Ten Reasons to Grow Your Own Herbs

Most of us have a pot of parsley or coriander from the supermarket on our kitchen window sill from time to time. Usually they die before you use them! I have solved this by repotting them into a bigger pot. However, even more satisfying than keeping a supermarket pot going is to grow your own herbs.

There are so many great reasons to grow your own herbs. Here are just ten.

1. It is cheaper to grow your own herbs

grow your own herbs

Money savers and keen cooks will appreciate this one! It costs so little to buy a packet of seeds. You don’t need to use them all at once either. Seal the pack until you need some more.

You can also grow woody herbs like rosemary and lavender from cuttings.

2. They are easy to grow

Herbs are really are easy to grow. You need some kind of pot, some compost, a pack of seeds, then just follow the instructions.

It really is easy to grow your own herbs.

grow your own herbs

3. Great for small spaces

If you don’t have much outdoor space, herbs can be grown in pots indoors or out. You get great value for very little room as they can thrive in quite confined areas. You can use them as border plants or grown them in window boxes too.

4. Add more flavour

Fresh herbs are so much tastier and add more flavour to your dishes than dried. Personally, I think there is nothing more aromatic and delicious than fresh chopped coriander.

5. Add more nutrition

People tend to think of herbs in terms of their culinary characteristics. However, they are full of plant power! Parsley is a good source of iron and vitamin C, for example. In fact, most contain useful vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fennel is another herb that is said to improve your digestive health.

6. Herbs as medicine

Herbs have long been used for their medicinal properties. Mint is good for the digestion, for example, and parsley is said to have anti-inflammatory properties and to relieve flatulence.

7. Herbs make great plants for your garden

grow your own herbs

One of my favourite shrubs in my garden is rosemary. As well as putting it on our roasties, it produces beautiful blue flowers each spring. Thyme is especially good for borders.

Herbs come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colours. Even if they don’t flower, they will add beauty to your outside space.

8. Herbs attract wildlife

Insects and butterflies will love you for growing a few herbs in your outside space. The bees absolutely love our rosemary, lavender and our borage, for example.

9. Less waste

As I mentioned before, even if you buy your fresh herbs in pots they frequently end up in the bin, having died or gone to seed. If you buy cut herbs for a recipe, you often use a small bit and throw the rest away. If you grown your own herbs, however, you can cut exactly the amount you need.

10. More variety

If you grow your own you will be able to cultivate varieties that are hard to find in the shops. It  will make you more adventurous in the kitchen! For example, I have a nice pot of Scottish mint. I have never seen this in the shops. Lemon balm is another one you won’t often find in the supermarket.

Even if you don’t think you have green fingers, you can grow your own herbs successfully. What do you grow?

Visit a beautiful garden with the NGS Open Garden Scheme

The NGS Open Garden Scheme offers a great day out

NGS Open Garden SchemeNow that the weather has finally improved in the UK, we are keen to get out and about. Fresh air and, hopefully, some sunshine does wonders to lift the spirits. I mentioned that we found a lovely National Garden Scheme open garden by chance last week. Now I am leafing through the NGS Open Garden Scheme listings looking for more.

Now in its 90th year, the NGS Open Garden Scheme supports around 3,700 gardening enthusiasts to open their gardens to the public annually. Where ever you live in the UK, you should be able to find a garden or two to visit. Many also sell plants, tea and cakes, so you can make a day of it.

Charity fundraising

The best thing about the NGS Open Garden Scheme is that it raises a lot of money for loads of different charities. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are raised for the Queen’s Nursing Institute, MacMillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, Carer’s Trust, Hospice UK, Parkinson’s UK, Perennial,  plus other guest charities.

The benefits of gardens on health

NGS Open Garden SchemeThe NGS Open Garden Scheme recently commissioned some research on the benefits of gardens for your health and wellbeing. I have experienced this for myself. Both working in our own garden and visiting some of the beautiful gardens we have been to on our travels prove a great way to unwind.

Respondents reported that gardening benefitted their physical and mental health, kept them mobile and active and was a great way to get fresh air and exercise.

During August 2017, the RGS launched their first ever week dedicated to promoting the positive impact gardens can have on health and wellbeing. All of the gardens taking part opened free of charge for a small, private group of people who would not usually get the opportunity to enjoy a garden, either because of health or social reasons.

Volunteer

NGS Open Garden SchemeThere are also lots of opportunities to volunteer with the NGS Open Garden Scheme. If you have a little time, this gives you the chance to meet like minded people and make friends. You could help out at an open garden event or behind the scenes.

