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June 2010

Help with Blackfly control on Broad beans

I'm a lazy organic gardener, - i.e. i'm organic because I let nature take it's course and don't have time to add any chemicals into the equation, - but I still love to see things like this. - because of the hot and humid weather the blackfly are particularly abundant on my broadbeans this year. - A squirt with a hose jet (supporting the bean with your hand) gets rid of lots of them, - but i've got ladybirds by the dozen helping me out this year, - and the beans are so tasty, even my 6 yr old loves them.

Harvest for this week w/e 27/06/10

This week i've been doubly lucky, because as well as the harvest from my garden, i've also had my first harvest from the Grace and Flavour Garden.

From Chez Brown, we've had

2 large hearting lettuces, (a good full size plate of salad for 4) plus salad leaves for another 6 portions including baby spinach. Herbs, - chives, parsley, mint (for pimms and cous cous)and Rosemary. More broad beans. The first of the sugar snap peas, which were used in a recipe with large Cous cous, and were delicious cooked on the griddle pan. Mini carrots - 4 William sized portions, 6 Garlic heads, - not as large as i'd like, but I need that space, so I can't wait until they are full size. 2 bowls of Strawberries and a bowl or raspberries which has been eaten with breakfast cereal- (plus a few which have been scrumped when my back was turned)

Then on Saturday before my parents came over for an evening bbq, I went to do 1/2 hours weeding at Grace and Flavour. My time was richly rewarded, as there was an excellent harvest being given away, and I got fresh new potatoes, radishes, rocket and a cucumber at vastly discounted prices. (The elderflowers were free on the way home, and are now cordial)

Proud to be a gardener


On Monday evening, after an excellent local evening networking session I was told,  "We need to think of something better to call you, you're not just a gardener" - Well I know and appreciate what prompted the sentiment behind the comment, i've been trying to describe to people what I do for the last 5 1/2 years (no, not a garden designer, no I don't mow lawns, or build patios......)  - after all there are a lot of "gardeners" in our neck of the woods,  BUT, the dictionary definition of gardener is

A person who is paid to work in someone else's garden (Collins English Dictionary)

yes the majority of my working week is spent in gardens other than my own, and I get paid for it

One who works in or tends a garden for pleasure or hire. (Online free directory)

well yes I get pleasure out of working and tending a garden whether mine, or when i'm "on hire"

A person who is employed to tend a garden (Oxford Concise)

as above

and my favourite

a person who likes or is skilled at working in a garden; a person whose occupation is making and tending gardens.

Ah, there's the word that makes the difference, - skilled, - because a lot of "gardeners" may mow lawns, and cut hedges, and have vans that say they do garden maintenance, -but not many know any plant names, or when shrubs should be pruned so they will still flower, or how to propagate, or what size plants will get to when they're fully grown or, what soil they like.

this is another one that I liked

Landscape gardener - a person who is engaged in the development and decorative planting of gardens and grounds

I enjoy doing the development and decorative planting, although I wouldn't want to do that all the time, I like a good mixture of tasks as the seasons pass.

But I truly believe that these are things that a real Gardener should do.

That means that those that don't know how to prune or weed (I mean keep the seedlings and take out those things not desirable in a mixed perennial border, not the scorched earth policy) and who can't tell you the names of 3 native mix hedging shrubs, or a perennial that flowers blue in May, or a pink autumn flowering bulb. Shouldn't be called Gardeners, - they are handymen/women, or Garden Janitors, or maybe jobbing gardeners.

I am a Gardener, and proud of it.

The 3 easiest herbs to grow for tasty food from tiny spaces

Your recipe asks for 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs. Do You

1) go to the fridge and get the expensive pack of herbs that you bought from the supermarket, and is hopefully still looking green, not going moldy in the pack

2) reach for the jar of dried herbs as you don't have anything fresh


3) go outside to your balcony, patio or window box, and pick the 3 sprigs of herbs that can be chopped and mixed together to give that fantastic fresh flavour, knowing that you didn't spray them with chemicals, and that they have loads of nutrition in them as they've been picked seconds before, and haven't  traveled 100's or 1000's of miles

If your answer isn't number 3, then you are missing out on the best and easiest way to give spark to your cookery and save you money.

