After finally discovering the secrets of growing basil last year it is long overdue i started off some more basil plants. The only way to grow basil is on mass so you don’t feel guilty cutting back a whole plant to make a nice fresh pesto. After experimenting with growing from seeds I dind by far the quickest and easiest way is to start off with a supermarket bought basil plant.
I simply take about 15-20 cuttings from the original plant as soon as i get it home and pop them into small glasses of water. They’re left on a bright windowsill that doesn’t get too much direct sun. After 2-3 days this is what you get….
It always amazes me how quickly the roots grow from these basil cuttings. The above plant is only 5 days old! I’ve just potted up the cuttings into regular compost to grow on. I usually pinch out the tops after 2-3 weeks of further growth to help the plants bush out.
I’ve found the real secret to growing basil is to no let it have too much direct sunlight. In our kitchen we have a small dormer window that get plenty of light but not too much direct – only an hour or so in the morning. It seems to be the perfect place to grow basil. Hopefully it won’t be long before pesto is on the menu…
The wet weather we’ve been having recently has unfortunately meant that conditions have been ideal for slugs and snails to thrive. We’ve quite lucky to have quite a good population of birds that feast on these molluscs. Quite a few time recently I’ve seen a song thrush pull out snails from an ivy bush and proceed to smash their shells open before dispatching them.
If you believe the BBC then an invasion of so called Spanish super slugs is to blame, the wet weather certainly hasn’t helped. On Sunday I was pretty disappointed to see that the local molluscs had demolished our window box salads, completely.
Luckily they didn’t get inside the apple crates at our Romaine lettuces which have been loving the wet weather and are thriving. So, it’s time to get some more seed in, hopefully in time for some drier weather to arrive!
There are not many flowers as stunning as chive flowers. As you can see below our chives have been growing really well this year and have been producing stunning flowers for about the last five weeks. As well as looking great the flowers are really edible and add a wonderful allium fragrance to a salad or on top of a pizza.
Unfortunately the photo above was taken a week or so ago and the display is now over and the plant is getting a bit ‘woody’. As a result it’s now time to take the shears to it and prune it back hard to the ground to encourage some new growth.
Actually this plant has been in the ground for 2 years now and has grown rigorously. In order to stop it taking over the herb garden and et some new younger growth i may well split it. Though I’ve not actually done so before I believe its a simple case of digging up the clump, splitting the bulbs into a couple of clumps and replanting at the same depth.
You can’t beat wandering out into the garden armed with a pair of scissors and coming back a few minutes later with enough fresh veg for a nice healthy salad to accompany your evening meal.
After encountering so many issues with slugs and snails munching my ground planted salads I’ve really taken to planting mixed salad leaves in containers…specifically old metal window boxes.
In the window boxes above I’ve got rocket in one and mixed leaves in the other.They only take a couple of weeks to get to the stage when you can start picking leaves. Once they get going I find just a couple of boxes is plenty enough to keep us in salad. Invariably we neglect to pick them and they bolt or go to seed. When this happens I simply assign them to the compost bin and start again.
As well as regular lettuce leaves other options I’m a fan of are pak choi, beetroot, radish, spinach and chard. So long as you pick the leave while they are nice and young they all make interesting, tasty and colourful salads.
Twice in previous years I’ve made the mistake of planting bush type borlotti beans thinking they were climbers. Well, despite the packet clearly stating they are climbers i think I’ve only gone and done it again. After shooting up in the last two weeks it looks like they’re not going to get any taller.
In order to avoid disappointment I’ve put in a few runner bean seeds in and around the pots the borlotti’s are in so I should have a few beans climbing up the nice tripods I made out of bamboo canes and twine.
Having pinched out my sweet peas a couple of weeks ago I planted them out around a couple of wooden tripods which we bought a few weeks ago at a local gardening show.
Unfortunately disaster struck as a small rabbit managed to sneaks it’s way in to our walled garden and proceeded to munch it’s way through the sweet pea tips as well as a few other trays of seedlings I’d carelessly left out on the patio.
