I blame climate change …

Really, it must be climate change that is affecting my garden, can’t possibly be baby-induced time pressures and forgetfulness!

The reason I blame climate change is because the weather has been crazy here over summer – alternating between sweltering and stormy, my poor plants haven’t stood a chance! I even planted zucchini and kale with the best intentions, but they didn’t even sprout because the weather was so random!

My lime tree produces tiny limes that then fall off before growing to edible size – any tips? It’s been happening for a few years now – I try to add compost and citrus food, but it doesn’t help!

Our passion fruit vine is vining up the fence nicely, but no passion fruits. I have already shared the sadness of my poor blueberry plant, as the winds took all the flowers in a storm, so again, no blueberries for us!

On the upside, the marigolds that I planted last year to help the tomatoes are going fm great guns!

The kale I planted 2 years ago keeps springing eternally with almost no encouragement, you can see it in the back of the above photo! And the pretty purple flowers are my society garlic plant, always happy and lovely in my salads! 

And in news  of things I’ve actually planted in the last few months, my tomatoes are growing nicely, so we’ll have a cute little crop.

So that’s the current garden status – trying desperately to triumph against the elements and my lack of attention!

I will be back next week with cooking and freezing news – apologies for delays between posts, with a gorgeous little one who is so keen on the world that daytime naps are the enemy, I often focus on eating, showering or napping when she finally succumbs, but will have more regular posts, probably indoor focused as my gardening is even less likely to succeed as we enter winter! And that’s ok, because I’m nurturing a gorgeous little human instead 😊



Two very different nuts

I was just looking back through my photos to pull some together for this post, and realised how over winter I am – it’s been very cold and rainy here the past few weeks, and I had a horrible cold on top of that (coughing + baby in belly = uncomfortable!), so although I am normally someone who doesn’t mind the cold weather, I am definitely keen for some warmth, longer days, summery food and hopefully less rain so my garden actually gets a bit of a chance to grow!! Anyway, that’s my random end of winter rant over 🙂

I did some planting a few weeks ago, of tomatoes, peas, red cabbage, english spinach and broad beans – the rain has probably not helped their ability to thrive, but I can report that there appears to be shoots of all of them, which is positive, so there will be more to report on over the next few months!

In older garden news, let me tell you about peanuts!! More specifically, growing them!

Peanuts
As you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I am very much an experimental and haphazard gardener, who likes to plant things to see how they work in a small space, sometimes with great success (cucumbers, tomatoes, I can sense another good summer for you guys!), sometimes with sad results (corn, broccoli, one day I will conquer you!). Peanuts fit somewhere in between these two camps – they were a success, but a limited success, because the yield wasn’t high, but then the effort put in wasn’t high either, so I think it’s ultimately a win!

Now, I helpfully didn’t record when I planted these peanuts, because it was back in the days when I was a bit sloppier about my recording dates. However, I would guesstimate that it was sometime between October and December, as these photos were taken in January and February respectively, and the plant is clearly already quite advanced!

January peanut plant

January peanut plant


February peanut plant

February peanut plant

I then harvested the little guys in June. So, it’s a long slow process to get peanuts. However, the thing I like about peanuts is you just let them grow, no real intervention required!! The plants grow, then form little yellow flowers, which then drop into the earth and burrow down to create the nuts – how cool is that!! The nuts themselves actually grow under the soil, on the roots, and you know when they’re ready, because the plant at the top dies!! Finally, a positive spin on plant death!

Peanuts still attached to roots in soil

The dead plant at the top, soil and peanuts at the bottom!

You then shake the whole thing out of the pot, and sift through to find, voila, peanuts!!

Soil, with peanuts!

Soil, with peanuts!


Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

Peanuts loosed from their soily home!

When I initially bought a ready grown peanut plant a few years ago, the success of which inspired me to plant my own, the vendor helpfully advised that you shouldn’t eat the peanuts straight away once you harvest them, you should leave them to dry out for a couple of weeks, as there is some residual toxicity going on that you want to avoid! So, I dutifully put my small crop of peanuts in a container in a sunny spot in our kitchen for the past couple of months, and am now slowly nibbling my way through them, making them last as they are so few!

Peanuts in container - still soily!

Peanuts in container – still soily!


Peanuts in their shell - see, actual peanuts!

