A World of Herbs

aworldofherbs-pin

Herbs hold some wonderful secrets that we can share if we venture into their world for a moment.

My favourite herb of the moment is Aloe Vera. Not a culinary herb perhaps but the benefits of aloe vera are enormous. For example, the sap inside the leaves will help soothe and repair your skin after a minor burn. Perfect to grow on the kitchen windowsill and you don’t even have to remember to water it every day.

Many herbs will grow on a bright windowsill, although care should be taken that the sun isn’t too hot through the glass as this will scorch the leaves of your herbs, and will dry the pots out very quickly. If you have direct sunshine on your chosen windowsill, create shade for your plants during the hottest part of the day.

The quickest way to get a herb garden going is to buy small plants all ready to go. Many supermarkets in the UK sell small herb plants but any garden centre should have a choice of herbs. Stick to three or four if you’re new to growing herbs. You can add to your garden later. Always check on the growing requirements when you buy plants. Some hybrid varieties are less robust and may need to be grown indoors in a moderate climate.

Other herbs need a fair amount of space and may not be practical for the space you have available. Double check before you buy. Same goes if you’re starting your plants from seed. Read through the recommendations on the back of the seed packet so that you get an idea how big your plants could grow and also check on indoor/outdoor requirements.

Follow any ‘instructions’ as far as possible for best results. It’s worth investing in a Herb Book to refer to and be inspired by.

A couple of culinary herbs that work well on the windowsill or in a herb garden are basil and chives:

basil

Basil is generally known as one of the tomato herbs, as a tomato apparently doesn’t taste right without it! Many shop bought sauces are tomato and basil based, and growing basil on the windowsill will save a trip to the shops from time to time, as well as avoiding processed food – always a plus.

Basil is an annual plant in moderate climates but will grow as a bi-ennial in a warmer environment, producing flower and seed in the second year.

Chives are perfect to add a mild onion taste to your recipe. The flowers are edible and decorate a green salad perfectly. Every year or so, gently dig up plants or tip out of their pots, separate the roots and re-plant. Chive plants make great gifts if you find yourself with far too many to use.

There are many herbs that can be grown for culinary or medicinal purposes, although always refer to a reliable source before administering medicinal herbs.

At the first signs of a cold, a thyme and lemon tisane can soothe symptoms and possibly even stop the cold germs in their tracks! And, barring any allergies, this prevention plan is safe for practically everyone.

To help you get started, I’ve put together three volumes of herbs *listed here** that will give you a great start to building your herb garden, however big or small. ‘The Herb Garden’ is packed with general herb growing tips and ideas. The second volume gets to grips with twenty everyday herbs. And the third volume deals with twenty occasional herbs that may need a little more attention, but are all fairly straightforward and explained in detail.

But whichever path you follow, make it a magical one with the scent, beauty and health giving properties of these wonderful plants.

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

Forest Gardening

forestgardening

Over the past few weeks I’ve been on a couple of Forest Garden tours run by Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust – Honestly, this man knows his stuff! There are millions of plants on our planet and of course it’s not really conceivable that any one person would know about all of them, but wow, does he come close 🙂

The experiments and test sites he grows on are mainly in Devon although Martin is known all over the world for his books and forest gardening knowledge in general. The photograph here is at a young nursery near Dartmoor on a very full-on weather day – sun, wind and rain while out in the middle of a field is bracing to say the least!

The concept of Forest Gardening isn’t new and research projects have been in flow for many years. The Agroforestry Research Trust was set up in 1992 and has a number of sites, courses and publications available to anyone who has an interest in preserving our land and producing food for the future.

Pop over to the Agroforestry site here – https://www.agroforestry.co.uk/ – and be inspired!

