Notes from Lucy Harrell’s talk about Gardening – the way it was.

By Jacki Brewer


If you missed Lucy Harrell at Rendenta’s on Sunday Oct 16th you missed some interesting tidbits about the way organic gardening was in the way, way back as well as information that is helpful for the modern organic gardener.

I jotted a few notes to share but if you want to get more in depth information go to Lucy’s website at or email her your questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Lucy loves to answer questions and give valuable advice on organic gardening so don’t be afraid to pick her brain.

Lucy talked about how her grandmother kept separate compost piles that treated different plant needs. Comfrey leaves were a compost staple. Many types of weeds were harvested to use in the compost pile because they were rich in many nutrients. To keep from having weeds grow in your compost pile, keep the weeds in some type of container for two weeks until they dry, shake the weeds to loosen any seeds. The seeds will fall into the container and then you can toss the weeds, now seedless into the compost.

Compost piles should never be allowed to get any taller than 3 feet because they will get too hot underneath and kill the good components that are growing. Once they get that tall leave them to do there composting thing until they are about 18”.  

Lucy talked about how her grandmother had a big wrap aroung porch that everyone would congregate on in the summer. There was always old fabric or rags around to make rag rugs for the porch. The next summer after the rag rugs had seen better days her grandmother would use them as mulch in the garden as they would eventually break down and new rag rugs would be assembled again. Nothing went to waste.


Prune upright Rosemary in August. Upright rosemary blooms on new growth usually around Feb.

Prostrate rosemary doesn’t need to be pruned to encourage blooming.

Tip: If you want to chase mosquitos off, placed DRIED rosemary stems in your outdoor fireplace, pit, or chimenea and the aroma will keep those skeeters at bay. Never use fresh rosemary in a fire.

Best way to propagate rosemary – take a stem cutting, trim off the bottom half of leaves so you have something that resembles a mini tree and place in small grow pot that has drainage with straight worm castings.

Hint for keeping your forced paperwhites from getting too leggy – don’t place them in too bright a place right away. Keep them in low light until the stem starts to emerge to about 3-4 inches and then give them more light.

If you grow purple Homestead verbena sprinkle orange or red poppy seeds into the verbena in the fall and in the spring you will have this lovely contrast of the purple with the orange/red color of the poppy.

Sow calendula and nasturtium seeds now as well as delphinium. Now is also a good time to sow wild flower seeds if you have a good location for them.

The older leaves of Hellebore (Lenten Rose) should be removed in the early spring to give the plant enough light to encourage it to bloom.

Curly parsley is a nice companion plant with pansies or violas.

When planting your pansies here is a recipe to ensure success:

Mix equal parts of worm castings, rock phosphate and alfalfa meal. Dig your hole and put a handful of this mixture into the hole, plant and then water in with Maxicrop Seaweed.

Many times with our pansies once we plant them the tops grow too quickly for the existing root ball to handle and that is why we may see our pansies not do so well. This recipe for planting ensures that the plant will develop a strong root system before the top growth gets going.