Category Archives: urban

My Weekly Small Pleasures

I came across this blog event ( Weekly Small Pleasures – Blog Event) a while ago. I found it quite interesting and have been thinking of sharing my weekly small pleasures too, which I have not been able to start due to one or the other reason. As we enter the brand new week of the brand new year, I think this is the perfect time to begin this journey.

This blog event is simply about remembering and sharing those small things that made you happy during the week; things that made you smile, made you laugh, made you do a happy dance, made your heart silently smile, or they even made you cry for joy.

Weekly Small Pleasures

Know more about this blog event here Weekly Small Pleasures – Blog Event

 

 

 

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Let’s Take A Pledge This World Environment Day 2014

As we are all aware that June 5 is globally celebrated as World Environment Day every year. The day that is designated to thank environment for

– sustaining human life on earth

– providing us with the valuable opportunities to enjoy its beauty

– being generous enough to make us use its precious resources to meet our basic needs and never ending desires.

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For the amount of benefit that we receive from the environment and to the extent we are exploiting its resources and on top of that polluting it, celebrating an Environment day for one day a year is nowhere close to enough. However it is a good opportunity to remind and aware people about their responsibilities towards environment. It’s a day to thank environment for its generosity and conduct some significant deeds to preserve mother earth. The collective efforts made by millions of people worldwide on this day add an extra value to this day.

Since many years environmental organisations and educational institutions have been organising various programs to mark this day. However with the increasing awareness, globalisations and advanced use of social media, more and more people are getting involved and the day is being celebrated in the wider communities.

As a citizen there are many ways we can contribute towards the cleaner, greener and healthier environment. We DO NOT have to do everything at the same time. We can start with something small every week. As Gandhi has said ‘be the change that you want to see in this world’, the most important thing is to change the way we think. That will lead us towards taking the actions, the action taken multiple times will become our habit, which will become our behaviour, and our behaviour eventually denotes our character.

Here is a list of 10 simple yet effective actions that we can start any time and it won’t cost a thing. Instead it will save our environment by providing a healthier place for us to live in as well as save our money. So why not to start from today?

1. Turn off the taps when not in use especially during brushing your teeth or shavingwater

2. Fix all the leaks including taps and toilets

3. Take shorter shower and minimise the use of bath tub.

4. Turn off the light when not in use and replace green-bulbyour bulbs with CFLs

5. Use your washing machine only when it is full load and go for cold washes. dry in the sunDry your clothes in the sun rather than dryers.

6. Make sure your refrigerator is in good condition. Get rid of second fridge or only use when required

7. Collect rain water and use it for external purposes such as watering the plants, IMG_1408washing car etc

 

8. Separate biodegradable and non-biodegradable household waste and use bio finished compostdegradable waste from kitchen and garden to make compost

 

recycle sign

9. Recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and cans that comes out from your home by placing them into the yellow lidded bin

 

Organic Gardening Pic 1

10. Grow your own vegetables or buy locally grown food to reduce food miles and stay healthy.

 

 

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By making changes in the way we live our lives, we can certainly become a part of the solution. Let start now and make a difference…!!

If you have other tips that one can start instantly then please feel free to suggest them.

How you pay for your neighbour’s air-con

By Sara Phillips                                                                                                           ABC Environment, 16 Jan 2014

How you pay for your neighbour’s air-con

While you’re sweating it out, you’re paying for your neighbour’s air-conditioning to be running. How? It’s because the electricity market in Australia needs changing.

Air-con

Are you one of the lucky ones with air conditioning? As we swelter through this heatwave, those that can are switching on the AC and keeping cool. Those that can’t are lying semi-naked in front of fans with a wet cloth on their heads.

In the past 20 years, Australians have embraced air conditioning. In 1994, a quarter of households had it. These days more than half do.

While it’s bliss to sprawl in front of the cold air, there is a serious downside to chilling out. The Productivity Commission last year said that air conditioners are largely responsible for putting the electricity network under strain and that strain costs us dearly.

