Tag Archive: herbs

seed sowingIn these stressful times I hope that you are safe and well. How’s the weather been with you? I’ve had a couple of weeks of ‘sunny and warmish’ at home, with a few cold nights.

The weather might seem pretty settled; but it’s April, so things can be wet and windy…. If, like me, you might still be a bit behind with one or two things, my first tip won’t be a surprise!

1. Backtrack

Take a look at my last list of tips and see if any still need to be done, as the warmer weather might encourage you to get outside…

As the weather warms divide overgrown waterlillies and maybe add some to your pond

As the weather warms divide overgrown waterlillies and maybe add some new plants to your pond

2. Pond life

April is normally the month to lift and divide waterlilies, replanting divided plants in aquatic compost topped with washed gravel in a planting basket. It’s also time to plant up some new aquatic plants in your pond, from friends and neighbours, if not the local nursery. Providing a variety of plants will provide food and shelter for many of your pond ‘critters’ in the next few months. Make sure you have enough oxygenating plants to prevent algae developing. While you’re there, and if you didn’t do it last month, check your pond pumps and filters.

Aphids on beans

Aphids on beans

3. Pest watch

Stay vigilant for aphids – green-fly, black-fly – as they will start to multiply as the weather begins to warm up. Check all your plants regularly, especially roses, and squash any clusters of them with your fingers, or spray with a solution of crushed garlic and water to remove them organically. The first lily beetles may start to appear – pick off the bright red beetles and squash them. Keep (or start) patrolling for slugs and snails and pick these off and ‘dispose’ of them as you wish. Alternatively use a beer trap or pellets that do not contain Metaldehyde.

If you're a keen cook and you have the space, you may want to create a special herb garden like this- or if not just find a sunny spot for a few fragrant favourites!

If you’re a keen cook and you have the space, you may want to create a special herb garden like this- or if not just find a sunny spot for a few fragrant favourites!

4. Heaven scent

Why not sow a range of herbs as the weather starts to warm up? These could include sage, parsley, thyme, fennel and rosemary, which will all add scent to the garden as well as being useful for cooking. Sow the assorted herb seeds in a prepared seed bed in shallow drills at least 30cm apart. You can plant seedlings up into containers or beds – either way they like a well-prepared soil with plenty of organic matter, such as homemade compost. Herbs will tolerate most conditions, as long as they have plenty of regular sun, so be careful where you put your herb plot – mine is too shady!

5. Nature’s gift

Check for emerging self-seeded plants and transplant or pot these ‘freebies’ up before weeding and mulching your borders.

6. Stay in trim

Lavender and other silver-leaved plants will benefit from a tidy up if you haven’t already shorn them of the top few centimetres of growth (but avoid cutting into thicker, older stems unless you want to renovate over-grown specimens. Start trimming box hedges and topiaries, or wait another three to four weeks in colder areas. Prune early flowering shrubs like Forsythia, Ribes etc. once they’ve finished flowering. Deadhead daffodils as soon as the flowers fade, so they don’t waste their energy producing seeds. Apply a general feed to them like Blood, Fish and Bone.

Red Cabbage seedlings on one of my 'seedy cills'

Red Cabbage seedlings on one of my ‘seedy cills’

7. Transfer window

Prick out and pot on seedlings before they become leggy and overcrowded. See my post on ‘7 tips for successful seedlings’.

8. Under cover

Ventilate greenhouses and cold frames in good weather to prevent a build-up of pests and diseases. Start giving houseplants more water. Protect fruit blossom and young plants from late frosts with horticultural fleece.

Easter time is the traditional planting time for early potatoes in the UK, though I've already got my 'first earlies' in.

Easter time is the traditional planting time for early potatoes in the UK.

9. Spud you like

Good Friday is the traditional day for potato planting (ideally in ground that is well-manured and weed free)! I’m going to put my first and second earlies in over the next week or two.

10. Sow ‘n’ grow

These can all be sown outside, if the weather and soil has warmed up:

  • hardy annuals (e.g. Calendula and Nasturtium), in shallow drills or patches

  • new lawns (and also repair bald patches and damaged edges) – if this wasn’t done last month

  • veg, like runner, broad and French beans, beetroot, carrots, cabbages, salad onions, spinach, herbs and Brussels sprouts.

