Edible Gardening

How Dirt makes You Happy

I first read the research in 2007’s Discover Magazine:  “Is Dirt the New Prozac?” http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jul/raw-data-is-dirt-the-new-prozac   Then here it was again in 2014: “Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy” http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm

This goes in the category of “You can’t make this stuff up”.  The story reads:  Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has, indeed, been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier.”

NO WONDER I am so happy when I am in my garden!  NO WONDER it is addicting!  Who needs drugs? We have dirt!

OK, but perhaps even more addicting is the joy of seeing what grows in our North Carolina dirt.  Here are photos from my July garden here in Summerfield.

Hibiscus 'Midnight Marvel'

Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’

Castor Bean Plant with Orange Zinnia

Castor Bean Plant ‘Carmencita’ with Orange Zinnia


Sunflowers & Broom Corn

6′ tall Sunflowers & 10′ Broom Corn



Yellow Swallowtail on Loostrife

Yellow Swallowtail on Loostrife

Sun sugar tomatoes- everyone's favorite cherry

Orange ‘Sun Sugar’ tomatoes- cousin to ‘Sun Gold’, my favorite cherry


Helenium 'Mardi Gras', my longest blooming perennial

Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’, my longest blooming perennial

Every 4 days for the past 2 weeks we were cutting blooms for the Cut Flower Workshops.  My friend Tommy manned the camera for a quick video so I could tell you about some of the flowers we were cutting. Click here to view  Ellen’s Cutting Garden on YouTube  (My first video, be kind.)

Beautiful flower arrangements and happy faces came out of the classes.  I hope these make you smile too.

The workshops are over but you can call or email me to order flowers anytime:  ellen@www.learntogarden.net 

Jean Moore_33Jean Moore.smaller

Jean Moore used Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’,white Caladiums, Hydrangeas, coneflower cones, grasses, cleosia  & Zinnias (always).

Debbie Elston

Debbie Elston used ornamental black peppers, white Achillia ptarmica, variegated Lysimachia foliage, draping Bells of Ireland, and more.

Rhonda Lemmons

Rhonda Lemmons used fragrant white hosta blooms, purple Ironweed, Celosia, grass & cactus Zinnias.

Meanwhile, glorious tomatoes have been rolling off the vines  Here is the star of my harvest, the “Italian Tree tomato” discovered by my friend Linda Krebs.  Oh yeah! Almost 2 pounds, almost no seeds and very delicious! 

Italian Tree tomato

Italian Tree tomato

So of course what followed was “Salsa Day”.  Spicy Salsa is the perfect concoction for using all the ripe tomatoes, peppers, onion & garlic from the garden.  (I recommend spicy Latin Salsa music in the kitchen to get you in the mood!)



And if you do not know it already, here is the most delicious tortilla chip dip around.

Recipe: Salsa Dip

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
12 oz. thick salsa

Combine and serve with your favorite corn chip.  (For total decadence, you can add a pound of cooked, drained & crumbled pork sausage. Yum!)

 What to Plant Now

Although it seems like summer is only half way through, it is already time to start planting vegetables for fall. Lettuce can be seeded now as long as you keep the soil consistently moist.  Some of my favorites are the bib/butter crunch/butterhead  lettuces and arugula, but the red leaf lettuces are quite beautiful to mix in. I have also become very fond of the big leaf green escarole to make the famous Italian “Sausage, bean & escarole stew” for cool fall evenings.

Plant cabbage, collards, broccoli, and cauliflower now from transplants.  (Keep the  BT handy to spray for the cabbage worms.) You may need to use row cover to shade them next week when the temps climb back up.  Lettuce, turnips, bok choy & kale can be grown from seed now through mid September.  Spinach needs cold temps to germinate.  Rather than wait for 40 degree nights, you can fool it by putting wet seeds in sandwich bag in your refrigerator for a week before sowing them in your garden. Plant garlic cloves in late September through October. Plant the largest cloves to harvest the largest heads in spring. Try different varieties like spicy garlics & the milder Elephant garlic.

Farm stores like Summerfield Feed store sell seeds in bulk and 50 cents will get you plenty of seed for any vegetable.  Online, my favorite seed source is Pinetree Garden Seeds www.superseeds.com.   Johnny’s, Territorial Seeds, and Vermont Bean Seed are pricier but with good variety.

Be Happy, go play in the dirt!