Here are my top 3 easiest herbs to grow in the smallest of spaces

Mint - yes if you plant it in a border, it will take over, but confined in a pot that is about 30cm across and at least 20cm deep, you will get excellent fresh mint for 10 months a year. The secret to healthy mint is to keep using it.  Mint needs to be cut back at least twice a year to get fresh new growth, so if you are continually using it, you are helping it to keep healthy. Once a year, you also need to split it. There are lots of different types of mint, I grow 7 varieties.

My favourite recipes for this time of year - peas and broad beans, steamed with mint, or apple and mint juice.

Rosemary - This can grow to be a very large shrub, but kept in a pot, (30cm diameter is good) and used regularly, your Rosemary will not overtake your patio, and can be a scented and aromatic addition to your cookery. Regular trimming for use in the kitchen will encourage fresh new growth which is the tastiest, but for best cookery results, replace every couple of years. A new plant should cost you about £3-£5.

My favourite recipes for this time of year, Lime and Rosemary marinade, Rosemary and potato bread

Parsley - This is a biennial, i.e. it grows one year, then will die the next, - which means that you need to have 2 plants on the go. But like the others, picking regularly will make lots of fresh growth and will lengthen the lifespan of the plant before it goes to seed. I grow curled parsley in a hanging basket, for excellent results that won't have been attacked by any local wildlife (or my chickens!) and French parsley in a large tub. Grow from seed, or plants in a garden centre will cost less than £2.

My favourite recipes for this time of year, Garlic Bread, or herb omelette

I'm passionate about growing herbs and vegetables in my garden, and apart from the price and taste issues, there is also so much more choice when you grow your own.

If you'd like to learn more about these top 3, plus the next 7 easiest on my list. If you'd like to taste different varieties and see if my homemade refreshments with minutes old herbs work better than shop bought ones, and take away your own container to try your hand at growing one of the top ten, my
Beginner Herb Course is taking place Next Thursday 1st July at the Grace and Flavour Garden in West Horsley. Book Now, or Contact me for more details.

Summer Loseley Garden Show June 10 - would I return?

I was lucky enough to win free tickets to the Spring Show at Loseley in Mid April, and I loved the small and intimate show that took place in the walled garden at the Loseley Estate in Godalming.

Although this garden is only 20 minutes away from us, I hadn't been to Loseley for a couple of years, and I spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around the stalls which were spread around the gardens.

While there, I picked up a leaflet for their summer show, and when I found out we would have company from some friends this weekend, - we all took Friday afternoon off to come to the Loseley Summer show.

I'd been hoping for a meander through the roses, with stalls selling garden gadgetery and antiques to look at among the scents of the garden, but unfortunately the Summer show is in a field at the bottom of the estate.  As we drove into the carpark my heart fell. The main entrance to Loseley is a mile up a farm track, and when we parked at the bottom of the hill, I thought we weren't even going to get to see the walled garden. The usual show exhibitors were there, so there was a good mix of food, furniture, plants and pets, but with them all spread around a fenced in field, the usual buzz and excitement of a garden show were missing.  Luckily just as we were about to desert after a 3/4 hour wander, an announcement was made over the tannoy that there were free tractor rides up to the walled garden, so we did get to see the Roses, herbs and the ducklings (now almost ducks).

All in all, not a show I would go to again, - the atmosphere of the garden in the spring was fantastic, and whilst I appreciate that the space (or lack of it) in the garden means that exhibitors were limited. I think the show in the field had no soul, and that Losely are unlikely to get any return visitors.

How to keep your plants flowering all summer

Most gardeners have heard of the term Deadheading, - taking off spent flowers from Roses and annuals, to make they last longer. But I like Sarah Raven's phrase of Live heading, to mean taking off flowers while they are still looking good enough to put in a vase, and creating new flower growth in the meantime.

Yesterday I had a great example of that with Erysimum Bowles Mauve

This Purple everlasting Wallflower is a short lived perennial, but this one has now been in 3 years and is going strong.

