GROWING HERBS & SPICES

HERB GARDENS FOR BEGINNERS - GROWING HERBS IN POTS

If you are a true beginner gardener, an outdoor bed herb garden may sound overwhelming. If so, why not learn to grow herbs in pots?

A container garden will give you all kinds of experience while being easy to manage. You can start very small with a ready to use herb growing kit or a few seedlings. You can keep them in a sunny window sill or even on the kitchen counter where they are easy to watch and ready to add to your dinner recipes.

If you choose to use a kit, they come in all shapes and sizes and have everything you need. Or, if you choose to select a few herb seedlings, here's all you need to get started:
• Herb seedlings
• Potting soil
• Perlite or other soil lightening medium
• A few small stones for the bottom of the pots
• Containers large enough to give the plants room to grow

Then, start your garden:
• Cover the bottom of each pot with a layer of stones to facilitate drainage
• Mix a little lightening medium into the potting soil and fill the pot
• Place the herb in the pot, keeping the soil around the roots
• Water well and place in a well lighted spot

Once your garden is growing, herbs are very easy to care for. Just,
• Allow them to dry out until the top layer of soil is just dry
• Water when about a half inch inch of the soil is starting to dry
• Turn the plants every few weeks if one side gets more light
• Use a light liquid fertiliser with every third or fourth watering if you wish
• Harvest often and cut off all flowers if you want them to keep producing leaves

Your herbs would also love to spend the summer outside if you have a place for them. Just remember to move into the sun them slowly. First into the shade, then as they become sun tolerant, they can take a sunnier spot. Check on how much sun each herb you grow will like - it varies greatly! And, don't forget to bring them back in before the first frost.

By following these few steps you can be a successful herb gardener and enjoy fresh herbs all year long.

 

Article by Erin Smart

 

Erin Smart is an herb gardening enthusiast who loves to garden with her family. Together they grow all kinds of organic herbs and vegetables and share seeds with other organic gardeners all over the world.


STARTING A HEALTHY AND PRODUCTIVE WINDOWSILL HERB GARDEN

Gardening is often seen as an outdoors activity that is limited to certain weather conditions. When it comes to herbs, a windowsill facing south or west is an excellent area to grow and harvest herbs all year long. It also add beautiful natural beauty to that window and fills the air with the sweet scents. A windowsill herb garden doesn’t need to be very big, a few pots can produce enough herbs to satisfy your needs.

Tools and material needed to start a herb garden:

  • various containers with drainage holes
  • waterproof saucers to contain excess drainage
  • potting soil or a soil-less seed-starting mix
  • natural fertiliser
  • herb seeds or plants of your choice

Herb growing requirements: For the majority of herbs, a good 5 to 6 hours of sunlight coming through a south or west-facing window is sufficient. Watering should keep the soil slightly moist at all time. Fertilise twice a month using a half-strength solution of an all-purpose fertiliser. Compost is added in a small quantity every few months.

Choice of containers:The pots you plan to use can come from various sources ranging from recycling to buying ”designer” containers.You can group certain herbs together in a pot when they share common needs. Plants that need particular care should be planted individually. The diameter of the pots should be 4 inches for individual plants and 10 inches for grouping plants together.

Choosing herbs you wish to grow: Choice herbs to grow on the windowsill are those that remains dense and compact. Thyme and oregano are always a good choice, you can also grow mint offered in a wide array of flavours. Parsley is a good choice as long as you keep it especially when kept trimmed. These plants all do well in small containers ranging in 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Other choice of herbs popular include basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary and sage.

More Tips:

  • Most herbs grows well in a sunny, south-facing window, supplemental fluorescent lights or grow lights will help during the winter season.
  • Place the plants so that the foliage are not in contact with cold windows.
  • Turn the pots around occasionally so that the plants get sunlight on all sides to grow evenly.
  • Be aware of the preferences of each variety of herbs you grow. For example, basil enjoys warmth, while sage and rosemary prefer cooler temperatures.
  • Pinch back branching plants such as basil. This will help keeping them shrubby instead of leggy.
  • When choosing herbs to grow, go for the compact or dwarf varieties.
  • Growing herbs on the kitchen windowsill will keep fresh herbs close at hand when preparing meals.

A windowsill herb garden adds a wonderful, attractive look to your home decor. Creating this project is quite simple and inexpensive and fills the air with a pleasing aroma that can be enjoyed by everyone in your household.

 

Article by Eustache Davenport
Herb Gardening Online Guide
www.herbgardeningonlineguide.com

 

Eustache Davenport is a gardening enthusiast and author. He lives in Montreal and enjoy teaching his gardening secrets to work groups on how to set up, optimise and maintain an amazing herb garden. For more information and great tips to start home garden, visit www.herbgardeningonlineguide.com


HERBS FOR EDIBLE WALLS

I have chosen the following herbs simply because they tend to be the most commonly used herbs. Of course, there are so many herbs you can grow in your own garden, so don’t be afraid to try new herbs, or just new varieties of more common herbs.

THYME

Thyme is a lovely aromatic herb which is often used in Italian cooking. It is a relatively easy plant to grow, and works wonderfully in edible walls as it survives all year round, and will live for a number of years.

Thyme grows best in a sunny, sheltered position in well drained soil. There are a number of varieties of thyme, including Lemon thyme. This herb generally grows to about 6-10 inches in height.

PARSLEY

Parsley is perhaps one of the most commonly used herbs, and is often associated with fish, although the versatility of this herb makes it useful in a range of cookery. There are two main types of parsley, flat leaf and curly leaf. Both are ideal to use in edible walls. Like thyme, parsley needs little attention, although unlike thyme, it is biennial, meaning you will have to replace your plants every two years.

Parsley needs a rich soil in sun or partial shade, and will need regular watering, and the occasional feed.

MINT

Mint is perhaps one of the easiest herbs to grow. It is often used to accompany potatoes or peas, as well as desserts, and even cocktails. Like thyme, mint is perennial, and thrives in both sunny and shady positions. It prefers well drained, fertile soil. A word of warning, mint can be incredibly invasive, so plant the mint in a pot, then into the soil. If not, you may find that it takes over the whole pot. Both spearmint and peppermint make ideal herbs for your edible wall, with both releasing a wonderful scent.

BASIL

Again, a herb often associated with Italian/Mediterranean cookery, although it actually originates from India. Basil needs a sheltered, sunny position in your garden, although it is far more susceptible to the cold than thyme and mint, which means you can really only grow it during the summer months. By removing any flowers that appear, you are ensuring that all the plants energy os focused on growing its leaves.

CHIVES

Chives may a lovely alternative to onions (they are part of the same family). The beauty of chives is that not only do they taste delicious, they also contain very pretty flowers, making them an ideal addition to your edible wall or herb garden. They will grow in full sun or partial shade, and need water only when they are very dry. Chives are most commonly used in salads and potato dishes.

As I mentioned, this is just the tip of the iceberg. As well as the usual more common herbs, ie, oregano, rosemary, sage and marjoram, there are also lesser used herbs such as borage, sorrel and winter savory. Once you have started growing herbs, you will never want to buy them from a supermarket again.

 

Article by Armando Raish
www.treebox.xo.uk
www.facebook.com/pages/Treebox-Vertical-Growers/154607244583472
www.twitter.com/verticalgrowers

 

Treebox specialise in living walls, green walls, edible walls & reuseable hoarding.


GROWING HERBS

Herbs in general need well drained soil and full sun but will thrive on as little as 6 hours of sunlight per day. Before planting, make sure you work compost into your soil.

Aloe - Aloe spp
Can be grown outdoors for the summer but must be brought indoors for the cooler months. Can be kept indoors all year round. Prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. Aloes like a fertile soil, and good drainage is important or the aloe can rot. Infrequent watering except when growing in full sun, it may need a little extra watering. In the winter months let the soil dry completely between watering. To harvest: cut off the outer leaves first. New leaves grow in the center of the plant.
 
Chamomile - Chamaemelum nobile
Full sun to partial shade. Well drained soil. Keep the soil evenly moist for best growth. To harvest: harvest the flowers when the petals begin to turn back on the disk. Dry the flowers on screens in a shady, airy place.

PROPAGATION LIST FOR COMMON HERBS

Anise - Pimpinella anisum
Culture: Thrives in full sun, prefers well drained soil but can tolerate dry soil. Protect from strong winds and keep weed free.
To harvest: Snip outer leaves as needed.
Propagation - Seeds: Cut the whole seed heads after they have ripened but before they break open.

Alpine Strawberry - Divide runners in the spring

Basil - Ocimum basilicum
Culture: Full sun, rich moist well drained soil. Pinch off stem tips to promote leaf production.
To harvest: snip off stem tips or leaves as needed.
Propagation - Plant seeds in spring - or cuttings.

Bay - Laurus noblis
Culture: Full sun but can tolerate light shade. Moderate rich well drained soil.
To harvest: pinch off the dark green leaves as needed.
Propagation - Seeds or Cuttings in autumn. Take a cutting and remove all but the top 2-3 leaves, dip stems in rooting hormone and plant them in damp vermiculite. Cover both pot and plant in a plastic bag and keep it in a warm, shady spot until cuttings root.

Bergamont - Monarda didyma
Seeds or division.

Borage - Borago officinalis
Seeds or division.

Chives - Allium schoenoprasum
Sow seeds, divide bulblets in winter-spring

Coriander - Coriandrum sativum
Sow seeds spring-summer

Dill - Anethum graveolens
Sow seeds spring-summer, in a greenhouse or warm room.

Fennel - Foeniculum vulgare
Sow seeds or divide offsets, spring-summer, keep warm.

Lavender - Lavandula spp
Cuttings in Autumn, Sow seeds in spring

Majoram - Origanum majorana
Divide roots in spring-summer, Cuttings in autumn

Mint - Mentha spp
Divide roots in late winter, spring. Cuttings in summer.

