Posts Tagged ‘garden’

How to Store and Preserve Herb Cuttings [video]

August 9th, 2016 | The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

Fresh herbs can transform meal time so it is always worth giving over a little space in your plot or indoors on your windowsill to grow some herbs. Some varieties can be cut throughout the year, but others grow seasonally and so to get an all year round herb supply for the kitchen you will need to cut and store them before they die back.  This video will offer you methods on how to preserve and store your homegrown herbs for use through the winter months. 

homegrown basil plant

  • Air drying is the easiest method of preserving herbs, gather branches of herbs into loose bunches and then hang upside down in a warm, dry ventilated place. These should be fully tried within two – three days.
  • Microwave drying is a speedier method than air drying.  For this technique, spread out leaves onto a paper towel and then cover over with a second paper towel. Put these into the microwave for 1-3 mins, checking leaves every 20 secs. Allow them to cool before storing them.
  • Some herbs can be successfully frozen to preserve them. Blanch them in boiling water before placing them in ice cold water to ensure that they do not cook any further. Pat them dry and pack them into labelled freezer bags. You can also use ice cube trays to create useful sized herb parcels when you need to defrost them for meals.
  • Creating herb butters is a great way of storing herbs.  Leave the butter at room temperature to soften it, chop up your favourite herbs and mash it thoroughly into the butter with the back of a fork. Pack the butter mixture into grease-proof paper and twist the ends.
  • Store dried leaves whole, this will retain their flavour. Place them in an airtight jar and label with the date and specific herb. Store the jar in a cool, dry place where they should keep for up to a year.
  • Preserve herbs in vinegars and oils to lock in that flavour.  This video posted last week shows you how.

These are just a few ideas of preserving your homegrown herb cuttings throughout the year, enjoying all that flavour as the days get colder. You can find more tips in the video below and if you have any of your own, be sure to share them with us.

How to Store and Preserve Herb Cuttings

How to Beat Bugs in Your Garden [video]

July 21st, 2016 | The flower garden, The vegetable garden | 0 Comments

bugs gardenYou can never escape the threat of bugs in the garden, but you can manage and plan for a bug attack. If you want to beat bugs in your garden it takes a good strategy and this video will give you tips to make sure bugs are kept at bay.

  • Healthy plants are strong plants and are less likely to be affected by bugs even though they may collect a little collateral damage on the way. Therefore it’s vital to ensure your crops are as healthy as possible. Keep crops healthy by following best gardening practice; watering soil in dry weather, planting with sufficient space to avoid overcrowding, keeping plants regularly weeded and using organic fertilizers to nourish them at key points in their lifecycle.
  • Many bugs like to hunt out your crops, but these bugs also have predators.  So the best tactic is to encourage natural allies who will hunt down the insects, slugs and other unwelcome garden visitors.  Ladybirds, garden birds, frogs and toads are perfect for this as they feed on pests destroying their populations before they become an issue.
  • Attract these predators into the garden by planting the flowers and plants that they will also feed on. So flowers that attract pollinators, or planting berry bushes to keep birds happy for instance.
  • Other methods of attracting insects can include placing bug hotels throughout your garden, allowing patches of grass to grow a little longer to provide shelter, and leaving deadwood in the corner of a garden to create breeding areas for beetles.
  • Frogs and toads love slugs and therefore they are great for keeping bugs at bay.  Adding a pond in your garden, even if it’s small, can create a habitat to attract frogs and toads though they will happily thrive if they have damp cool spaces to shelter too.
  • Place trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the garden to provide nesting sites and food for birds. Once established, they can assist in getting rid of pests such as snails and slugs and will reward you by raising their young in your garden each year.

These are just a few suggestions for keeping bugs at bay in your garden, watch the video for tips on many more methods.  If you have any techniques you use to keep pests away, do let us know in the comments section below.

How to Beat Bugs in Your Garden

Scent for spring – and autumn

July 15th, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Wallflower 'Sugar Rush' flowers in both autumn and spring. - (scent)The scent of wallflowers is one of the delights of spring, especially after a shower. But the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflower, developed in Norfolk, is not only scented but flowers in the autumn as well as the spring!

This one of the most useful developments in seasonal flowers as instead of a boring green bush sitting in your containers for six months before the plants flower, plant them in September and your ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers will flower in October and November. They’ll then take a break for the coldest months of the winter and start blooming again in march.

PDianthus 'Festival Mixed' flowers in autumn as well as spring.  - (scent)lants are little more than 35cm high, ideal in containers, and the mixture comes with six traditional wallflower colours including a fiery yellow-eyed orange.

Oh – and in dry spells you can turn on the scent with a quick spray with the mister!

But wait, there’s more. There’s also a Sweet William that flowers in the autumn as well as the spring. ‘Festival’ comes in five colours and bicolours and at 25cm the plants are a little shorter than the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers. The flowers are large, too, about 4cm and each is prettily fringed. And of course there’s the scent – a mixture of sweetness and cloves.

As with the ‘Sugar Rush’ wallflowers, ‘Festival’ will flower in October and November, take a break and then get started again in March and continue till the end of May.

Just don’t mix the two in one container: the colours don’t look so good mixed together and you’ll lose the purity of the fragrances. So give them separate containers.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new

January 1st, 2016 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'As we look back at this strange year, with daffodils in flower in December and the mildest November ever, I’m struck by the value of varieties that are old favourites from years gone by and those that are potential new favourites for the coming year. Three favourite oldies this week, three fine recent newcomers next week.

Ipomoea ‘Heavenly Blue’
“Start the day right with a thrilling smile from the World’s most beautiful Morning Glories.” So says the 1947 catalogue from New York’s R. Henderson & Co who were the leading breeders of morning glories at the time.

But the finest of them all, ‘Heavenly Blue’, is older and was originally known as ‘Clark’s Earliest Heavenly Blue’ when it was introduced in the 1920s. That Henderson’s catalogue says: “This is the earliest flowering variety, making a sparse growth of foliage, heavily covered with sky blue flowers, with a golden throat.”

As I said in my book Discovering Annuals: “no one with a soul can resist it.”

Nemesia 'St George'Nemesia ‘St George’
Sometimes when an old variety becomes popular again it does so with a new name. This was the case with the dainty red-and-white bicoloured Victorian nemesia first known as ‘National Ensign’. When it gained an RHS Award of Merit in the 1950s it had become ‘Aurora’ and then about thirty years ago it was re-launched with a flurry as ‘Mello’ and then as ‘Mello Red and White’ as well as ‘Danish Flag’.

One Dutch seed company claims to have introduced it in 1987 (but uses the Victorian name!) and another calls it ‘St George’ and so do Mr F.

Either way it’s a lovely little plant, easy to grow and with such a sparkle.

Tagetes 'Tall Scotch Pride'Marigold ‘Tall Scotch Prize’
When striped marigolds were revived soon after those red-and-white nemesias, they too were given fancy new names by some seedspeople but in this case the old ones have generally persisted. ‘Tall Scotch Prize’, first seen in 1829, is still going strong.

The Victorians grew single and double flowered striped marigolds, tall and short, some with a single mahogany stripe through each petal, some striped at the edges. They were rarely illustrated in the old catalogues and the simple description “beautifully striped” failed to distinguish ‘Legion of Honour’ from ‘Harlequin’.

But ‘Tall Scotch Prize’, in golden orange with broad mahogany edges, makes an impressive 75cm plant with flower stems long enough to cut.

Copies of my book, Discovering Annuals, are still available.