Monday, 22 December 2014

On my plot:




This is a time of the year when you more then likely do not go out into the garden much, unless to harvest some crop for your tea.

Never-the-less you should be out there on the look out for what is going on and to make sure that everything is in its place.

If you have not done so already:
  • dig
  • spread manure or compost
  • wash your pots and glasshouse.
  • repair your tools
  • tidy out the shed and chuck stuff out that you do not need.
  • This is a good time of the year to cover the ground that you are not going to use. It is far better being under plastic then just sat there growing weeds  


Some times, so many things change in the garden that you do not know where your are. It is a good time of the year to sit done and sort things out in your mind.

Get a book and make a few plans for your garden; ask your self a few questions:
  • What did you grow last year that really worked and you used?
  • Did your grow too much of one crop?
  • Did you grow a crop that you did not use?
  • Did any crop not grow at all for one reason or another?
  • What weed was the most trouble to you?
  • Was there one pest that over took everything that you tried to do?
  • Will you have enough time in the coming year to manage your plot?
  • Do you use your glass house to the best advantage? 
 I am sure that there are many more questions that you could ask yourself to make better use of your time and garden.

Most of what I know about growing come form three sources:

Watching my neighbor

Reading books

Looking at how plants grow. 

This time of the year go round your neighborhood and see what they have in their gardens.

Find out what crops are doing well in your area

Get a good gardening book and read it.


From my plot now in the middle of December I am harvesting:
  • Leeks
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cabbage 
  • turnips
  • beet root
  • lambs lettuce
  • chard
  • potatoes
  • parsley
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • spinach
  • apples from my store
  • soft fruit from my deep freeze

I also have pickled

beans/cucumbers/croquettes. and of course loads of jam from my soft fruit. 
Here is a great book to read and use to find out what to do with all those Courgettes.
On sale on ebay right now

Monday, 15 December 2014

Christmas Cacti


This weeks job:
  •   This is a good time to get your mower in order. There is nothing like a good service.
  • Give all your hand tools a good clean and oiling any wooden handles. I use olive oil for this.
  • Dig any empty beds
  • Check roses for black spot and burn the leaves.
  • Sow hardy pea varieties in pots or trays

Christmas cacti make great gifts:
  • It is possible to buy them quite cheaply and then pot several different varieties of plants into interesting  containers
  • Christmas cacti are best grown  in groups.
  • you will need a layer of gravel
  • and a layer of charcoal
  • arrange the plants adding compost as you go
  • top up with stone chippings
  • given some sunshine you should get lovely  flowers
The cacti mostly live in deserts where  they do not get much water, indeed in the winter months they do not need any water; just essential for their growth to water during the summer months. 
                Go and take a look at Cacti in your local Glasshouse. Kew is well worth a look!

Friday, 12 December 2014

How to grow your own Holly.


To my mind there is nothing more festive at this time of the year than bright red berries against spiky green leaves. A wreath of holly on your door at christmas gives a lot of cheer.
Holly is native to Britain and ever green and can grow up to 10 meters if not cut.
Holly
  • Makes a splendid hedge.
  • Quite a few varieties: Golden King-Silver Queen to name but two.
  • You can mix berries in moist sand...leave for a year, tuning them every once in a while.
  • Sow them in a pot, sand and all, the following spring.
  • Be patient because they can be very slow.
  • Holly is dioecious ( either male or female) so you will not get berries in every case.
  • Fertilized female flowers develop into shiny red berries
  • Trees will not flower for the first twenty years.
  • Prune holly with secateurs only.
I collect holly plants from under Holly hedges. You will be surprised at how many you will find poking through the ground come Spring.

                                                                         Winter Beds


In the garden, this week you should
  • Dig out your annuals and turning over the soil
  • Plant any trees and shrubs before it snows
  • If it does snow, clear as much as possible from branches. Snow can be very heavy and break branches. Shake the snow off your shrubs and polly tunnels.