On hot days, like today, we all turn on the air-con at the same time, creating a situation that the electricity companies call ‘peak demand’.

The Productivity Commission said “[I]n New South Wales, peak demand events occurring for less than 40 hours per year (or less than one per cent of the time) account for around 25 per cent of retail electricity bills.”

In other words, the pressure to meet peak demand has made the electricity companies over-invest in extra power stations that we rarely use. But we still wear the cost of building them on our electricity bills.

“For example,” the PC’s Electricity Network Regulatory Frameworks report continues, “a household running a two kilowatt (electrical input) reverse cycle air conditioner, and using it during peak times, receives an implicit subsidy equivalent of around $350 per year from other consumers who don’t do this.”

In effect, your sweaty neighbours without air-con are helping to pay for your comfort.

The solution, says the PC, is something called ‘demand management’. It’s about finding ways to reduce overall demand for electricity, but particularly during peak times so that huge sums of money are not invested in new power plants that are hardly ever switched on.

It’s basically the electricity equivalent of water restrictions during a drought so a new dam doesn’t need to be built.

CSIRO published a post yesterday about some demand management ideas that have been given a run. It includes an idea they call ‘cost reflective pricing’, which is also known as ‘time of use pricing’ or ‘flexible pricing’. In essence, your electricity company charges you more for electricity at peak times of demand, thereby encouraging you to save your energy-intensive activities for a cheaper time of day.

Some energy retailers in Australia offer such a service, but it tends to be something that customers need to ring up and request, rather than being automatic.

I spoke with Gilles Walgenwitz, a consultant with energy efficiency firm Energetics about some other ideas too. He nominated ‘voluntary curtailment’ in which customers (usually commercial customers) enter into an agreement with their energy company to shut down a piece of equipment on request when peak demand hits.

There’s also ‘direct load control’ where energy companies are given the power by customers to switch off power to various appliances during periods of peak demand.

All of these ideas have been piloted in Australia. All of them have been shown to work. However implementing them has been slower in coming. This is primarily because of the way energy companies make their money.

Energy companies either make money by charging customers for electricity or by building new infrastructure. The more electricity you use, the more likely it is that electricity companies will receive income from either of these sources.

They have very little incentive to help you save electricity.

Coupled with the popularity of solar panels, electricity companies’ business models are looking unprepared for life in the 21st century.

The Productivity Commission was called in to try to suggest some ways that the energy companies of Australia could organise themselves to be better prepared for the changing market conditions.

The government at the time enthusiastically embraced the PC’s recommendations, but said that a lot of them were already under consideration by Standing Council on Energy and Resources, the committee made up of Australian state energy ministers.

At the latest SCER meeting, in December 2013, the ministers announced that “While continuing to recognise the value of demand side reform, ministers agreed to request the Australian Energy Market Operator to defer lodgement of the rule change proposal and requested officials to undertake further work on DRM, including a cost benefit study, and report back to ministers at their first meeting in 2014.” Which is government-ese for watch this space.

In the meantime the government launched a new look at energy policy via its white paper on energy. The paper is due in September.

As the PC report itself drily noted: “[T]he National Electricity Market has too often proved to be a graveyard for reform proposals, which then remain as inert words in dead documents.”

The risk is that if the latest proposals to reform the energy market get tangled in bureaucracy the elderly, the young and the infirm will be at risk as the electricity grid struggles to cope. And the rest of us will cop higher electricity bills.

An Introduction to Community Garden ‘A Place for Cultivating Healthy Food and Communities’

Community Garden Photo

Growing population and rapid urbanisation have increased demand for food in the urban areas which has led to the global issues of food safety, availability and affordability.  This demand has on the one hand been fulfilled by growth in industrial agriculture where as on other hand limited our connectedness with nature and detached ourselves form the pleasure of growing our own food. In addition, climate change, food miles and footprint are also becoming the major concerns. Hence currently, in the urban society, the community garden has emerged to bridge this gap and connect people with the nature not only to produce food but also to cultivate healthy community and enhance community harmony and resilience. Community gardens are gaining popularity all over the world as an alternate source of urban food.