Peanuts in their shell – see, actual peanuts!


Peanut after a bite - not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Peanut after a bite – not roasted or salted, just raw and fresh!

Summary – peanuts are a fun plant to grow, in that it looks pretty, is very low maintenance, and is fun to harvest, but unless you plant acres worth of them, you won’t be making homemade peanut butter anytime soon! In hindsight, there are probably some things you can do to ensure more flowers grow, leading to more peanuts, but I don’t think that would have dramatically increased my crop to the point of making my own peanut butter, which would really be the ultimate goal!

The other nut – coconut
No, I haven’t decided to grow coconuts, even I, with my spatial awareness issues, am aware that a palm tree won’t work in our suburban backyard!! However, I did receive a free 1L sample of Pure Harvest Coco Quench coconut milk, which I thought I’d review for you here. I don’t tend to go in for dairy alternatives, mainly because I don’t have to, I tolerate (and in fact adore) traditional cow’s milk dairy very well, and therefore don’t really need to adjust my taste buds to the other types. I have dabbled in almond milk with cooking, and liked it, but still sometimes find non-dairy milks a little intensely flavoured compared to what I’m used to when milk is the focus of the dish like coffee or cereal. However, in the event that the bun in my oven isn’t so accommodating of dairy, and I need to cut out dairy for a while while breastfeeding, it is good to consider how I will continue to enjoy my breakfasts without regular milk!!

So, when we ran out of milk the other day, I decided to give the coconut milk a whirl. I used it in my porridge for around 4 days, in my coffee and in one of my late night cereal snacks (bub gets hungry in the middle of the night!). I found that I could taste it in my coffee and cereal, and while not unpleasant, as it is quite a nice flavour, it would probably take a bit of getting used to if I was to use it full time. However, in my porridge, although the consistency looked a bit different (see below), it tasted almost the same, which is positive for me, as it means it functions well as a replacement for my warm breakfasts, and is likely to be able to be adapted to other breakfasts as well.

Coconut milk porridge cooking - the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

Coconut milk porridge cooking – the consistency looks a bit more watery than with regular milk, but it still cooks up fine!

So, on the whole, a thumbs up from me – it is easy to use, store in the fridge like normal milk in a carton, shake before use and away you go!

Recent eats and garden update

Hello my lovelies,

I will get around to posting about my peanuts, once I get around to eating them – when you only produce a handful of them, you want to savour them appropriately! I’ve also realised that I don’t necessarily need to wait for something big to update you on, I can also do some more random updates on the bits and pieces going on in my life – let me know if you’re happy to read those as well, or what you would prefer!

However, despite my extreme laziness in the garden of late, there are developments to share with you! I have found that one of my tomato plants is currently defying the laws of nature and gravity, which I always like to commend! I’m of the ‘perhaps if I leave that almost dead looking plant for a few weeks/months something interesting might happen’ school of gardening, as you never know when a plant might suddenly spring back to life – my herbs frequently do this! So at the end of the tomato season a few months ago, I did pull out some obviously dead plants, but left this one because there were still a few green shoots. Recently, I noticed that while the bottom of the plant appears dead, the top of the plant hasn’t noticed, and is blithely growing flowers for new tomatoes, even though it’s on a very odd angle! This is why I love nature!! We’ll see how these tomatoes go …

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!

See, the base of the plant appears dead, however new life continues to spring!


A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

A closer look at the impressive tomato flowers, defying the odds!

Also, my pea plants are going well, growing up tall and hopefully will have pea pods to show you soon, but here is the plant in the meantime:

Pea plants in progress

Pea plants in progress

I also overcame my laziness (I blame a combo of questionable weather, general busyness and the fact that my increasing baby bump makes it harder to lean over!) in my winter planting yesterday. My compost has actually been going wonderfully well – full of worms, which I take to be a good sign of decomposition and general compost health!! So, yesterday I planted some more tomatoes, some broad beans, some English spinach, and some red cabbage – I still don’t know why the red cabbage didn’t grow at all a few months ago, so if that happens again, I’d say it’s the seeds, but we’ll see how these new crops go!

In food news, I have been enjoying my EasiYo yogurt so very much for breakfasts! In my usual porridge, on muesli in the warmer weather we had last week, as an afternoon snack, and on the weekend, I made myself a lovely plate of French toast, served with homemade yogurt, defrosted berries and maple syrup – it looks like a cafe meal, if I do say so myself!!