I sound like an advert but I promise they aren’t paying me for this! I’m just very interested in the concept and have seen a couple of sites showing what can be done. Anyway, check it out and if you have the space, start growing 🙂

Happy Gardening!
Linda x

If you just want to grab a book, this one is a good place to start…

forestgardenbook

 

Creating a Forest Garden

 

 

 

 

“Hydroponics”

Hydroponics-pin

Indoor hydroponic gardening, or hydroponics as it’s commonly known, has had a bad press over the past few years, due to illegal plants being grown away from watchful eyes and extending the growing season indefinitely.

So let’s lay the bad press to rest and find out what all the fuss is really about…..

Hydroponics is the answer to growing plants if you haven’t a garden, are physically challenged, or simply live in a short season growing region. With a fairly small initial outlay – no more than the cost of a few regular garden tools – you can set up an indoor hydroponic gardening area in a cupboard under the stairs, a basement or even the attic if it’s easily accessible.

Hydroponics – the running costs:

Running costs have to be considered as the lights will be drawing electricity for long periods. It’s impossible to put an exact figure on the electricity bill, but when you come to buy your starter kit, the information should be available according to your area and the lights used. Technology is improving all the time and newer energy-saving bulbs are becoming available as time goes on.

Then there are costs of nutrients – these are needed to add to the water to replace nutrients normally extracted from the soil.

New cubes will have to be purchased from time to time… cubes are pots and soil combined and seeds are started and moved on using cubes which are made from materials such as rockwool.

Seeds have to be bought, but with a little careful attention, the germination rate will be good, and seeds can be sown sparingly.

Getting started:

You can start off the seeds in a couple of different ways. If you use a soil-less mix – peat pots or similar, the seeds will germinate with fresh water only. But if you decide to start the seeds in ‘rockwool’ – which is a popular hydroponics medium – you will need to add nutrients to the water from the start.

Seeds and cuttings can be easily started in rockwool filled cubes and you should have full instructions in your kit as to how and when you should plant different species of plant.

NB: Make sure you have as much information as possible when buying hydroponics equipment. Buying a kit is the best introduction to this type of gardening. Don’t spend money on ‘extras’. The gadgets and add-ons may not be beneficial to you. Grow some stuff first, then decide if you need to spend any more money!

*************************************************

amazon-hydroponicsystem

Urban Bamboo Hydroponic Garden – Planting System, Indoor Greenhouse, 12 Plants, Integrated Circulation Pump, 24W LED, 7L, Breeding in Nutrient Solution, Potting Pots, Bamboo

I love the style of this system, although it is perhaps a little pricey. There are lots of different systems on Amazon . Have a quick browse and see which one suits your needs.

*************************************************

Hydroponics – caring for your plants:

Light, temperature and humidity are all elements involved in producing your hydroponic veggies. The exact number for each element will depend on your kit and what you’re growing.

Generally the temperature shouldn’t be much more than 80 degrees, or there is a risk of burning the foliage. Minimum temperature around 70 degrees, so for many of us, this requires power to keep the temperature up.

The other main ingredient for a good crop is nutrients – If you’re not using soil, your plants will need nutrients fed to them every day in their water supply. Look around for good prices, but don’t be tempted by the cheapest. You need all the nutrients your plants require, so no skimping on the vitamins!

The Crops:

Hydroponic gardening under lights will produce a crop of virtually anything in less time than an outside crop. When one lot of plants gets going and has moved to the growing on stage, start off some more seeds so you have a constantly producing hydro-garden.

Keep notes of any temperature changes and what happened with the plants. A gardening journal is invaluable in any growing situation but even more so with indoor hydroponic gardening, there are different issues to deal with for example:

*power cuts

*temperature and humidity fluctuations

*changing nutrients

*bugs and viruses

Outdoor gardening has similar issues, but we have no control over the weather, and we accept our destiny, albeit hard, when the cabbage white butterfly has just annihilated a whole crop of winter greens in 2 days.

Indoor gardening gives you much more control over the environment. In fact, you are in control totally, and notes are best kept!!