Monday, 8 December 2014

Mistletoe


Mistletoe:
This is a plant that grows on other plants. Mainly on trees, the most popular tree being Apple.
It is a plant that is very much in decline, however the plant is once again in the public eye because a substance found inside the berry has been found to cure some types of cancer.
This what you need to do if you wish to grow your own:
  • Keep the berries moist till early spring
  • Scrape away the juicy covering
  • make a shallow cut in a tree
  • press the seed in and replace the bark.
  • sow as many as you can on the same tree to ensure male and female growth for pollination.
Apple trees make the best host but you can also use Lime, Ash, or Poplar.
If you buy some from the shops, make sure that it has loads of berries because every time you kiss under the Mistletoe you are suppose to remove a berry!
Happy Kissing! 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Cabbage for tea!


Well it is certenly cold down on the allotment, I was down there this morning harvesting some ‘greens’ for my tea. 
Cabbage,kale,onions,apples and some turnips. Kind of makes it all worth well.
There is a lot of talk about the best way to grow and it what kind of bed.
As readers of this blog know, I am really into Raised Beds. The sight of raised beds topped up with rich soil just crying out for young plants in the spring.
With raised beds beds; once there done they are done. Well that is true, up to a point, there are some rules>
  • Never walk on them. The whole idea is to have soft rich soil to a depth of at least two feet. My beds are just four feet wide so that I can reach over them from either side.  
  • When you beds are empty, it is best to cover them with a plastic sheet and put bricks on them to stop the plastic blowing about in the wind.The reason to cover the beds is to keep the winter rains off them. You need to keep your beds dry because if they are left out to soak up water they will get heavy and “bulge” out at the sides and could well break your boarder boards.
You may wonder why I grow cabbage in the winter: I believe a good gardener has ‘greens’ from the garden all year round. Cabbage do so well ( like leeks ) that I would not be without them.
They are not the ‘boiled to death’ dinner of your school days. There are many interesting thing that you can do with them.
I steam them with carrots, chard, leeks or what ever and pour sauces over them or mix them with bits of chicken/mushrooms/paste.
Cabbage are great source of winter food, not to be with out.
Watch this space for more information about growing and using cabbage.  

                                                                 My raised beds




Saturday, 22 November 2014

November is a time


November is a time in the year when nature seems to change gear: from doing to being, however this does not mean that you stop ‘doing’ things in the garden.

  • Sweep up leaves and put them on the compost
  • Mulch the soil to protect it from the weather
  • Protect you crops that are likely to come to harm from the winter. Use cloches to do this.
  • Clean out your shed and clean and repair your tools.
  • Dig over your empty beds. 
                                                      a home made cloche that is easy to move to where you need it.
                                                         
                                                           make sure that it is tired down against the winter gales.

When I was in the States last winter, I was amazed how cold it got. I then stated to think about all those vines that you might thing are freezing to death. But that is not so, it is the grapes that need the sunshine; not the vine.

So why not make a wire fence to support some vines? Do it now and leave them for a couple of weeks before you put the vines against them; doing this means that you can tighten up your wires without the plants getting in the way.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

What to do in the garden this week.


What to do in the Garden in the Garden this week.


Autumn has truly come to the UK. Now is the time to do quite a lot of important jobs, so that you can get on top of things.

  • Good time to plant fruit trees. Because you will only get one shot at this; make sure the hole your put plant in is well dug with some good manure or compost in the bottom. If your are planting a standard tree, make sure you put the stake in before the tree. If you are planting any sort of currant bush, do remember that they are very hungry feeders.Do choose a site that is sheltered from north easterly winds and do allow at least six feet between each plant.
  • If your plot is a little bit acid or affected with the club root disease; this time of year is a good time to lime. I find that a lime dressing of ten pounds to the square rod will do the trick. The value of lime for sweetening your soil and for liberating potash cannot be over-estimated.
  • It is a mistake to lift  your parsnips for the winter. The will taste much better if you lift them when you need them. With beets and carrots however it is a different mater. If you have not already done so; both these crops should be lifted and stored.. I store mine in a sack and hung them from the roof of my shed, I do this to keep the mice out.
                                                  I find it helps in the garden this time of year: to remember the summer!





   How To Get the Best From Your Herbs 

The use of herbs in our cooking has grown over the last couple of decades. Most top chefs recognize that the importance of good quality fresh herbs in their dishes can make a world of difference to the flavors of the food. So much so, that many top restaurants have their own herb gardens from which to pick and use only the freshest herbs.

