Posts Tagged With: herbs

Window Box Gardening

This year has seen a great deal of change, as I moved into my own place, which gave me both more and less space to grow my herbs and vegetables. I’m now in a first floor flat with no actual garden so instead of my small container garden I now have a collection of window boxes to work with, along with some ikea hanging baskets in my kitchen.

I wasn’t sure if my herbs would survive their summary removal from a container on the patio into a window box, so I gave them a few weeks sitting in my living room to settle before I put them back outside again. Apparently they liked my living room a bit too much as within a month of being outside my kitchen window they were universally looking like the saddest herbs on the planet.

It’s not been a good year for herbs in general chez moi. All the herbs I’d bought for my kitchen planters have died a death. In fact the only thing I’ve planted in my hanging kitchen planter that hasn’t keeled over is an Aloe Vera plant. Which nearly keeled over in the other direction as I’ve had to turn the planter round so that its leaning toward the sunshine doesn’t tip the whole thing out on the floor!

One thing that has been an unmitigated success is my bay tree. Having been a small but resilient little container tree on the patio for the last couple of years, when I moved somewhere without a garden I planned to return it to my parents care. (Their own Bay Tree that mine is an offshoot from, had died a death the previous year.) It was a shame, my friend M noted while helping me move, it looked good in my living room. After some consultation with green-fingered friends we concluded that it should be fine as long as it got plenty of light, so I found it a sunny spot, watered it regularly and hoped for the best. Reader, it thrived. It’s got at least a foot taller, I had to re-pot it into a bigger tub and it’s never looked healthier.

This summer I tried out window box gardening for the first time. Between spring arriving late and being generally busy with the move I didn’t actually get any seeds in the soil until June. I planted a row each of carrots and spring onions in one box and a row each of radishes and pak choi in the other. I didn’t have high hopes for them but I reckoned it as better to try then just look sadly at those empty window boxes all summer. Yet to my surprise, the sunshine and showers that marked June meant that my radishes and pak choi burst into enthusiastic life to the extent of needing thinned out. My carrots looked pathetic and my spring onions never broke the surface – I suspect bird interference – but I began to have hopes about salad.

However, come July we had a heat-wave, and I returned from a week away for work to find that my pak choi and radishes had both shot beyond rescue, so all I got from that box were some rather pretty yellow and pink-purple flowers. After last year’s spinach disappointment, I suspect salad leaves are not going to be my thing.

However, to my surprise, the carrots rallied. I’d decided to grow a miniature variety and miniature they certainly were. But I did at least get enough carrots to do something with. I was able to get enough to eat boiled with dinner one night, and during my sushi experiments baby carrots proved to be the perfect size to quarter and use as batons. Also they may have been tiny, but they packed a disproportionate punch of taste. I’ve never eaten carrots with such flavour so despite their unimpressive showing, I’ll definitely be giving them a second try next year.

I have had one last success in my window box gardening. I noticed the other day that my chive plant – previously thought dead – was showing some fresh green shoots among the dead husks. So I’ve carefully cleared away the dead stems and other debris and it looks that I might yet have a chive plant – and who knows I’ve seen that mint plant come back from worse in previous years…

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Growing My Own

After last year’s success with herbs, this year I decided to try my hand at growing some vegetables. I kept things simple by only trying two things – I figured that growing vegetables from seed was adventurous enough for one year – and picking varieties that were supposedly good for container growing.

I had high hopes for my spinach – cut and come-again variety – which got off to an early and promising start. Unfortunately it proved to be disappointingly insipid in flavour, and I never quite master the cut and come-again aspect of the process.

Growing Things

My spring onions on the other hand were an unmitigated success. They got off to a slow start, as it wasn’t until mid-July that I had any worth picking, but once they got going, I had a veritable glut of them. My favourite part of growing spring-onions is that you can leave them in the ground and just pull them as you need them. So I could just pick two or three as I needed them. Also I’d under-estimated the germination rate of the seeds thus had planted them too densely. So once I had made first few croppings (picking the biggest ones, that had pushed their bulbs out of the soil, as per the internet’s collective wisdom) I found that the remaining bulbs spread out into the new space and bulked up in turn. Oh and the flavour of those more mature plants was something else, as a friend of mine put it, less of a strong onion flavour and more of green flavour. The polar opposite of my bland and insipid spinach. I’ve never been much of one for raw spring onions, but I found myself garnishing all sorts of things with these piquant little fellows. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to go back to their bland supermarket compatriots over the winter…

Spring Onion Omlette

My herbs have been rather less successful this year. After thinking that my mint had died a death in a late snow, I was delighted to find that it made a stellar recovery, only for my rosemary to wither and die for no obvious reason. (More experienced gardeners suggested it had wet feet, but as it was in exactly the same level of drainage as it had thrived in the previous year, I have my doubts.) Also while my parsley is still struggling away, struggling is definitely the word, as it has remained pretty much the same size since I cut it back after it’s attempts to take over the world last year. Though the purple sage has definitely benefited from the parsley’s downfall, as I’ve had far more sage than I could possibly eat.

I decided to try a different herb preservation technique this year, I was brave and attempted to dry my herbs in the oven. The version that worked for me, was to lay out all my herbs on an oven tray while my dinner was cooking in the oven, and put them in the very bottom of the oven once it was switched off (but still warm) shut the door and leave them to toast gently while I ate dinner and washed the dishes. So far I’m quite happy with the results, and the little grinder that I bought for the purpose is now full of ‘mixed garden herbs’ (mint, thyme, sage and a few left over bay leaves).

Dried Herbs

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