Archive for October, 2010

Herbal Cuppas

October 31st, 2010

The daily brew

Going out into your garden early on a sunny morning and picking some fresh leaves for your morning brew is a heavenly experience, and if you are short of space or time for gardening, well, I think you can’t go very far wrong than to grow some herbs that you can harvest and use for a good cup of tea.

fresh lemon balm leaves

It is very simple to make a herbal tea from fresh leaves.  You just take a handful of fresh leaves and pour boiling water over them.  Cover, and allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes.  Strain and pour into your favourite  mug.   If you like sweet tea, then sweeten with honey rather than sugar as that somehow tastes wrong with the subtle flavour of herbs.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm soothes sore stomachs and tea made from the leaves has a pleasant lemony taste.  You can drink it in great quantities. There is no caffeine.

Some garden teas are more than pleasing, they are home-grown medicine.  Sage, for example, is really good for sore throats.  The minute you feel your throat getting sore, nip on out into the garden, pick some fresh sage and steep the leaves for 5 minutes.  Then add some lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey.  This tea works really well.

Well, the lemon balm tea I have just finished making is just about ready for me to enjoy on this rainy afternoon.

Happy gardening!

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Pleasure Gardens

October 28th, 2010

Waddles comes down to help

Long ago the early Romans had pleasure gardens full of fragant herbs.  Today herbs and herb gardens are regaining popularity as many more people realise the almost limitless ways they can be used to enhance our lives.  How wonderful it is to wander out into your back yard and cut some fresh rosemary to cook with your lamb. 

Aloe vera - used for burns bites stings & rashes

Herbs are used in many ways – in cooking, as medicines, to repel household pests, or simply to increase the beauty and pleasure of the garden.  So, herbs are life-enhancing.  Culinary herbs increase the pleasure of cooking and the enjoyment of eating.  Also using fresh herbs in everyday cooking can act as a preventative medicine, ensuring that sufficient amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals are included in the diet.

Lemon Balm -makes a delicious lemon tea

The majority of herbs are easy to grow, even for a beginner, like me.  In fact, some of mine seem to thrive on neglect.  Herbs don’t have to be stuck away in a corner somewhere, they can be scattered among other plants.  They are beautiful as well as practical. 

I began with a few herbs, ones I knew I would use in the kitchen.  I planted them close to the back door because I knew that I would use them more if I didn’t have to go far to get them.  When I ran out of space there, I did the same out near the front door.  The best time for planting is spring and early summer – so right now is a good time to begin your pleasure gardens. 

Happy gardening!

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In the Vege patch

October 25th, 2010

The patch

Early in March this year I planted out my little vege square with, mostly, Broad Beans [Vicia faba].   This high-protein, cool-season bean is an excellent soil improver, and can only be completely enjoyed if your grow your own.  The home grown broad bean is totally unlike the frozen variety you get from the supermarket or even the sad sort of things available fresh at the fresh food section.  You can start eating them fresh from the garden when they are small and tender, when you eat the whole pod, or you can wait, hard to do but worthwhile, until they are larger and you shell them and eat the beans inside.

the black & white flowers of the broad beans

As broad beans prefer slightly alkaline soil, I added a little lime, earlier in the growing season.  Apart from that, they are very easy to grow.  Wind can sometimes be a problem and you need to bang in some stakes and tie them back a bit, to give them some support.  It is very sad to see them lying on the ground after a strong wind.  A very sad sight!  So, it pays to take the time to tie them up to some sort of support.

Rhubarb

Of course, this is the busy time of the year for planting veges and there are many tiny plants or seeds that can go in now.  I shall be putting a few carrot seeds into the ground, perhaps some beetroot, some basil to go with the tomatoes and the tomatoes, of course!

If I can get hold of the seeds I will put in some spagetti melons, I grew them a few years ago and they were wonderful!

Still, all that is planing, what I need to do is to get on out there and do it!