Growing your own herbs in the garden or a container is an excellent way to ensure a good supply of fresh herbs or even growing them on the kitchen windowsill. But if you do not wish to grow your own, supermarkets now sell a wide range of pre-cut and potted herbs. Pots of herbs last longer than cut herbs, but need to be cared for just as houseplants do. They will need a sunny windowsill and be picked regularly to keep them growing and from going to seed. Other sources of good quality herbs might be a greengrocers, who often sell a wider range of herbs than supermarkets do. Also farmers' markets, often have more unusual varieties of herb such as angelica, lovage, pennyroyal, and uncommon varieties of thyme, mint and sage. 

To get the best flavors from herbs, storage is very important. Many of us tend to store dried herbs as well as spices to well past their sell by date. This will definitely not enhance the flavors of your dishes to their best. Make sure you renew jars and packets of dried herbs frequently, as they go stale very quickly. While it's handy to keep a few dried herbs in the cupboard, most herbs taste best fresh, and some such as basil or coriander, have a very disappointing flavor when dried. Frozen herbs are a good substitute. These can now be bought from the freezer section in a supermarket or frozen from your own home grown herbs. This can be done by finely chopping herbs and placing them in ice-cube trays, top up with water and place in the freezer. This is handy to keep to put in stews and casseroles.  

To protect the flavors of fresh herbs with cut stalks they should   be wrapped in a plastic bag (left open, not sealed) or in a damp paper towel and kept in the fridge. Bunches of herbs that have longer stalks can be kept like cut flowers in a jug or vase with a little water in the bottom. Do not fill right up as this may rot the delicate leaves. Some hardy herbs, such as curry leaves, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, can be stored whole in the freezer, wrapped in a freezer bag. If using potted herbs bought from the supermarket they are best kept on a sunny windowsill with the soil regularly moistened but not waterlogged as this will rot their roots. 

    
Preparing Herbs

Fresh herbs are usually best prepared by picking the leaves from the stalks, apart from herbs such as bay, (although this is not always necessary), then chopping them as finely as desired with a chefs' knife or two-handled rocking knife (mezzaluna). Herbs such as chives can be cut in bunches into small pieces using kitchen scissors. Some tender herbs - particularly basil, tarragon and mint - bruise easily which can adversely affect the flavor. To avoid bruising and discoloration, do not chop these herbs too finely and make sure you use a sharp knife. They can also be added as whole leaves to dishes, or torn into small pieces with your fingers.

What gives herbs their unique flavor and fragrance is their highly volatile oils which in some cases dissipates quickly after exposure to heat, so to get the best from your herbs it's best to add them to dishes towards the end of cooking, or just before serving. However, some herbs such as sage, bay, rosemary and thyme are best when given time to infuse with the other ingredients in the dish, so should be added at the beginning of cooking dishes such as stews, soups and casseroles. Tender herbs - such as basil, chives, mint, chervil, dill, coriander, parsley, tarragon - can also be used fresh and uncooked to make salad ingredients, toppings and garnishes. In this case they should be picked just before serving. 

Getting the best from your herbs just involves a few simple steps in storing and preparation. Using fresh herbs wherever possible is always best.  




Monday, 10 November 2014

What to do in the Garden this week.



Now that the weather has turned more seasonal,
  • I am cleaning my  Asparagus beds by cutting them back and topping the bed up with some home made compost.
  • Also I am cutting back and harvesting my Jerusalem Artichokes. Do not dig more then you need for they, unlike potatoes, store well. I use mine as a base for vegetable soups
  • Check and weed you cabbage beds. I am finding that slugs like to ‘winter’ among the plants.


Ten Ways To Use Herbs 

Herbs have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties and some are highly prized for this such as Garlic and Basil. However, today we use herbs more on a day to day basis to enhance the flavors of our food or as ingredients in essential oils and perfumes. Here are ten of the most popular ways to use herbs.

Herb Oil

Herbs steeped in oil can be used for salad dressings, marinades, stir frying etc. This can give a huge boost to the flavors of your dish. Olive oil is best used for this but sunflower oil can be used. Add one or more of your favorite herbs to the oil and leave to steep for about a month. Strain the oil then bottle it. Basil is well suited to this and is a favorite ingredient in Italian cooking. Rosemary, fennel and garlic  also make excellent herb oils. 

