Archive for the 'Herbs' Category

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Starting a New Herb Bed

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Since my garden is brand new this season I had no herb garden. In my last garden I had a lovely herb patch that was in constant use so I thought it was about time to start a new one.

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I’m not super adventurous when it comes to using herbs. I like the standard ones like Bay, Thyme, Marjoram, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Coriander, Chives, Rosemary and later on Basil etc Which is actually quite a lot to be growing in one roughly 8 foot by 5 foot bed.

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You’ll notice there is no Mint on the list. I love Mint but it is invasive and so I won’t be growing it here with the others. Besides, I have a huge patch of it on the parking strip outside our garden which is so wild I have to cut it with a weed strimmer once a year. So I think I’m good for Mint!

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One thing I’ve learned about growing herbs is that they are not too picky when it comes to soil or position. Average, gravelly soil will do, no need to give them the good stuff. And a position with some sun, maybe half day, is fine too. They love to be hacked about a bit and when you cut them to eat them it’s like they get a mini prune every couple of weeks. They respond by putting on more growth. An ideal partnership really.

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The tags I’m using are metal ones from Alitags. I have a letter punch to mark out the names but because they are metal they should last for years and become a little less shiny with age.

Most of these are small plants that I bought from the nursery. At this time of year you can pick them up quite cheaply. I did grow some from seed – the Coriander, Basil and Chives just because I’ll be using a lot of these and I needed lots of plants.

I’m also branching out into Asian herbs since I love Thai food. I sowed some Shiso, and was given a Lemongrass to propagate (more on that later – if it works!). I’ve also got my eye on a Kaffir Lime leaf bush which will need to go into a pot and overwinter in the greenhouse.

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Planting Elephant Garlic

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I’m busy in the garden this week. I just planted my Elephant Garlic. I decided to grow this type as I already have some ‘normal’ Garlic growing in the front garden that I planted back in November. The kitchen garden wasn’t ready back then and so I put it in in the only space I had available.

This is a little later than I would usually plant Garlic but this way I get an early crop from the Autumn sow cloves and a later one from the Elephant Garlic.

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Borage Flowers

My Borage has been flowering now for about a week. It took a while to open because of all the rain. It’s still raining but the flowers are open. And when there’s a break in the weather the hover-flies and bees are all over it.

The flowers are such an amazing purple/blue and they droop their heads beautifully. The plant is quite tall too – about a metre high. At the moment it’s being held up by my White Currant bush. I’m guessing in open ground it would need staking, especially in bad weather.

It’s so worth it though. The flowers are very unusual. I haven’t made any Claret Cup yet. This historic recipe uses Borage as a garnish for the drink.

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Borage Nearly in Flower

The borage that I sowed way back in mid March are beginning to flower. They are tantalizingly close to popping open. But not yet! When they do I know they’ll be the brightest of blues. Maybe I’ll try to make a claret cup with them.

They have been so easy to grow. And as I understand it they will self seed everywhere so I won’t have to worry about floating flowers next year. I sowed them in the cold frame and then transplanted them into a sunny bed. They seem to love it.

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Herbs Up-Close

I photographed my Herbs today – something that I don’t do very often. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because Herbs really don’t require much input and so I don’t visit them very often unless picking them. But they really are interesting when you look at them up-close. This Parsley is so zingy! It’s almost day-glo.

In some cases we’re happy to let Herbs flower and when they do they add colour and vibrancy to what can be a very green garden at this time of year. My Chives are about to pop open, something which always turns a few heads.

My sowings of Coriander are doing well too. I’ve decided to go for Coriander edging to the Herb bed. We’re eating a lot more curries these days and we go through Coriander at a pace so it’s well worth growing for us.

I grow two Sage bushes. This gorgeous purple variety and…

…this variegated one.

My Mint is spilling over the stone tough that confines it. I cut a bunch of it for the Royal Wedding and threw it in a jug of Pimms. It really does look amazing with the floating Strawberries.

I planted some creeping Thyme this year. It looks amazing and softens the edges of the pathway brilliantly. Even though I don’t grow many Herbs, the ones that I do are in use all year round and I wouldn’t be without them.

Does anyone have any suggestions for new Herbs I should grow? I should mention I also grow Basil, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Dill and Fennel.

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Pruning Mint

My Mint bush grows in an old water fountain in my garden. It was there when I moved in four years ago and is still there now.

Everything is getting hacked in my garden at the moment. Today it was the turn of the Mint. Every year I cut it back really hard – right down to ground level and I even pull some if the roots up.

Every year I think, ‘oh, no I’ve done it this time. This will never grow back.’ And every year it does grow back, just as lush, green and fragrant as the previous year. I’ll be making Mint tea with this come May, just you see.

This year I’ve decided I’m going to have more Basil than I’ll ever need. Hey if you have extra you can always make Pesto right? I didn’t have nearly enough last year so this time I’m over compensating.

I sowed this little clutch about three weeks ago. I have another two lots in the garden and one in a large pot in the Victorian cloche that I sowed last week. I love Basil!

Nothing like a week of blisteringly hot weather to get everything growing huh? This is my little rabbit planter that I sowed some Coriander in. The seeds are the ones I saved last December and they seem to have germinated very well. Last week the seedlings were just popping through.

A week later and they’re in full swing. I officially love summer!

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Pot Up Some Parsley for Winter

Don’t forget to pot up some Parsley for Winter. Just dig up a few roots and pop them up in pots. Snip off half of the leaves so that they have chance to spring back and put them in your cold frame or greenhouse. There, they can over-winter and you’ll have Parsley all year round. Very useful for all those hearty Fish Pies I’m planning on making.

You can do the same with Mint, Oregano and Chives. Nothing like fresh Mint in your Mojito at Christmas huh?

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How to Make Mint Tea

At this time of year I always have loads of Mint. I have a patch growing in an old stone trough and every year it comes back with lovely fragrant lush green leaves. Nothing says summer’s here like some fresh Mint from the garden in a tall glass of Pimms and lemonade.

But…while I could spend my days drinking Pimms in the garden (and believe me sometimes I really want to!) I fear it may impede my skills as a mother. One has to stay focused and totally not inebriated when one is looking after one’s child – I’m sure I read that somewhere.

So what to do with all the Mint? Mint tea of course. The ladies in the book I’m reading ‘Larkrise to Candleford’ say it’s good for the soul. And so it is. Not in a medicinal way, although I’m sure Mint tea has many claims, but in a ‘aaah that’s nice and gosh aren’t I clever because I actually grew it myself,’ sort of way.

So here’s my Mint Tea recipe – less of a recipe, more a bunch of instructions. Stand by.

Mint Tea

  • 2 long sprigs of Mint (the more you add the more minty it will be)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Honey
  • Slice of Lemon
  • Your favourite teacup and saucer (optional)

Put the Mint leaves (or the whole sprig) in the water and bring to the boil. The water will turn yellowy green. Then strain into a teacup. Add some honey and a slice of Lemon. Drink it while sitting in your garden, you deserve it!

Anyone else got any Minty recipes?

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