Parsley - Petroselinum spp
Sow seeds any time of year.

Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis
Cuttings in spring, summer, autumn

Savory - Satureja spp
Sow seeds in spring

Sage - Salvia officinalis
Divide roots in spring, Cuttings in summer.

Sorrel - Rumex acetosa
Divide roots in spring, Sow seeds in summer.

Thyme - Thymus
Divide roots, Cuttings or sow seeds in late winter, spring, summer and autumn.

Woodruff - Asperula odorata
Divide roots in summer.

 

Article by Claudia Sutton
Forget-me-Not Herbs ‘n Wildflowers
www.facebook.com/ForgetMeNotHerbsNFlowers

 

Claudia Sutton and her family own and operate Forget-me-Not Herbs ‘n Wildflowers, a greenhouse operation growing annuals, perennials and 250 varieties of aromatic, medicinal and decorative potted herbs. Aromatherapy is a growing interest for Claudia as she nears completion of her training as a Certified Aromatherapist.


RAISING HERBS FROM SEED INDOORS

Most popular herbs can be raised from seed sown indoors during early spring. A few, like peppermint, benefit from a long season of growth and can be sown earlier if conditions are suitable. It is important with all species to ensure that at the time of sowing the ratio of heat to light is balanced, otherwise sickly, etiolated seedlings will be produced. When conditions are not suitable it is preferable to wait a couple of weeks until things improve.

Although the resulting plants might not be quite as large, they will be healthier and better balanced. This problem is particularly acute when a window ledge is used. The seedlings quickly germinate because of the warmth provided in the room, but with the poor daylight that is a regular occurrence during early spring, they become drawn and scrawny. The ratio of light to temperature is so variable and out of balance that the seedlings never make satisfactory progress.
 
Seeds being raised indoors should always be sown in flats or pans of good seed compost. It is foolish to go out into the garden and scoop up ordinary soil for seed raising. Even though such soil may look quite reasonable, it is likely to be of too poor a structure for use in flats and pans, and also be infected with pathogens that cause problems like damping off disease.

Herb seed is full of vitality with the main aim in life being to germinate and produce a healthy plant. It should not be hampered by poor compost. The plants that are raised will directly reflect the quality of the compost in which they are being grown.

Seed composts differ from potting soils in that they have few plant nutrients in them. The lack of fertiliser ensures that there is little likelihood of the tender seedlings being ‘burned’ and helps to dissuade the establishment of troublesome mosses and liverworts that frequently invade the surface of seed flats. Soil-based composts are ideal for raising herbs, but most of the quicker germinating kinds ultimately make better plants if they start life in peat-based soil-less compost.

Soil-less composts that consist of just peat, but with nutrients added, need handling carefully and it is necessary to be very selective about the kind of seed that is sown in them. Unless a very smooth surface can be assured once the flat is filled, it is unwise to sow fine-seeded herbs like hyssop and peppermint in such composts. The fibres in the compost create air pockets in which tiny seeds can become stranded.

Peat-based composts are ideal for larger-seeded herbs like fennel and angelica. Smaller-seeded kinds are much better in those soil-less composts that have sand mixed in with the peat. No matter what the preference may be, always use a good branded growing medium. It is both cheaper and safer to purchase ready-mixed compost rather than to try to create an independent self-mixed formula.

The pans or flats should be filled with seed compost to within 1/2in of the rim. Soil-based composts should be firmed down before sowing, but the peat types merely need putting in a pan or flat, filling to the top and then tapping gently on the potting bench. This, together with the first watering, will firm the compost sufficiently. Firming down soil-less composts only succeeds in driving out the air and making them hostile to root development.

It is essential with all composts to firm the corners and edges with the fingers when filling a seed flat. This counteracts any sinking around the edges and prevents the seeds from being washed into the sides where they will germinate in a crowded mass. Seed compost should be watered from above prior to sowing. This is particularly useful with the soil-less types as it settles the compost and allows any surface irregularities to be rectified before sowing takes place.

The seeds of most herbs can be sprinkled thinly over the surface and then covered by about their own depth with compost. Large seeds, like those of borage, can be sown individually with regular spacing so that there is no need for pricking out once they have germinated. The majority of herb seeds need darkness in order to germinate satisfactorily.

Some of the finer-seeded kinds are difficult to handle and distribute evenly over the surface of the compost. By mixing a little fine dry sand with the seed they can be more easily distributed. Not only does the sand serve as a carrier for the seeds, but it also indicates the area of the compost over which they have been scattered. Fine seeds should only be watered from beneath.

Stand the flat or pan in which they have been sown in a sink or bowl of water and allow the compost to dampen. Overhead watering can be disastrous, often redistributing the seed to the edge of the pan and scouring the surface of the compost.

All herb seeds benefit from bottom heat, so when there is a soil-heating cable available for early spring sowings make full use of it. Warm compost promotes the rapid germination of most herb seeds and is particularly useful for gardeners who raise their plants in an unheated greenhouse.

Where no heat is available a sheet of newspaper placed over a seed tray will act as insulation and creates a warmer micro-climate. Although light can penetrate the paper, it is important to remove it as soon as the seeds have germinated. With all seedlings light is vital, so as soon as they appear, place them where they can receive the maximum amount. This will ensure that they develop into stocky, short-jointed plants.

Young seedlings of many herb plants, especially sage and rosemary, are very vulnerable to damping-off disease at this stage and watering should be carefully regulated. This unpleasant disease is prevalent in damp humid conditions, invading the stem tissues of the seedlings at soil level, causing them to blacken and then collapse. Prevention is better than cure, so as a precaution water all emerging seedlings with a suitable fungicide. This provides the seedlings with some protection.

All seedlings should be pricked out as soon as they are large enough to handle. Crowded seedlings being separated and individuals spaced out at regular intervals in pans or flats. Ideally seedlings should have their seed leaves fully expanded and the first true leaf in evidence before transplanting.

Seedlings must be handled very carefully, as they are delicate and often brittle. Never be tempted to hold a seedling by its root or stem as irreparable damage can be caused. Always hold it by the edge of the seed leaf. Rough handling at the pricking-out stage can lead to the spread of damping-off disease and the arrival of other pathogens.

With most seedlings it is usual to plant them slightly lower in the compost than they were in the pan or flat in which they germinated, generally burying the stem up to the level of the seed leaves. This should only be done to vigorous healthy seedlings. It is not a method of reducing the height of seedlings that have been drawn up by insufficient light.

Seedlings must be pricked out into potting soil. For most quick-growing herbs a standard soil-less potting mixture is adequate, but for the others soil-based potting soil is preferable. Providing that there are no sharp temperature fluctuations and there is always plenty of light, the young plants should develop well.

Apart from greenfly, few problems are likely to be encountered until the plants are either potted up individually or planted out. These pests are easily controlled with a systemic insecticide while the plants are young and the foliage is not being used for culinary purposes. There are small aerosol cans of suitable insecticide available for handy use.

The most critical time for young herb plants is the period when they have to be eased away from their comfortable greenhouse or kitchen window ledge atmosphere and placed in a cold frame before facing the reality of the open garden. A cold frame is obviously ideal, for in bad weather the frame light, or top, can remain in place, whereas if the weather warms up it can be removed completely.

The aim of this hardening-off process is to give the plants a tolerance of the lower temperatures of the garden over a period of two or three weeks, without causing a check in their growth. The procedure is for the frame light to be raised slightly to permit ventilation, this gradually being increased until it is removed entirely during the day. It can then be raised at night as well to allow further ventilation, gradually increasing this until the frame light is removed entirely.

The plants should then be ready to take their place in the herb garden. When a frame is not available, a similar effect can be achieved by taking the plants outside during the day and standing them in a sheltered place, returning them indoors each night until it is felt safe to leave them outside both day and night.

 

Article by Philip Swindells
www.seedmessenger.com

 

Philip Swindells has over 40 years gardening experience. A former botanical garden curator and an international horticultural consultant, he has worked extensively in the UK, North America, the Middle East and Australia. The Author of more than 50 gardening books, he has been awarded a Quill and Trowel Award by the Garden Writers’ Association of America. He is also a former UK Garden Writer of the Year. He manages a free global seed exchange for gardeners at www.seedmessenger.com


GROWING HERBS FOR YOUR OWN HERB GARDEN

Whether you want a few pots of herbs on your windowsill or a complete herb border in your garden, growing herbs is an easy way to guarantee fresh herbs for using cooking. Growing your own herbs is also an excellent way of attracting many beneficial insects into your garden - including butterflies, moths and bees. Home grown herbs taste so much better than supermarket bought ones and it will also save you a lot of money, so is definitely worth a try!

Herbs are not only a useful addition to your various recipes; they are good for your garden by attracting beneficial insects. They also look good, smell good and have a long history of being beneficial to you - in their extensive use in medicines, cosmetics and herbal remedies (although you should consult an herbal specialist or doctor if using to make herbal remedies for yourself).

Most herbs like to be in full sun. Herbs such as rosemary and thyme like to be in the full sun at all times, whilst others, such as parsley and basil prefer to be protected from the strong, midday sun. It is therefore important to check what each of their requirements are prior to planting them.

Growing herbs in containers is a good option, as you can keep them near the kitchen, within easy reach whilst cooking. It also means you can bring the more tender plants inside during cold spells, to protect them from frosts. Some herbs have long taproots (for example, fennel and bay) so will need to be in a big pot. You will need to keep an eye on potted herbs, to ensure that they don't dry out during the hot spells, as most herbs do not like to get too dried out.

Herbs can also be grown in the garden, as edging plants, as well as being grown in raised beds and borders. This would enable you to grow several plants of the same herb, such as chives and thymes, whilst those plants you only need a single specimen of - such as rosemary and fennel.