Bouquet Garni

This is a little parcel of herbs made up to put in stock, stews or casseroles and should be removed before serving the dish. To make, gather a bunch of several sprigs of parsley, thyme and bay leaf and tie with fine thread or string. Other herbs can be added to your preference. Place in with the other ingredients and remove at the end of cooking time. If using dried herbs, these need to be placed in a muslin bag and tied. 

Grow your own herbs



Herb Butter

This is a good way to add flavor to your food at anytime as it can be made and stored in the fridge to use when wanted. Herb butter is simply butter in which finely chopped herbs have been mixed. For this herbs with strong flavors should be used such as garlic, chives, rosemary, thyme or sage. Parsley although a mild herb, makes an excellent herb butter to accompany a fish dish. Mix about a tablespoon of herbs to about 4oz of softened butter, beat until they are evenly mixed. This can then be put into a mould or shaped into a roll between greaseproof paper. It should then be put into the refrigerator until firm. It can then be either sliced from the roll or served straight from the mould. A variation of this would be to use cream cheese instead of butter. This makes an excellent spread for sandwiches. 

Herb sachets

Herb sachets can make wonderful presents to put into drawers and cupboards to make clothes smell fresh and clean. One of the most commonly used herb sachets is a Lavender sachet. Lavender is well known for it's relaxing and sleep inducing properties. One tucked under the pillow at night it will aid sleep. 

Herbal Teas

There are many well known commercial brands of herbal teas on the market such as chamomile which is commonly used for relaxation. But it is very simple to make your own herbal tea. A drink made by steeping the leaves of herbs as well as the flowers or fruits in hot water is known as a tisane. Mint and Chamomile are the top two favorite herbs for this. To make use fresh or frozen herbs rather than dried and pour boiling water over the leaves and allow to stand for 5-15 minutes. For most herbal drinks 3 teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs to one cup of water is sufficient. 

Herb Vinegar

As like herb oil this is very simple to make but can make all the difference to the flavor of your cooking. One or more herbs can be used at a time. First slightly crush your herbs and place in a jar. Pour over 500ml of tepid white wine vinegar. Cover tightly and place in a warm place for 2-3 weeks giving it the occasional shake. Strain the vinegar and then bottle. Include a sprig or sprigs of your chosen herb. Suitable herbs for herb vinegar include: dill, rosemary, bay, basil, mint and time. 

Pesto

This has to be one of the most common uses of Basil in cooking. It is very versatile and easy to make.  Pesto is an Italian sauce which is used with steak, poultry, pizza and most importantly with pasta. It is a blend of Basil and Garlic with parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil all blended together. It can be used on it's own drizzled over dishes such as mozzarella and Parma ham, for dipping bread or used as an ingredient in pasta dishes etc. 

Pot-Pourri

This is a mixture of dried flowers, leaves or herbs that remain fragrant for a long period of time and used as a room fragrance. Often flower petals such as rose are used because of their wonderful scent. However many herbs can be used to make your own pot-pourri such as Lavender which is a very popular herb to have as a room fragrance. If using fresh Lavender, it can be dried first in a warm place such as an airing cupboard for a week or two. It can then be placed in a bowl to release it's scent.

Amazone's top selling Herb Book. Take a look here.



Salad Flowers

Flowers from herbs can be used to both decorate and add flavor to salads and other cold dishes. These included the purple flowers from chives, the attractive orange nasturtium flowers, basil, thyme and pot marigold. 

Fines Herbs

This is a mixture of very finely chopped herbs with a delicate flavor. Three or more herbs are required for this mixture such as; parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon. This mixture is used fresh or dried and is mainly used as an ingredient to egg dishes.

As can be seen herbs are incredibly versatile and provide a vital ingredient to cooking as well as household uses. 






Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sit in the sun


Sit in the Sun:

The other day I picked my first broccoli and went home and had it for tea. It was absolutely wonderful. I thought to myself’ how did I grow this, it taste so good’

However I came to the  understanding  that we do not grow anything.
Growing does not have to be difficult ( unless, you want it to be ).

