My Garden Journal

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When I first started gardening, it was chaos. I always seemed to forget when I sowed seeds or planted out seedlings, which meant inevitably I missed a crucial element in getting the best from my crops.

So, I finally realised it was a good idea to keep notes. I keep notes about everything, to-do lists, not-to-do lists, birthdays to remember etc; so why hadn’t I thought of it with the gardening adventure? Who knows. But of course I do have a theory 🙂

When you go out into nature, whether it’s on your balcony, patio, back garden or for a woodland walk, it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment. I often wander into the garden at random moments – usually to avoid the washing up glaring at me in the kitchen – and while I’m out there, I may decide a plant needs re-potting or the fish need feeding or maybe just a few weeds need evicting. Or it might be just one of those ‘breathe the air and admire the flowers’ times.

But whatever lures you outside, it often has a feeling of freedom about it. Then, why would you think about clipboards, pens and journals?

Oh well, now’s the time to really get into the garden. Even if you haven’t got a garden, you could grow a few herbs on the windowsill to add some cordon bleu designs to your everyday dinners!

But if you have got a garden and are planning to do anything at all this year, I would suggest keeping some notes. I put together this handy pdf printable this week. And it’s going to help you get the most from your garden.

Every month has some gardening job suggestions for temperate climate dwellers. Adjust to your region and weather conditions as you need to. Gardening has to be a flexible hobby simply because we can’t control the weather! There are also a few handy gardening tips and resources you may find helpful.

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My Garden Journal

Because it’s a pdf it’s easy to download and print should you so wish. Available from Payhip and Etsy 

Otherwise, I hope you get lots of outside time this year and wishing you bumper crops and delicious nutrition for all your family and friends.

 

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

 

 

Saffron

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Saffron, at the time of writing, is probably the most expensive spice known to mankind. It takes around 150,000 flowers and hundreds of hours of labour to produce a couple of pounds of saffron threads.

Only a small amount is used at a time so this is a good reason to grow some yourself. Saffron spice comes from the stigmas or fronds of the flower Crocus Sativus and is believed to have originated in India. In recent years it has spread over many regions and is cultivated in Europe as well as Middle Eastern countries.

Saffron has been one of the most revered herbs for thousands of years and was cultivated for use as early as the 11th century.

Although saffron is a hardy plant and will survive in many cooler climates, it may not flower in poor summers. A greenhouse or bright conservatory may be a better spot if you are in a region where summer sunshine isn’t very reliable.

Plants are propagated by corms, whch resemble bulbs and in ideal conditions, will multiply every year. They can be left in the ground for three or four years, sometimes longer before they need to be dug up and separated.

They like a rich soil and should be planted around mid-summer to flower the following year. Sometimes larger corms planted earlier in the summer will flower in the same year as planting but generally, a year should be allowed before they flower. Patience is needed here!

Buy corms from a reputable supplier and be sure to get the right variety. Only Crocus Sativus produces saffron. All other crocus varieties are inedible.

Harvesting Saffron

Whole flowers can be collected just before opening and the stigmas removed afterwards. Or, if the sun has been kind and the flowers are blooming, collect the stigmas directly from the flowers while still on the plants. This is quite fiddly and will stain your fingers temporarily. Perhaps a pair of tweezers may be easier for you.

Pull the stigmas from the centre of the flowers. Lay the threads carefully on a tray and dry very slowly in a cool oven – or the sun if possible – until completely dry. Store in an airtight jar out of direct light.

Because the plants will multiply every year (in ideal conditions), you could have your own ‘free’ supply of saffron forever more! A jar of organic saffron threads would make a lovely gift for a foodie friend.

NB: As I mentioned above, make sure you buy the right variety – Crocus Sativus – of corms and from a good supplier.

Text taken from the new updated Herbs & Spices book where you can find out more about growing saffron and lots of other herbs and spices.

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Herbs and Spices

It’s available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Walmart and other places! Order it online in case your local bookstore is out of copies. Links are all on the Herbs and Healing page.

 

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

 

 

 

10 Easy Steps to Happy Gardening

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Preparation is the best way to get the most out of your garden.