Mint, thymes and sage spread quickly and easily around the garden, so are excellent at filling gaps and suppressing weeds. This also makes them good as border edging plants.

Herbs can also be picked for storage. Some can be dried, by hanging in a warm, dry airy spot in your house, whilst others can be frozen for future use. You can freeze leaves in bags or, alternatively, you can chop up fresh leaves and fill the compartments of an ice cube tray. You then can top it up with water and freeze. When you wish to use them, simply place a frozen cube into your casseroles and stews when they are needed.

 

Article by Sarah PJ White
www.theelderbook.com

 

Sarah PJ White is a freelance writer and life coach who specialises in self help and general interest articles. To find out more about her latest ebook on Elderflowers and Elderberries, entitled "The Little Book of Elder" please check out her website at www.theelderbook.com


CREATING A HERB GARDEN

Herbs are not only decorative; they are useful as well which makes them an essential addition to any garden. Since ancient times they have been used as medicines and as food. But they also have beneficial effects on our own humble gardens, particularly in the vegetable garden, acting as deterrents to harmful insects and attracting useful ones. If you want to grow herbs in your garden it isn't hard. You can either intersperse them with other plants in a border, grown them in pots, or create a special area dedicated to growing them. Or you can do all three. Here are a few handy tips.

PLANNING A HERB GARDEN

As there are a wealth of different varieties of herbs you can grow, it might be a good idea to decide what you would like to use them for. If you are a budding cook then you might like to grow mainly culinary herbs. Or alternatively you might want to try your hand at creating a few simple herbal remedies or beauty treatments and so need to grow the right kinds of plants for this purpose.

The next important step is to decide where to plant your herbs. If you want to plant predominantly culinary herbs, then it is common sense to place your herb garden near to the kitchen door where your plants will be readily available to you when you are cooking (nobody wants to have to go to the top of the garden for herbs when it's raining)! Most herbs originate from warmer climates are prefer sunny well-drained soil, although most are surprisingly adaptable. As with any new planting scheme, it is important to prepare the ground well before planting your herbs. Most herbs prefer a soil which is fairly neutral. But it will need to retain some moisture during the growing season, so make sure you dig in plenty of well-rotted manure or garden compost to improve the soil condition and drainage.
 
The next step is to decide on the style of your herb garden. Formal herb gardens are based on geometrical patterns and usually have a certain symmetry and neatness. Informal herb gardens may look like a free for all but there is usually some sort of order and planning gone into them. For instance, which ever style you decide on, make sure that your plants are accessible and easy to harvest. Paths are a good idea and mean that you can get to the plant you want without trampling on others in your way. As with any other planting scheme, make sure that the smaller plants are at the front and larger ones at the back. Whatever design you choose, it might also be nice to include a focal point such as a statue or garden planter in the centre of the bed to add interest.

THE CULINARY HERB GARDEN

The choice of herbs used in cooking is endless, so do some homework and think of those you will find most useful in complementing the cooking you do at home. Here are some classic favourites. Chives are easy to grow and can be used in both cooking and salads. Try the flowers in a salad - decorative and delicious! Sweet marjoram and oregano are good in tomato dishes and the main ingredient in bouquet garni. Mints are an invaluable herb. Try ginger and Moroccan mint. Apple mint is particularly good with new potatoes. If you are growing mint it might be a good idea to plant it in the ground in a pot, as mint can be a bully and tends to take over. A focal point to your garden could be a standard bay tree. Use the leaves in stews and meat dishes. However, your bay might need some protection from frost in winter. There are hundreds of varieties of sage, but officinalis is best for cooking. Thyme is great with fish and makes good stuffing. It is best grown over rocks or between paving stones. Parsley is a biennial and can be difficult to grow. However, I have a variety of flat-leaved parsley in my herb garden that seems to think it's a perennial! Rosemary is also easy to grow but can become a little woody with age. Other culinary herbs you might like to include are dill, fennel, garlic and tarragon.

THE MEDICINAL HERB GARDEN

Herbs often have a dual purpose and can be used in both cooking and medicines. Here are a few you might like to grow. Meadowsweet is a traditional remedy for acidic stomach. Valerian is a sedative and can be used for headaches and mild insomnia. Chamomile is a lovely herb used as a tea for its calming effect. Pot marigolds not only look fantastic but have antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties used to promote healing. Rosemary also has anti-bacterial properties and smells delicious. Try tying a bunch over your bath tap while the water is running for a relaxing bath. Peppermint is great for the digestion as well as providing an uplifting smell as you brush past. Feverfew is very easy to grow and an infusion of its leaves helps with headaches.


HERBS IN CONTAINERS

Most herbs do well in garden planters. Those you might like to include are mints which can be bullies in the herb garden but easily managed in a container and actually like being pot bound. Less hardy herbs such as basil and coriander are better grown in pots and treated as annuals. Ornamental herbs such as standard bays look great in containers too. You might also like to create a smaller herb garden in an old Belfast sink with dwarf varieties of lavender, thyme and mints.

Whatever herbs you decide to grow, their uses are endless and the benefits they will bring to both you and your garden will soon become apparent.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
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Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


HERB GARDEN DESIGN TIPS

Most herbs are hardy plants and can be planted almost anywhere. However, you can enhance their attractiveness based on where and how you display them.

My favourite way for a small garden is an old wheelbarrow — particularly one with a bit of character — which will hold quite a few plants and gives the added benefit of being moveable for viewing, or to protect them when the weather becomes unfavorable.
 
Next is a gazebo which you can make attractive with some ornamentals. Or consider a sun dial, bird bath, and garden statue, which can be decorated around their bases with a selection of herbs. For a nice effect — and practicality — build a brick path to each location.

Train climbers like morning glory or hop vine to climb a lamp post or series of fence posts. If you leave an outdoor light on, these plants will show off their colors beautifully after dark.

Use fences and walls, and stone or brick paths — crannies and crevices make great places for herbs. Or simply line up pots of herbs along a wall base or path edge. If you choose to plant between stones and bricks, consider sturdy plants such as thyme, particularly T. albus, T. coccineus, T. Annie, K. Hall, T. britannicus, T. lanuginous, and T. pulchellus. Corsican mint is another option but may need to be replanted every year as it is vulnerable to cold.

To edge a path, a walkway, or a terrace, use low, compact herbs such as hyssop, rue, santolina, white sage, rosemary, or box. Parsley, bush basil, and marjoram also work quite well. Alternatively, use large pots of herbs to create the edge — plant tarragon, sage, rosemary, bushy sweet basil, lemon balm or any of the mints and you will have wonderful aromas as well as herbs to use in the kitchen.

From a practical point of view, an oversized wooden tub by the kitchen door will make herbs such as chives, parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, savory, lemon balm, and spearmint readily available to take you through a culinary year.

Of course, if you have a vegetable garden, you can certainly plant herbs there as well. However, make sure you do a little research on compatibility and companion plants — some plants like each other and some don’t!

Lack of space shouldn’t deter you. We hope these tips will get you going with some unusual ways to display herbs so that you enjoy their look as well as their other attributes.

 

Article by John Schepper and Maggie Guscott


USING HERBS AS COMPANION PLANTS

Companion planting is widely practised in organic gardening. It is an effective and natural way to protect your garden from insect pests and promote healthy growth among all your plants. Some herbs in particular have a good effect on the growth, taste and health of other crops. Here is a guide to which plants some of the most common herbs are thought to be good companions for.

Planting coriander next to potatoes is good practice as the herb repels potato beetle, as well as other harmful insect pests such as aphids and spider mites. Basil should be grown alongside beans, cabbage and tomato. It is said to enhance the flavour of tomato (indeed this is why it is also used with tomato so often in cooking). It can also aid the growth of petunias.
 
Chamomile is said to be a good companion to cucumber, mint and onion. It attracts hoverflies and wasps, which help in pollination and prey on aphids and other pest insects. Chamomile also enhances the essential oils of neighbouring herb plants. Planting borage next to tomatoes increases their flavour as well as deterring tomato horn worm. It also enhances the flavour of strawberries and is said to help increase the amount of fruit harvested.

Chives should be planted with carrot, parsley, tomato and roses. It repels aphids from tomatoes and helps prevent rose black spot. Dill makes a good companion for cabbage, lettuce and onion. It keeps away aphids and spider mites and attracts hoverflies, wasps and honey bees. It should not be planted near tomatoes as it actually attracts tomato horn worms. Make sure you plant garlic near to carrot and tomato as it deters snails and carrot root fly. It is also beneficial when planted near to peas, lettuce and celery.

Lemon balm improves the growth and flavour of tomatoes. When spearmint or peppermint is grown alongside cabbage it repels cabbage maggots. Mint is also said to be an effective deterrent against mice. Rosemary benefits the growth of beans, cabbage and carrot as it deters cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies. Sage is another herb that also benefits beans, cabbage, carrot and broccoli as it repels cabbage moths, carrot fly and bean parasites. Thyme, when planted near cabbage, helps deter cabbageworms and whitefly. Thyme attracts bees to tomatoes and potatoes which means they are pollinated and you get more in your harvest. Tarragon is known widely to repel all sorts of insect pests and also enhances the flavour of a lot of vegetables, particularly aubergine.

If companion planting herbs appeals to you but you don’t want to plant them in the same bed as other plants and crops, then why not plant in garden planters and position each herb next or near to the plant they most benefit.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


THE ITALIAN HERB GARDEN - THE PERFECT HERB GARDEN FOR BEGINNERS

Why is an Italian herb garden perfect – because it contains the four main classes of herbs: aromatic, culinary, medicinal, and ornamental herbs. Plus it has annual herbs, perennial herbs, shrub herbs, and evergreen herbs.
 