A few final points about Hydroponics:

1. Read about the product before you buy – does it really suit your needs?

2. Make sure you have all growing mediums and nutrients before you start.

3. Don’t be too ambitious. Start with a simple crop and let your knowledge grow!

4. Remember your electricity bill may be higher than usual. Perhaps grow crops that would be expensive to buy?

5. Keep notes. As I mentioned above, a journal is invaluable to the hydroponic gardener.

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Chervil

Chervil-pin

CHERVIL (Anthriscus cerefolium)
(annual)

Chervil is in the same family as carrots and is similar to parsley. There are two main varieties, one with flat and one with curly leaves. It has a taste a little like anise and brings out the flavour of other herbs when cooked together.

It was once known as myrris because of its resemblance to myrrh. It has been used in religious ceremonies and also has many medicinal qualities.

In roman times chervil was used as a spring tonic but is not widely used as a medicinal herb these days. It is mostly used in the kitchen and is one of the main herbs in French cuisine as part of the fines herbes mixture. The other herbs – chives, tarragon and parsley complement each other and chervil brings out the taste of all of them.

Chervil can be added to many dishes and shouldn’t be ignored when the recipe says; chervil (optional). Add some to your recipes and get lots of brownie points for a wonderful tasting meal.

Chervil is native to Middle Eastern countries but can be grown easily in many moderate climates.

Medicinal uses for Chervil:

Chervil has been used extensively in folk medicine throughout the ages. It was once said that eating a whole plant cured hiccups. The herb is warm and soothing and is often used as a digestive aid.

A cold infusion of chervil tea is a soothing eyewash. Young tender leaves added to salads not only improve the flavour of your meal but are also believed to act as a mild tonic.

Here’s to Herbs!

Linda x

P.S. I took this info from ’20 Occasional Herbs’ which helps you grow your own delicious herbs, listed on Herbs and Healing

 

Chives

chopped chivesAbout Chives

Chives are a member of the onion group and grow wild in many parts of Europe and North America, although they originate from China. They’ve been collected from the wild for centuries but weren’t cultivated until the Middle Ages. There are a number of different hybrids available including a ‘garlic’ variety.

Chives are easy to grow and produce purple or white edible flowers that can be used to garnish a meal, or dried and used in a flower arrangement. The bright green leaves are used in the kitchen and their delicate onion flavour enhances any meal.

Chives are primarily a culinary herb, but being part of the onion family, they do aid digestion, and they have also been used in helping fight cold and flu symptoms, although onions are more effective.

USES

Chopped chives can be added to any recipe that needs a mild onion flavour. They are especially good when added to potato salads, but can also be stirred into many recipes. The edible flowers will add a pretty garnish to any meal.

Tip: To avoid chopping your fingernails into the recipe, use a pair of kitchen scissors instead of a knife!

GROWING CHIVES

Grow some chives at home and have these tasty and handy herbs at your fingertips evey day. When you buy them in plastic bags in the supermarket, they are often quite expensive and perhaps non-organic – but the one issue, that is really something we can avoid at the moment, is that they are often sold in plastic bags… aaargh, more plastic.

Oh, and of course, they don’t stay fresh for very long. As soon as you open the bag, they will start deteriorating and need using straight away.

When you have a pot of chives on the windowsill or in the garden, you can cut exactly how much you want and they are always fresh and organic!

Tip: Cut chives from the outside of the plant so that the centre leaves get a chance to grow taller.

Chives are ideal for edging paths and borders and also make an excellent companion plant, deterring pests such as carrot root fly.

Chives are one of the few plants in the onion family that will grow readily from seed, and there are different varieties. Have a look in your local garden centre where you may be able to grab a ready grown plant or two as well – saving you the time to start off your own seeds.

Although, having said that, there is something very rewarding about growing your plants from seed. You could order them online as well of course. Thompson & Morgan are a good supplier but they only deliver to the UK so if you are buying online from outside the UK, there’s always Amazon of course!

chivestandm

Thompson & Morgan UK

(This link will take you directly to a ready grown plant, but while you’re there, type ‘chives’ into their search bar and you’ll find seeds as well.)