1. Decide what you want to grow – fruit, veggies, herbs, flowers

Choose the foods you like to eat. No point in growing lines of healthy parsnips if no-one in the house will eat them. It’s always a good idea to include a few herbs in your gardening pursuits – many everyday herbs can be grown in pots on a windowsill, so no digging! Or maybe a flower garden is what you had in mind?

2. Sketch a rough plan (this includes container growing, you need somewhere to put them)

Think about this a little. If you’re looking at an outside space that you want to turn into a practical and serene environment, it’s a good idea to take a moment to watch what happens in the garden. For example, where does the sun shine most? Are there any cold draughts? What’s already growing? Does it need cutting back to allow more light?

Then make your plans. Roughly sketch out where you want to grow your plants. If you’re growing in containers, this still needs doing. If you find yourself with a hundred tomato plants, have you got room for all those pots, and is it practical to have that many pots?

3. Choose the different varieties you’d like to grow (cherries, beans, oregano, roses)

Here is where you may have to be a little practical. Growing full sized fruit trees in your back garden, for example, isn’t always possible, and even if you do have the space, the tree will overshadow a large area where you may not be able to grow other crops.

However, there are dwarf varieties of virtually everything nowadays and you will be able to find a tree that will fan out over a fence, stay fairly small and be easy to maintain. But if you do have the space, this collection from Thompson & Morgan (UK) is mouth-wateringly fabulous!

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Fruit Tree Orchard Collection (UK)

It’s always a good idea to grow a few herbs, but which ones? Basil is usually an annual plant and will need sowing every year, but other herbs such as sage, will last for many years before the plant needs replacing.

Do you love roses? Check your soil ph and read up a little if you want to take rose growing seriously – it is a specialist subject but you don’t have to be a specialist to enjoy beautiful roses in your garden.

4. Track down suppliers. You may want to grow heirloom varieties, or exotic fruits

If you decide to grow Heirloom varieties, get involved with a seed heritage group or association. Do a little research online before you decide, because there may be legal restrictions on international distribution of seeds to your region.

5. Make sure you know what’s involved. You may not have time to spray beans every day.

Run through what is actually involved with maintaining your garden. There’s nothing worse than doing all the beginning bit and then not having time to see it through. Don’t over-do it! Grow what you will have time for. Runner beans need their flowers spraying twice a day in dry weather, or they won’t produce beans. Could you find the time to do that? This is a little extreme.

Many plants just need watering and weeding if necessary, from time to time. But they will need regular attention, so if you’re going away for more than a couple of days, you’ll need to get someone to care for your plants.

6. Tools and supplies – what do you need? what can you recycle?

What you plan to do dictates what tools you’ll need. To start off a regular veggie patch, you’ll need a spade, fork, rake and hoe if possible. Make sure tools are easy to handle before you buy. They need to be the right height and weight for you to use comfortably.
You’ll also need a trowel, a watering can and it’s a good idea to have some gardening gloves. If you pinch out tomato plants without gloves, your fingers will look like you smoke a gazillion cigarettes every day.. not nice.

Not everything has to be bought. Recycle as much as you can. Making your own pots to start seeds in is pretty easy. Cardboard tubes from toilet rolls or kitchen towel rolls work well. Cut them in half and put them in a tray. The seedlings only need their pots for a short while before re-potting or planting out so it doesn’t matter if they get wet.

7. Get an idea of the cost (fruit trees, for example, can be quite expensive)

It’s definitely worth doing a few calculations before you head off to the garden centre. Check out approximate costs on Amazon or other online supplier in your area. Some supplies may be best bought online – heirloom seeds for example aren’t always available in a garden centre.

8. Go shopping! Collect all your supplies together

Don’t go crazy. Stick to your list… you did make one didn’t you? The garden centre is like a giant sweet shop for grown-ups… well, it is to me! I could buy one of everything, especially all the poorly looking plants that they reduce in price. I always want to take them home and nurture them back to health. It has been said I should get a cat, but there you go!

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9. Sort out a gardening journal, an exercise book will do.

Keep a note of what seeds you sow and when, and when you put seedlings out in the garden. This will help you work out planting times and schedule garden appointments! Keeping notes will also help you establish your garden next year; you’ll be able to see at a glance what works and what doesn’t.

There’s a handy printable with lots of monthly garden tips here – My Garden Journal

10. Prepare to enjoy this experience. Treat it as a healthy hobby, not a chore.

Gardening is one of the most practical, creative and healthiest hobbies you can take on. It should be always enjoyed and never treated as a chore. Washing dishes is a chore, potting out your tomatoes is a labour of love!

