11 Jun 2010

West End (gardening) Girl



Teenagers and tourists alike love the West End of London.  I don't.  I find it crushed, rushed and expensive.  In my garden and home, I'm in my comfort zone.  But, combine a free gardening event with a classic bookstore and I'm chucking aside my prejudices;  yesterday evening, I sallied forth from the Veg Patch towards Foyles (biggest bookstore in Britain) for the chance to pick up some good gardening tips.  (Despite everything you read here, I really am a novice at this.  Oh?  You knew that already.  Damn.)

Foyles have recently received the London's Green Corners award from the Conservation Foundation for their Urban Gardening window, and asked Neil from Seed Pantry to put together a little 'round robin' of info for keen beginners to start them off growing veg, salads and herbs.  The result was a brilliant evening of top tips served up by Neil,  Issy (Fennel & Fern) and Deb (Carrots and Kids).  It was well attended and, for me at least, it was a treat to meet Issy and Deb whose blogs I read.  (They said they knew of this blog but I think perhaps they made that up, y'know, just to console me.)  Meeting them made me think how lovely it would be to get together with other bloggers and have a chat over a decent cup of coffee … but, hey ho, we all have busy lives.


Now, I know you'll be interested to hear some of the Good Ideas which were shared yesterday - I forgot to take a pen as I left the house in a mad, scatterbrained dash, so this is a bit of what lodged in my head.

Coffee grounds: gritty texture disliked by slugs - use as a mulch around beans, cabbages, etc; it will not harm the plants and is good for the soil.  Also, add to your compost heap to speed things up.

Eggshells:  crushed eggshells are also a slug deterrent. (Wash them first though or you might attract vermin.)

Tomatoes:  Soak tomato seeds overnight before sowing as this helps germination. Pot on when roots can be seen coming through drainage holes.  When about 12 inches high, pinch out the side shoots to keep the growing energy in the central stem and repot shoots straight into compost.  Water twice a day for a week (tomatoes grow new roots from their stems, who knew?) and give new tomato plants to less green-fingered friends.

Tomato Blight:  Ah, yes.  The Big One.  Issy recommends spacing them well apart, leaving a corridor of air between plants.  Blight is an airborne fungus that loves a bit of humidity so keep things fresh and dry.   Don't get your tomato leaves wet when watering (rainfall is okay as it can't be helped). Cut off the lower leaves when the plant has set fruit - this also helps deter blight.

Pea Shoots:  Had a few of these to nibble.  V. Good.  Don't buy seeds, look in supermarket aisle for boxed dried peas.  (I think they're with the pot noodles, not with the dried beans, etc, which is where you'd expect them to be.  Apparently Asda sell the same variety -- Leo -- as Alys Fowler uses.)

Basil:  is an annual herb, need to resow every year. Will happily grow from seed.  Sow seed into pots every few weeks to have a continuous supply on your windowsill.  Likes an open window for fresh air. (I never knew this before but, I guess, you know it makes sense.)  Water when top soil is dry.


Chives:  Those big pom-pom flowers not only visually pretty up a salad but can be eaten, which sounds … um… interesting.  Chives sown from seed this year will be big enough to eat next year.  May keep going year on year if you shear off the top in the Autumn.  Can keep using even after flowering.

Rosemary (and other woody herbs):  Benefit from a cut back in Autumn or Spring to keep them going.  Cut back leaving a small amount of that season's growth to spring back to life next season.  (Can be grown tall rather than bushy, so I'm going to give this a go on my balcony, using lots of drainage crocks under the compost.)

Storing herbs:    1) Freeze into ice-cubes; surprisingly, this includes basil.  2) Pick leaves and dry in microwave.  Experiment with timing - a minute or two should be enough.  Not Sage though, it may catch fire!  3) Pick a bunch, tie with string, hang upside down to dry.

:: This is Sage in flower; rather beautiful and a magnet for bees ::

Not enough space?  Grow herbs in a hanging basket:  line basket with moss, then a plastic liner (poked through with holes) then compost.  Plant in rosemary, oregano, thyme, lemon balm, etc.  Mint should have it's own basket because of invasive roots.  Deb recommends Roman Chamomile for it's heavenly scent, also good for tea.  Hang it by the front or back door for a welcoming smell on coming home.  Keep baskets well watered.  (Learn more about Chamomile here from Jekka McVicar.)

Newspaper plant pots:  Make with a rectangle of newspaper wrapped firmly around a drinking yogurt bottle:  fold long side over by 1 inch, wrap round container, fold base in firmly, remove pot.  Fill with compost and seeds and firm down. Done. Put into a base container until ready to plant out and, as with toilet rolls, plant out whole thing.  (Sweet shops are usually glad to get rid of the plastic boxes that 'penny' sweets come in.  Cut lid off and wash before use.)

Recycled Propagators:  Use supermarket plastic fruit trays -- the sort you get, say, as a punnet of strawberries or cherries -- fill with compost, sow seeds, water and put the lid back on.  Keeps all moist and warm until germination.  (And fits on kitchen windowsill.)

So there we have it. I'll add more if anything else bubbles up through the fog of my thinking.


I'll leave you with a Fabulous Friday pic of a herb that didn't get mentioned yesterday but of which I'm inordinately proud because it seems to be doing so well: my horseradish (dig up in autumn, leaving bit of root in ground and will grow again next year).  I'd love to know if you have a plant that makes you smile when you see it!


Have a lovely weekend -- wishing everyone good gardening weather!

8 comments:

  1. nooo...I actually do read your blog! And here's proof. So wonderful to hear your gardening stories last night, thanks for coming along.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ooh, this is my first visit here. What a cute site!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sounds like you had a great time and picked up lots of tips. I love chives when they're in flower and they're such a bee magnet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello Issy! Well, I wasn't sure but thanks for looking and commenting. Brilliant worthwhile evening - very kind of you to give up your time to impart wisdom to us novices!

    Welcome Liza! Gosh your site is so full of energy - I'm in awe! Thanks for visiting.

    Hi Jo! Yes, there was lots of good information - I now know what I'm supposed to be doing with my potatoes! Check out Issy's site for more good tips.

    Thanks for your comments everyone! Carolyn x

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesting useful info Caro. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Caro

    Thanks for sharing all the tips and for also telling us about the conservation foundation. I'm currently looking for items for my next newsletter so will include something about them as l'm sure more people would like to hear about their awards.

    ReplyDelete
  7. what great tips - i hadn't realised the one about basil needing fresh air - i'm going to put mine in the porch...i'm off to the west end tomorrow and as i'm an ex-townie, now country girl, i can't wait to have a day of pavements and taxis and noise!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Denise, I think gardening is a journey of discovery so I particularly enjoy hearing other people's tips and then passing them on.

    Hello Lynda, glad to have provided inspiration - and I'll look forward to reading your newsletter when it's ready!

    Welcome back Country Mummy, the basil tip was a revelation to me too! Hope you enjoyed your day out in London - boy, it was HOT yesterday though! I spent it picking strawberries in the garden… yum!

    Thanks for commenting everyone; it really keeps me cheery! Carolyn x

    ReplyDelete

Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...