Here are the most common herbs found in an Italian herb garden: basil, bay, fennel, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic. They are used in a variety of Italian recipes as well as other cuisines. These herbs are easy to grow, which makes it the herb garden for beginners and will give you a great sense of fulfilment when you use your herbs.

Basil: refers to sweet Basil and all of the different varieties of Basil, and is used frequently because of its strong flavour. Its fragrance is a main stay of any Italian herb garden. Basil is also a good companion plant and insect repellent. This herb can be over powering, start off by adding a little at a time to your dishes. This is an annual herb, which will need to be planted every year. In warm climates it will self-seed.

Bay Leaves: Bay is easy to grow in an Italian herb garden; however there are many poisonous plants that look like Bay. You’ll want to check with your local nursery expert to find out what the correct specie is for your area. The essential oils are in the leaves and the flavour is best after the leaves have been dried. When used in cooking the leaves are put in whole and then removed when the dish is finished.

Fennel: No Italian herb garden should be without this herb, and it can be used in so many different ways. Almost every part of the plant can be used; the bulbs, seeds, and the leaves are used in a variety of different dishes. Fennel seeds are a common ingredient in Italian sausage. Sweet Fennel is often used for its seeds and fronds, the Florence variety for the stalks and bulbs. It has a licorice flavour, and can be eaten raw, with some olive oil, lemon wedges and a little salt, as well as put into antipastos. While it is a perennial evergreen plant, it does need some protection in the winter, and it should be replanted ever few years, because it will start to lose its flavour. If you have some dill planted, it should be well away from Sweet Fennel, because it will cross-pollinate.

Oregano: This is another common and popular herb that is included in every Italian herb garden. Oregano is used mainly in culinary dishes, but is also used for decoration, as well as medicinal purposes. There are two different kinds of Oregano: Mexican, and Greek. Oregano and Basil often are combined in many different sauces including pizza sauce, and marinades. It adds a special flavor to Italian cooking.

Parsley: there are many different varieties of parsley; you’ll want Italian Parsley for your herb garden. It differs from the garnish variety due to its broad leaf. It is quite easy to grow in your Italian herb garden, and will re-seed itself it you let it go to seed. Parsley is another herb that can be added to just about every dish. Unfortunately slugs also love Parsley so take precautions against them.

Rosemary: Make room for Rosemary in your Italian herb garden. It can be used in just about any dish, and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years as well as ornamental. Rosemary can be used fresh or dried; it has a very distinctive flavour. It is an evergreen shrub, is quite aromatic, and will attract bees to your garden. It is a perennial evergreen and can be harmed by frost; caution should be taken to protect it when the weather is extremely cold. Cut it back every spring to promote new growth.

Sage: This is an evergreen bush that grows wild in many areas, and can be grown in your garden easily. In order to prevent Sage from getting unruly, you should keep it pruned back. It provides Italian food with a distinct flavour. Sage wasn’t as popular for a while, however it is still an important part of Italian cooking and with the new varieties its regaining its popularity in the kitchen.

Thyme: This herb has been used for centuries, not only as an additive in culinary dishes, but also in the bath water, and other medicinal purposes. Thyme is the herb to use in a dish when you are uncertain of what to use. If you are growing this versatile herb to cook with, make sure you are using Thymus Vulgaris, or common Thyme. It is quite easy to grow in your Italian herb garden, but this perennial tends to get quite woody after a few years and should be replaced about every two or three years.

Garlic: last, but certainly not least, herb gardening for beginners should always include Garlic, especially if you don’t want to get smacked by your Italian relatives. Even though it may be called the ‘stinking rose’ by some, it is a very important herb, not only in cooking, but for its medicinal qualities. Eating a lot of garlic will keep you system detoxified. If you want your relatives to love you forever, use garlic in your dishes. It really doesn’t matter what variety of garlic you grow, and it is easy to add to your garden.

If you have limited space, all of these herbs will do well as container plants, including the garlic. Planting an Italian herb garden in the actual soil or in containers is easy and you’ll be off to a great start with herbs for all uses, making herb gardening for beginners enjoyable and a success! There are different varieties of each herb. Check with your local nursery to see which variety does best in your area.

Remember don’t be afraid to try new things. Happy Herb Gardening!

 

Article by Jaylyn Huson
www.homeherbgardenanswers.com

 

Jaylyn Huson is an herb garden enthusiast and enjoys helping others learn about growing and using herbs. Her latest book is Home Herb Garden Answers – The Answers You Need for Planting, Growing, Harvesting, Storing, and Using Your Herbs.


HERBS FOR A SPAGHETTI GARDEN

Herbs are one of the delightful pleasures of life. They add flavour to your food, scent to the air and beauty to your garden. In colonial times, no home was complete without an herb garden for the lady of the house to use in her kitchen, and it wasn’t unusual for those herb gardens to be separated by use – savory herbs, tea herbs, medicinal herbs. That’s a tradition that’s made a comeback in many modern gardens.

One of the more popular types of kitchen gardens is a spaghetti garden. Oregano, basil, garlic, bay and parsley are such easy to grow plants that it’s a pity for anyone to use dried and bottled herbs if they have a sunny patch of ground or a window-box. A few square feet of garden space can easily yield all the herbs that you’ll need for delicious Italian meals. They’re even easy enough to grow in a sunny window for year round use.

BAY LAUREL

Bay leaves add a piquant hint of spice to stews, soups and especially spaghetti sauce. The bay laurel is a small tree that grows slowly – about a foot per year – making it eminently suitable for growing in a container. Unless you live in a mild climate zone (where the temperatures don’t drop below 25 degrees in the winter), you’ll do best to keep the tree in a pot and bring it indoors during the winter.

BASIL

Basil is an annual, but it seeds itself so easily that I’ve never had to buy another after planting my first year. There are many varieties of basil, but all grow fast and require frequent pinching back to keep them from growing leggy and tall. To harvest: when the plants have reached about 6-8 inches tall, you can begin harvesting. Simply use your thumb and forefinger to pinch off the top 1/3 of the plant, just above a leaf intersection. Be sure to pinch off any flower buds before they go to seed. Six to eight plants will provide enough basil to make pesto for the entire neighbourhood.

GARLIC

Garlic is possibly the easiest plant in the world to grow. Simply break apart a clove of garlic (yes, right from the grocery store!), and plant the cloves about 4 inches apart, 2-4 inches deep in light soil. Water lightly, and watch them grow. Harvest when tips of leaves turn brown – do NOT let them flower. To harvest: dig up the bulbs, and use them. In the interests of keeping a fresh supply going, plant one or two cloves from each bulb!

PARSLEY

Parsley is easily the most used herb in the world. It comes in both flat (Italian) and curly varieties, and complements the flavor of everything from delicate sauces to hearty stews. It’s often used as a garnish on plates, or chopped and added to soups, dressings and salads. It adds vitamins and color, and subtly brings out the flavor of other ingredients in the meal. The parsley plant is a biennial, flowering in its second season. It prefers a little shade on a hot sunny day, and should be kept well watered to avoid wilting and drying. To harvest: pinch back woody older stems all the way to the base, allowing new leaves and branches to grow.

OREGANO

A perennial ground cover plant, oregano is a prolific grower that can send out shoots that grow up to six feet in a single season. If encouraged with pruning and bunching, oregano can grow into a small border plant. It prefers light, thin soil and lots of sun, so keep it on the south side of your garden. Harvesting can start when the plants reach 4-5 inches. Simply pinch back as you would basil. The young leaves are the most flavourful part of the plant, and are actually considerably stronger dried than fresh. To dry, lay the harvested leaves out on newspaper or drying screens in the sun until the leaves crumble easily. Dried oregano will retain its flavour for months.

 

Article by Tim Henry


GROWING BASIL FROM SEED

For me the fresh spicy smell of basil captures the essence of long lazy summer days and eating outside. This versatile herb can be used in all sorts of cooking or added to salads. Here is a short easy guide to growing basil from seed. You don't need a greenhouse or much know-how. There are many different varieties of basil, from lemon scented to the decorative African blue variety. Sweet basil is the classic and best known variety, with tender leaves and a mild sweet taste. A good all- rounder for cooking which also dries well. Basil Marseille has large, tender sweet leaves with a strong taste that is good for pestos and seasoning. Organic cinnamon basil has a unique taste with a hint of cinnamon and is great in sauces.

The process for growing basil from seed is the same for most herbs, including coriander, chives and parsley. You will need a few small plastic pots, around 7.5cm in diameter. Fill the pots with peat-free compost. Water the compost before sowing the seed so as not to disturb it, as basil seed is very small. Empty a few seeds into the palm of your hand and sprinkle them lightly on top of the compost - around ten seeds per pot. Once you have done this, sprinkle a thin layer of compost over the seed - just enough to cover them. Cover each pot with cling film. This creates a mini greenhouse environment in which the seeds will germinate. Set the pots on a sunny window sill and wait.

After about two to three weeks your seedling should be around 10cm high. After another couple of weeks, they will be ready to prick out. Empty out the pot of seedlings carefully so as not to damage them and then gently separate them off using a pencil. Transfer each seedling into its own pot (around the same size as before). To do this, fill each pot with peat-free compost and make a deep hole in the middle with your pencil. Place the seedling into the hole and firm the compost around it. Once the plant starts to put on some growth, pinch out the top of the plant to encourage it to bush out. You can then either continue to grow your basil plants on sunny window sill indoors, or transfer the plants to a sunny site or garden planters in your garden. You will be able to enjoy a fresh supply of basil all through the summer months.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


SECRETS TO GROWING BASIL INDOORS

Growing basil indoors may seem awkward and intimidating at first but it can be fairly straight forward when you actually start growing these wonderful herbs. The basil must be planted in a nutrient-rich and well drained soil as soil type is a major factor in planting any kind of plants. The soil required for successful basil growing indoors must be moist and it should not be soggy. Therefore you must acquire a pot with an adequate drainage; otherwise the roots of your basil plant have a great possibility to rot.