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

P.S. There are pots more gardening tips on my new garden website here … Garden Ideas

Growing Echinacea

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Growing echinacea ( purple coneflowers ) in your garden could help fight those stubborn colds, and a whole host of other things. There’s still tons of research and heaps of trials to be done before the final results, but so far echinacea is living up to it’s fame.

Echinacea is indigenous to mid-western America and native Americans have used the root in herbal preparations for many years. The constituents of echinacea have cleansing and antiseptic properties and the plant is used to treat many medical conditions.

NB: Don’t take home-made herbal preparations unless you are 110% sure you have it right!

Where to plant:
Echinacea likes a sunny spot and is drought-tolerant, so if you forget to water, it’ll probably be okay! Plants will survive in fairly poor soil as long as it’s well-drained. It grows naturally on the prairies of the mid west of America so if you could replicate those conditions, the plant should thrive. Hot and sunny – not much rain.

If you live in the UK – or any other high rainfall region – it may be better to try growing echinacea in a greenhouse or other protected area.

Seeds or plants?
Transporting ready grown plants and re-planting them isn’t always the best way to growing echinacea. They may survive but ideally you should start your own echinacea plants from seed…

Buy the seed from a reputable seed company.. Thompson and Morgan have a few varieties..

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This Hardy Perennial is fabulous!
Echinacea purpurea ‘Pink Parasol (UK)

or check your local seed supplier.

 

 

Once you have your seeds, read the instructions on the packet for the finer details – when best to plant in your region, how much space you need to allow for your particular variety, etc;

Sow the seed in warm seed compost, in well-drained pots and keep soil damp until the seeds start to germinate. Water less after that but keep a close eye on your seedlings as they are vulnerable at this stage. Echinacea seeds take ages to germinate – sometimes as long as six weeks.

The plants do well in sandy soils and raised bed systems. The seeds can be started off inside a few weeks before the last frost. Sow in bio-degradable pots so you can plant out later without disturbing the roots too much. Making your own pots is a great thing to do to help your plants, and the planet!

After Care & Uses.
Keep weed-free as much as possible. When hoeing take care not to damage the roots.

Traditionally the roots have always been used in medicinal treatments, but there is strong evidence the flowers have just as much healing power as the roots. Go with the natural flow and use the flowers when they bloom and the roots when the flowers have finished.

The root should be collected for use in the third of fourth year of growth and after the flower has died right back in the autumn. Roots should be dried using a home food dryer or in a slow oven.

A combination of echinacea root and garlic can help boost the immune system and protect against colds, flu and all sorts of ailments.

The dried root and herb can be taken as a tisane ( 1-2 grams per tisane taken approx. 3 times a day. )

Echinacea is also used in ointments to treat skin problems such as eczema and boils.

Care should be taken when applying echinacea ointments, or taking it internally, by anyone with allergy problems. If you are allergic to other flowers in the daisy family, it’s possible you will have an allergic reaction to echinacea.

The flowers are bright and cheerful and work well in borders. They also make a great cut flower to brighten up the house.

Historically, echinacea was used over 400 years ago, that we know of, as a cure-all. Today, scientists are doing numerous tests with the herb in various forms to see if it really does live up to its reputation. The verdict so far seems good!

Growing echinacea in your garden gives you daily access to this wonderful herb.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner and any self-medication should be okayed with your GP first.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Growing Gourds

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Novelty Gardening. Growing gourds is a fun project from start to finish!

Ask around to see if anyone’s been saving their seeds. Often when we save seeds, we land up with hundreds so you may find someone willing to share their supply….

I found these fabulous swan gourds at Thompson & Morgan (UK) – they have others, including a Russian doll variety! Please note these are novelty and decorative plants and are NOT edible.

If you already have a supply of gourds, dry a few and keep until next spring in a dark dry place. Then cut open the gourds and carefully remove the seeds. Sow the seed in seed compost about 1 inch (2-3cm) deep. Water well and keep warm.

Keep soil moist but not waterlogged. Make sure the pots are well drained. The young roots won’t be happy with their feet in water.