Chives are a perfect pot plant to keep on the windowsill. You don’t need any garden space at all, so no excuses here 🙂

 

Happy herb growing!
Linda x

P.S. There are some useful tips and hints for growing chives in 20 Everyday Herbs (listed on our Herbs and Healing page)

Lovage

Lovage-pin

Now I have a garden again, I’m trying to get some herbs going. This lovage plant was donated by a lovely gardening friend.

Then the weather happened and I really thought I’d killed the poor plant, but here we are… looks like the birds may have had a bite or two but hopefully its hardiness will see it through…

I’ve vowed to be nicer to my plants from now on and watch out for crazy weather forecasts 🙂

About Lovage

Lovage is a hardy perennial plant and will last for many years given the right growing conditions. It will also grow anything from 3ft to 7ft (1-2m) tall, so needs to be placed at the back of a bed so as not to overshadow lower growing plants.

Lovage has a strong taste, similar to celery, and is often used as a substitute for celery salt. The seeds are ground to make salt, and the leaves are generally used for flavouring stews and soups.

The leaves can also be added to the salad bowl. Some cultures strip the bark off the plant and eat the stem raw as a vegetable, although generally the plant is used for its foliage and seed. Lovage has a high level of vitamin C.

Originally from Mediterranean areas lovage has adapted well to cooler climates. It grows well in the UK and other parts of Europe. It is associated with, and often used in place of, celery and parsley.

Medicinal uses for Lovage

Lovage has been used for many centuries in culinary and medicinal preparations and has been the main ingredient in many medicines. It was considered to be something of a wonder drug.

Lovage is known to stimulate the appetite, and aiding digestion. It was also added to baths at one time to deodorize and cleanse the skin.

Culpepper claimed that the powdered roots mulled in wine would “warm a cold stomach, helps digestion, and consumes all raw and superfluous moisture therein” (Culpeper, 1814).

In fact, lovage has been used for many ailments from sore feet to digestive complaints – google the medicinal qualities of lovage – you’ll be surprised why this ancient herb has fallen out of fashion in recent years.

Then, get some growing 🙂 A healthy plant, or maybe two, is probably all you’ll need unless you’re going into production. Start off a whole packet of seeds, re-pot when ready and spread the love!

As this is one of my favourite herbs I had to include it in one of my herb books, of course. Along with 19 others, 20 Everyday herbs is a must-have before you start your herb garden, even if you’re just growing a few herbs in pots. (Book listed here)

If you have a UK address Thompson & Morgan have beautiful grown lovage plants so you don’t have to mess about with seeds! And the great thing about this herb is that it’s perennial. Buy it once and you’ll have it growing for years. (I hope mine looks like this one day)

lovage

Lovage Levisticum officinale

Perennial herb – Aromatic lovage seed can also be harvested for adding to savoury baked dishes. This tall hardy herb makes a useful addition to  kitchen gardens. Height: 2m (79″). Spread: 1m (39″). Lovage at Thompson & Morgan UK

 
Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Bees & Flowers

beesandflowers-pin

We all know that there are many many creatures on earth who are in danger of extinction. We can, of course, all do our bit, however small, to help protect our incredible diversity of nature.

Avoiding plastic as much as possible is a great start and it’s encouraging to see supermarkets getting on board and reducing their packaging materials.

By taking responsibility for the food we eat and the packaging we buy into, we are slowly but surely getting back to a more natural diet and lifestyle – with plenty of variations – and we are helping to save our beautiful world.

Even if it seems like you’re not making a difference, you are!

It’s easy to think, with millions of people in the world still pumping out carbon monoxide, processing plastics and eating non-food diets, that we can’t possibly make a difference, but we lead by example.