A container grown basil requires fertilising. A general fertiliser can be used but the most common use of basil is for food flavouring, thus it is preferable to use an organic fertiliser. Organic fertiliser gives dual benefits; it does not only fertilise the soil it also maintains the proper pH levels of the soil.
 
The pH level for basil growing indoors is about 6.0 to 7.5. These pH levels are major aspects that could affect the growth of the basil plant. You must always check the pH levels to attain the optimal growth of the plant.

To achieve the desirable results the basil plant must be planted in a terracotta herb pot. For this you will need the following:

  • Organic/General fertiliser
  • Terracotta herb pot (much more like a strawberry planter)
  • Potting Mix
  • 8 Basil plants of different variety

1. First, get the terracotta pot and soak it in a bucketful of water. This method could prevent the pot to absorb the moisture from the potting mix.

2. Then, put potting mix that already been enriched by a fertiliser to the level of the first row of holes.

3. Alternately plant green and purple basil varieties in the first row and make sure the roots are well. Continue filling the pot.

4. Plant the remaining basil plants and put an extra potting mix in the uppermost layer.

5. Place your herb pot in a sunny window where it can get enough light, water it daily especially during dry seasons. Trim the flower heads and use a liquid fertiliser fortnightly.

Basil plants are not only used for food flavouring, it is also an insect repellent. Place the basil plant near certain areas and bruise few leaves to release its pungent aroma. As an insect repellent you can save insecticides for your garden, you can make it as a plant companion to guard your i.e., tomatoes against its pest.

Light is one of the major needs for plants to survive. They have this green pigmentation called chlorophyll to catch sunlight which helps to process their own food. Container grown basil is preferably placed near a sunny window where it could get sufficient sunlight. Basil plants can also be grown by the use of artificial light. Using fluorescent light for ten hours can make the basil plant grow properly. Basil plants can grow both under natural and artificial light alternately. Basil growing indoors is an effortless task but later on the healthy growth of the plant may require re-potting.

Just by following these easy steps and tips you can have your own delicious, all-natural insect repellent basil herbs as a reward all year round.

 

Article by Alen Sultanic

 

Alen Sultanic is a Herb Gardening enthusiast. He owns and maintains a herb garden and teaches others how to on Basil Growing Indoors. A resource for herb gardening hobbyists.


THE OREGANO PLANT

Known as “joy of the mountain,” Origanum vulgare is commonly called culinary oregano or Turkish oregano. Oregano is a close relative of marjoram and is also known as pot marjoram. Similar in taste to marjoram, oregano’s taste is more pungent and has overtones of mint. Greek oregano, subspecies hirtum of O. vulgare, is recommended as the best type of oregano for cooking. Oregano is a half-hardy perennial that can be grown outdoors as an annual or indoors as a perennial. Blooming in early summer, Greek oregano has pink, white, or purple flowers, dark green opposite leaves that are highly aromatic, and slim, squarish, woody, branched stems. Greek oregano has a branching taproot and grows in a clump. Used the world over in Italian, Mexican, and Spanish dishes, Greek oregano is one of the three essential ingredients in Italian cooking along with basil and marjoram.

Greek oregano grows 24 inches (60 centimetres) tall. Cultivation requirements: does best in light, rich, well-drained soil; requires full sun and a sheltered location; do not overwater and allow the top 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) of soil to dry-out between waterings; pinch off flowers to keep the plant bushy; do not over fertilise. Buy young plants or take cuttings to propagate, as the flavour and aroma of oregano started from seed may be disappointing. Start new oregano plants by layering stems from existing plants. Pin down the stem, cover with soil, and keep moist until you see new growth. Transplant new plants to pots or their new location.

Greek oregano requires at least 5 hours of sunlight a day. If you are growing oregano on a windowsill, turn frequently to ensure that all sides receive equal amounts of light. Oregano can also be grown under fluorescent lights. Hang lights 6 inches (15 centimetres) above the plants and leave on for 14 hours a day.

In the garden, plant oregano with broccoli to deter the cabbage butterfly. It is a beneficial companion to all plants, improving both flavour and growth. Oregano can be grown in pots in the garden as well as in the soil. In the kitchen, use in pizza, tomato sauces, pasta, hearty soups, omelettes, cold bean salads, cheese and egg dishes, and bland vegetables such as zucchini, green beans, eggplant, potatoes, and mushroom dishes. Oregano blends well with garlic, thyme, and basil. Oregano butter can be poured over fish and shellfish just before serving or baking. Oregano has a strong flavour so use sparingly and add during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

To harvest, pick small sprigs as needed. Oregano can be stored by drying. To dry, cup off plants 1 inch (2.5 centimetres) from the ground, tie plants into bunches, and hang in a warm, dry, shady location. After leaves are dry, strip off and store in an airtight container.

 

Article by Mohammed Wilder


HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS OF ROSEMARY

Rosmarinus officianalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody perennial herb with fragrant evergreen needle-like leaves, native to the Mediterranean. Its highly aromatic leaves compliment a wide variety of foods and it can be used both fresh or dried. High summer when fresh shoots are emerging is the perfect time to take semi-ripe cuttings and create lots of new rosemary plants. Snip off non-flowering shoots early in the morning and keep them in a sealed plastic bag until you are ready to root them. Here is a short guide to how.

Snip off new shoots to about 10cm long. Remove most of the lower leaves to give you a clear length of stem. Next, use a sharp gardeners knife to cut off the base of the stem to just below a leaf node (this is the point from which new leaves grow). Dip each prepared stem into hormone rooting powder. This will speed up the process by encouraging root growth in each cutting. Fill 10cm pots with gritty compost. You should be able to get about five or six cuttings to each pot. Insert the rosemary cuttings around the edge of the pot. This is better than inserting a single cutting into the centre of a pot as it helps encourage the cutting to put out roots and lessens the risk of rotting off. Water each pot well and place either in a cold frame, sheltered spot, on a shelf indoors, or a propagator. Alternatively, place a clear plastic bag over each pot to help retain moisture.
 
After a few weeks gently tip out the cuttings and check for root growth. Make sure you keep the compost moist at this point. Once your cuttings have developed a good root system, empty the pot and tease the cuttings apart. Plant each one up separately in its own pot using potting-on compost. It is also a good idea at this point to feed the young plants with a diluted fertiliser, as cuttings compost tends not to contains very many nutrients. Keep the young plants well watered and repot once they start to outgrow their first pot. By the following spring your young rosemary plants should be ready to plant out either in the ground or in garden planters. Place rosemary in containers near to your kitchen door to ensure a ready supply whenever you need it. Rosemary should be harvested often to prevent the plant from getting woody. Use the harvested shoots fresh or hang bunches up to dry for use in the winter.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


GROWING ORGANIC GARLIC

There are two types of garlic; ‘hard neck’ and ‘soft neck.’ The upside to hard neck garlic is that it produces plumper cloves and has a broader variety than soft neck garlic. The downside is that it is more difficult to keep from sprouting. It does not store as well as soft neck garlic varieties.

Soft neck garlic is an ideal choice for long-term storage. Soft neck varieties are a little easier to grow but have a cluster of tiny cloves in the centre that are tedious to work with. We grow both types to get the best of both worlds... flavour and storage quality.
 
One other important consideration when planting garlic is your climate. Hard neck garlic types root quicker and are therefore better grown in northern climates. Soft neck types do better in areas with mild winters. Yet, with proper care, both types can grow successfully in either climate.

WHEN TO PLANT

Planting garlic in the fall a few weeks before the ground freezes will allow a root system to establish but not provide enough time for the plant to emerge above the surface before winter and become damaged.

For spring planting, sow bulbs when soil temperature reaches 55 F. Garlic planted in the spring will grow OK, but usually at a lesser rate than garlic that is planted in the fall, resulting in smaller bulb development.

WHERE TO PLANT

Garlic will tolerate partial shade but will perform best in full sun

PREPARING THE SOIL

For planting garlic, you want your soil to be in the range of pH 6.0 – 7.0.

Garlic grows well in deep, well-drained soil amended with composted manure and plenty of organic matter mixed in before planting.

PLANTING AND GROWING

From your bulbs, select the large outer cloves for planting. Use the smaller cloves for immediate eating.

Separate the cloves from the bulb (this is called ‘cracking’) as close to planting time as possible; you don’t want the root nodules to dry out.

With the root end facing down and points (or tops) up, plant to the depth of 1 to 2″ below the surface for soft neck garlic and a minimum of 2″ for hard neck garlic.

Space individual cloves in rows 4- 6″apart with 1′ between rows. Cover loosely with the recommended soil level.

Garlic does not like competition with other plants so weeding is imperative for proper bulb development. When flower buds appear, snip them off with scissors; the plant will put more energy into bulb growth.

Garlic does not perform well with repeated freezing and thawing, nor does it like extreme temperatures. In colder regions, apply a thick layer of mulch during the winter and reduce the amount in the spring and summer. Mulch will protect the bulbs, prevent severe fluctuations in temperature, and help keep moisture levels even in the soil.

Chopped leaves or alfalfa hay are an excellent mulch for garlic.

Using straw is not recommended; it is a host to the wheat curl mite which invades garlic. In wet climates, using any form of mulch is not advised; it may cause the ground to hold excess water.

WATERING

Garlic prefers moist, even, well drained soil throughout the growing season with no additional watering the last few weeks before harvesting.

Over-watered garlic is prone to mould and will result in bulbs that have poor keeping quality.

