a blended massage oil it can assist with arthritis, bronchitis, colds, flu, coughs, gout, bruises, eczema, mucus congestion, muscular aches and pains, obesity and rheumatism.
  • Mouthwash and gargle
    • Diluted as a mouthwash or as a gargle, thyme oil can help with gum infections and tonsillitis.
  • Neat application

Apply directly, or used neat, thyme oil could help with animal bites and boils but use with care, because of the possible of the risk of skin irritation.

There are alternate options out there to the mass-produced, profit-above-all products out there. I encourage you to do your research and find a chemical-free alternative, or go ahead and grow these plants and start using them as antiseptics and antibacterials. Again- research possible side effects before trying, please. I may experiment with making my own soap and shampoo; if I do, I know I’ll be adding thymol or some essential oil of thyme.

*Thyme is a very potent oil and should not be used during pregnancy or in cases of high blood pressure. Because of the phenols (carvacrol and thymol), which can irritate mucus membranes and cause skin irritation, it should not be used for skin care products, and in general should be used in low concentrations. When it is used in massage therapy, it would be a good idea to do a skin patch test to determine if the person is sensitive to it.

Edible Plants of Jacksonville

•February 27, 2009 • 13 Comments

Salutations, seed exchangers! I’ve been doing some research lately into edible plants in our area and have found a good bit of information, though there’s always more to learn.


Mandarin Park (map), located adjacent to Julington Creek in the Mandarin section of southeast Jacksonville, hosts park tours with naturalists showing people many often overlooked edible plants. The cinnamon fern, all wild rose petals, red prickly pear cactus and grass seeds in the Jacksonville area are all edible. Pine trees can be used two ways as food. You can take the leaves of many pine trees and steep them in some hot water for a while and they will make a tea. Also, you can take the pine nuts and eat them as well.


Dollar weed is actually tasty in a salad – just don’t eat it off of your lawn. Lawns soaked in pesticides retain some of the residues and you could end up sick from eating it. Finding them in the wild, or anywhere pesticides are not used, is the only recommended way to eat them. Dotted horsemint leaves, used as an air-freshener by Native Americans, make a great tea. Wild grape vines, blueberries and the blue passion vine, are all edible plants. Saw palmetto has edible fruit, as do beautyberry bushes, whose leaves feel a bit leathery and a bit hairy. The leaves at the tall tip of the catclaw briar vine can be used in a salad or cooked like greens. Even the fruit of the red prickly pear cactus, as well as the plant, suitably cleared of the pointy parts, can be consumed. When out foraging for these edible plants, a helpful hint is to use crushed wax myrtle leaves rubbed on the skin as a bug repellent. Should you get a cut or scratch, a garden silk spider’s web’s silk strands can be used as a primitive bandage, as it clots blood.


All of these delights can be found right in our own backyard at Mandarin Park. You can get more information on the park tours at Nature Scope.


In another part of town, Historic Springfield has an abundance of wild fruits and vegetables. There is a wild asparagus patch on 2nd Street, a white mulberry tree in the second alley to the east of the Springfield Community Garden lot, and red mulberry trees in the car lot right next to the garden.


Here is a list of some of the edible and medicinal plants found in Northeast Florida and their uses, compiled by St. Johns County Parks Naturalist Beverly Fleming and Jacksonville Parks Naturalist Lesley Royce:

•  Aloe leaves — sap can be used on burns.

•  Beautyberry fruit — raw fruit can be chewed to create saliva. Cooked, it is used to make jelly.

•  Blackberry fruit — edible raw.

•  Blueberry fruit — can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes.

•  Bullbrier roots — can be boiled to make tea.

•  Cattail Spring roots — new sprouts can be eaten raw or cooked. Older growth — pull up leaves and peel back the tough leafy layer, and the core can be eaten raw or cooked. The flower’s bloom spikes can be boiled and eaten like corn on the cob if found before they open. And the roots can be used as a flour substitute.

•  Dandelion leaves — mix with tonic to make a tea, which can aid stomach cramps.

•  Day lily tubers — can be boiled like a potato. Caution — it is a laxative, so eat in moderation.

•  Dollarweed leaves — small new growth eaten raw in salads.

•  Elderberry flowers — dip in batter and fry. The leaves can be dried and made into a tea to treat diarrhea or a headache. The fruit can be eaten raw.

•  Grapevine fruit — edible raw or dried, and can be used to make wine. The leaves can be used to make a tea.

•  Greenbrier — new shoots, uncurling leaves and tendrils can be eaten raw in salads or steamed. Soak the roots in cold water, allow the powder to settle, dry it and use as a gelatin or flour thickener. Can be mixed with cold water for a drink refresher. Mix roots and tallow and apply as a salve to burns.

•  Hickory nuts — edible raw or roasted.

•  Oak and acorns — boil hulled nuts in several changes of water to remove bitter tannins. The nut is edible whole or ground and used as a flour. Use the leftover liquid after boiling as an astringent, poison ivy treatment and on skin irritations.

•  Passion vine fruit — edible raw or cooked, and can be made into a jelly.

•  Peppergrass — young shoots can be used sparingly in salad with less bitter greens, or the seeds can be used as seasoning.

•  Pickerelweed — leaves and flowers can be chopped and used in salads. The leaf stalks can be boiled and eaten, and the fruit seeds eaten as a trail snack.

•  Pine — the inner bark can be dried, cooked and ground into flour or used as a bandage or poultice for bug bites and boils. The needles can be used to make tea; the seeds eaten.

This post is meant to be purely informational. Please do not eat wild plants unless you absolutely know for sure what it is you are eating and that it is safe.

If you know of any additional edible plants, or where some are located, shoot Jacksonville Seed Exchange an email!