Growing gourds – Planting Out:

When the plants have 4 true leaves ( not counting the first two leaves ) they will be ready to plant out in the garden. Don’t plant out if there is any possibility of a frost. Keep your plants well watered and protected from the cold, and plant out when the weather is warmer. Choose a sunny position.

Soil should be dug and all weeds removed. Add well rotted compost or manure and dig well into the prepared patch. Using a trowel, dig holes for your plants, leaving the right amount of space between them.

Check on your seed packets for measurements, but generally about half to one metre apart will be okay. ( Growing gourds in your garden can take up a considerable amount of space ) If you are using disposable pots, plant the whole thing in the prepared soil.

Otherwise, soak the pot and carefully remove the plants one at a time. Handle the plant as little as possible, and quickly place in your prepared hole. Fill hole in with freshly dug soil and firm down with your hands. Water well. Then repeat with the others. Try not to let the light get to the roots of your plants too much.

**Use a cloche to protect the young plants if you need to.
**Watch for slugs….and remove!
**Keep soil moist but not waterlogged.

Other than that, the gourds should be getting on with growing themselves. When the fruits start appearing, make sure they are not in contact with wet soil. Smooth stones can be placed under the gourds as they get bigger if necessary.

Tip: When watering the larger plants, direct the water at the roots and not all over the patch. This will keep the soil dry in places for your gourds to develop. Also by watering in this way, you will discourage weeds between the plants.

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Russian Doll Gourds (NOT edible)

 

 

Growing gourds – Harvesting:

When gourds are the right size ( check the seed packet ), cut stalk carefully, and dry in the sun for a day.  Some smaller gourds can be picked by twisting the stalk slightly. If it breaks easily, the fruit has stopped growing and is ready to harvest.

Keep picking the gourds as they are ready and the others will gain more energy from the plant. Leave the last growing gourds on the plants until the foliage has completely died back or the weather gets too atrocious to support any more growth!

Growing gourds in your garden can really be a whole family project.:-) Make containers and bird houses, bowls and musical instruments from these magnificent plants! Keep a few for the seeds – to plant next year!

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Growing Hazelnuts

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Growing nuts in your garden provides the family with good fats and loads of nourishing vitamins and minerals.

However, it isn’t always wise to grow huge trees near the house so a solution is at hand! Nature usually provides for our needs and hazels are perfect for an average sized garden.

Positioning:

Apart from considering the size of your trees, all deciduous plants will drop leaves in the autumn, and, although very pretty for a few days, after a couple of rainfalls, the leaves get slippery underfoot and not particularly nice to look at. Avoid growing nuts too near paths, unless you don’t mind the raking.

Generally, you should choose a sunny position, but check on the recommended growing instructions when you buy your tree. Your local garden centre should have a few varieties. If you’re in the UK, you might like the varieties at Thompson and Morgan online.

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This one is a Kentish Cob Hazelnut

Growing hazelnuts – Planting:

Buy your trees from a reputable garden centre or nursery and make sure they come with growing recommendations when you buy. Or go for the recommended online suppliers above. Different varieties have different growing needs. Are your trees going to grow huge? Can you buy dwarf varieties?

You could be growing nuts in a hedgerow! Hazels can be grown as a hedgerow and take up much less space than a large tree. Larger trees tend to spread their roots far and wide and can pull the moisture and nourishment from a large expanse of growing ground.

I’ve started many hazel trees from cuttings. Cuttings should be at least 24 inches (60cm.) in length. Push them into the ground, cut end down, in the autumn. Plant as many as you can, leaving about 12 inches (30cm) between them. The following spring, some will produce leaf and some won’t. At the end of the summer, discard those that haven’t shown any sign of growth. In the autumn carefully transplant the others to where you want them.

Prepare the ground well, whether you are planting trees from a nursery, or your own plants you have started from cuttings. Dig in plenty of well-rotted compost, and gently tease the roots out into a fairly deeply dug hole. Hold the tree in place while you fill in the earth around it. Firm down with your heel. If you need to stake your tree do it while planting, to avoid the risk of damaging the roots later. Water well after planting.

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Growing Hazelnuts – Caring for your trees:

As long as they get plenty of water in the first few years of growth, trees tend to look after themselves. Don’t water during the wet or cold months, while the tree is resting, or the roots may get waterlogged.