It started flowering in March, and although the flowers aren't dead yet, I want to encourage lots of new growth to keep it flowering all the way through to December (which it did last year), so I gave it a good live heading.

I took all the flower stems back to the next leaf joint, and in most cases, there were some buds waiting to grow away there. When I finished, the plant looked just as purple, but not as scraggly.

These are Erysimum viewed over the neighbours fence, - planted at the same time, these now have almost no leaves on them, as they don't get liveheaded or even deadheaded.

So getting you secateurs or snips to your plants can make your garden floriferous, and save you money.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, flowering in my garden June 10

Wow, I almost missed this bloom day, I've been so busy gardening for clients today, - but at this time of year the daylight is almost still with us (after 9pm as I write) so I popped out this evening to catch what's blooming in my garden.

Just to warn you that the photos aren't up to standard, as my Nikon D50 is on it's way out, and is stuck in automatic mode. - My spanking new upgrade to a D90 is winging its way to me by citylink as I write.

i'll start this month off with Roses. I inherited all but one of these when I arrived in this garden, so I don't know their names, - any ideas please let me know.

i'm now on Season 3 in this garden, and this winter I got the roses back into proper shape with some nifty pruning in between the snow, - and they are rewarding me fantastically.

Continue reading "Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, flowering in my garden June 10" »

Using up the Chives

Garden Harvests, and surpluses are great for reducing your shopping bill, but you need to keep using your produce to make great meals, otherwise, it will go to waste.


My Chives are flowering well, but that doesn't make the best leaves for cookery, so i've cut them back hard today, to encourage new growth.

The Chives stems that hadn't flowered, were lovely and fresh, and just waiting to be used, so i've made them into a quick herb omelette for lunch

2 eggs, dash of milk. about 10 chives leaves, French parsley, pepper, and a bit of parmesan cheese. - Fast food at its best.

Harvest for this week w/e 13/06/10

The Salad and herbs have continued for the last week, with the overwintered lettuces now all used up, but no problems because the spring grown crops have taken over big time. - About 10 portions of lettuce leaves, made up of Mixed leaves, Rocket, Can Can, Cos and the first of the Lollo rosso. As well as the last of the current radishes, and the first of the baby carrots, plus pea tips. Herb wise, Mint is growing visibly at the moment, and Lemon Verbena, Lemon Balm and Thyme, as well as both French and curled Parsley have been used in plentiful amounts, plus i've picked Chervil and Fennel and Dill leaves to go with my salads.

The first of the Broad beans are now ready, (Aqua Dulce Claudia) and we ate them mixed with peas (frozen unfortunately, another couple of weeks until ours are ready) and steamed with mint. Despite objections from my son who wants to see what the flowers are like, i've harvested all but one of the leeks from his bed.

William has also started on his summer of scrumping, as the Strawberries and Raspberries are ripening. - I managed to pick a hummous size tubful of Strawberries to go on my cereals this week, but I was too late to get the first 5 raspberries today, -

Alliums - Purple, showy onions

I really like the colour of purple alliums, and i've used them in garden borders that i've planted, since I first started designing with plants, but this year is the first time i've had a really decent display of Alliums in my garden.

The Allium Purple sensation, are now over (this pic was taken at Chelsea last year), but I think that they still look fantastic when they go green

I'm going to cut these and dry them, and spray them silver for Christmas decorations.

up to this year, my favourite variety was Christophii

Allium Christophii
Slightly later flowering than the Purple sensation, and not quite as tall, which makes it perfect for growing in pots.

But it's been taken over this year by these great Allium Schubertii, which are currently gracing my front border, but are planted far too close together, and need to be moved for next year.

I also have some tall white Alliums, - that have lost their label, - anyone know which one they are likely to be? (over now like the purple sensation)

The only down side of Alliums is that by the time they are flowering, the foliage is all tattly, but I've got plans to plant even more this Autumn, and i'll be planting them through my Gaura, and Lavender so the foliage is hidden. Any suggestions for more varieties to look out for at the shows this summer?