Tag Archives: Herbs

Gardening Jobs for April – Trees, shrubs and flowers

TREES SHURBS AND FLOWERS

  • Prune bedding roses if you have not already done so; a tough pruning is good for them in the long run. Feed them generously after doing so.
  • Prune hydrangeas by first dead-heading them and then cutting out any dead branches. Prune the remaining stems back to the first healthy pair of buds nearest to the dead blooms.
  • Prune spring-flowering shrubs such as Winter Jasmine, do so by pruning roughly a third of their growth and then feeding
  • Apply a rose fertiliser and a high potash feed to flowering shrubs
  • Divide any perennials that need it; this is only necessary once every 3-5 years. An indicator that it is necessary is when they become woody or there is significantly less growth in the centre. For best results uproot the plant and split it into a few sections with equal amounts of root. Then get rid of the woody part; usually the centre. Replant in well fertilised ground, mulch and water well.
  • Weed borders thoroughly and then mulch
  • Pot-marigolds and sunflowers can be directly sown
  • Look out for early aphids, remove by squashing first and if the problem continues look into other methods

FRUITS VEGETABLES AND HERBS

  • Prune shrubby herbs such as sage and thyme to keep them compact
  • Sow basil and coriander and plant out parsley plants if you managed to sow them earlier this year. Mesh over these to protect them from insects and frost.
  • Cut back lavender stalks to just below their old flowers
  • Directly sow vegetables such as cauliflower, peas, carrots, leeks, beetroots and radishes, being sure to protect these from any forecasted frost.
  • If any frost is expected, prepare young or small fruit trees with a fleece
  • Spray fruit with a protective fungicide and a systemic to help prevent pest and diseases
  • Plant second-early potato tubers at the beginning of April or main crop varieties at the end, read more about planting potatoes in our last year’s blog (https://www.stbridgetnurseries.co.uk/potatoes-earthingup/)
  • Tidy up last year’s strawberry bed; remove any flowers
  • Feed berries with a high-nitrogen feed; ask in store for our staff to point out our best ones
  • Sow tomatoes if you want to try growing them from seed this year. Once seedlings show their first true leaves they can be planted individually into pots. They should be planted deeply with their first leaves resting just above the compost.

LAWN

  • Feed the lawn and treat weeds and any moss that may have appeared
  • Do not feed if the grass is too wet; scorched grass may result
  • Repair lawn bald spots; minor damage can be combated by breaking up the surface with a fork and then adding seed
  • Larger areas of damage may require new turf to be laid

Planting a medicinal herb garden

Planting your own medicinal herb garden

Real benefits – myths aside!

Without a doubt there are numerous ‘old wives tales’ about medicinal herb gardens- herbs, plants and their magical cures. However, several plants have truly been shown (through lab tests and controlled trials) to have numerous health benefits.

Putting the myths and tall tales behind us, we are interested in how we can use plants from our own gardens to help our health! This can be both money saving and enjoyable, and in the mix of it all may be able to treat some common illnesses and ailments.

Herbs are certainly not hard to grow and you can even select a few which interest you and try them in a small little ‘medicinal herb pot’. It is also surprisingly easy to prepare them into usable forms.

In this blog you can learn the different ways to prepare medicinal herbs and our top 7 herbs for growing in a physic garden!

Picking and storing;

Unsurprisingly, the best time to use the herbs and flowers is when they are fresh. Ideally pick them is just before noon, at this time the essential oils have been warmed by the sun and there’s no dew left. If you plan on storing the leaves dry, this is also fine just endeavour to get them dry as soon as possible without putting them in the sun. Then you can store them in sealed jars in a dark place where they should keep for at least a few months.

Methods of preparation

  • – Tea;

This is the most simple way to use the herbs and plants. The tea is made by simply pouring boiling water over the leaves or flowers and leaving it to brew (in a covered container) for roughly 10 minutes and then straining. This can be drunk or used to wash your skin or dab on affected areas of skin. If you are drinking the tea it is extra tasty if you add some honey. Why not try the local Devon Honey produced from flowers of the exe valley that we stock in store.

  • – Decoctions;

This is a method used to prepare bark, fruits and seeds. This is done by boiling them in water in a saucepan for between 10-15 minutes. You then strain the mixture and water it down and sweeten to taste for drinking.

  • – Tincture;

This makes a small amount of concentrated liquid that is taken in drops. To prepare, chop up herbs/flowers very finely and place in a glass jar. Cover the herbs with vodka or a strong spirit and seal the jar. After 4-6 weeks the tincture should be strained and is ready for use when needed.

  • – Syrups (eg cough syrup);

This is a quick and easy way to prepare herbs. Chop up and bruise your herbs and boil in a sugar and water solution until it becomes thick and of course syrupy! Then strain and store!

