It is 7 weeks until the first official day of spring.

It is officially only 7 weeks until the first day of spring, so I thought I would inspire you to grow some new herbs this year because herbs are the one collection of plants that can transform a meal into a feast.   Simply imagine tossing some Chive flowers, Wild rocket, chopped French parsley, amazing red Pak Choi,

some wonderful crunchy Purslane, and some hot spicy Mustard leaves with some Lettuce and you have a salad to whet all palates.

To me herbs fulfil everything one needs in a garden; they  look good, taste good and do you good, what more can you ask of a plant?

Herb garden June

Gardening for the table in landscape terminology is short term gardening.  It allows the gardener to experiment.  It also allows the gardener to be optimistic, for there is ‘always next year’.  So by even growing a pot of herbs on a windowsill or some rows of rocket in a container, it connects what you eat to the process of growing.  That growing process starts from the soil which is the engine of all gardening, be it in a container or a garden plot.   So for those of you who wish to grow your herbs in a window box or container it is well worth investing in a good potting compost .

French Tarragon

When growing plants in containers it is also worth investing in a good liquid fertiliser so that you can regularly feed your herbs.   Why feed the  plants?   Well, this is because the plant will quickly use all the nutrients and minerals from the potting compost and, to keep your herbs productive and healthy when grown in a container, you need to supplement their feed.

If the thought of Spring has inspired you I will be running a Propagation day course for 12 people at the Herboretum on April 6th and April 20th and a Herb garden design day course for 14 people on April 13th and May 4th .  And for those of you in the UK with eagle eyes the first ten of you to email the herb farm  with your postal address will be sent 3 packets of seeds, with our complements, to start your spring sowing.

Relentless Optimism, sowing the seeds for 2013

I love early winter, the light levels are still good, the warmth is still in the soil and the seed harvest is finally in.  I now look forward to sitting inside in the warmth, cleaning the seed  so making it easier to sow.

I never ceased to be amazed by the ingenuity and beauty of seeds.

Szechuan pepper – Zanthoxylum simulans

Talking of 2013 I have already started sowing the seeds for early flowering.  The germination has been very good.

Cornflower – Centaurea cyanus

These Cornflowers took a mere 5 days to germinate using a bottom heat of 15C .  I have now removed them from the heat.  They will grow on in the greenhouse until spring has truly arrived.  Hopefully they will be ready and in flower for our display at the 100 th Chelsea flower Show where we will be launching our new Herboretum.   I know the tickets for this  truly amazing show are now on sale, being that it is the 100 th Chelsea can I suggest that if you are thinking of coming you get a ticket soon.

Painted Sage – Salvia viridis

These Painted Sage, one of my favourite annuals, also germinated quickly and I am 90% certain they will be a show stopper next year . Here, as a reminder  of the beauty of this sage, is  a photograph I took in the early summer.

On a positive note,  for those of you who do not enjoy the winter months, it is only 16 weeks until the 1st of March!

Print from a paper cut created by Rose Vickers one of the Jamaica Street Artists

The proverbial British weather Part 2.

The weather has, to put it concisely, been mind focusing. On wednesday 2nd February

it was Candlemas day, in the USA it is called Ground Hog Day.  There are numerous sayings regarding Candlemas ; ‘If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas day brings cloud and rain, Winter won’t come again.’ and ‘If Candlemas day is bright and clear there will be two winters in the year’.  As you are probably all aware it was bright and clear!!!

Today as I sit here writing this  blog watching the snow flakes silently settle

I am pondering where we are going to put next weeks potting. So all you gardeners, who do not have a glasshouse or warm propagation house,  close up your sheds, put away your hoes, get the gardening books out and wait. Your turn will come in March and then you will be running to make up time.

Despite the weather  it  been full steam ahead  on the herb farm , potting up and sowing seeds .

 All the newly potted stock has been placed under horticultural fleece  to keep it warm.  While we have been doing that Hannah,  Annabel and Graham, our web guru,  have been putting the finishing touches to our new website.

It looks great and I especially like the seed section in the on line shop as Graham and Hannah have magically transferred my information into simple clear graphics, so you can see at a glance when to sow the seed,where to sow, under cover or in the garden, and when to harvest.

So please visit it next week when it should go live!  and do let us know what you think and more importantly if you find any snags.

The proverbial British weather.

I love clear frosty mornings,

 

not only does the sun lift your spirit, the birds sing, the air is clear and you know that any aphid that is silly enough to have thought spring was on the way has been given a shock.

On the other hand I know that the grey, dank, gloomy days one can get in January and February are, to use a wonderful word, lugubrious .  It is on those days that working in the glasshouse can lift your spirits, as there is nothing more inspiring than seeing seedlings emerging.

Also, when I take a tea break in the afternoon, I top up my good mood with a cup of 3pm tea, the sheer warmth and aroma of the peppermint warms the cockles of one’s heart.

I can hear you all muttering that I am having a senior moment, well may be, but seriously there is nothing more inspiring than raising plants.  So top tip for the next few weeks, prepare some plug trays or a small pot, fill with seed compost, water in well, then sow the herb seeds of your choice, cover with perlite, not vermiculite. For those that don’t know the difference, perlite is the white light product and does not hold water

and vermiculite is the beige product that does hold water.  Only water again if you find that the compost is drying out and, if it is a salad herb, the seed will sprout within a week.  At that point it is crucial not to over water.  So a good tip is to water in the morning before you leave for work, not at night so that the seedlings do not go to bed wet.

Happy sowing.

2012 Happy New Year from Jekka’s Herb Farm

Happy New Year to you all.

A new season has started, the days are getting longer and the seeds are  beginning to germinate. This is the ideal time to start  sowing some varieties of  seed under protection so that  you can get a head start on the year.

The seeds which benefit from an early start include many of the annual herbs which will mean that you can have them flowering as early as possible. Calendula, Borage, Nasturtiums are the prime ones and also the salad herbs such as  Wild Rocket, Parsley and especially Purple Shiso. Not only does the Shiso look great in the garden, it, like the other two salad herbs mentioned, is ideal  to whet the appetite after the glut of  winter root vegetables.

There are two watch points at this time of year, first is watering. Be very careful  not to over water, but also do not stress the young plants by letting them dry out. Check the weight of the container before watering as the surface of the compost can look dry when the root ball is actually wet .

The second major watch point is ventilation. Open up the poly tunnel, glasshouse or window, when ever possible and certainly if the temperature rises to double figures in the day.  Only cover tender young or newly potted plants with horticultural fleece when the night temperature drops below 5C.

Just recently I have been enchanted each morning  by the most delightful Song Thrush, it has the most uplifting song.  I checked, via the RSPB, that my identification was correct and discovered with great sadness that this

 wonderful bird is on the red endangered list.

So please could you add to your new years resolution to be to be more sustainable and organic in the garden, for  the Thrush is a good friend to the gardener eating snails.  Then our grandchildren , in years to come, will also be able to be enchanted by the Song Thrush.

© Jekka McVicar , Jekka’s Herb Farm,  January 2012.