herbs

  • Grow at Home: Chives

    Chives_flowers_on_plantsChives are a low maintenance perennial herb.  The botanical name, Allium schoenoprasum, derives from the Greek meaning reed-like leek - a very accurate description as they are a member of the onion family.  Their leaves therefore have a mild onion flavour and are great when chopped up finely and added to dishes.  They add that little extra to a potato salad and give scrambled eggs a boost. 

    They are a great addition to your diet as they are a rich source of vitamin K, C and folic acid and minerals such as manganese, magnesium and iron. As well as eating the leaves, they also have edible pink flowers that make an attractive garnish for salads.

    Sowing

    In early spring, sow a few seeds thinly across the surface a 3 inch or 4 inch pot or into plugs.  Cover with a thin layer of vermiculite, water and place in a heated propagator or warm windowsill to germinate.

    If you forget to sow seeds or want to save time, buy ready-grown plants.

    Growing

    Chives form 1ft (30cm) tall clumps.  They grow well in ground or in pots of soil-based compost  preferring a moisture retentive, well-drained soil.  Outside, plant them in a sunny or partially shaded position.

    Chives are very low maintenance.  Just keep them well watered, especially during long dry spells in summer.

    Lift plants every 3 years or so and divide them.  Simply cut with a sharp knife and replant the sections.  This will rejuvenate congested clumps in the ground or pots.  If they are in containers, either divide them or you could move them to a slightly larger pot.

    Chives die back in late autumn. Clear away any dead leaves to discourage pests.

    Harvesting

    Chives_chopped_and_cutYou have a win win situation with chives.  The more you cut the more they will produce. Simply snip the leaves with scissors close to the base of the plant.  To keep plants going, remove the flowers as they start to fade.  Don't forget to or use them for your salads.

    Chives are best used fresh.  If you want to store them then snip them up finely, pack into an ice-cube trays and add a little water and freeze.

    Pests & Diseases

    Aphids: Greenfly may be seen on the soft shoot tips of plants.  If you catch them early then you can just wash them off or pick them off with finger and thumb and squash them.

    Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves.  You are more likely to see this when the weather has been wet.  Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant.  There is no control for rust once the plant has it.  so the best option is prevention.  Avoid crowding the plants, to keep humidity down.  Cut any badly affected leaves and don’t grow other members of the onion family: garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

  • Grow at Home: Rosemary

    rosemary_bushes_along_side_of_pathRosemary is a must-have herb native to Southern Europe. The bush form grows up to 1.2m tall - large enough to double as an evergreen shrub in the border. The low growing prostrate varieties are perfect for tumbling over a dry sunny wall or the edge of a terrace.  They make an excellent ground cover plant.

    As well as being a useful culinary herb, Rosemary is also a beautiful, drought resistant plant.  It  is great in landscaping in place of box or lavender. The attractive blue flowers that are a great source of nectar for bees.

     

     

    Soil and Aspect

    Rosemary thrives in a well-drained soil in a sunny position.  It is slightly tender and will suffer if it is planted in a wet soil during the colder winter months.  It is, however, an excellent plant for coastal areas.

    Rosemary is one of very few plants that thrives on neglect.  It will die if you fertilise or water it too much!  It also prefers a sparse soil without too much nutrient so is ideal for a stony dry corner where not much else will survive.

    Rosemary does well in containers with plenty of grit for good drainage and will benefit from protection In cold winters - Easy Fleece Jackets are ideal.

    Propagation

    rosemay_in_open_rootrainers_showing_roots

    Rosemary is best bought as an established plant or raised from cuttings.

    Cuttings couldn't be easier - on a cool morning snip off shoots of new growth without flowers  10-15cm long.  Remove most of the lower leaves so you have a clean length of stem.

    Use a sharp knife to cut off the base of the stem just below a leaf node – the point from which the leaves grow.  You can dip the ends in hormone rooting powder to speed up the rooting process.

    Fill Rootrainers with a gritty compost mix and insert one rosemary cutting into each cell.

    Water in cuttings from above to settle compost around their stems.  Then place in a cold frame or a sheltered area, using the Rootrainer lid to retain moisture.

    Once they have a good root system - which you will be able to see by gently opening your Rootrainers to inspect -  pot up individually into a loam-based compost. Plant cuttings out in their final position in Spring or Summer to get established before the temperature drops.

    One plant is usually ample for culinary use but if you do want to grow more then allow 75cm between plants.

    Growing from seed is not recommended as the germination is slow and often erratic.  If you wish to try it though, sow the seeds in good quality seed sowing compost about 1 cm deep. Keep them warm on a sunny windowsill or propagator.. Once you have some seedlings make sure you don’t overwater them.  Rosemary is drought tolerant and even at the seedling stage it is easy to overwater them.