Cafe-ready French toast!

Cafe-ready French toast!

And last week I made an experimental salad that turned out wonderfully well – I poached some chicken thighs in some society garlic, peppercorns and parley, cooked some quinoa in chicken stock, roasted some pumpkin, and then all combined these with some rocket, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and homemade beetroot relish (which is awesome, by the way – canned or fresh beetroot, diced, with 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, bring to the boil then simmer until it’s nice and relishy looking and tastes tart but not too strong – it keeps in the fridge for ages and I add it to everything!) All the flavours went so well together, it was super yummy – apologies for slightly blurry photo, I will endeavour to stop taking photos like a guerilla and actually take time to take them properly!! And the good thing about poaching the chicken was that it created plenty of stock for me to freeze for future soups and stews!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

Awesome chicken and quinoa salad!

So, that’s what’s been happening in my growing, cooking and freezing world of late!

Peas and corn

Garden update
My gardening posts have been less of late, I know, and I apologise.

I blame a number of unrelated things:
– the finish of daylight savings (means it’s dark when I get home, so I don’t potter in the garden after work);
– some crappier weather on the weekends, which have made it harder to actually get into the garden and sort things out;
– when the weather has been nicer, we’ve been too busy for me to get to the garden before dark;
– general slackness ( I can blame the growing bub, but really, I’ve been feeling a lot better, it’s just me at this stage!) 🙂

However, on the weekend, I finally got into the garden, weeded a few things (sorry daffodils, you’ve been surviving very well!), bid a final farewell to the corn (so big that I ended up putting it into our green waste for pick-up rather than into the compost!), and even actually planted something new – peas!! I had some success with peas last year, as in we got a few pods out before mildew set in, so I aim to have much more success this year, they’ll be against the wall, so once the shoots start up, then I’ll build some little teepees leading up to the string on the wall, and hopefully they’ll go for gold!!

Sadly, the red cabbage that I planted about a month ago has not actually grown 😦 I think a combo of some wet weeks and weekends and colder weather confused it – I will try again, I am not daunted!!

Yummy recipe
As this is a bit of a random garden post, I thought I’d throw in a quick yummy weeknight recipe for you that we had last night – Mexican-style lasagne! (That’s what I’m calling it, anyway, the original recipe sounded more authentic, calling it ‘chilaquiles casserole’, but I think my description is better!! We love Tex-Mex things like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and it’s nice to have something vegetarian at least once a week!

I love using Pinterest to store recipes and other things that I might want to look at later, it’s like a virtual noticeboard! But I’m not really sure where I found this super-yummy recipe, potentially on a veggie site that I only visited the once – this is why I pin recipes for later, however, so that I can still enjoy them even when I’ve lost the original source!

We made some modifications based on ingredients we could get more easily, and also adapted from American measurements of ounces per can to the nearest Australian equivalent. In terms of condiments, I find it hard to eat Mexican without guacamole and some form of sour cream, but I have found that replacing the sour cream with plain or Greek yogurt works just as well!!

To make guacomole, peel and mash 1-2 avocadoes with some crushed garlic and lemon juice – the amount depends on how acidic you like it, so add a little and then more til it’s to your taste!

Mexican-style lasagne
Serves approx 6 (depends on how hungry your dining companion is – Jon had two servings last night, which reduced leftovers!)

Ingredients
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 x 400g tin black beans, drained, rinsed
1 x 400g tin corn (you can also use fresh or frozen), drained
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
8-12 tortillas, cut into quarters (corn or wheat, we couldn’t get corn, so went with wheat, and found that we didn’t need more than around 8, but you could add more to bulk it up)
2 x bottles mild taco sauce (recipe initially called for enchilada sauce, which wasn’t readily available – also feel free to add a spicier sauce for those who like the heat – we’re wusses!)
1 1/4 cups shredded tasty cheese

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200C, and grease/line a large baking pan or casserole dish.
2. Heat some oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown and soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, beans, tomatoes, corn, cumin and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are heated through, about 3 minutes.
3. Layer half the tortilla pieces in the pan. Top with half the vegetable mixture, half the taco sauce and half the cheese. Repeat with one more layer of tortillas, vegetables, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil.
4. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole is bubbling around the edges and the cheese is melted, about 10-15 minutes more.
5.Serve with guacamole and sour cream/plain yogurt if desired.