COMPANION PLANTING & ROTATION

Garlic has an antibiotic and anti-fungal compound called allicin. When an insect bites into the clove the compound is released acting as a natural pesticide.

Growing garlic next to lettuce and cabbage is beneficial, as garlic deters aphids and other common pests.

Bad companions include beans, peas and potatoes as the garlic tends to stunt their growth

Planting garlic after any onion family crop, as they are closely related and prone to the same problems, is not advised.

WHEN TO HARVEST

Timing is critical when harvesting garlic.

Watch for when the bottom two or three leaves of hard neck varieties turn brown and when the tops of soft neck varieties fall over naturally; this is a good first indicator that your garlic is ready for harvest.

Before pulling up, check to be sure the bulbs are mature. Carefully brush aside the dirt around the sides of the bulb to feel if the bulbs are large and hard.

Lift bulbs out of the ground before the outer wrappers begin to tear and the skins on the cloves deteriorate. This results in poor storage quality. Harvesting too soon will sacrifice the size of your bulbs.

It is best to use a shovel to loosen the soil around the garlic bulb; a garden fork is more likely to pierce the bulbs. Once the bulb is loosened, lift the plant out by hand.Gently tap off excess dirt.

The garlic bulb can become sunburned and lose flavour if exposed to direct sunlight. It is a good idea to cover your bulbs or place them out of the sunlight while you are harvesting.

COMMON CHALLENGES

Most diseases can generally be prevented when planting garlic by avoiding over-watering and excess standing moisture. Watering the last few weeks before harvesting will shorten the life of your bulbs.

STORAGE

The storing process begins with curing your garlic. If cured and stored properly, a garlic bulb will keep 6-8 months.

Hang your bulbs out of direct light in bunches of 4-6. Be sure to allow air circulation to all sides of the bulbs. If an area with good ventilation is not available, use fans.

Optimum drying time is two weeks at 80 F. You will know your garlic is cured when the skin is dry and the necks are tight.

Before storing, clean garlic by trimming off the leaves (unless braiding) and roots and remove just the outer wrappers that are soiled. The outer wrapper is what protects the garlic and helps to maintain freshness so be careful not to expose the cloves.

Leave 1″ of the centre stalk on hard neck varieties to make separating the cloves easier. Select only unbruised, cloves and store in a paper or mesh bag. Your garlic will keep in a cool, dark place between 60-65 F for several months.

SAVING BULBS

For your next garlic crop, save only fully matured, larger bulbs with plump cloves. Store your planting bulbs the same way you would your long-term storage garlic. (See Storage)

In warmer regions, hard neck garlic must be put through an artificial ‘cold spell’ by storing in a cool, dry location with good air circulation at 45-50 F for approximately 3 weeks before planting to induce sprouting.

 

Article by Barry Brown

 

Barry Brown is a 3rd generation organic gardener who is passionate about a sustainable and natural lifestyle. His personal standards for organic living far exceeds the USDA certification, which he believes is more about money than food quality and purity.


GROWING AND PREPARING COMMON GARDEN CHIVES

Known as common garden chives, Allium schoenoprasum, can be grown indoors and out. Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium. They are grown for the flavour of their leaves, which is reminiscent of onion, although much milder. Both the stems and light purple flowers are used in cooking and the snipped leaves are an addition to many dishes. Chives lose their flavour with long cooking so it is best to add them to dishes at the last minute. For chopping stems, a pair of scissors is the best tool.
 
Chives can be frozen or dried. They are less flavourful when dried rather that frozen, so they are best used when fresh and snipped, or snipped and frozen. In both cases sort them carefully, removing any yellowing leaves and shoots, and keep only the plump green ones. It is possible to place chives in non-iodized salt, keep them there for several weeks, remove the leaves, and then bottle the ‘chive salt’ for use in flavouring.

Chives are a perennial in the garden and grow approximately 12 inches (30 cm) tall. They are extremely easy to grow, are drought tolerant, rarely suffer from disease or pest problems, and don’t require fertiliser. Cultivation requirements for growing chives: full sun, will tolerate light shade; grow best in well-drained, organic, fertile soil; keep soil moist – use mulch, and water during periods of drought. Chives tend to get overcrowded so dig and divide every three to four years.

Chives are easily grown from seed or can be brought indoors at the end of the growing season. If you are bringing chives indoors, divide a clump, and pot up in good houseplant soil. Leave your chive plant outdoors for a month or so after the first frost to provide a short period of dormancy. Bring them indoors and provide the requirements needed for them to start growing again. To harvest, snip leaves 2 inches (5cm) from the base of the plant. Cut flower stalks off at the soil line once they have finished blooming. This prevents the plant form forming seed and keeps it more productive.

Chives require at least five to eight hours of sunlight a day. Grow them on a southern or eastern exposure to the light. If you are growing them on a windowsill, turn regularly to ensure every side receives light. If you are unable to provide this amount of light, they also grow well under fluorescent lights. Hang lights 6 inches above the plants and leave lights on for 14 hours per day.

In the garden, plant chives with carrots. They are good companion plantings for tomatoes and fruit trees. Chives or garlic planted between rows of peas or lettuce control pashas and are reported to control the incidence of aphids when planted between roses. In the kitchen, use chives in omelets, scrambled eggs, rice, dips, gravies and butter. Chives can be added to soft cheese, salads, sandwiches, sour cream, vinegar, and bake potatoes. Chive blossoms can be used for garnishing and are particularly attractive in salads. Chive stems can be used for tying up little bundles of vegetables for appetisers.

 

Article by Mohammed Wilder


HOW TO PROPAGATE AND GROW MINT

Of all the herbs I grow in my garden, mint is probably the most evocative. Its fresh pungent scent reminds me of summer days and mint tea and never fails to lift the spirit. There are so many varieties of mint, each one cleverly replicating a familiar scent from another plant or food. From chocolate mint to peppermint, each one has its own distinctive smell and use. Apple mint is probably the most useful culinary herb and certainly the best with new potatoes. Here is a quick guide to growing mint from cuttings and how to grow it successfully in containers.

Mint is an herbaceous perennial which means it will die down during the winter months. But as soon as spring arrives it will start to emerge and send up new shoots. Take your cuttings in spring when this new growth begins and you will have healthy plants to harvest from all summer. Take about an 8cm cutting from the top of the plant. Remove all the lower leaves and trim the stem to just below a leaf node. Pinch out the growing tip of the cutting to encourage it to put all its efforts into growing new roots. Fill a seed tray or individual pots with compost mixed with vermiculite. Make a hole with a pencil and insert the cutting into it, taking care not to crush the stem. Don't forget to label each cutting and then water thoroughly. Mint roots quite easily so placing the cuttings out of direct sunlight in the greenhouse should be fine.

GROWING MINT IN A CONTAINER

Mint is a very vigorous plant and can easily become invasive when grown in the ground. One way around this is to grow your mint in containers. However, whether you are planting mint alongside other herbs in your container or planting several varieties of mint together, the principle is the same. To avoid the more rampant varieties from taking over, it is a good idea to plant the mint in the container still in its plastic pot. This can only be a short term solution as the plants will soon out-grow the confines of the smaller pots but you can lift them once the summer is over and over winter them individually in larger pots. Fill a large pot with gritty compost. Sit the mint in its plastic pot on top of the compost. Fill the rest of the container with other herbs or other varieties of mint, and then top up with compost. Water well. Throughout the summer, keep pinching out the growing tips of the plants to make sure you have a constant supply of mint from nice bushy plants. Remember that any plant grown in garden planters will need to be watered more regularly than plants in the ground.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
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Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


HOW TO TAKE LAVENDER CUTTINGS

Lavender has to be one of the most popular of garden plants. Highly versatile, lavender looks the part in a traditional cottage garden setting but is equally at home in a more contemporary garden design. Late summer is the time to increase stock of some of your favourite varieties by taking semi-ripe cuttings. Taking cuttings from lavender plants couldn’t be simpler. Choose a few healthy non-flowering shoots from this year’s growth and follow these few easy steps.

The best shoots to take are side shoots. Pull them away from the side of the plant, leaving a thin strip of bark attached or a heel still attached. The heel is important as this is where new roots will form. Trim off the heel with a sharp clean knife. Next, remove all lower pairs of leaves so that there is a clear piece of stem to insert into the compost. Dip the end of each prepared cutting into hormone powder. This will give the cutting a head start by stimulating the growth of new roots. You should be able to fit six cuttings into a six inch pot. Fill the pot with gritty compost and insert each cutting around the edge of the pot at equal distances. Water the compost well and cover the pot in a clear plastic bag to maintain a humid atmosphere around the cuttings. Place the pots in a warm place in shade rather than full sunlight. Once the cuttings have started to root (you can tell this by looking to see if any roots have appeared through the bottom of the pot), cut a few ventilation holes in the plastic bag. After a few more weeks you should be able to remove the plastic bag completely. Leave the cuttings to establish for a while longer and then transfer each cutting into its own individual pot. Once they start to put on growth, pinch out the top of each young plant to encourage the plant to bush out. The young lavender plants should put on a fair amount of growth before the end of the summer, but make sure you overwinter them in a greenhouse or cold frame as they will still be too tender to withstand the winter weather without protection.
 
Next spring your young plants should soon start to grow again and can be transferred into the ground or grown on in garden planters to be placed around the garden where their distinctive scent will delight once the sun warms up again.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


PLANTING LAVENDER

Planting lavender is a great way to start off the spring gardening season. A little effort now will pay off for years to come as this low maintenance perennial yields its aromatic and useful blossoms. Purchase a plant from a nursery, choose the right location, prepare the soil and plant. Just add a little fertiliser and water and watch it grow. Following these simple tips will provide a high likelihood of success.
 