Vegetables like courgette, marrows, tomato and sweetcorn can be started off indoors.

Old School Gardener

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WP_20160515_13_25_28_ProHaving completed our journey from Skye to East Kilbride, just south of Glasgow, we spent a wonderful couple of days exploring ‘the second city of empire’. We’d never been before…we were wondering what it would be like, given it had a rather ‘mixed’ reputation in former days.

We needn’t have worried. Yes, this is a working city and there are parts which aren’t that pretty. But the efforts to regenerate the centre and its surrounds seem to have paid off. We were impressed at the range and quality of the architecture and cultural offerings here…and the friendliness of the people.

Today’s post sets out some pictures from our first full day’s visit, when we took the tourist bus and initially stopped off to visit the Cathedral…

From here it was short walk to the Necropolis set out above the city, it is a wonderful space celebrating the lives of Glasgow’s worthies…and glorious on a sunny day with lovely cloud formations. We stopped off to chat to a group of RSPB volunteers busy stripping turf in order to create more wildlife (bird) friendly spaces amidst the tombstones….

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And from here we discovered a super museum in one of the oldest merchant houses (‘Provand’s Lordship’) in the city and with its own, rather special tudor-style garden with knots of Box and interesting beds iof medicinal and other herbs…

Our second day featured a trip to the Botanical Gardens, Museums the Mackintosh-designed School of Art and afternoon tea at another  Rennie Mackintosh project….more of that in a couple of days..

Further information: www.peoplemakeglasgow.com

Old School Gardener

Artichokes- now's the time to plant 'slips' or suckers, says Evelyn

Artichokes- now’s the time to plant ‘slips’ or suckers, says Evelyn

‘Set Artichok-slips, transplant cabages, sow Lettuce, clip hedges, & greenes; & sow the seedes of all hot sweete-herbs & plants.’

John Evelyn 1686 (published 1932)

Old School Gardener

kind-of-herbs‘Herbs are used for two purposes:

a. to add a flavour that isn’t there but should have been;

b. to take away a flavour that is there that shouldn’t be.’

William Rushton ‘The Alternative Gardener’ (1986).

David Bryson reviews this book on Amazon and in it he says :

‘It is quite a few years now since Willie Rushton died from a heart attack, aged barely 60. He had been a prominent figure among the British satirists of the 1960’s, appearing on the BBC shows That Was the Week That Was and Not So Much a Programme. He also contributed in a major way to Private Eye in its effervescent early manner, and continued to grace it with occasional cartoons more or less until his death. He was an exceptionally gifted artist, with a distinctive and unmistakable style, and it is a great and sentimental pleasure to find so much of his drawing in this amusing little volume. As a humorist he was quirky, sometimes a little bit mechanical and indeed occasionally downright unintelligible, but at his best very funny indeed, again in his own very personal way. To my own dying day I shall treasure the memory of a cartoon following outrage among the Conservative government in 1964 that Harold Wilson, then leader of the opposition, had stepped in and settled a strike without saying by your leave or with your leave to the government. Rushton depicted an elderly newspaper vendor in a muffler and cloth cap handing a customer the Evening Standard bearing the headline WILSON ACTING AS IF HE IS PRIME MINISTER. To this Rushton’s old newspaper-seller added `More than you could say for some.’

Old School Gardener

coriander leavesNote: This is the first of a series of articles on how to grow and use different food plants. It’s one of a number produced recently by particpants in a ‘Grow Your Own’ course I’ve been running in the village of Foulsham, Norfolk. I thought the work deserved a wider audience and hope that you find it useful. I’ll post other articles in coming weeks.

Guest blog by Jacqui Carr

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft plant growing to 50 cm (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the centre of the umbel longer (5–6 mm) than those pointing toward it (only 1–3 mm long). The seeds are often used as a spice or an added ingredient in other foods.

How to Grow Coriander

Coriander enjoys a sunny position but appreciates a little shade during the hottest part of the day. Coriander has a tendency to run to seed if stressed. This is fine if the plant is grown for its seeds, but not if it is grown for its leaves.

Coriander is best grown from seed directly into the soil. This is because it is quite a sensitive plant; transplanting young plants can shock them and cause them to bolt (run to seed). Prepare the soil thoroughly by digging it over, removing any weeds and incorporating organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost. Rake the soil so it’s level and sow seeds 4cm apart in drills 1cm deep.