What is community garden?

Community garden is a common area where people form diverse communities come together to grow their food, share skills and make new friends. The garden is managed by a group of like- minded people who shares the same passion for gardening. People living in apartments or units have limited space for gardening. However, the increased development of community garden in the urban society has left city dwellers with no choices but to connect with nature and grow the favourite fruits, vegetables and herbs.

The essence of community garden lies in more than being just a place to grow food and vegetables.  The community garden has successfully served as a place that enhances healthy lifestyles, reduces social isolation, improves local food security and develop new green spaces and open spaces for community to enjoy  and encourages strong community relationship through gardening and food production.

Community Garden Pic 2

Benefits of community garden

Community garden holds lots of benefits. Here are some of the benefits-

  • Provides access to land to grow fruits and vegetables
  • Provides access to fresh and nutritious food that helps to enhance health and wellbeing.  Gardening also provides a physical activity that provides positive impact on heath.
  • Enhances social life by increasing social cohesion and connectedness among people from different ethnic and cultural background.
  • Develop and use public space to increase the productivity. It also manages and protects the open space to add value to the land and increase the functional green space in urban area.
  • Provides an opportunity to learn and share new skills from each other. Community members also learn from various educational and capacity building programs in the garden such as sustainable gardening, horticulture, composting, healthy cooking etc.
  • Provides access to locally grown, nutritious food that reduces household cost on food.  Some gardens producing surplus are able to sell their produce to the nearby market thus helping earn extra income.
  • Encourages sustainable gardening which benefits environment on many ways. Organic farming, natural pest control, composting, using rainwater for irrigation etc. helps to maintain environmental sustainability.

Organic Gardening Pic 1

Different models of community garden

There is no one set rule for gardening and hence the garden model might differ according to its location and community needs and desires. The garden occupies both public and privately owned land. Some garden are based on allotment approach where as some might be shared and some might be the combination of both. In allotment approach the garden space is divided into plots that are assigned to each member to grow their own food where as in the shared garden all the members collectively contribute their effort and share the harvest. In general, the gardens have combination of both types and are more multifunctional.

The long term viability of the garden depends upon the motivation and commitment of the stakeholders involved, the type of gardening practices adopted and other environmental and social factors. Aligning with the objective of producing healthy and organic food, the community garden also focus on adopting environmental conservation and sustainability where applicable.

Permaculture system of agriculture is becoming popular among community garden. This is a low impact and resource intensive gardening system designed to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Permaculture integrates the principle of caring for the earth, caring for the people and equitable share of the produce. It is a well-established system that is easy to understand and apply in the community garden. Community garden also holds diverse opportunities for social interaction and some include community education and capacity building programs that helps in holistic development of garden and gardeners.

Community Garden

Getting involved in community garden

One can get involved in community garden in different ways. Depending on who own the garden land and who manages the garden, the involvement of garden members might vary. Community gardens can be initiated and managed by the local community members or groups such as schools, churches, not for profit organisation etc. on a voluntary basis or managed or assisted by local council or might be run by a bigger community groups and have someone employed to look after the garden.  It would be appropriate to get in touch with your local council as they usually have the updated information, if you would like to have any information or get involved in the community garden in your area.

See the video below to learn more on community garden and identify different benefits community garden can provide

Community gardens are getting widely popular and successful in the area where people with low socio- economic background resides and where apartment and units are predominated. The garden also provides new migrants and disadvantaged group to get connected with the community and food that helps to enhance skills and knowledge and confidence. The idea of creating community gardens originated in the United Kingdom during the 18th century to fulfil the need of low income labourers to supplement their food sources.  The first community garden in Australia was established in 1977 in Nunawading, Victoria. Today the principles of community garden has been widely adopted in all the states of Australia and continue growing in numbers. Considering what it takes to develop one, there is no limit to what community garden can offer to the community and environment that has made it widely accepted in different parts of the world.

Please do share if you have any interesting stories on community garden..!!