Here is a rather blurry photo – I didn’t realise it was blurry til after I’d already eaten the evidence – oh well!! I think this would also freeze really well, but perhaps best made in individual ramekins if so, as it was a bit messy getting out the pan, which didn’t change the awesome taste!

Mexican lasagne

Mexican-style lasagne – ole!

To all the vegetables I’ve loved and lost …

Apologies in advance, this is a rather sad and pitiful post, detailing some of my least successful vegetable adventures of late. I think it’s important to tell the good and the bad equally, as I’m still an amateur (which is someone who does something for the love of it!) gardener, and am continuing to learn (well, hopefully!) from my mistakes, and by telling the interwebs these stories, hopefully you can learn some things the easier way (ie by reading about it) rather than the harder way that I have been doing!

Zucchini, I barely knew thee
So, I’ve documented in a previous post my aphid issues with my zucchini plants. I have an update – the poor little plants didn’t survive the multiple attempts on their lives by the aphids/ants/powdery mildew. While the aphids did reduce significantly, as did the ants, the damage appeared to be too great for the plants to actually continue their life, despite new pots and lots of encouraging looks from me!!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That's the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I'm sure!

Poor zucchini, you tried! That’s the rather healthier capsicum next to it, mocking it I’m sure!


Lessons learnt
Spot aphids early and often, and act early – I think a bit of the old soap and water spray combo might have been effective in removing the aphids in their initial stages and preventing their return, which in turn would have removed the ant attraction, and hopefully the plants could recover. I will try this later in the year when zucchini planting season comes around again.

My backyard is not a cornfield
I was excited by the idea of corn, but in hindsight, didn’t really do any research as to the most appropriate variety for backyard growing, nor the most appropriate amount of space/plants required for successful pollination. My corn plants looked impressive at all times, growing tall and proud, but unfortunately, despite all this lush foliage, they produced only about 3 of the smallest corn cobs you’re ever likely to see!! Very cute, but rather useless, and possibly not worth the effort, for me, in a pot in the backyard. Part of the issue I have discovered is that you need quite a few plants to ensure effective pollination, and I don’t think there were enough, and I don’t think I have the space/interest for the amount required. I don’t think I’ll try them again for a while, certainly not this variety, as there is a long time between planting and harvesting for such a small return – I like quick returns, people!!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!

Very cute, but not really the bumper crop I was expecting!


Lessons learnt
Pick a backyard-suitable variety, invest in an acreage somewhere.
Big promise, small delivery

Big promise, small delivery

Broccoli, where art thou?
When I planted my capsicum plants in early January (which are still trying to decide whether they will survive the aphid infestation that I finally have succeeded in removing with soapy water and create capsicums), I also planted some broccoli. My Veggie Patch app is helpfully telling me to harvest said broccoli, however, the seeds never actually sprouted!! I am saddened by this, and not sure whether I should have soaked them overnight to assist in germination, or whether the seeds were a dud, or whether they didn’t like that particular pot/soil combination, or what has happened, except a distinct lack of broccoli!

Lessons learnt
Sometimes things don’t work out for inexplicable reasons, not necessarily your fault – it’s important to keep the faith and continue on despite these setbacks! See, growing vegetables can teach you important life lessons!

Future plans and some hope in the garden
I had some issues with peas and broadbeans last year, both succumbing rather early on to various forms of mildew (I think large amounts of rain at some of the early stages didn’t help!). However, I refuse to be daunted by these issues, and will plant them again on the weekend, and let you know how they go!

My bean plant is busily creating the cutest little beans – unfortunately, one by one, so not enough for a meal or even a decent-sized snack, but hey, progress is progress!!

A bean!

A bean!

My tomato plants are ignoring the onset of autumn and continuing to create little tomatoes – go you good things!

My peanut plant is dying – this is actually a good sign, when the whole thing dies, it means the peanuts are ready to harvest under the surface! Nice to know that a plant dying is not my garden incompetence, but nature’s wacky way of doing things!