The easiest way to plant lavender is to start with an established potted plant purchased from a nursery. Many lavender varieties can be started from seed, but that is more difficult and doesn’t have a high success rate. Choose a plant in a 4″ to 8″ pot with healthy leaves that are green (or grey depending on the variety) but not brown.

Choose a location that gets plenty of sun, as lavender is a sun loving plant. It will do fine with some shade but needs several hours of sun each day to thrive. The area must also be one that drains well. Lavender is a plant the requires little water, and in fact will not survive if it stays wet for too long.

Speaking of soil, prepare a fast draining mixture of equal parts of sand, compost and native soil. Dig a hole that is two to three times the diameter of your pot and twice as deep. Fill the hole half way with your prepared soil, remove the plant from the pot, loosen the dirt around the roots slightly and place the plant in the centre of the hole. Finish filling the hole with your soil mixture.

Water regularly for the first couple of weeks to get the plant established, then water sparingly when the soil is dry. Treating the plant with a light application of natural fertiliser such as bone meal or fish emulsion will give the plant a good start.

Though the plant may bloom only lightly (or not at all) its first year, the second year will produce significant growth and 50 blossoms or more. A mature lavender can produce several hundred wonderful smelling blossoms that can be dried and used for aromatherapy, cooking, or a heavenly scented sachet.

With a little care, lavender plants will last many seasons. Make plans now to start the spring gardening season by planting lavender and enjoy the fruits of your labour for years.

 

Article by Jimmie Norris
What About Lavender
www.what-about-lavender.com

 

Jimmie Norris is an avid lavender gardener and webmaster of www.what-about-lavender.com a complete resource for lavender information. Visit www.what-about-lavender.com/Planting_Lavender.html to learn more about planting lavender.


GROWING LAVENDER INDOORS

When getting ready for growing lavender indoors, be certain that you have selected a good variety of lavender for inside planting. French lavender just might be the best for this. It grows best in the house. You just might want to purchase a started plant rather than trying to begin from seed.

Prepare a nice habitat for your fresh lavender plant. Buy a average potting mix and use it. Select a large pot. Lavender likes plenty of space to develop. You may need to add a little sand to the mix to help drainage.
 
Regular watering is important for growing lavender indoors. It wants a even supply of water, but not daily watering. Only water lavender when the soil is totally dry. Following watering be sure the soil is wet, but not a slurry of mud. Check the soil at least daily.

Lavender wants to get sufficient man-made light or sunlight to achieve its complete potential. It loves light and would like to be in full light all day. But you don’t want to overheat your lavender in too much light. In colder climates, you probably need to keep it away from windows to keep the lavender from getting chilled. Be wary of cold spots in your home.

When the climate is nice, take the lavender outdoors into a nice protected sunny spot. Since this is an indoor plant, it won’t be ready for outdoor life, so make sure it has shelter and take it back in. If it is going to get too cool at night, then bring it in. Some people will actually plant the lavender for the summer and re-pot it in the winter months. You will have to decide which way works better in your climate.

Growing lavender indoors can have a difficult learning curve, but in the long run should be a pleasure. You will have this herb at hand for any use you desire. Maybe you need a stress relieving tea, or just enjoy the bouquet of lavender. Keep trying until you get it. You can figure out the correct technique. You will be happy with the results.

 

Article by Gary Deavers


CREATING A LAVENDER GARDEN

When most people think of lavender they think of hot summer days, that heady distinctive scent and the gentle buzzing of bees; an image that has made it one of the most popular garden plants. Originally from the Mediterranean region and India, the lavender species is now cultivated all over the world. Its uses are documented as far back as Roman times when it was used to scent their bath water. Indeed it was the Romans who first introduced the plant to Britain.

Lavender is a large family of plants, some annual, others perennial, some hardy and others tender. It is a plant well worth collecting and if you have some space in your garden, why not create a small garden devoted to the species. Here is a short guide to creating a small lavender garden which measures 15 feet square, including preparation, types of lavender you might like to grow and some companion plants.

PREPARING THE GROUND

Lavender prefers well-draining soil and a warm sunny aspect. However, it will grow in semi-shade as long as the soil conditions are right. Most lavenders are quite hardy and should survive winter temperatures, but if you live in an area with very cold winter temperatures it might be worth considering growing the plants in containers so that you can more easily protect them in severe weather.

If your soil is clay you will need to dig in plenty of organic matter followed by sharp sand in order to improve the drainage. Mark out the area you want to plant. In a square area it is a good idea to divide it up into four smaller squares with narrow paths running through so that you can easily access the plants.

LAVENDER PLANTS

When deciding which species to include in your garden, there are a few things you will need to consider. How large will a particular species grow? Is it hardy? It is a good idea to grow a range of varieties in groups to achieve an overall effect of shape, size and colour. Plant in groupings of 3-5 plants for maximum impact. For larger varieties choose augustifolia or English Lavender, which is a hardy evergreen perennial. It grows to a height of 32ins with a spread of 3ft and has mauve/purple flowers on long spikes in summer. If you are keen to try and distil your own lavender oil, then choose Lavender Grosso which is a cross between augustifolia and latifolia and the choice of most commercial growers. The species is very tall growing and is good for making lavender wands and the flowers are good for making sachets. Lavender Hidcote is another good variety. This hardy evergreen perennial grows to a height of around 18in and has dark blue flowers on medium spikes in summer. Lavender Rosea has pink flowers in summer and very aromatic leaves.

Lavenders known as French Lavenders are only half hardy but are well worth growing for their attractive coloured bracts in summer. Lavender Pedunculata grows up to 24ins and has attractive purple bracts with an extra mauve centre tuft.

If you want some smaller growing varieties for the front of borders or to infill, then choose Lavender Folgate, Lavender Lodden pink or blue, and Lavender Munstead. Medium varieties include Lavender Bowles and Lavender Old English.

MAINTENANCE

The best way to maintain a healthy lavender bush is to trim it to shape every year in spring, taking care not to cut into the old wood which will not sprout again. Once the flowers have gone over, trim back to the leaves. You can also trim the plant again in early autumn. Regular trimming in this way will keep a neat shape and encourage new growth.

If you want to gather lavender flowers for sachets or to dry as bunches, it is best to cut them just as they open. Dry the flowers by hanging them in small bunches. The leaves can be picked at any time to use fresh.

CONTAINER GROWING

If you choose to grow your lavender in containers make sure you choose garden planters that show the lavender off well. All lavenders look good in terracotta. Choose a well-drained compost and grit mix. Position your container in a sunny position. Although lavender will grow in partial shade, it can affect the scent of the plant. Water well and feed during the summer months. In winter allow the plant to dry out completely and then re-introduce water slowly in the spring.

COMPANION PLANTING

You may wish to grow other plants alongside your lavender. If you have used a square design you could edge each square in low box hedging which will enclose the lavender plants in a straight edge of dark evergreen foliage. Other plants that grow and look well with lavender include other heat tolerant plants such as Santolina or cotton lavender, Rosemary and Oregano. Echinacea and Scabiosa are other good choices. Coleus adds a good colour contrast to the silvery grey of lavender leaves.

 

Article by Jo Poultney
Garden Planters
www.gardenplantersshop.co.uk
www.facebook.com/Gardenplantersshop
www.twitter.com/Plantersshop

 

Garden Planters source unusual outdoor and indoor planters, and other garden related gifts - whatever your taste, be it traditional, modern or just a bit quirky, we will have something for you. Run by two qualified and creative gardeners, Garden Planters will also plant up your chosen planter with an arrangement of your choice. We believe garden planters are an integral part of any garden - they enhance the overall design and say a little something about the person to whom the garden belongs.


HOW TO GROW AN AROMATIC LAVENDER HEDGE

There are very good reasons why growing lavender has been so popular with generations of gardeners and farmers. Perhaps the most important reason is that it has a beautiful, fragrant smell. When it flowers we are all immediately reminded of summer, and in many places around the world flowering lavender is cause for celebration. But as well as being admired for its beauty it also has a long history as a healing and restorative plant.

Lavender originates from the mountainous zones of the Mediterranean, but it now flourishes throughout southern Europe, Australia, and the United States. Like another well-known herb, rosemary, it's a heavily branched short shrub that grows to a height of between 2 and 3 feet. For this reason it's an excellent herb for growing as an aromatic garden hedge. In this article I'll explain how you can grow a lavender hedge and how to put its flowers to use in many areas around your home.

To help you understand how easy and straightforward it is to grow a lavender hedge I have structured my article as six short paragraphs:

- Where to plant your lavender hedge
- What sort of lavender to plant
- Buying or growing your lavender?
- How to plant your lavender hedge
- Looking after your lavender
- Putting your lavender to healthy uses

WHERE TO PLANT YOUR LAVENDER HEDGE

When you are looking for a site to plant your lavender hedge, bear in mind that lavender loves a sunny location and light, dry, well drained alkaline (ph 7.5 to 8) soil. If you plant lavender in moist and shady conditions it won't flourish and becomes prone to fungus.

When you choose a site for your hedge also bear in mind that lavender is excellent at repelling insects (with the exception of bees and butterflies which it attracts). This makes it a good companion plant for orchards and other areas of your garden where insects such as flies and mosquitoes are a nuisance.

WHAT SORT OF LAVENDER TO PLANT

Don't just buy the first lavender you see in your garden centre or shop. There are many types of lavender plants available, but to keep things simple I'll introduce you to just two of them, both of which are suitable for growing a lavender hedge.

Lavandula stoechas (commonly called French lavender) has short, fat spikes of dark purple flowers topped with butterfly wing bracts (small leaves attached to a flower)

Lavendula augustifolia (commonly called English lavender) which has small purple flowers.

French lavender will grow a little taller than English lavender (up to 3ft instead of 2ft), but English lavender has a stronger smell which is good if you intend to harvest the flowers to make potpourri and aromatic oils.