Growing medicinal herbs at home

By Penny Woodward on 20 September 2013. Posted by WellBeing Natural Health & Living News

Growing medicinal herbs at home

medicinal_herbs

Gardening is the world’s most popular pastime and there’s very clear evidence that gardeners are healthier than non-gardeners. I believe gardening’s contribution to feeling good can be even more powerful when you use your garden to produce remedies for a wide range of health problems.

Herbal medicine in history

Using plants to promote good health is not a new idea. The ancient Greeks used common herbs such as parsley and thyme for a range of complaints, while French peasants collected plants from the forests and hedgerows to treat common ailments and mediaeval monks cultivated huge gardens of herbs for both medicinal and culinary purposes. At the start of this new century, herbs and herb gardens are regaining popularity as many more people realise the rewards of a lifestyle that includes herbs.

About 70 per cent of the world’s population still depends on traditional herbal remedies, and even in Australia at the beginning of the 20th century, most medicines were still based on herbs. As recently as 1940, up to 50 per cent of prescriptions contained herbal ingredients.

Herbs today

Today, people have forgotten, or were never taught, the simple remedies known to their grandparents. Herbs are not the answer to every problem, but there are numerous common ailments that respond well to herbal treatments.

Herbs have a rightful place in the promotion of a healthy, natural life. If you grow and make remedies from your own herbs, you can be sure of their purity and that the active constituents will be present. Using what’s in your garden is more convenient and much cheaper then jumping into the car and driving to a chemist or healthfood shop. It makes sense to make them a part of your regular diet as well as the source of remedies. Fresh herbs eaten every day improve not only the flavour of your food but also the general health of your family.

When I started using herbal remedies I began with one of the simplest — a peppermint infusion for indigestion. Now, every morning, I begin the day with a cup of peppermint or spearmint tea. Sage tea with honey and lemon is my answer to the first signs of a cold. Rosemary tea is my salvation when I need to write late into the night and maintain concentration.

Where do you start?

Herbs can be grown anywhere in the garden, but it’s a good idea to have some growing close to the kitchen so there’s no excuse not to pick them. Try establishing some small boxed beds or pots as close as possible to the door and planting them with the herbs you use most often.

Plant the rest in the most appropriate spots in the main garden, either in their own section, scattered among other plants (in pots or in the ground) or in the vegetable garden. If they are scattered around the garden, the strongly scented herbs will protect more vulnerable plants from insect attack.

What do they need?

As a general rule, herbs prefer plenty of sun, well-drained soil and adequate water during dry weather. Sunlight provides the energy plants use to make nutrients, and most herbs like plenty of sun. Watch your garden for a few days and see which parts get sun for the whole day and which are shaded in the morning or afternoon.

Remember that in winter the sun is low in the sky and in summer it is high, so shading will be different at different times of the year. Plant those herbs that like lots of sun in the more open positions and those that like some shade in positions where full sun is broken with some shade.

Plants also need nutrients from the soil, the most important being nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Others (known as trace elements) are needed in only tiny amounts. Work on improving the soil by adding manure and compost, both of which contain nutrients and at the same time encourage worms, insects and soil bacteria to live happily in your soil, creating a balanced and sustainable environment.

Worm castings and worm juice are great for herbs, especially those in pots. Herbs don’t need to be fed as often as other plants and, in fact, over feeding can make the leaves sappy and floppy and the flavour less intense.

Most herbs are fairly tough and will put up with being dry for quite a long time. Some of the toughest, such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, oregano and sage, are from the Mediterranean. Once you get to know your herbs, you’ll be able to tell when they need water. Often, there are one or two (such as marigolds) that will begin to droop before the others and they can act as a guide to when the rest of the garden needs watering.

The amount of water and the number of times it’s needed depend on the soil, the position of your garden, the mulch used and the weather. Working out what applies in your garden is all part of the fun. My favourite mulches are pea or lucerne straw and sugar cane mulch.