  • – Cough sweets;

Prepare a syrup and after straining it put it back in the pan and add more sugar and boil for a bit longer. When it becomes very thick, pour it onto a well greased baking tray and leave it to cool. When it has hardened you can break it into pieces!

Our top 7 herbs and their uses;

  1. 1. Lavender;  soothing, calming and a great smell to encourage sleep. A tea can be drunk to help sleep- or can be used to soothe injuries such as burns and aid healing.
  2. 2. Thyme; has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is a great addition to teas and tinctures that soothe sores in the mouth or throat. Also good for rubbing on cuts.
  3. 3. Rosemary; known for being rich in anti oxidants and having anti inflammatory properties. Often used to boost the immune system.
  4. 4. Bay; known for helping with digestive issues such as an upset stomach or IBS by settling the stomach. Used as a tea it can also be applied to shampooed hair to reduce dandruff and flaky dry skin.
  5. 5. House leek (sempervivum); the leave can be plucked and cut open to reveal a soothing gel to use on stings and minor burns.
  6. 6. Marjoram; an amazing herb known for it’s wide health benefits. It has several benefits in tea which can be used to relieve digestive issues such as flatulence, diarrhoea and cramps. It has also been proven in studies to be a great herb for women’s health used for hormonal imbalance. Similarly it is known for its use for pain relief.
  7. 7. Fennel; great for stomach pains and wind. This can be prepared or one can simply chew the seeds for a speedy and effective cure.

All of these herbs can be found in our stores in 9cm pots for only £2 each or a special offer of 10 for £15!

Fresh herbs are a great addition to any garden.

Harvesting Herbs

June is the perfect month for harvesting herbs.

Choose a dry sunny morning (before thereat of the day releases the herb’s essential oils). Cut shoots and tie them into small bundles. Hang the bundles upside down in a warm place (like an airing cupboard). Alternatively you can microwave them. Place the sprigs in a single layer on a sheet of kitchen paper, microwave for 2-3 minutes but check and rotate them every 30 seconds. Once cool, crumble them up and store. For herbs that are hung dry (better option), once dry strip the leaves from the stalks and store the leaves in glass jars.

Freeze storage

Alternatively, chop your fresh herbs up and freeze them in ice cube trays. Simply add one tablespoon of water for every tablespoon of herbs. This is a good method for parsley, basil, mint, basil and borage flowers.

Fresh herbs are a great addition to any garden.

Planting a herb container

Herbs are brilliant grown in a pot. Not only do they look attractive but they smell good and can be conveniently located near the back door for ease of access to the kitchen. Planting a herb container also restrains vigorous herbs like mint and sage, known to grow rapidly and spread in borders.

Many herbs are perennials (come back to growth year after year) but it is nice to add some annuals (plants that grow for only one season) into your container too, such as basil.

Here is our step by step guide to planting a herb container:

  1. Choose a container or containers to plant in. You can pick up purpose made herb or strawberry pots from our garden centres. These have planting holes in the side of them. Alternatively you can choose a traditional terracotta pot or trough. Make sure your containers are porous (unglazed) as this will assist with drainage.
  2. Select the herbs you want from the selection available in our garden centres. Pick your favourites for taste and then maybe add one or two for their colour or fragrance.
  3. Buy some loam-based compost like a John Innes No 2 and add up to a third of horticultural grit or perlite for added drainage (herbs hate standing in water).
  4. Fill your container to either the level of the first planting holes (if you chose a container with holes in the side) or 3 inches from the top of your traditional pot. Start with the lowest planting holes first, feeding the roots through the hole carefully and laying compost on top as you work your way upwards. Once you have your plants in the position you want them (allowing space for growth), fill the area around their roots with compost, tapping the container gently to shake the soil about and remove any air pockets.
  5. Water plants in, but do not overwater.

Looking after your herb container:

Many herbs grow well in pots initially but can decline or lose vigour over time. You can divide and re-pot herbs easily and doing this each year will keep your herbs looking fresh. Do this in early spring and only retain the growing outer portions of the rootball and discard the older central section. Use your hands to gently tease the roots and plants apart.

Regularly harvesting your herbs encourages them to remain bushy and compact. Use new shoots as fresh herbs or dry them for later use. You can do this by tying your harvest in a bundle with string and then hanging them in an airing cupboard. Once dry, chop them up and store in glass containers – just like the ones you buy in the supermarket.

In winter, herbs (even the hardy ones) are vulnerable to frost damage. Rootballs can freeze and winds strip moisture from leaves. Keep your herb container fairly dry where possible and in really cold snaps move your container into an unheated greenhouse, porch or conservatory. This helps prevent your pot from cracking with the frost too.