Put the plant in, feed/water/keep weed and pest free and then
harvest.
So many books have been written about it, but why; it is very simple.
Growing something, teaches us the wisdom of ripening in our lives, if you will let it.  

How does an apple ripen: it just sits in the sun and that is just what we should do. We strive, but to what end!

In the northern hemisphere the days are growing shorter—we have fewer and fewer hours of daylight. We may have to seek out the sun’s rays more intentionally. In moderation, sunlight strengthens the immune system, enhances emotional health, and synchronizes biorhythms.  Make like a plant: Find some time where you can simply bask in sunshine, exposing your skin and soul to the light freely given, only waiting to be received.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

In the garden this week, at a glance.


In the garden this week, at a glance.

  • If you are growing Celery in your garden, then now is a good time to give them a further earthing up. Also, if you have Celeriac in the ground then now is time to ‘lift’ them and store the roots in old ashes or sand for the winter.Make sure that they are in a frost free store.
  • Transplanting of fruit trees can be done now. Lift the tree carefully, and if any roots are damaged, cut them back to the damaged portion prior to replanting, otherwise thee is a dangour of canker.
  • I am still sowing lambs lettuce and spinach. I do this in pots so that if there is a really hard winter, I can easily put them in my glasshouse out of the weather.  


A herb garden in New York; summer 2014 

 How to Grow Herbs In Containers 

  • The great thing about growing herbs in containers is that anybody can do it and you do not even have to have a garden to have all the herbs that you will every need. Some herbs, like mint for instance are better off in pots, because it will stop them taking over your garden.  
  • So long as the conditions are right for the herb; you can grow what your like. After all a what could be better then a collection of your favorite herbs right there in your kitchen. A great assent. There is no real downside to this assembly of herbs, any that die off in the winter can be harvested in the autumn and stored for use in the winter.
  • You sow your own plants or buy ready rooted and potted up plants from your local garden center or super market.
  • Some herbs need to be grown outside after being stated off inside. French tarragon and coriander are two such plants. Grow them in pots out side however make sure you protect from frost.
  • Mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage can live out doors all year round, that being so because they are fairly hardy. 
  • Do not be tempted to rush out and buy your herbs at the first sign of spring. Wait till the weather warms up first. The reason is that planted herbs do not like cold wet potting compost and can be very vulnerable to root damage.
  • The best way to start is to make a list of the herbs that your are going to use. You will be surprised at the number of people that grow what they do not or can not use.

Choosing a Container

  • Once you know what herbs you are going to grow the next thing is to find out how much space each herb will need to thrive. Rosemary is a fairly large bush whilst thyme is a low little plant that creeps along the ground.
  • You should choose a container that is going to give your herb a good home.
  • Long tall pots for herbs that required depth while others will managed very well in small little pot.
  • If you go for glazed pots be aware that you could loose them with the first frost. 
  • A large wooded planter, like a half beer barrel could hold a mixture of herbs 


Planting Your Container

Once you have chosen your containers you can now pot them out. 
  • You will need some gritty, well-drained compost, adding up to 25 percent by volume of coarse grit or perlite to a loam based compost.
  • The compost should be kept moist, but never let it become soggy.
  • Use a balanced fertilizer to encourage leafy growth, rather than potassium-rich fertilizer that might promote flowering. 
  • The herbs can be replanted frequently, using generous pieces of root, into rich potting media, taking care to avoid over potting by putting your cuttings in too bigger container. 
  • The best way to judge if your herbs need re-potting is if they look straggly, lift roots and repot into fresh compost. 
  • Larger perennials such as rosemary and sage can be left in the same containers for several years before they need repotting.



Over wintering herbs in a container
  • Some herbs die back in winter, such as French tarragon and mint. 
  • These and most herbs will look after themselves if placed where they cannot become frozen, saturated by rain or allowed to become too dry. 
  • To protect more tender herbs in winter they are best placed against a sheltered wall away from wind and rain or in a cold frame or even in an open fronted shed.
  • A protective sheet of glass, plastic or plywood will keep off heavy rain and protect from frost.
  • To avoid your container becoming waterlogged, stand it on pot feet or stand containers on bricks.
  • If very cold weather is forecast, protect containers from freezing by wrapping in bubble polythene or garden fleece.
  • Basil is one of the herbs that will not survive outside in the winter and can only be grown if brought indoors into a warm, bright frost-free greenhouse, conservatory or a sunny windowsill.