Keep their feet dry

Good drainage is essential to healthy garden soil and strong plants because most herbs don’t like to have their roots actually sitting in water. You can improve drainage and provide nutrients by adding humus to soil. In heavy soils, humus opens up the structure and increases drainage, while in sandy conditions it will help to slow drainage.

Drainage is also improved by raising the height of the garden bed above the surrounding ground. You can do this by using bricks or timber for the outside of the bed and filling with compost and soil. Where this can’t be done, grow your herbs in pots or other containers. More herbs are killed by bad drainage and wet roots than not enough water.

Organic protection

Once your herbs are growing happily, caring for them organically is the same as for other plants. There are lots of simple ways to protect them from pests. Get to know your plants so you notice as soon as something starts to eat them. Pick off anything that eats the leaves, such as caterpillars, and either squash them or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.

A ring of sawdust or wood ash sprinkled around young herbs protects them from snails and slugs or you can protect very young herbs by placing a jar over them at night and removing it in the morning.

Cutworms are small grubs that often bite through the stems of young herbs, but if you cutting the base out of small yoghurt containers and place one around each small plant it will protect them. Push them into the soil for a couple of centimetres.

Birds, especially blackbirds, will dig up young herbs while scratching for insects or worms in the soil. Cut the bottoms out of plastic plant pots and put them around plants until they are well-established.

Potting

Herbs do particularly well in pots. Quality potting mix is essential for good growth. You can make your own by combining sandy loam soil, coarse river sand and finely cut coir in equal amounts. Then, before planting, mix in fertiliser in the form of compost, well-rotted manures, blood-and-bone or fish emulsion. Then top dress with these every couple of months during the growing season.

Plants also benefit from an occasional watering with liquid seaweed fertiliser and top dressing with worm castings. If you don’t want to make your own mix, buy a good potting mix that has no added fertilisers and add your own to ensure your mix is organic.

Mulching

Reduce the need for watering during hot, dry weather by mulching the top of the soil. I like to use organic mulches that will break down and add to the nutrients in the mix. If these are applied in spring, by the following autumn they will have mostly broken down and more can then be added again as the weather warms up next spring. In tropical regions, add mulch in autumn to help during the dry winter months. Things like pea or lucerne straw are great for bigger pots, and lucerne pellets or coir work well for smaller pots.

Best backyard herbs

The following are some popular, easy-to-grow herbs. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when you get relief from a cold, a burn or a rash from plants you have grown yourself and turned into a remedy. Experiment and see what works for you.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)
A tough easy herb, best grown from seed planted in spring. Drink leaves and flowers made into a tea as a gentle remedy for diarrhoea and to stem heavy bleeding during periods. Gargle to soothe a sore throat.

Aloe vera (Aloe vera)
A compact, succulent herb with fleshy, spotted leaves. Use the sap from inside the leaves to treat burns, bites, stings, rashes and other skin complaints.

Borage (Borago officinalis)

An easy-to-grow annual with lovely blue/purple star-shaped flowers that can be used in salads, soups teas and desserts. Leaves are also edible when young. Borage tea may have a mild laxative effect, calms the nerves and boosts the adrenals.

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Easy to grow, though it likes plenty of water, catnip is part of the mint family, said to have a sedative effect on both cats and humans. The tea may be taken as a cold remedy, fever reducer and remedy for headache and tummy trouble. A gentle herb that can be used for teething pain and as a general tonic. In the garden, it attracts bees and butterflies but repels other insects.

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)
A perennial, creeping herb with apple-scented foliage and white and yellow daisy flowers. It grows easily from divided clumps in spring. A tea made from the flowers is used for a wide range of ailments, but in particular it eases stress and irritability caused by pain, as well as headaches and stomach-aches caused by tension. The flowers of annual chamomile (Matricaria recutita) can be used in the same way.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)
These trees grow so easily that they are problem weeds in some regions. Grow new plants from seed or by taking cuttings. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea to aid chronic ear infections and help reduce hayfever attacks.