If you know your neighbour gets their milk delivered and you could afford to as well, you could switch to milk in glass bottles and reduce the plastic you buy, dramatically. Btw, milk definitely tastes better out of glass!

Anyway, I was going to talk about bees and flowers.

Bees are at risk at the moment and we really need to encourage these wonderful creatures to our gardens and parks. One of the problems with bees is that some of us get  freaked out by them because they have a sting. But unless you are particularly allergic to bee stings, this needn’t be an issue. Bees don’t leave their hives in the morning with the intention of finding a human to sting. I promise 🙂

My daughter bought me a gift of ‘bee bombs’ earlier in the year. In case you haven’t seen them, they are available on Amazon …

beebombsBeebombs – Native Wildflower Seedballs
Beebombs are a mix of 18 British wildflower seeds, fine, sifted soil and locally sourced clay. These seeds are native species and designated as “Perfect for Pollinators”. Beebombs just need to be scattered onto cleared ground to create a wildflower meadow.

Beebombs at Amazon

I planted them quite late in a fairly big tub-like pot and they came up in a couple of weeks. Since then, we’ve had the pleasure of cornflowers and daisies and best of all, of course, bees! The little creature above was quite happy to put up with my photo shoot.

If you don’t want to do the ‘bee bomb’ thing, although I really do recommend it, you could sow your own wildflower garden or have pots of bee attracting flowers on balconies, patios or just outside your front or back door. Bees are most active between March and September (UK) and growing a variety of flowers that bloom at different times during this period will keep you and the bees happy.

Have a stroll around the garden centre and perhaps ask some knowledgeable shop assistants to steer you in the bee direction! I found a fun pack of bee attracting flower seeds at Thompson & Morgan but they only deliver in the UK.

honeybeeseedsHoney Bee Collection
A blend of 19 species of nectar and pollen rich annual and perennial flowers, which are proven favourites of honey bees in our gardens.This colourful flower mix is perfect for those gardeners wishing to encourage bees into their gardens. Height: 60cm (24″). Spread: 30cm (12″). Honey Bee Collection

It’s probably a little late in the year to sow seeds (especially as Autumn seems to have arrived early) but you may be able to grab a few flowering plants from the garden centre to enjoy for the rest of the , er, ‘summer’!

So, let’s get some flowers growing! Even if you can’t get it together this year, start planning your flower garden now and you could be attracting bees as early as March next year.

Flowers are incredible creations of nature. Some of the more exotic orchids are almost impossible to believe, this fly orchid looks like a fairy leaping from her armchair!

orchid

All flowers have their own beauty, even the humble daisy is a symbol of purity and attractive to bees. And the dandelion with its hundreds of bright yellow petals definitely shouldn’t be treated like a weed – although some gardeners may disagree with me  🙂

Heres to your Bee-autiful garden!

Linda x

Taste of Thyme

tasteofthyme-pin

Thyme is a beautiful herb to grow. Not only is it a culinary delight, but it looks amazing in the herb garden, or draped over walls. A healthy thyme plant really is a must-have in the herb garden. It can also be grown in containers and will put up with drought conditions quite well.

Thyme has been grown in the kitchen garden for centuries and there are records of its use back in Roman times. It was considered to be an effective herb to preserve meat, and although we still use it to flavour meat, other methods of preserving have over taken the simple thyme method.

There is no shortage of myths and legends attached to the herb, including an idea that if a woman wore a sprig of thyme in her hair she would attract her true love. There are many others, a lot of them based around romance and love. Thyme has obviously been a well-loved herb throughout history!

It has been consistently grown throughout the ages as a medicinal and culinary herb and is known to soothe colds and flu symptoms. It has anti-bacterial properties and is a source of vitamins A and C as well as a few other elements the human body needs.

Thyme is one of the herbs to add early in cooking, as it releases its flavours slowly.