After getting it’s way into the garden it appeared the furry intruder was stuck inside and after a few sightings over a few days I battled in vein to catch the furry captive!
After about 5 days I managed to trap the offending rabbit behind the garden shed and with the help of a flower pot and a piece of wood I scooped it up and it was released into a ditch down the road.
Luckily I’d got a second batch of sweet peas in the greenhouse which I’d planted directly from seed into some home made pots made from old newspapers. As you can see from the pictures the newspaper pots have worked really well and the roots of the sweet peas are bursting through them so its a great time to get them planted out in the ground.
The pots were incredibly easy to make, I just rolled 2 sheets of newspaper around the end of a rolling pin and scrunched over to form the bottom of the pot. The idea is they will simply compost away once planted out, allowing the roots to grow through them.
I’m not sure which variety this second batch of sweet peas is, they seem a lot thinner and more delicate than the original batch pictured above. Hopefully now the rabbit has been dispatched they’ll flourish and put on a good show of fragrant color in a few weeks time.
You know Spring is (should) be just round the corner when you need to start worrying about pinching out sweet peas. I planted these about 3 weeks ago. I soaked the seeds in water over night and they germinated within about 1 week.
I still think it is a bit cold to plant them out with this cold snap. Instead i’m hardening them off by putting them outside during the day and for warmer nights and bringing them back into the green house on colder nights.
In order to make them into bushier plants i’ve just pinched them out. Sweet peas usually benefit from this every few weeks in the early stages of growth. All i do to pinch them out is to nip off the top of the seedling just above the 2nd or 3rd set of leaves. Hopefully the weather will improve and i’ll be able to get these planted outside in the next couple of weeks.
Mint is an impossible plant to kill. This plant is about 5 years old, taken from a cutting from another plant. It’s been left abused in a pot in shady spots for months, its dried out in fill sun and not been watered. No matter how badly i treat it every spring it bursts back to health and puts on lots of fresh growth.
Mint is very vigorous an can take over borders. As a result it’s best to keep it in a pot to stop it spreading. We keep ours in a large pot, next to the herb garden by the back door. The leaves are great for adding to salads or for garnishing deserts.
Another great way of using the leaves is to make your own mint tea. Simply click off about 5 leaves and add then to a cup of boiling water…couldn’t be simpler or more refreshing!
Last Spring I was given a rather large old rhubarb crown. Having split it in two and left it out in the cold I planted each half and resisted picking any stem last summer in order to allow the plants to fully establish.
While out in the garden yesterday I noticed that one of the rhubarb plants has produced some pretty amazing looking flowers. They look a bit like purple sprouting broccoli.
It is a bit of a misconception that rhubarb plants flower just before they die.In this case I suspect the unusually dry winter followed by the very warm early Spring has fooled them into thinking it is late summer.
All I’ll do to this plant is to remove the flowers so that all of it’s energy can be diverted into producing more tasty stems rather than flowering with an aim to producing seed. Hopefully the plant will carry on as normal as it now looks very well established.
I’ve been waiting over the winter for the time to come when I could take some ‘pup’ cuttings from our aloe vera plant. As you can see from the photos below, Aloe Vera plants tend to self produce babies or pups that sprout up from the root system of the main plant.
Now that the worst of winter seems to be past us i’ve decided to finally go ahead and split these baby aloe pups from the main plant. They should make good little gifts for people over the summer.
General advice seems to be to wait until the aloe vera pups have about 3 leaves of their own before trying to separate them.
I simply dug away the soil around the pup, exposing the root system then carefully cut away from the mother plant with a sharp knife. You should leave as much of the root system on the pup as possible to help it establish itself.
As with any cutting it’s best to keep the freshly potted Aloe pups out of strong direct sun and spray/mist regularly with water in order to help keep them moist. I’ve put these three in a propagator to help keep the moisture levels up but a simple plastic bag would do just as good a job.