After three or four years, hazel trees usually start producing nuts, although most trees will take up to ten years to produce a good crop. (Growing nuts does need a little patience!) If you have squirrels in the neighbourhood, you will need to protect your trees. They take the nuts before they are ripe. It’s good to leave one or two trees to encourage them, but net the rest. Honestly squirrels are clever and adorable creatures, but if you are growing nuts to eat yourself, precautions have to be taken!

Prune back every autumn/winter, and always check for any signs of disease.

Storing Hazelnuts:

After harvesting, check over all the nuts for signs of damage, mould or little holes that may indicate a bug is inside. Try putting them in a bowl of water – any nuts with holes in should rise to the top. Dry well before storing.

As long as they are sound they will keep well for months, in some conditions up to a year. Keep in a dark place, free from damp, but not too dry. In a very warm dry environment the nut inside the shell will shrivel.

Store in net bags or in wooden trays. Don’t keep too many in one place, in case you missed a baddie when you were checking them.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Garden Speaks

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Gardening Proverbs, quotes and sayings

Many gardening proverbs, quotes and sayings relate to everyday living. I guess it all dates back to when we were obliged to grow our own vegetables or we didn’t eat….now THERE’S a thought!

The great thing about gardening is that there is so much history, tradition and vats of knowledge and information available.

Since humans walked on 2 legs they’ve been gardening in one form or another, so I guess we all should have a little of the gardener in us somewhere – and maybe even a few gardening proverbs!

Here’s a quote that used to confuse me terribly when I was a child!:

“As the garden grows so does the gardener.”
There is a wealth of knowledge in a growing space. It’s always a good idea to chat with an ageing gardener. Pick their brains! Most of them will love sharing their expertise in the garden. And a lot of gardeners will quote gardening proverbs in the form of traditional sayings as a way of life.

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“Friends are flowers than never fade.”
I love this quote. I lived overseas from my family and friends for many years and this quote has particular significance for me .

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“From tiny acorns mighty oaks grow.”
This wonderful gardening proverb even appears on new baby greeting cards.

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“A garden is a work of art in progress.”
Having spent more than ten years renovating a neglected acre of woodland, I can honestly say this quote is true! Gardening not only provides you with plenty of exercise, it’s also a superb outlet for your creative imagination. And maybe the creative juices will come up with some gardening proverbs of your own.

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I looked around for a good proverb book and kind of got stuck on the dictionary style! This one is on Amazon (UK link)

Back to the Garden Speaks……

 

 

 

“Reap what you sow”
This very well known gardening proverb can be applied to just about every single aspect of your life, from building a business to washing the dishes. I guess it could also be a gentle reminder to be nice to each other!

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“As fresh as a daisy”
This is a nice sunny quote! And one of many ‘flower’ quotes. One of the great unanswered questions of all time must be ‘how does a flower grow?’ – and as they are so beautiful, it’s no wonder poets throughout the ages have been inspired to write one-liners through to whole encyclopaedias’ of flowers.

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“Can’t see the wood for the trees.”
Oh, how many times I’ve spouted this neat little saying over the years. When we took on our acre of neglected woodland, this gardening proverb took on a very literal meaning!

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“Digging a hole for yourself.”
I’m not sure if this was originally a ‘gardening proverb’ or ‘building’ quote, but reminding yourself of this quote at emotionally charged moments, can save you a whole heap of trouble!

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“Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
I had to throw this one in. Molehills can be a pain in the garden, but we’ve found the soil they dig up has been so finely worked by the mole’s expert paws, that it’s good enough to grow seeds in! So we learned not to make a problem of the moles, but used what they so generously provided. 🙂

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“The grass is always greener on the other side.”
Well of course it appears that way. In looking further afield, we focus our vision and fail to recognise all sorts of glitches. Your grass is green enough, now let’s add some colour!

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“Stop and smell the roses.”
Remember to take time out in your busy schedule for the good things in life, whether it’s playing games with your kids or relaxing in your scent-filled garden.

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Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Growing Wildflowers

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Growing wildflowers at home is becoming more and more popular while we encourage wildlife to our gardens. Wildflowers are perfect to use for all sorts of things. And if they don’t have a known medical, cosmetic or culinary use, you could always enjoy the sight and smell of them!