So, in summary, while there have been some key setbacks in my garden of late, there is always hope, with each new season comes a new crop, and I will continue to strive and learn and share with you all!!

Aphids and lacewings and ants, oh my!

So, because I promised to tell the good and the bad of my gardening exploits on this blog, I have to tell you that all is not well in our backyard of late. I am trying to rectify the situation, but there are still some key issues which are making me sad 😦

Aphids
Aphids have long been a problem that reduce my ability to grow anything from the brassica family (cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts). Part of the problem has been my inability to identify aphids at an early enough time to actually resolve the issue. Here are some photos of my poor doomed brussel sprout plants from late 2012, where I recognised there was a problem, but clearly didn’t act early enough!!

Aphid covered brussel sprouts

My poor brussel sprouts plants, covered in aphids!

So, what are aphids, you say? They are these annoying little bugs that like to live on the types of veggies and plants that I like to grow!! A couple of them won’t really cause a problem, and if you act early to manage them (squish them, spray them or various other attempts), then you can probably slow down their assault. However, if like me, you don’t seem to notice them til they’re all over the plant, they come in hundreds and thousands, they suck the life and the sap out of the plants and destroy its ability to grow fruit and veggies! They come in a few different colours – the ones on my brassicas have always tended to be gray or light blue in colour, and I think that is where I came unstuck – I rather naively assumed it was part of the plant, as they blended in so well, and only once they had really taken hold did I realise it was a problem!! The solution for aphids is to remove them (by hand, with water, with soapy water so they fall off and can’t come back on, with other bugs) before they damage the plant too much, and then be ever vigilant for their return.

My brassicas did not survive, as although I performed some radical surgery to remove the aphid-affected leaves and stems, the damage was clearly too deep to the plant, alas! You’d think I’d learn, right? Wrong!! In my defence, however, the aphids are now different colours and attacking different plants …

Ants – a late warning sign
Earlier in the year, after having gloated about my lovely cucumber plant and the ease at which it gave us abundant cucumbers, I noticed that there were quite a few ants on the cucumber plants, both on the leaves and the stems. I didn’t really think too much about it, I was busy with other things, and the plants seemed otherwise ok. However, fast forward a week or two, and the leaves were yellowing, the mini-cucumbers were shrivelling, and there was definitely an ant invasion. When I looked more closely at the leaves, I discovered little yellow bugs (they look like little bumps, they don’t move) all over the bottom of all the leaves. These were aphids – they are sneaky in that they hide on the bottom of leaves so they’re harder to see!! And yellow, blending in quite well with their surroundings!

By the time the ants are there, this means that the aphids have moved in, sucked out sap, and started creating their own honey sap which they put on the leaves, attracting the ants. Internet research told me that the ants, who love the sweetness, will then protect these aphids against other predators who might otherwise wipe them out! Gah!! So, I dutifully sprayed all the leaves with a water sprayer, removing all aphids that I could see, cutting off the worst affected leaves and hoping for the best. However, I had clearly left it too late (and also should have put some detergent in the water to stop them jumping back on), as they returned, as did the ants, and over the next few weeks, despite my almost daily efforts to remove them, my poor cucumber plants succumbed to a sad aphidy death – I won’t depress you with a photo, but suffice to say, even though I tried radical surgery by removing the affected leaves, the plants were too badly affected, and are now no more.

Now I am learning my lesson about aphids and the need for swift action, and am trying various other methods, as the capsicum, beans and zucchini that I planted in early January and are now good -sized plants are trying to succumb!!

Aphids on capsicum plants

Capsicum plants with aphids – not too many at this stage.


Aphids on zucchini plants

My zucchini plants with aphids


I have been spraying with water to remove them, which has largely worked for the capsicum and beans, but the zucchini plants were in a large box with lots of drainage, and clearly lots of access for ants, as the little suckers are all over it!
Original zucchini home - plenty of space for them, but alas, plenty of access for underground ants!

Original zucchini home – plenty of space for them, but alas, plenty of access for underground ants!

