Where Clinical Traditions Herb Farm started:
a plot of grass to a now medicinal wild flower field <3
August 2021: I signed a lease for my quarter acre farm plot at Juicy Roots Farm Collective, in NW Jacksonville, FL & immediately mowed the high summer grass, With an attempt to dig out the grass, to turn it upside down and kill it quick, I realized how intense the roots of Bermuda grass are. So I quickly pivoted to rent a rear-tine (one of the more heavy duty) tillers.
I know that, "No till" is a principle of regenerative agriculture, which I stand by, however breaking ground fast (imo) requires machine force. So I made an exception to the rules and did a one-time till to get the herb plot started!
My loving life-partner (who will not become my farm hand, no matter if I beg him) will do occasional labor-intense farm tasks and therefore offered his strength to operate the tiller. Because of how hard it was, for even him, to use that machine & because the farm build expense fund was zero$ (aka as low cost as possible), I rented the tiller for one day & we therefore got very little ground broken. The bottom left picture above "cover crop" area, is how much we were able to till that first day. A VERY small amount, lol! But it was progress!!
I decided it was fine to have a super small first year growing foot print and allow the rest of the grass area to decompose at a slower pace, using cardboard and a thick layer of mulch to suppress the grass and other weeds.
The last photo from above (bottom right) shows the north side of the original plot, and how much weeding I did/needed to do. This area was a DELIGHT for me to take over, because it was Juicy Roots old compost pile and a purple sweet potato was going wild with all the new surrounding mulch. The sweet potato was choking out many less desirable plants (aka weeds), but I decided to narrow its patch (pulling it way back) so the farm plot could be more of a rectangle.
This is an aerial photo from September/October 2021. Depicted is some of the area I was able to prepare and use for my first growing season of growing medicinal herbs for Clinical Traditions Herb Co!
On the top left is the sweet potato pile. & the top right of the photo is my chosen cover crop for the summer: Sunn Hemp (a legume).
Can you find me weeding around the Sunn Hemp in the above picture?
December 2021: chopping down the 3' Sunn Hemp to then cover with wood chips/mulch. It sure grows quick! I leave the tops to decompose in place, feeding the soil. & the roots I place, as well. It rarely comes back from the roots, and the roots rotting in the ground helped to quickly build my soil (which was mostly sand).
So many wheelbarrows of "dollar-weed". Dollar weed is edible, but reproduces so fast underground (rhizomatically) & can also go to bloom & seed itself every where as well, which would likely lead to choking out the plants that I wanted to grow, like chamomile, calendula, burdock, & red clover!
January 2022: The high water table at the farm made "building up the beds" a crucial step so the crops wouldn't drown out in Florida's heavy rain season. Row by row, I dug out the aisles and piled up the native dirt onto the beds. Eventually I had four rows (60 feet long) piled high with "native dirt" (neighboring dirt rich in microbiota best suited for that specific area). To finish off this job, I filled the aisles back in with lots of wood chips & sometimes (if I had it) filling the bottom of the valley with cardboard so I could ensure I'd have enough mulch for other areas of the plot.
(Pictured above is my 58 y/o momma coming to help out!- She's a real fitness inspiration for me & my family!)
December 2021-Jan 2022: I built out the irrigation for the 12'x12' section of the greenhouse included in my lease. I started some seeds in a less optimal space at home and having this space was well worth the headache of teaching myself some plumbing basics. I found lots of wood planks to use as make-shift seed tray tables on the curb, driving around Jax, but I did have to buy the cement blocks, PVC, and irrigation timer. It was a nominal one-time cost, and my seeds are super healthy growing at the farm now!
The CT greenhouse in Summer 2022, put a shade clothe over it to extend the cool weather season a bit & help keep the seed trays from drying out so quick.
December 2021: Forming the first three 50' rows!!!
I was so excited & satisfied to have a growing space ready for the cold hardy annuals (chamomile, calendula, red clover, etc, etc) that I didn't even notice how I was wearing the side, but the row on the right was eventually straightened out.
I laid the irrigation and planted as soon as possible!
Early February 2022: It wasn't too late to get another row of medicinals in. SO after my mom helped me dig out the forth row, I was ready to plant it up!
Pictured here are: chamomile, stinging nettle & milk thistle. I planted them out 12"x12" in rows of two, after I covered/mulched the bare dirt with leaves I collected from neighbors.
Late April 2022: Chamomile, Calendula, & Milky Oats.
Late May 2022: Calendula & Fever Few Flowers
May 2022: Clinical Traditions first farm event! A Tea Harvest Ceremony. We had so much fun! And look at how much can flourish in a small space 15'x50'.
Plants pictured above include: Anise Hyssop, Mullein (right), Chamomile (left), Milky Oats (back) & so many more!
Enjoying our freshly harvested cups of tea under a rising full moon!
Fall 2022 Events drew in a bigger crowd, as word of the Jacksonville's medicinal herb farm was spreading!
October 2022: Harvesting Tulsi (Holy Basil), Roselle Hibiscus, Stinging Nettle, Lemon Balm, Yarrow, Skullcap, Blue Butterfly Pea Flower & More!
Participants got a botany walk around the field, learning to identify the herbs, were then taught how to properly harvest the plants & how to use for medicinal purposes, and finally I "let them loose" on the farm- allowing them to harvest to their hearts content for an hour. They made tinctures with some of the fresh herbs, and took home the rest to dry for tea.
We even made fresh herbal tinctures, straight from the field, learning the easy "folk method" of tincture preparation:
Amidst the fun on-farm events, we wove in some energy for the farm expansion!
August 2022 & late November 2022:
My sweet hubby, Jordan, came back out to the farm to till for the second time. He was basically a professional this second time around. He tilled up 10'x60', enough room to add (almost) 4 new rows!!! The area had been planted with Sunn Hemp, then covered & culled with a silage tarp all spring and mulched with wood chips all summer; it was ready for planting.
This time the tilling helped loosen the dirt, and allowed us to just rake the new beds up, so we didn't have to spend the same million hours (or so it felt) that were spent digging out the aisles for the first couple of rows.
I threw a quick round of Sunn Hemp seed on the new beds & straw on top of that to keep the weed seeds at bay. I watered it a few times, but luckily the Sunn Hemp doesn't need much- less watering helped keep the straw from germinating and excess weed seeds from germ'n too.
The expansion area (4 new rows!) felt like they were a little higher from the two rounds of cover crop and SO MUCH MULCH, that crops will survive some mildly heavy spring rains. I'm writing this as of Feb 2023, so the new rows are all planted up, mostly with chamomile (doubling the space I gave it last year), but I won't know if it'll be too damp for them until a couple more months, which could coincide with their blooming time. Only Time will Tell, & this blog will then let you know, b/c I'll keep updating it with growing tips for medicinal herbs in Zone 9a.
Here's some pics in early November of a sweet friend, helping me cut down the baby Sunn Hemp, & mulching over it with leaves. I was eager to get the cover crop cut down to begin the decomposition phase, which takes about a month before being able to plant the chamomile starts in the ground.