Happy gardening!

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Slowing Down

October 22nd, 2010

Slow gardening, like slow food, is taking the time to savour, it is the process, not the sudden transformation that matters.  When you build a little, dig a bit, plant a little, move slowly and most importantly, don’t try to do it all at once, nature works with you.  Gardening is something you do, not something you buy.  You don’t have to spend money to have a great garden.

If you can find the right plant for the right place your hardest job is done.  The plants do the rest!  Don’t aim for a tropical garden if you live somewhere cold.  Life has enough pressures without bringing them into the garden.  Make compost and leaf piles and let nature look after your waste.  Relax a little, then do a bit more.  Soon you find yourself slowing down and enjoying the process of gardening.

Whatever you end up creating and growing in your garden, it is good to find your own way of doing it, and enjoy the process.  The garden is the one place we do not need to rush. It is a place to slow down and take it all in!  Everyone can grow something.  It can be anything, and when you grow something you become a gardener.

Happy gardening!

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October Plant

October 19th, 2010

Cymbidium Orchid

Orchids are truly beautiful plants to grow and the Cymbidiums are the most widely cultivated of all the orchid types.  They are ideal for pots and grow easily in semi shade.  As with many other plants they are easy to grow if they are in the right spot. 

They like to be kept moist but not wet.  I pour on a very weak solution of worm tea or sea weed every now and then during the growing season.  They seem to like that.  But mostly I leave them alone and every year, around now they give me a wonderful surprise with their absolutely gorgeous flower stems.  Flowers like these are what gardening is all about.

Happy gardening!

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Companions

October 16th, 2010

A visitor to my garden

Long ago our grandmothers in their cottage gardens planted a wide variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables, mixed together in a seemingly random fashion.  But over the generations gardeners have observed that some plants will grow better when planted close to another particular plant, or indeed that the reverse is true.  Some plants like other plants and grow better when planted nearby.  They are companions.  Good friends.

Many herbs can be used to repel pests, some are effective just grown in the garden, while others can be picked and used fresh or dried.

Companion planting and using pest-repellent herbs increased the health and resistance of plants.  For example, a well know one is basil with tomatoes, not only cooked, but grown together.

Nasturtiums will improve the strength and flavour of nearby plants, and are particularly good under apple trees, and near radishes to deter aphids and other bugs.  I have planted some under my roses to check this out.  Aparently aphids also don’t like parsley and our grandmothers quite often planted some in and around the roses to keep the aphids away.

nasturtiums -pretty and useful

nasturtiums - pretty and useful

Rosemary can be sprinkled, fresh or dried, around plants to repel snails and slugs.  It grows well with sage, beans and carrots, but should not be grown near potatoes or tomatoes.Thyme should be planted in odd corners of the garden as it attracts bees and generally benefits plants nearby.  It also repels the cabbage worm, so is a useful companion for cabbages.

rosemary

Our grandmothers would often keep a few Bay leaves in the flour as they prevent weevils from infesting.  If you place a few on shelves they will keep ants away, although some ants can be very determined.  The bay leaves can also be placed in books to protect them from silverfish.  In fact the whole tree is resistant to diseases and pests and will protect other plants in the area. 

Marigolds, as well as being cheerful plants, excrete chemicals from their roots which repel soil nematodes, and of course, grandmother would have never been without her Lavender plants which when used in sachets either on their own or in combination with other dried herbs keep moths and silverfish out of clothes as well as keeping them sweetly scented.

So, plants make good companions both for each other and for us.

Happy gardening!

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Tiptoe through the Tulips

October 13th, 2010

Makes you want to tiptoe right on through!

Last Sunday was a beautiful, spring day and I took myself off up into the Dandenongs, just outside of Melbourne for a drive.  There in the hills the annual Tulip Festival was in full swing.   I stopped to take a look and enjoy the sunshine & colour!