Lawn daisies are said to relieve stress and a few daisy flowers infused with your favourite herbal tea will take the edge off stress and tension and will help you relax and maybe even get a good night’s sleep. 🙂
Dandelion flowers not only make a wonderful jam, see below for recipe idea, but every other part of the plant can be used as well…

*The young leaves can be used in salads or cooked as spinach
*The milky sap found in the stem could help get rid of warts and verucas.
*The root can be roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. No good if you’re after the caffeine hit but much healthier!

Growing wildflowers isn’t always an annual chore either as many will arrive in your garden unannounced if you have a little wild space available for them:

* Wild Violets
* Wild rose
* and even wild strawberries turn up occasionally!

If you have a large enough garden, you could always let part of it go natural!

Find out more about natural gardens on this page…… Natural Garden  

beebombs

Oh and before I go any further, try some Bee Bombs. I grew some last year so successfully that I had bees visiting every day and I only had a small-ish tub available to plant them in!

When you get into growing wildflowers at home, there are so many to discover, and also of course they will attract the good bugs to your garden.
Some garden wild flowers have healing properties, others are wonderful to cook with! Here are a couple of garden wild flower ‘recipes’ to try…

Dandelion Jam
A traditional French wild flower jam recipe is made every year on the first day you see miles of dandelions on the fields! The idea is you collect 365 only – no there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason for this, but it works! And then use your dandelions as you would a fruit in a favourite jam recipe. Very delicious!

A good combination uses
365 dandelion flower heads
1 kilo preserving sugar
2 oranges
2 lemons
Water to cover
Simmer in a preserving pan until the mixture reaches setting point. Strain and pour into warm sterilized jars.
Label and store – if you can!

and try this Wild Flower Bath Tonic

Growing wildflowers – the meadow!:

With specially designed seeds you can create your own wildflower meadow or just let a few wild flowers pop up here and there. If you have a patch in your garden that doesn’t get cultivated to within an inch of its life, the wildflowers will have a better chance! Otherwise check out the seeds available at your local garden suppliers or online and follow their instructions, as different plants can have different needs.

stinging-nettle

Use young nettle leaves in soups or cook as spinach. Nettles are just as high in nutrients, and definitely cheaper.

Wild violets can be crystalized and used as cake decorations, and are absolutely beautiful when they come up in little bunches early in the year. If you have enough, collect a few with the children and make posies, or press them. Violets are also edible.

Find out more about edible flowers here.. Edible Flowers  

Many wildflowers get mown down just as they are coming up, so we never get a chance to enjoy them. Growing wildflowers could turn you into a wild garden expert! For an in-depth study you’ll need a good book on the subject. There are lots available on Amazon of course, but in many different regions and styles – some drawings, some historic etc; – check out the descriptions before you buy.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Garden Supplies

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…..the do’s and don’ts!

You don’t always land up with the garden supplies you wanted. A shed full of expensive garden ‘stuff’ that no-one’s ever going to use is easily acquired…

 

The best way to a home-cooked meal is a well-stocked kitchen, and the best way to home-grown crops is a well-stocked shed full of gear you CAN use.

 

Your Garden Supplies – Power Gear:

Work out what you need in the way of tools and equipment first. Don’t bother buying the latest turbo-mini-tractor if you don’t need it. If there’s just a regular lawn to mow, a little exercise with a mower isn’t too hard really. And to satisfy the ‘fun’ you’re not having, buy the latest turbo-mini-bike, and keep it in the garage – NOT the shed!

After the big tools, there’ll be a number of hand tools like

rakes, spades, forks, hoes etc;

I purposely made this list plural because you always need an extra spade to let a friend have a go when the digging gets tough! If your budget will stretch, it’s worth buying more than one of most hand tools, especially if you have a large garden to maintain.

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Set of 5 Gardening Tools, Shovel, Fork, Rake, Hoe, Edging Spade at Amazon UK. I haven’t used these tools but this does look like a good deal.

 

 

Garden supplies – Equipment:

Then you’ll need some equipment –
plant pots
seed trays
hand trowel/s
plant markers
clear plastic/glass sheets for propagating seeds
buckets
watering cans

Some of these garden accessories can be recycled from household throw-aways; vegetable boxes lined with cardboard make great seed trays for example.

A bench or old table in a potting shed is invaluable. Make sure it’s at a good height for you. Avoid back strain at all costs.