BUYING OR GROWING LAVENDER

I don't recommend trying to grow your lavender from seed because seeds frequently don't produce plants that are true to type. Either buy small plants that are ready for transplanting or take your own cuttings from another plant. If you decide to take cuttings, take 2 inch stems from the tips of the lavender in mid to late summer. Trim off the upper and lower leaves of these stems and then plant them in a mixture of 2/3 course sand and 1/3 peat moss. Keep the soil on the dry side until the roots have formed and shoots appear, and then replant the young plants in pots ready for planting out.

HOW TO PLANT YOUR LAVENDER HEDGE

Plant your lavender hedge in either the spring or the autumn. Make a trench about 16 inches deep and 18 inches wide, and fill this up with a mix of potting compost and coarse sand. Plant your young lavender plants about 2 feet apart (which will to allow for growth). If you plant in the spring, remove any blooms to force the energy into root growth. If you plant in the fall all the plant's energy will be directed into growing its roots.

LOOKING AFTER YOUR LAVENDER

Keep your plants watered, even during the winter, although in the winter months the plants are largely dormant. Feed your lavender plants with a suitable fertiliser in early spring and again in mid-summer.

Lavender tends to get woody and needs to be maintained by pruning. Do this before new shoots have formed and at the end of the season when flowering has finished. It's a good idea to shape your lavender hedge. I prune mine to create a circular bush in the spring, and aim to take off about 1/3 of its height when I carry out a major prune at the end of the summer.

Pruning your lavender plants at the beginning and end of the season will encourage healthy growth and lots of flowers. I also dry my pruned cuttings and use them as kindling wood during the winter. They release a wonderful scent as they burn.

You will also probably want to cut lavender flowers during the growing season to use in the home in some of the ways I have described in the final part of my article. Flowers can be cut from the early spring before they open and during the summer.

Although lavender is a perennial herb your hedge will start to get quite woody after a few years depending on growing conditions. I recommend that when the hedge begins to look a bit ragged you take lots of cuttings and replant it either at the end of the season or in the spring.

PUTTING YOUR LAVENDER TO HEALTHY USES

Whilst growing lavender in your garden will bring endless pleasure, it also has many other uses:

Oil of Lavender:
Make this by immersing your lavender flowers in neutral oil. The aromatic oil has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact it was used in hospitals during WWI to disinfect floors and walls. This oil can also be used as a fragrance for bath products.

Dried Lavender flowers:
These are used to perfume linen. The dried flowers have a powerful, aromatic odour which repels moths, flies and mosquitoes

Culinary lavender:
Use fresh or dried flowers to flavour sugars jellies, ice-cream and cheeses. you can also crystallize flowers and use as decorations on cakes.

In conclusion I hope I have been able to show you that creating a lavender hedge isn't difficult. If you follow the instructions I have provided you will end up with a healthy, strong, attractive hedge. It might take a couple of years to really establish itself, but whilst this is happening you can harvest and preserve the flowers so you can enjoy the results of your hard work throughout the winter months.

 

Article by Adam Gilpin
Herb Gardening Help
www.herb-gardening-help.com

 

This article by Adam Gilpin has been produced to encourage more people to create their own herb gardens and discover the 100's of different ways in which herbs such as lavender can be used in the garden and around the house.

Please visit Adam's website at www.herb-gardening-help.com to find out about other herbal garden projects like the lavender hedge and about growing, harvesting and using a wide variety of other herbs. On Adam's site you can also find out about his new book on herb gardening which has just been published by Oxford Digital Press.


USING ORGANIC GARDENING METHODS

Organic gardens offer a perfect opportunity to grow healthy herbs, fruits and vegetables using earth-friendly methods. The process of organic gardening means no artificial ingredients, such as chemical-based pesticides, are applied to the garden or lawn. Also, these gardening principles are easily applied to any garden set-up and promote the growth of virtually any plant life.

WEEDS AND PESTS

Gardeners can take full advantage of the safe and natural ways to get rid of most species of garden pests. Many natural pesticides help to eliminate the most common pests to attack plant life. A solution of vinegar and water can tackle many pest issues. Also, a variety of herbs can be used in the process of controlling the pests.

A simple natural pesticide includes spraying a diluted mixture of water and natural soap. This is very effective at eliminating the aphid infestations. Once the aphids start to clear from the leaves, the plants should be given a further spray with clean water. Another natural option includes a combination of garlic and onion mixed in water. This can act as a general insect repellent.

Also, rather than using artificial pesticides to control the population of unsightly weeds, a gardener can use a variety of natural alternatives. The use of household vinegar is also a high effective tool at killing weeds. Combine 15% household vinegar with water to create a simple spray mixture. Apply this to the plant life during periods of bright sunlight. This will kill off the weeds without causing any damage to the plants.

FERTILISING

Another way to use the organic materials is to create a fertiliser to promote the health of the garden and lawn. Organic fertiliser relies on the composting and mulching processes to allow a variety of materials to decompose naturally.

To retain the quality of the soil, it is recommended that the top 5 or 6 inches are tilled. This will help keep the majority of the nutrients at a level that can benefit the health of the plant life. Also, a good quality organic mulching material should be applied to any exposed soil. This should be layered at a depth of 2 or 3 inches. The addition of mulch is beneficial to prevent soil eroding, discourage weed growth, maintain moisture content, and encourage plant growth.

All in all, the organic gardening practices help to maintain the beautiful and healthy garden in the most natural, effective and safe way possible.

 

Article by Kyle Vail


THE ESSENTIALS OF COMPOSTING

Distinct from mulch per se, compost is decayed organic material used as a fertiliser for growing plants. It is matter that is almost completely broken down or decomposed.

THE ESSENTIALS OF COMPOSTING

The benefit of compost is that it gives you an earthy, dark, crumbly soil that is excellent for all plants due to having been enriched by the decomposed materials. So, in this energy conscious world, it is an easy way to recycle your yard and kitchen wastes, and is a critical step in reducing the volume of garbage needlessly sent to landfills. The natural cycle of life always provides natural compost as leaves fall in the Autumn and throughout the year with evergreens.

Piling up, they begin to decay and when returned to the soil the living roots continue the process of reclaiming the available nutrients. Generally however, in the home garden this isn't enough - hence making your own compost heap is so beneficial. And today, in many countries, including the United States, you will find this practice increasing across households - not just with avid gardeners who have been always doing it. Probably it will become as commonplace as recycling cans and paper is now. Composting is a simple process that you can make as sophisticated as you like. Basic composting requires minimal effort. You can choose a bin or a bin-less system.

COMPOSTING FUNDAMENTALS

Compost is done by billions of microbes (fungi, bacteria, etc.) that digest the yard and kitchen wastes (food).

 If the pile is cool enough, worms, insects, and their relatives will help out the microbes. Like people, these living things need air, water, and food. If you maintain your pile to provide for their needs, they'll happily turn your yard and kitchen wastes into compost much more quickly.

THE BASICS

AIR

The waste will need to be aerated occasionally for the microbes to survive as they breathe air. 

This will also help break up materials that tend to mat (e.g. grass clippings, wet leaves) and take longer to decompose otherwise. Just turn the compost periodically with a pitchfork - though some compost bins nowadays have inbuilt turning mechanisms operated by an external handle that does the mixing for you - aerating the compost.

MOISTURE

keep the pile fairly moist - like a kitchen sponge - that is wet but not soaked. Too much water mats the materials too much.

INCLUDE

The mix of compost can be classified as 'browns' and 'greens'. Greens are the wastes from the kitchen - fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, fresh manures and so on. The browns are things like dead leaves (autumn leaves), hay, straw, sticks and woodchips, sawdust and the like. Mixing browns and greens is the best nutritional balance for the microbial activity. The browns are bulkier and help keep the pile aerated and the greens maintain needed moisture. If too wet just add more browns and vice versa.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

In winter your compost heap may go dormant - but it will revivify in the spring. While hotter piles of compost do decompose somewhat faster, a temperature of about 50F is sufficient, provided aeration and the mix is correct. Size does matter! The compost pile needs to be at least a cubic yard (3 foot high and wide) to heat up and stay hot for a long period of time. When finished the compost will be dark in colour and has an earthy smell (like the smell of soil). Although bits of hard-to-decompose materials (such as sticks) will still be evident they will finish decomposition in the garden bed.

QUICK BOOSTING COMPOST

By making a tea out of your compost - combine equal parts of water and compost and let it sit for a while. - you can give your plants a boost by using the liquid as a foliage feeder. This also applies to worm wee which you can collect from your worm farm. Just dilute it all a bit though.

WHAT TO COMPOST

Grass and lawn clippings - layer these thinly and place drier compost in between.

Alfalfa composts very quickly. Be careful of greens that have lots of seeds which can re-sprout, e.g. hay. Moisten first. 

Food wastes - Fruit and vegetable peels/rinds, tea bags, coffee grounds, eggshells, and similar materials are great stuff to compost. Avoid composting meat scraps, fatty food wastes, milk products, and bones -- these materials are very attractive to pests. 

Leaves - like lawn clippings - layer thinly or they will mat. 

Straw - will help keep the compost aerated.

Weeds - can be used but avoid those that have begun to go to seed. 

Woodchips and sawdust - - although these can be used straight onto the soil as mulch, they can also be used in the compost pile. Don't use chemically treated wood.

WHAT NOT TO COMPOST

Chemically treated woods 

Diseased plants - composting heat may kill disease organisms - but you can't be sure all of it will die.

Meat, bones, fatty food wastes 

Pernicious weeds - unless they are completely dead and not gone to seed.

 

Article by Peter Damien Ryan
Better House & Garden
www.betterhouseandgarden.net

 

Peter Damien Ryan is a landscape and gardening expert and can be reached at www.betterhouseandgarden.net