*Add to slow cooked stews and casseroles.
*Mix chopped thyme into stuffing mixes
*Sprinkle a few leaves in a baking tin before roasting any meat or vegetable dish.

Grow a plant or two at home and you’ll always have this wonderful herb at your fingertips – organic and super fresh 🙂

Happy Herbing!

Linda x

growingherbsathome

Some of this text was taken from my most popular digital herb book “Growing Herbs at Home”. I’ve just updated and polished the book a little and to celebrate, the price has been reduced!

Grab a copy now and start planning next year’s herb garden. Choose your favourite book store:

Amazon US Amazon UKiTunesKoboPayhipBarnes & Noble , Etsy ,

Chamomile

Chamomile-pin

Any of us who have dabbled in herbal teas will have heard of chamomile. But do we know any more about this wonderful herb than the brand we usually buy? Ouch!

Here are a few reasons to grow some of your own….

Two main types of chamomile are widely grown; Roman Chamomile (chamaemelum nobile) and German chamomile (Matricaria recutita). Both have similar qualities and are used in similar ways.

Records show that the Egyptians worshiped chamomile and used it in medicinal aids as well as cosmetic preparations. It has been used for centuries all over Europe and was distributed further a-field during the 16th century.

Its daisy like flowers make it an attractive addition to a herb garden and, as the plant is perennial, it will grace your garden for many years.

Chamomile often grows around the edge of gardens and can be found in the wild. It re-seeds itself readily but is easily controlled.

It’s often left to grow between paving slabs and alongside pathways. When walked on, the plant releases a pleasant scent.

Chamomile can grow up to a metre in height but generally it will grow as a shrub around 2-3 feet (60-90cm) high. It makes a good edging plant especially around a lawn or grassed area.

While only the flowers are used in the home, the whole herb is used in commercial beer making. Chamomile tea is widely drunk and can be bought in most supermarkets or health shops.

 

Medicinal uses for Chamomile

Chamomile has mild sedative properties and has, for many years, been made into a soothing and calming tea. It can also aid digestion and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.

Chamomile is used in cosmetic preparations including hair lighteners and shampoos.

It has been found useful for reducing joint inflammation such as arthritis and also easing menstrual cramps.

…………………………………………..

*Text from 20 Occasional Herbs; a step by step guide to growing 20 fabulous herbs at home. Listed here: Herbs & Healing

I need to get some more chamomile started 🙂

Happy Gardening!

Linda x

Lavender

Lavender-pin

Lavender is probably one of the most well-known herbs and is grown practically all over the world. It’s been used for centuries as a medicinal herb and at some point in history it was used to flavour food because it was believed to help calm the stomach.

Lavender has antiseptic qualities, and has been used in medicines and ointments since Roman times. The ancient Egyptians used it in embalming fluids and placed lavender in the tombs of royalty. And the ancient Greeks used it to treat insect bites, stomach disorders and kidney problems.

Lavender water was believed to cure fainting, nausea and dizziness for many generations. It’s also a favourite ingredient in detergents, air fresheners and pot pourri mixtures used in the home and work place. Lavender clears the head and freshens the environment.

Lavender flowers produce oil which is used in many preparations: perfumes and similar products. They are also useful nectar producing plants which in turn yield high quality honey.

Storing

Lavender rarely needs storing, but the flowers are only available until late summer or autumn, depending on the variety.

Pick flowers and dry them in the sun or a home dryer. Don’t dry too quickly. The flowers can be stored in a glass jar. Use in recipes, pot pourri mixtures and drawer fresheners.

Lavender based products make marvelous gifts.

Medicinal uses for Lavender

The medicinal uses for lavender would require another book to list them all. A sachet filled with dried lavender flowers and placed under the pillow will ensure a good night’s sleep.

Lavender tea is helpful in alleviating stress headaches and migraines, as well as indigestion and colic.

To your herbal delight!

Linda x

20EverydayHerbs

 

 

Text taken from ’20 Everyday Herbs’ listed here