Other stuff:

Other supplies are needed at regular intervals throughout the gardening year and it’s a good idea to keep a gardening diary to note when you should be buying and planting. You may need:

seed/potting compost
packets of seeds
new fruit canes/trees
bedding plants
bulbs
seed potatoes

and if you make your own cloches for early veg you may need to replace the plastic every year or two, depending on the quality and weather conditions. With plastic being a bit of a dodgy word these days, maybe look for some glass, old windows for example, and build a few frames. If you have to use plastic, recycle as much as you can, or if the budget will stretch, see if you can find some plant-based plastic sheets.

If you use those environment friendly seedling pots that you plant without removing your seedling, you’ll have to add these to your yearly list of equipment or make your own!

potmaker

This Paper Pot Maker is Plastic free and makes fun biodegradable plant pots from scrap paper. At Amazon (UK) again!

Your Garden Supplies – Where on earth to get it all!:

If you like to buy local and you haven’t a clue, start with your neighbours. Ask them where they go, and if you get them talking ask them ‘why’ as well! Check the local business phone and online directories.

There are some wonderful garden supplies online. I tend to stick with Amazon and Thompson & Morgan (UK) but look around and ask for recommendations.

When you find somewhere you’re happy with, get involved with them and keep up to date with newsletters and bulletins. Lists of garden supplies straight to your inbox!

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Growing Comfrey

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Humans have been growing comfrey as a healing herb for more than 2000 years, as I myself have (for slightly less than 2000 years though!). Comfrey is still used in external preparations to heal wounds. And is perfect grown as a green manure or animal feed crop.

Comfrey is usually propagated by root cuttings or crown pieces, or buy small plants from a garden centre or your preferred online supplier. But you can start it from seed. For UK deliveries this link will take you to the comfrey seed page at Thompson & Morgan (UK).

 

Planting comfrey:

Comfrey is a deep-rooted plant and will not do particularly well in shallow soil. It prefers a fertile soil, as do most plants, but is a hardy perennial and will propagate year after year if situated well. Position in a sunny spot, although full sun is not essential.

Start your comfrey patch with small plants, root cuttings or pieces of the crown of an established plant. If you’re starting with seeds, grow them in pots until ready to plant out.

Plant root cuttings 2-4 inches (5-10cms) deep depending on the size of the cutting, laying the root cutting flat in the dug hole. Water well and let it grow!

Growing comfrey in your garden should be planned well, as it will grow bigger every year.

One of the major practical uses for the average gardener is growing comfrey as a green manure. You can simply lay the harvested leaves on the ground around your vegetables as a mulch or you can go all out and make your very own organic tonic.

I used this fertilizing method for a number of years and had great results, so grew comfrey all over the place.

Growing Comfrey – making a Tonic for your veggies:

If you have enough space, growing comfrey will provide a tonic for your vegetable patch. The tonic allows the plants to extract more nutrients from the soil.

First you need a container, preferably the size of a small dustbin, with a tap near the bottom. A small filter should also be used to avoid clogging the system. It must have a lid, and you will need a weighty object such as a large flattish stone, almost the size of the radius of your container. Raise your container off the ground, leaving enough room to comfortably place a watering can under the tap.

 
Collect as much comfrey as you can and pack it into the container, on top of the filter. Add a wire mesh or something similar and place your heavy object on top to hold the leaves down, then cover them with water. Put the lid on and forget about it for a couple of weeks.

 
When you’re ready to feed your plants, first put a peg on your nose, or don’t breathe in too hard, ( it really hums! ) and collect from the tap about a litre of the green slimy liquid into your watering can.

Top up the can with fresh water and feed your veggies. An exact ratio of tonic to water isn’t necessary but don’t put it on the ground undiluted. It’s too strong for most small plants.

Try and use all the available tonic in one go, clear out the slush ( put it directly on the compost heap) then make some more. Comfrey can be easily cut three or four times a year, but if you find a shortage occurring, try adding a few nettles to your mix.

Growing comfrey in your garden provides an organic food for your vegetable patch without costing a bean!

Please note There have been recent tests done on rats using Symphytine (a constituent of comfrey) that have shown carcinogenic results. However, these results aren’t really conclusive as the tests use highly concentrated forms of Symphytine.

Happy Gardening!