Thursday, 14 January 2016

Kitchen greens

I am blessed to have a garden to grow things, but if I didn't have herbs on my kitchen window ledge I would not use them in dishes nearly as much as I do. 

Herbs are like prepositions that bring dishes together. They are great for salads and garnishing and an inexpensive way to decorate simple food. In summer, basil is my go-to herb for salads and Italian dishes, like pasta and pizza. I recently tried growing thyme which looks luscious and is a great accompaniment to potato dishes  I also keep chives handy to cut up into little hyphens over salads and to decorate dishes.

Sometimes positioning herbs in the kitchen can be a problem. The window ledge may be too hot or plants may not receive enough light. 

Have you ever thought about being a little 'shelf-ish' and putting up a little shelf just for your herbs? This way you can position them in the right spot. They need good light, but be vigilant of your plants if they get direct sunlight through glass which can get super hot. In the summer months, check the soil for dryness daily.

My favourite herbs are basil and flat leaf parsley. I do have to dash into the garden for my parsley, as the herb, like Rosemary, can get unruly and grow into large bushes. I let the parsley in the garden self seed as this helps to replenish my supply. (See my previous post on thrifty gardening tips.)

Another good supply of greens is to grow microgreens in the kitchen. The fresh plump shoots are delicious.
The Tui Garden Project and Annabel Langbein have some tips on how to grow these succulent accompaniments. In New Zealand you can buy Annabel Langbein's small packs of microgreens like beetroot, chervil, rocket and cultivate your own or you can buy potted greens like this one from The Family Herb Co. in Auckland. 

This post was inspired by Judith and Igor of Urban Jungle Bloggers who challenge their followers each month to post a blog on a botanical theme. This month it's 'plants in the kitchen'! Being a plant hunter myself, I am totally hooked! 

If you want to participate, please visit the Urban Jungle Bloggers website for all the details. 

Enjoy your herbs and eat your greens! 
- Claudia x

Friday, 1 January 2016

Thrifty gardening

Happy New Year! Perhaps you are on holiday or preparing to go back to work soon. You may even be looking out on your garden and feel the need to get out there. I find that being in my garden and getting close to the earth is refreshing and rewarding. It clears my mind of everyday worries. Somehow gardening activities demand that I focus on the task at hand. I find it quite invigorating too. One minute I'm watering a patch and re-viewing my layout, what's working and what isn't. The next minute I'm moving plants around and leaving piles of weeds in clumps as I go. 

My garden is mostly comprised of perennial plants.  The few annuals I have, seem to come up from reseeded stock, season after season, or from seeds I have collected, saving me from spending big. 

At this time of the year straight after Christmas, I find I don't have much spare cash to spend on gardening even through I have some spare time, so its important to have some thrifty gardening tips. Here are some that have helped me get through the year.

1. Let nature do it's thing:

Let the garden become a little unruly and allow some flowers or herbs to go to seed.  Collect the seeds on a dry day and store in marked envelopes for sewing next spring. 

2. Make your garden and food waste work for you

Make your own compost, but have two piles going. Start one after a hefty gardening prune (exclude weeds!) and then leave it for some weeks. Start another heap with food waste (no meat products) to which you add any subsequent pruned clippings. It does take a few months, but you'll be amazed how much green waste you can recycle and have some mulch and nourishment for your plants - like all living things, they do need good supplies of food!

3. Make more 

Some plants can be grown from cuttings placed in water e.g. Impatience, fuchsias, Rosemary, oregano etc. Pot soft wood cuttings in well drained soil using a rooting hormone e.g. Lavender, Streptocarpus, or use a layering technique for ground covers.

4. Be generous

Offer cuttings and surplus plants to your friends and neighbours and you'll be rewarded with reciprocity. 

Hope you have a productive gardening year and are able to take some time to just be still and to take some breaths.

- Claudia x