, Salem, MA


December 20, 2013

Ideas for sharing the gift of gardening


Don’t forget Kitty — catnip or grass, grown in a small pot, is the purrr-fect feline gift. It’s almost guaranteed to keep kitty out of the other houseplants. (Note: I said almost.) Cost under a few dollars for pot and seed.

Q: In every Christmas story, I hear about gifts of frankincense and myrrh, what is it?

A: Frankincense and myrrh are both resins — dried pine tree sap. You probably got sticky tree sap while you were handling your Christmas tree or greens, and the fastest way to remove it is with turpentine or nail polish remover.

Frankincense and Commiphora (myrhh) are common to Somalia. The way that people collect the sap is similar to the way people collect rubber tree sap or pine tree sap. Cutting the tree’s bark causes the sap to ooze out of the cut. The sap used to create both frankincense and myrrh comes slowly and is allowed to dry on the tree. The hardened sap is collected and used as frankincense and myrrh.

Both in the time of the three wise men and today, frankincense and myrrh are most commonly used to create incense. You mix frankincense with other fragrant things like spices, seeds, roots, etc., to create different aromas. Traditionally, you burn the powdered incense with charcoal in a censer or on a small stand.

Frankincense and myrrh are extremely common today, and you can buy them locally.

Q: I can’t believe how dark my house gets in winter. This year, I’d like to try some growing lights — but make it simple, please.

A: If you have flowering plants or herbs, plants that require bright light, you will require about 1,000 to 2,000 foot-candles of light for about 16 hours each day. You can’t increase the intensity much over 3,000 foot-candles or you’ll burn the plant, but you can add to the number of hours the lights are on, which is your way of playing Mother Nature. You are simply making the growing day longer for the plant — and isn’t it fun to fool Mother Nature by buying a few hours extra of daylight during the dreary winter months?

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