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is easily grown from cuttings taken in spring. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea and drink to lessen bad breath, ease mild depression, calm irritability and suppress a cough.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium; syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium)
A perennial that’s easy to grow and will tolerate dryness, it has golden feathery foliage and white daisy flowers. Make tea with the leaves or eat fresh with other food to relieve headaches and coughs, but don’t take when pregnant or breastfeeding.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica)

Also known as pennywort or arthritis plant, gotu kola is a perennial groundcover that grows profusely and tolerates partial shade well. Its leaves have a good flavour and can be used in salads and curries to help relieve arthritis and is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. I’t recommended to chew a couple of leaves daily.

Heartsease (Viola tricolor)
An annual that grows easily from seed planted in early spring or autumn. It likes an open sunny position or partial shade and prefers well-drained sandy-loam soils that have been enriched with compost to help retain moisture. The leaves and flowers are made into a tea and drunk for a feverish cold, as a blood purifier and to tone blood vessels, especially the small vessels close to the surface of the skin.

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
A delightful, lemon-scented shrub that grows happily in most positions. Eat fresh leaves or drink them as a tea to calm nerves and settle the stomach as well as soothe period pains.

Marigold (Calendula officinalis)
A cheerful annual with brightly coloured flowers that grows easily from seed sown in autumn. The fresh or dried petals made into a tea soothe an inflamed digestive tract, reduce hot flushes during menopause and used as a mouthwash will help heal ulcers. Make oils and creams from the petals to help heal bunions, fungal infections and a range of skin irritations.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
A vigorous grower with happy, brightly coloured flowers, which are a lovely addition to salads, as are the peppery-tasting leaves, it’s valued for its antibiotic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. In the garden, they are a pest deterrent and an infusion of the leaves can be used to get rid of aphids. Plant between vegetable crops to discourage pests.

Peppermint (Mentha spp.)
Will grow easily in any slightly damp position. It likes a composty soil and does well in sun or shade. Make fresh leaves into a tea to relieve colic and flatulence, reduce headaches and lessen nausea associated with travel.

Red clover (Trifolim pratense)
A short-lived, sprawling perennial herb that grows best in high-rainfall areas. Grow it from seed or by dividing clumps in spring or summer. A tea made from the leaves and flowers reduces menopausal symptoms, calms a persistent cough, loosens phlegm and reduces appetite.

Teas, infusions, decoctions

You make an infusion just as you would make normal tea, using either fresh or dried leaves, stems and flowers. Steep in boiling water for several minutes, strain then drink hot or allow to cool.
Roots, bark and seeds or other hard parts of a plant, such as dried berries, are better made into a decoction. Add water and bring to a boil in a pot (ceramic is best — don’t use aluminium). Stir and allow to simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Penny Woodward has written seven books on herbs and other useful plants, all of which are still in print. They include Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, Herbs for Australian Gardens and Growing Easy Herbs for Beauty, Fragrance and Flavour. All are published by Hyland House.

Best backyard herbs

The following are some popular, easy-to-grow herbs. There is a great feeling of satisfaction when you get relief from a cold, a burn or a rash from plants you have grown yourself and turned into a remedy. Experiment and see what works for you.