Growing your own herbs is very simple and satisfying to do. If you select your herbs carefully you can be sure of fresh or dried herbs for much of the year.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Garden at a glance.


The Garden at a glance.
  •   This is a very important time of the year, just befor the onslaught of winter. If your want to have a bug free garden; do not give the bugs places to ‘winter over’. Clean out your old crops and put the trash on the compost heap. Tidy up your beds and dig them over. A clean and tidy garden can like just as nice as a croped one.
  • Tie up your fruit vines. Things like longenbieeres and taybeerries.
  • Wash your glasshouse and pots before you store them. Make sure that nothing is loose and can be blowed around in any winter gale. It does not tke much to brake a pane of glass from your glasshouse.

A winter garden: all nice and clear of growth. No place for bug to hide.

  • Garlic (Allium Sativum) is not only one of the oldest herbs but one of the most valued plants. It has been used extensively not only in cooking but it has been prized for at least 5000 years for it's medicinal, healing properties. In fact in ancient civilisation the strong potent qualities of garlic were thought to have supernatural powers. 
  • One of the main characteristics of Garlic is it's strong odour. Allicin gives the characteristic smell. This is largely due to sulphur containing compounds which also accounts for many of it's medicinal properties. These compounds are excreted through the skin and lungs, eating fresh parsley is often recommended to eliminate this odour from the breath after consuming Garlic. If new to using Garlic it is best to use it sparingly to start with.

  • Garlic has long been known to reduce blood cholesterol levels and that possibly the plant can reduce the risk of further heart attacks in cardiac patients. It is also a stimulant for the immune system and used as an a powerful antibiotic. 

Medicinal Uses of Garlic


Before modern medicines and antibiotics Garlic was commonly used to treat wounds and is still widely used to treat antibiotic- resistant infections. 

Today Garlic is commonly used in the treatment of infections, such as: chest problems, digestive disorders as well as fungal infections like athlete's foot. As already mentioned it is widely believed to be a good long-term remedy for cardiovascular problems, helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk of thromboses. 

Garlic can also help to dilate peripheral blood vessels resulting in the lowering of blood pressure. It can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, therefore being helpful with those suffering with late onset diabetes. If used topically, the cloves can be used to treat acne and other skin infections. 

Extracts from Garlic are also often used in remedies to prevent colds, flu, catarrh and bronchitis and to reduce nasal congestion. For medicinal purposes, Garlic is always best used fresh.


How To Use

For treatment of acne, warts or verrucas, rub fresh garlic cloves directly onto the affected area. It can also be mashed to make it easier to apply. 

To reduce high cholesterol, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels and improve the cardiovascular system, the cloves should be added to the diet on a regular basis. 

For intestinal parasites, steep 3-4 cloves in water or milk overnight and drink the next day.

If the idea of using fresh Garlic does not appeal to you because of the odour, commercially bought Garlic pearls can be taken. However, the less odour they contain, the less effective they are. 

A word of warning, Garlic is very heating and can irritate the stomach. While safe to use in cooking, do not take Garlic for therapeutic reasons during pregnancy or while breast feeding as it can cause digestive problems such as heart burn. 


How To Grow Your Own Garlic

Garlic is extremely easy to grow and produces numerous bulbs that can transform your cooking as well as be used for medicinal purposes. To successfully grow your own Garlic a warm sunny location is needed to ripen the bulbs. The bulbs need to be grown in rich water-retentive soil, but with good drainage. It can be planted any time from mid-Autumn to late winter, but to get the best yields, planting before Christmas is recommended. 

Buy a head of Garlic from your local store and split it up into individual cloves. Just before planting, thoroughly rake the top of the soil and add a general fertilizer. Plant them directly into the soil 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart using a trowel or dibber to plant each one with the pointed end upper-most. The tips of the cloves should be hidden just below the surface. Firm the cloves in gently. 

As Garlic is shallow rooting it cannot compete with other plants such as weeds, so the ground around them should be regularly weeded. An occasional watering during dry spells will improve the yield of your Garlic crop. However, do not water once the bulbs are large and well formed as this could cause them to rot. 