    Harvesting and Storage

    Harvest the young, tender stems and leaves, taking off no more than one third of the plant at once.  For drying, harvest just before flowering and store the dried leaves in an airtight jar for use in the kitchen.

    Culinary Uses

    Use rosemary leaves for making tea, in sauces or for flavouring many dishes.  It is great over oven roasted potatoes and perfect with meats - especially lamb.

    Use it fresh or dried.  It has a powerful yet aromatic flavour and is excellent in herb breads or infused in oil.

     

  • Salad anyone?

    We have returned back to a very grey and rainy England with not much hope for our little shoots after slight neglect for a week. However, we were greeted with huge shoots bursting to get out of their Rootrainers!  Seems like time to get the husband out building the Haxnicks Raised Bed with it’s very handy Raised Bed Polythene Cover to keep those courgettes, cucumbers and tomatoes growing upwards and outwards into something edible for my plate.

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover on and plants inside I have plants now in my Raised Bed

    Most of all, the joy of this Raised Bed is that you construct and locate it wherever you wish, so for convenience it is sitting right outside our kitchen garden door.  As much as I love my garden who wants to traipse to the end of it to pick their veggies!  We have added a variety of herbs too - why not!

     Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and salad plants showing  

    Pull back the polythene cover for easiy watering and as you can see we have a little bed of very healthy young plants which we hope to harvest sometime in July.  We will be back in July with an update!

    Haxnicks Raised Bed with polythene cover off and slightly larger salad plants inside Really growing now - here comes summer!
  • Self Watering Tower garden

    The Self Watering Tower Garden is self watering. That's right!  Self watering!

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden water reservoir

    It does what it says on the tin, or would do if it came in a tin.  But why is this important when actually, plants love water and I quite like watering them too?  Don’t know about you, but for me it’s a calming activity during which I contemplate life, the universe and beyond.   This watering zen is the ‘ideal’ though and some weeks the ‘ideal’ is as rare as a blue rose.  The plants will survive my inattention.  The rub is that not only do plants love water but more than this they like regular water.  Otherwise it can have a drastic effect on their output.  Who hasn’t taken their eye off the ball and ended up with split tomatoes?

    Cue the Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden . So on those weeks when the cat needs the vet, the kids need new shoes and the fridge definitely needs a clean out the ingenious wick is doing what you can’t and keeping your plants happy and healthy.  No more coming back to dejected looking plants and a guilty conscience. Problem solved.

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots Self Watering Tower Garden with Vigoroot pots

    My Tower Garden is in its second year and the Vigoroot pots can be washed at the end of the season and stored flat by the organised gardener.  I am not an organised gardener though (must have been one of those weeks) so I had just emptied them and stored in the shed.  A quick brush off left them looking as good as new though and I was able to start planting.

    Not only does it solve your watering issues but it also allows you to grow a staggering amount of plants in a very small area.  My garden is large but with building work about to start most of it is off limits for this season.  The 3 layers allow me to have 12 x 5L pots  in a tiny space.  Each layer has 4 Vigoroot pots which air-prune the roots to give healthier plants with better roots that lead to higher yields.

     

     

    Three Layers:

    Haxnicks Self Watering Tower Garden with strawberries, herbs and tomatoes Fully planted!

    I won't even have to worry about watering when I go away for a week's holiday in summer which is a bonus. All that is left to do now  is to make sure that the water reservoirs are full once a week and then and wait to pick my very first crop.   Might just have to plan a nice bruschetta recipe for all those glorious tomatoes...

  • Sweet Cicely and Rhubarb

    Sweet Cicely

    Hello Gardeners,

    Here is a little known herb that is easy to grow and looks as pretty as it's name. Sweet Cicely has an aromatic aniseed like flavour and has been traditionally grown in cottage gardens to sweeten sharp fruits in tarts and puddings.

    Sweet Cicily Plants grown in the Haxnicks Garden

    Sweet Cicely looks very similar to cow parsley with frond-like leaves and delicate white flowers and grows best in well drained soil in a sunny position. It can grow quite tall but can be cut right back after flowering.

    The seeds can be used whole in cooking or as a ground spice.  However you can also use the leaves.  I use the them for a little culinary trick taught to me long ago by my mother. Pick a handful of the leaves and wash.  Then stew them in the same pan as your rhubarb.  remove them when the rhubarb is cooked through.  They will not only give a delicate aniseed flavour, but also cut through the acidity of the fruit. The tartness of stewed rhubarb that makes your teeth feel furry magically disappears. One small grandchild of mine overheard me talking about this and asked to be shown the 'teeth fairy plant'! So that is what it's known as in our garden.

    Goodbye for now,
    Grandpa Haxnicks

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