Germination of coriander takes up to 3 weeks. Young plants should be thinned to 20cm apart to allow them to grow to their full size. The soil should never dry out. If flowers develop they should be removed immediately to ensure the plants focus their energy on growing new leaves. Coriander should be re-sown every three weeks to ensure a continual supply during the summer. It is not normally necessary to feed coriander if the soil is well nourished. However, if the plants appear to be suffering they can be given a liquid organic feed to perk them up.

Coriander does well in containers and can be grown on a sunny windowsill or balcony. The container must be quite deep as coriander has a long taproot. Scatter seeds on the surface of the compost and cover with soil, watering well. They may need more frequent watering as pots dry quickly.

Coriandrum sativum from the Medizinal Pflanzen

Coriandrum sativum from the Medizinal Pflanzen

Harvesting Coriander

Harvest the leaves when the plant is big and robust enough to cope. Pluck or cut each leaf off the stem or snip whole stems if necessary. Both the leaves and the stalks can be used.

If grown for its seeds, wait until the flowers have died off before harvesting. Cut the stems and place the heads of the coriander in a paper bag, with the stems slicking out. Tie the stems and the bag together in a bunch and hang upside down in a cool, dry place. Wait for three weeks and then shake the bag. The dry seeds will fall out from the flowers and be ready in the bottom of the bag. Keep them in a dry place and re-sow the following spring.

Coriander pests and diseases

Coriander can suffer from root rot.  Coriander doesn’t like its roots to be too wet so make sure the soil is well draining and don’t over water the plants.  Water during the day and avoid watering in the evening. Coriander is a very aromatic plant, and as such it is usually free from pests, although slugs may have a chomp at the seedlings. In the UK, there are no serious diseases affecting coriander.


The best way of storing coriander leaves is to freeze them.  Freeze the tender stalks as well as the leaves.  Try not to wash the coriander before freezing. .  If you do wash it, then dry it as much as possible before freezing.  Freeze only healthy green leaves – remove any that are yellow.  Put the leaves and stalks in a plastic bag, seal it and put it in the freezer.  When you want to use it, just take out as much as you need, and chop whilst still frozen.  Then add it to your cooking. A slightly more labour-intensive method is to freeze the coriander in ice cube trays.  Chop the coriander, and pack it into ice cube trays.  Add a little water to just cover the coriander, and then freeze.  Once it’s frozen, remove from the trays and seal in a plastic bag.  Use the cubes straight from frozen.

Cooking with Coriander

Coriander is a delicious and versatile herb, used in a variety of dishes including Indian and Thai dishes and salsas and salads. Both the leaves and the seeds are commonly used and have distinct flavours and uses. The leaves are best eaten fresh and the seeds are best eaten dried, toasted and ground into a fine powder to use as a spice.

Recipe: Tomato, Cucumber and Coriander Salad


·         6 ripe vine tomatoes, deseeded and chopped

·         1 small cucumber, diced

·         1 red onion, very finely chopped

·         6 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Method: mix together the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and chopped coriander, but don’t season until just before serving.

Coriander Seeds

Coriander Seeds


  • Sow seed every 2-3 weeks to have a constant supply of leaves

  • Do not transplant the seedlings – coriander doesn’t like to be moved

  • Keep the soil moist, but do not over water

  • Don’t water in the evening – coriander doesn’t like to “go to bed with wet feet”

  • Pick leaves regularly once they are 10cm (4in) high

  • Use the stems as well as the leaves, and allow some plants to flower so you can collect the seed

  • Freeze any excess coriander in a plastic bag, and use from frozen

  • Don’t grow in a confined space indoors as the plant has an unpleasant smell

  • Avoid planting near fennel, as they just don’t like one another!

PicPost: Doing Cartwheels

Photo from Grow Veg

PicPost: Herbical garden

16th March 2013


Thanks for the tips… have pretty much done everything now!

Bought some seeds and have planted them in a compartmentalized seed tray… went for basil, coriander , parsley , sage, oregano and piripiri chillies.

Also got some raspberry plants – maybe they’ll work this year!!

Now to wait and see if they sprout!


To be continued…. do youn have any tips about growing fruit and veg in containers? Please let me know!

Previous post: Dear Dad ….15th March 2013

Old School Gardener

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