The earliest varieties are ready from late spring to early summer. You can tell they are ready to harvest when the stems begin to yellow and bend over. Loosen the bulbs from the soil with a fork and spread them out in the sun to dry. They should be stored in a net bag in a cool dry shed. 



Apart from Garlic's  culinary enhancing flavour, it has many medicinal uses and has recently been the study for it's anti-cancer properties. A diet rich in Garlic appears to lower the incidence of stomach, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers. Perhaps the 'old wives tales' about the supernatural powers of Garlic were not so far fetched as people once thought after all.  







Sunday, 19 October 2014

Garden notes for this week and Cooking with herbs.


  • It is time now to take care of your large flowering Chrysanthemums. Take them into the greenhouse. Remember is is important to avoid cold draughts. On of the dangers of this time of time of year is the foliage could be affected with mildew. Just watch for it and deal with it by using  fresh cow’s milk diluted with water to a 10% solution. Just spray it on.  
  • In the garden you must always think; where do you want to be in ten weeks time. So if you want flowers in the spring, then plant bulbs now it is not too late.
If you have grown too many cauliflowers and they are maturing faster then you can eat them, you can retarded them to some extent by lightly turning some of the inner leaves over the curds. Also, you find that the cauliflowers will keep for several days if pulled up and hung head downwards in a shed 



  • Cooking With Herbs 

Herbs are an essential ingredient in cooking to add flavor as well as a garnish. Many top chefs recognize the importance of fresh herbs in their dishes to the extent of having their own herb gardens from which they can grow and pick only the freshest and best herbs for their cooking. Every country has it's favorite herb that is used extensively in their cooking and often becomes synonymous with that style and flavors of that country. For example Basil is recognized for Italian dishes while Coriander is often used in Indian dishes. Here are a few examples of how cooking with herbs can give dishes their unique flavors.
Basil
Basil is a versatile and widely used aromatic herb.  There are many varieties of basil; some have scents reminiscent of pineapple, lemon, cinnamon or cloves.  In Mediterranean regions, basil and tomato is a classic combination. However, one of the most popular uses of Basil is for making the classic Pesto sauce. This can be used on pasta dishes, fish or meat, pizza etc. It is an extremely versatile and easy to make sauce.
Recipe For Pesto. 
125g pine nuts
125g parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks
1 large bunch of fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
200ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
Method
1. First toast the pine nuts by placing them in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until just browned.
2. Put the cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and basil in a food processor and blend until all the ingredients come together in a smooth mixture. This should only take a few seconds.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Your pesto can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to a week if not using straight away. Pesto can also be frozen for longer life by placing it in ice-cube trays and freeze. 
Mint Sauce
Mint sauce is a thin savory sauce made from chopped mint, vinegar and sugar. It is traditionally served in England as an accompaniment to roast lamb. 
Ingredients:
25g/1oz fresh mint, chopped
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method
This sauce could not be any easier, but makes all the difference to a lamb dish.1.Place all the ingredients in a bowl together and leave to steep for 30 minutes to allow the mint flavor to develop. 
For a finer sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender for a few seconds.
Parsley
Parsley is a multi-purpose herb that no kitchen should be without. As it is so versatile it can be used not only as a garnish but for flavoring food and as a vegetable. There are two main varieties of parsley: curly leaf and flat leaf. Both can be used for the same purposes although flat leaf parsley has a slightly stronger flavor and tends to be favored more in Mediterranean cooking. One of the great easy dishes that uses parsley is  Tabbouleh. This makes a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes or as a stand alone salad.
Tabbouleh
Ingredients:
25g/1oz bulgar wheat or packet of couscous
2 large, ripe vine tomatoes
large bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, leaves only, washed, dried, finely chopped 
small bunch fresh mint leaves, washed, dried, finely chopped
1 small red onion, peeled, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes

Method:
1.Place the bulgar wheat or couscous into a mixing bowl and either follow the packet instructions or cover with 50ml/2fl oz of boiling water. Stir, then set aside covered in cling film for 20 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water. You can always add a little more water if it is too dry. 
2. Skin the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain, peel and discard the seeds. Cut into quarters and place in a serving bowl.
3. Add the mint, onion and parsley to the tomatoes and mix well until combined. 
4..When the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, remove cling film and  fluff it up with a fork until the grains are separated. Add the bulgar wheat to the tomato mixture.
5..Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and add the salt flakes to taste. Coat all the ingredients well in the liquid. 
This is delicious served with hot crusty bread or flatbread.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

This week in your garden.