Agrimony(Agrimonia eupatoria) A tough easy herb, best grown from seed planted in spring. Drink leaves and flowers made into a tea as a gentle remedy for diarrhoea and to stem heavy bleeding during periods. Gargle to soothe a sore throat.
Aloe veraAloe vera A compact, succulent herb with fleshy, spotted leaves. Use the sap from inside the leaves to treat burns, bites, stings, rashes and other skin complaints.
Borage Borago officinalis   An easy-to-grow annual with lovely blue/purple star-shaped flowers that can be used in salads, soups teas and desserts. Leaves are also edible when young. Borage tea may have a mild laxative effect, calms the nerves and boosts the adrenals.
CatnipNepeta cataria Easy to grow, though it likes plenty of water, catnip is part of the mint family, said to have a sedative effect on both cats and humans. The tea may be taken as a cold remedy, fever reducer and remedy for headache and tummy trouble. A gentle herb that can be used for teething pain and as a general tonic. In the garden, it attracts bees and butterflies but repels other insects.
ChamomileChamaemelum nobile A perennial, creeping herb with apple-scented foliage and white and yellow daisy flowers. It grows easily from divided clumps in spring. A tea made from the flowers is used for a wide range of ailments, but in particular it eases stress and irritability caused by pain, as well as headaches and stomach-aches caused by tension. The flowers of annual chamomile (Matricaria recutita) can be used in the same way.
ElderSambucus nigra These trees grow so easily that they are problem weeds in some regions. Grow new plants from seed or by taking cuttings. Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea to aid chronic ear infections and help reduce hayfever attacks.
English lavenderLavandula angustifolia Likes full sun and well-drained soil. It is easily grown from cuttings taken in spring.  Make the fresh or dried flowers into a tea and drink to lessen bad breath, ease mild depression, calm irritability and suppress a cough.
FeverfewTanacetum parthenium; syn. Chrysanthemum parthenium A perennial that’s easy to grow and will tolerate dryness, it has golden feathery foliage and white daisy flowers. Make tea with the leaves or eat fresh with other food to relieve headaches and coughs, but don’t take when pregnant or breastfeeding.
Gotu kolaCentella asiatica syn. Hydrocotyle asiatica  Also known as pennywort or arthritis plant, gotu kola is a perennial groundcover that grows profusely and tolerates partial shade well. Its leaves have a good flavour and can be used in salads and curries to help relieve arthritis and is one of the most important rejuvenating herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. I’t recommended to chew a couple of leaves daily.
HeartseaseViola tricolor An annual that grows easily from seed planted in early spring or autumn. It likes an open sunny position or partial shade and prefers well-drained sandy-loam soils that have been enriched with compost to help retain moisture. The leaves and flowers are made into a tea and drunk for a feverish cold, as a blood purifier and to tone blood vessels, especially the small vessels close to the surface of the skin.
Lemon balmMelissa officinalis A delightful, lemon-scented shrub that grows happily in most positions. Eat fresh leaves or drink them as a tea to calm nerves and settle the stomach as well as soothe period pains.
MarigoldCalendula officinalis A cheerful annual with brightly coloured flowers that grows easily from seed sown in autumn. The fresh or dried petals made into a tea soothe an inflamed digestive tract, reduce hot flushes during menopause and used as a mouthwash will help heal ulcers. Make oils and creams from the petals to help heal bunions, fungal infections and a range of skin irritations.
NasturtiumTropaeolum majus A vigorous grower with happy, brightly coloured flowers, which are a lovely addition to salads, as are the peppery-tasting leaves, it’s valued for its antibiotic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. In the garden, they are a pest deterrent and an infusion of the leaves can be used to get rid of aphids. Plant between vegetable crops to discourage pests.
PeppermintMentha spp. Will grow easily in any slightly damp position. It likes a composty soil and does well in sun or shade. Make fresh leaves into a tea to relieve colic and flatulence, reduce headaches and lessen nausea associated with travel.
Red cloverTrifolim pratense A short-lived, sprawling perennial herb that grows best in high-rainfall areas. Grow it from seed or by dividing clumps in spring or summer. A tea made from the leaves and flowers reduces menopausal symptoms, calms a persistent cough, loosens phlegm and reduces appetite.

Teas, infusions, decoctions

  • You make an infusion just as you would make normal tea, using either fresh or dried leaves, stems and flowers. Steep in boiling water for several minutes, strain then drink hot or allow to cool.
  • Roots, bark and seeds or other hard parts of a plant, such as dried berries, are better made into a decoction. Add water and bring to a boil in a pot (ceramic is best — don’t use aluminium). Stir and allow to simmer, covered, for 10–15 minutes. Strain and drink.

Penny Woodward has written seven books on herbs and other useful plants, all of which are still in print. They include Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies, Herbs for Australian Gardens and Growing Easy Herbs for Beauty, Fragrance and Flavour. All are published by Hyland House.