Bugs for bugs
As you know, I’m all about the organic methods, so I thought I might try some ecosystem creation, with some good bugs – there are a number of good bugs that will eat aphids, like ladybirds – I ordered some lacewings from a place in Queensland, Bugs for Bugs – it’s hilarious, you order bugs, they get sent to you in an express post box labelled ‘live bugs’ – I love this country!! They come as larvae in little plastic containers, you let them grow a little for a couple of days in a darkened room (they’re sent with some form of food, I didn’t want to examine it too closely!), then you take them out of the plastic container and put them near and on your plants in little boxes and wait for the magic, as lacewing larvae can allegedly eat up to 60 aphids an hour! I was super keen to get the aphids gone, so released the lacewings as instructed.

Zucchini plant with little bug container for release - you hang it on the plant so hopefully the little lacewings will march straight onto it and start doing their work!

Zucchini plant with little bug container for release – you hang it on the plant so hopefully the little lacewings will march straight onto it and start doing their work!

Bean plant with bugs being released

Bean plant with bugs being released

However, a fair bit of rain, and the fact that ants will eat lacewing larvae to protect their honey-providing aphids means that the zucchini in particular is still covered with ants, as well as now being covered in lacewings and less aphids. The lacewings do seem to be eating the aphids slowly but surely, but I’m increasingly concerned that the ants will prevent them doing their duty!!

Aphids and lacewings

Zucchini plant, now with aphids and lacewings – I think lacewings are the darker-looking bugs (hopefully not a new form of aphid!), as they appear to be on the aphids and move around a little.

So, on the weekend we moved the zucchini into different pots, in an attempt to thwart the ants by having a less porous environment for them to enter. I’ve also put baking soda and garlic cloves around the pots, hoping to detract them (thanks internet and gardening books for these home remedies), and am also doing some hand management, ie flicking the ants off as often as possible! The results are not yet in – the zucchini plant has taken a bit of a beating, and it also helpfully seems to have a powdery mildew problem (damn random tropical weather), which I am treating by removing affected leaves, rather than spraying with a milk solution, as I’m worried that might hurt the lacewings and waste the whole experiment!! Whoever said zucchini plants were easy to grow clearly hasn’t spent time in my random biodome – they do grow quickly into big plants, but actually creating edible zucchini without all these issues, that seems to be another story …

Bottom line – it’s a little frustrating out there at the moment, especially as these are new plants that I am trying to get to actually produce veggies, and there appear to be multiple forces conspiring against me!! But, I am learning every day what to do and what not to do, so if these plants don’t work out, I will be armed with greater knowledge for next time!! And on the upside, the beans seem to have recovered – look at these cute little baby beans!!

Baby beans

Baby beans!

It’s not all bad news out there – the tomato plants are still producing yummy yellow heirlooms, the corn is producing the most hilariously small cobs ever (I’ll feature them in a future post), the herbs are happy, and the lettuce is so cheery it’s bolting everywhere, so there are still good things going on, it’s just annoying to have pests attack plants that seemed to be going so well!! But, I will prevail!!

Herbs

Herbs – the backyard or balcony gardener’s staple. And for good reason – buying a bunch of herbs for one use usually costs around $3, and if you’re like most of us, it’s hard to use up the whole bunch before it gets all funny, whereas buying a plant (or seeds) of the same herb costs around the same, and will last you many more uses!! Herbs were the first things that I started growing (before I expanded to the triffid-like vegetables!), and I try to ensure that they continue to be present in our backyard garden, as frankly, they are fairly low maintenance, and great to help flavour most dishes!

However, not all herbs are created equal, in terms of ease of growing and maintenance, so I’ll give you some of my tips, and hope that you can share some of yours! In writing this post, I have realised that I need to concentrate more on a few larger pots of herbs, to ensure our regular supply of the ones we use, so I will endeavour to do so and let you know how I go! I have also noticed that some of my herbs are looking less happy than others, so in the interest of honesty, I’ll still write about those, and aim to increase the herb portion of my garden!

Basil
This appears to be one of the hardier of the herbs – I have usually about 3 pots of basil on the go, and while they may appear to go dormant sometimes, I find they usually spring back to life and continue to give me the sweet-smelling goodness!! Nothing better than fresh pesto made from your own basil! I also tend to chuck it into anything vaguely Mediterranean that I cook, ie if there is tomato and garlic, there is basil! I usually buy basil plants as seedlings, leave them in pots and see how they go, usually angling them near my tomato plants to keep the ecosystem happy, as they are good companions. However, in around August, I planted my first basil from seed – and look at the results!!