Semi-tender plants, Azalea, being a good example; should now be brought inside into the green house. However, first of all, give the structure a good clean and make sure to wash the pots before you use them. I use jeyes fluid for this.

Violets intended for flowering in cold frames during the winter months can now be lifted and replanted in the frame. Try and keep them as close to the glass as possible. Do not forget to water the plants in.

Other tender bedding plants that should also be lifted this week are Begonias, Heliotropes,Fuchsias etc


I know it has been very mild of late, at least here in the UK. However, you never know when the weather will turn.




Basil 

Basil is a very popular herb used in cooking, mainly associated with Mediterranean cuisine. However, Basil is also widely used for medicinal purposes, much used in Far Eastern medicine especially in the Ayurvedic tradition, where it is also known as tulsi.The name of the herb "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king" or "royal", reflecting that this herb was regarded extremely highly. In Italy, basil was symbolic for love and was sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps explaining it's wide use today in Italian dishes. However, it originated from India and was introduced into Europe in ancient times.

For medicinal purposes, it is widely used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, flu and emphysema. Basil is an expectorant, making it good for treating upper respiratory symptoms.  It has also been used as an antidote to poisonous insect or snake bites as well as being used in the fight against epidemics and fever, such as malaria. Basil improves blood circulation and the digestive system. It is considered a 'cooling' herb with anti-inflammatory properties and is used to relieve symptoms of rheumatic pain, irritable skin conditions and soothe the nerves. It is good for rubbing the leaves on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation. They can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. This can be done by pouring boiling water on to the leaves and inhale the steam.

Like most other mints, Basil is often recommended for digestive complaints. When drunk as a tea after a meal it can enhance digestion and dispel gas. To prepare the tea, pour 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water over about 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Basil leaves  and steep for 5 minutes. Strain and drink. Honey can be added if a sweeter taste is required.
A basil infusion (tea) is recommended for treating vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation. As it has slight sedative properties, it can be useful for headaches and anxiety especially in combination with other sedating herbs like chamomile and catnip.

As an excellent natural insect repellent, sprigs of basil burned on the barbecue will repel mosquitoes and a pot of basil in a windowsill will discourage flies.

There are many varieties of basil, each with their own distinct flavor such as Lemon or Clove Basil which are used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Although Basil is native to India and Persia it is also commercially cultivated in the Mediterranean. Basil is a member of the mint family and is very similar in appearance. The most popular type of basil that is used in cooking is sweet basil.

Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Along with its medicinal value, basil is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  As it can be consumed in fairly large quantities compared to some herbs, it makes it a very beneficial health food. 

Basil is easily available from your local supermarket, fresh, dried or even frozen. Fresh basil sold already cut, will keep for a few days if refrigerated and wrapped in a damp paper towel. Living pots of Basil that you can keep on your windowsill are an even better way to supply your needs of fresh Basil. These will keep going for weeks even months if cared for properly and work out very inexpensive compared to regularly buying ready cut Basil. As with most herbs fresh basil is much more aromatic and flavorsome than dried basil and gives a completely different taste to your dishes. Always try to use fresh basil where possible. There is no better Basil then the one that you grow yourself, even if it is only on a window ledge. You can still get away with sowing it now in a glasshouse.


Basil is an exceedingly versatile herb that may be used in an abundant variety of foodsI love it. It is especially excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash. It is great in soups but don't add it until the last few minutes of cooking as it will destroy the flavor. It can also be used in cream cheese for sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of your pizza or sprinkle torn basil over a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add to stir-fried vegetables. Use in a marinade with garlic and olive oil. 
Add fresh leaves of basil to your salad. 


Basil is delicious, nutritious and an effective natural treatment for many common ailments. It should therefore be an essential feature  for your outdoor or indoor organic herb garden.