Windmills and blue, blue sky

The tulips were looking fantastic!  Colour that you would not believe!  The festival is on until the 17th October and a visit makes a great day out.  It is like drinking in colour and spring.  I had a lovely time looking at all the mass displays and thought I would share the colour with you all.  Colour temps us all out now that the sun is with us once again!

I think next year, in the autumn a pot of tulips might be just the thing!

But where will I fit the Windmill?

Cheers, and happy gardening!

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October Recipe

October 10th, 2010

Thai-Style Salad

Now that we are into Spring, it is time to get back into those yummy salads.  This is one I love that uses my home grown Sprouts.  It is very refreshing and like many Thai salads no oil is used in the dressing, making it a super fat free salad.

  • 2 cups shredded asian cabbage
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander
  • 1 tin baby corn, drained

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ground black pepper – to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bown, then pour over the salad.  Toss and enjoy!

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October Jobs

October 7th, 2010

This is a good time for a visit to your favourite nursery

October is a very busy month and there is heaps to do out there in the sunny, pretty days to come.  If you plant some annuals in pots or hanging baskets now they can be looking quite beautiful for your Christmas time entertaining & they  make  super gifts.  I like to get some impatiens and put them in those dark, shady spots to cheer them up a bit.  You need to plant them around 15 centimetres apart, to get that nice full look.  Then when they get around 15 centimetres high, pinch out the centres of the plants to encourage bushiness. 

Petunias are great for hot spots

The azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons are all looking for a bit of a feed around now.  I also like to give them a bit of a prune to keep them in good shape and encourage bushiness.  Azaleas and rhododendrons are shallow-rooted and should be fed with natural fertilisers, such as blood and bone or cow manure, as chemical fertilisers can burn the roots.  It is best to feed them after they have flowered and always make sure that the soil is damp before applying the fertiliser. 

Because they are shallow-rooted, azaleas and rhododendrons should be mulched regularly.  This helps to keep the roots cool and moist over the summer months.

Weeds are rampant at this time of the year, so that is an ongoing task.  I always seem to be out there pulling them out – but they sneak back overnight.  Still, if you are ever to get on top of it – this is the month to get cracking!  I try to cheer myself up by popping in some plant or other in the spot where weeds once were.

Did you know that nasturtiums can help to keep the woolly aphids away?  I have planted some under my roses to check it out!  They are growing quite happily and are cheerfully flowering as we speak. 

Well, I am off to the nearest nursery to get som annuals to fill the little empty spaces.  Happy springtime gardening!

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Snip, snip, snip!

October 4th, 2010

I never head out into the garden empty-handed.  I always take my little 5 min. basket and in that basket is always a pair of secateurs.  I seldom wander through the garden without having found something in need of a bit of a prune.  It may be a broken branch, a shoot heading in the wrong direction or a dead flower wanting to be removed.  Sometimes I treat myself to a bunch of flowers to enjoy when I am inside. 

If you have plenty of space- you never need prune a rhododendron

It is possible, of course, to have a reasonable number of shrubs without having to do any regular pruning.  Providing they are given plenty of room to grow, camellias, rhodeodendrons and many other common shrubs can do without any cutting at all for years and years.  But I don’t think there is any garden at all that doesn’t need the use of a good pair of secateurs quite often.

When I am pruning anything at all I always remember the three D rule: get rid of all dead, diseased and damaged branches.  This makes sense.  After that I always remove branches that are growing towards the centre of the plant, for these cause congestion, block light, spoil the plant shape and make future pruning difficult.

I always try to look at where I am making the cut, and prune to a bud pointing in the direction I would like a new shoot to grow; the new shoot will head that way to fill a gap or replace an old branch that has been removed.  Or, at least, that is the plan. 

rhododendron flowers

I find, of all the garden tasks, pruning is very rewarding.  When the new growth starts to shoot you feel like you are working with the plant and helping it on its way.

Happy gardening.

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