Basil

The basil (at the left of the pot) – happy and hardy!!


This is a dwarf basil variety, which is why the leaves don’t get massive, but it tastes great, and seems incredibly cheery with limited maintenance!! I have noticed, however, that it is thirstier than other basil plants, so I put a tray under the side of the planter so that it keeps its water for longer.

Mint
Mint is wonderful – it tastes great in salads and drinks and desserts, and smells so lovely!! Mint is also the hardiest herb I have – it will often completely die, then rise, phoenix-like, from its own ashes!! This particular plant has been living in various pots for a couple of years, and it is certainly much happier since I transplanted it into a larger space! That is the warning with mint, as it is basically a weed, it will take over your garden, so keep it with other herbs (even though it will usually colonise those too!) or limited in space so it doesn’t go too crazy!!

Mint

The mint very happy in its larger pot (and seeming to play well with the basil!)

Coriander
This is a constant battle for me – I find coriander loves a good bolt, and goes to flower and seed more quickly than we use it – we sometimes go through phases of lots of Asian-style cooking, but not frequently enough to use the coriander in the 5 minutes where it is edible before it goes all spindly. So, I have also tried to grow it from seed, but with a little sad results, the multiple seeds planted led to one tiny plant, that, you guessed it, bolted before I used it!! I think I will have to take advice I saw on another blog and freeze the fresh herbs like these ones to use later, as clearly we don’t use coriander enough!! However, when I went to take these photos, I noticed that there was a bit of coriander powering away in this pot, so I will attempt to do something with it prior to bolting!

Coriander

Coriander stretching out

Rosemary
This makes me sad – I am up to what must be my 6th rosemary plant, and cannot keep it alive!!! I have tried various permutations – I know it doesn’t like too much water, so I don’t water it, then it goes all woody, and dies. So then I try to water it a little, then it dies. I try to keep it out of the rain, it dies. I leave it in full sun, it dies. It’s such a shame, I love rosemary so much, particularly in meat and potato wintry dishes, but I always seem to be doing something wrong!! I have only bought it in pots, however, so maybe the key is to plant from seed? Or something else? Any insight in the comments would be gratefully received – it’s quite galling, I know it’s supposed to one of the hardier herbs, but it is eluding me!! All tips are welcome!!

Sad rosemary

Another one bites the dust …

Parsley
I have a couple of small pots of parsley, that seem fairly perennial, but never quite enough for the recipes I need, so I think I will try from seed/larger seedlings and see how I go. And in fact, when I went to take these photos, I discovered my parsley had entirely gone, and I have no memory of removing it, so either it’s been eaten or it died and I removed it and I have blocked the trauma from my brain – either way, clearly time to grow some more!!

Thyme
This is a great herb – it seems happy to live with very little maintenance in questionable conditions (it and the mint were the last herbs standing in a pot that had held parsley and coriander as well, and the thyme and mint had a stand-off for many months until I finally moved the mint – I don’t know if the thyme feels victorious or lonely) – it is going so well in its rather arid pot that I don’t dare move it, although I am now wondering whether it is getting too woody and may finally leave me … And in fact, when I took the photo of the coriander above, you’ll notice some woody stems in the background, that’s the thyme!! I hope it’s just sleeping, and will re-emerge victorious in a few months …

Thyme

Thyme not looking so great in the back there …

Chives
I use this herb rarely (I like to chop it up and put it in scrambled eggs or sprinkle on a hardboiled egg every now and again), but it thrives with limited intervention from me, apart from getting fairly tufty and needing a haircut every few months.

Other herbs
I don’t tend to grow other herbs, because the ones I’ve discussed are the ones we use most often, but do tell me if you have success with others that you recommend!

So, that’s my rather tumultuous herb tale – the novice gardener, as I am, will still have these trials and tribulations, it’s about finding what works, in terms of maintenance, watering and companionship, and going from there – I recommend only growing herbs that you like and will use, otherwise they will just be a pretty addition to your garden without much use!

Update: I found the parsley – poor thing, it had clearly fallen off the rack in the crazy rainy windy weather we’ve been having, and the pot had been replaced on the rack minus the little parsley plant, which was looking very forlorn and shrivelled on the ground. Alas for the parsley!! I will buy some seeds and go from there – your death will not be in vain!!