If you have a beautiful garden yourself, why not open it up and show it off? You can enjoy chatting to visitors in the knowledge that you are helping to raise money for good causes.

For more information on this great organisation and gardens to visit in your area, go to the NGS Open Garden Scheme website.

Gardener’s World 2 for 1 offer

Whilst we are on the subject of gardens, if you are quick you  might still be able to buy a copy of BBC Gardener’s World magazine. The May issue features its annual 2 for 1 pass. There are hundreds of amazing gardens all around the country that will allow 2 for 1 entry with the pass. We fancy Kew Gardens!

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Composting: the ultimate guide

Hurrah! The snow is abating now for most of us and next week promises more spring-like weather. This means that we can get out in the garden at last. We need to tidy up, start planting and do some composting. We like to grow some of our own fruit and veg. A decent compost makes a big difference to the health and yield of our produce.

To get you in the mood for gardening, today I have a guest post from Emma Metson, who blogs at Fixtures&Flowers. I hope you find it helpful and interesting. Over to Emma!

Composting is good for the environment

Quick fact: The average Briton alone has a carbon footprint of around 9.1 tonnes. Times that amount by the country’s population and you’ll get a shocking amount of emissions. Our friends across the pond produce just over double, with a 20 tonne footprint per person. Truly shocking!

That’s only taking into account the emissions of two countries, let alone the rest of the world. Human-kind has a lot of work to do.

It’s true that there are so many things that can be done to reduce a person’s carbon footprint. Composting, for instance, is one of the best and most efficient methods to reduce waste especially if you have a garden.

Composting is cheaper

Composting is also a cost effective way to add extra nutrients to your garden, which in turn boosts the growth of your plants. If you grow your own fruit and vegetables, compost will help produce a better harvest, saving you even more money.

If you’ve been thinking about composting but don’t know where to start, this guide is specifically for you. It will talk about the main types of composting together with everything that you need to figure out which method suits you and your garden best.

Types of composting

First let’s break down the different types of composting that you can choose from.

Traditional or normal composting

It’s kind of difficult to define what traditional composting is. That’s because composting is a general term that refers to the aerobic (with oxygen) and biological decomposition of organic waste. This process is done under ‘controlled’ or ‘semi-controlled’ conditions — through human intervention.

Regardless of the type, composting can be used to enhance the type of soil in your garden. Compost is packed full of nutrients that are perfect for your plants to feed on, so adding compost to your top layer of soil is a favourite for keen growers. This is especially the case if your garden is home to a difficult soil type.

The four components of traditional compost are ‘greens’, ‘browns’, air, and water. Obviously, the last two don’t need any further explanation as to what they are.

‘Greens’ are the organic matter that contains plenty of nitrogen such as kitchen scraps and lawn clippings. ‘Browns’, on the other hand, contain a lot of carbon like paper, cardboard, newspapers, and dead leaves. Both nitrogen and carbon are needed to make that rich humus which is needed by your plants.

Hot or cold?

Traditional composting can further be divided into two — hot and cold composting. The former is a faster process but requires more labour as you need to turn the compost pile regularly. The latter is as simple as putting all the waste in a pile and leaving them be. As you might have guessed, cold composting is a very long process.

A few reminders:

  • If your compost starts to smell, you need to either add more ‘browns’ or turn your compost pile (in the case of hot compost) more often.
  • If your compost pile is too wet, add more ‘browns’. Your compost should feel like a wrung-out sponge.
  • Lastly, add more ‘greens’ if your compost seems too dry.

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a type of composting that makes use of specific types of worms to produce a by-product that is rich in nutrients and is of course, organic. Simply put, the earthworms consume organic matter and excrete it in a digested form called worm cast.

 

The casts that have passed through the stomachs of the worms contain up to eight times as many nutrients as their feeds. Because of this, these worm castings are also known as ‘black gold’. Vermicomposting can be done using different methods, the most common of which are the bed and pit methods.

 

In general, vermicompost is superior to other types of conventionally-produced compost in the following ways:

  • It’s superior to most composts as an inoculant in the production of compost.
  • Worms, aside from being the perfect ‘plowman’ for your vermicompost, can also be used as high-quality animal feeds.
  • Farmers, for instance, can benefit a lot not just from vermicompost but vermiculture as well. When produced in large numbers, both can provide as an additional source of income.

 

On the other hand, vermicomposting has the following disadvantages as well.

  • This process of composting can be quicker. However, it would usually require more labour to do so.
  • The worms require more space to grow since they are ‘surface feeders’.
  • Worms are vulnerable to environmental conditions such as extreme heat, freezing temperatures, or drought.
  • Vermicomposting usually requires more resources to get started with like money (to buy worms) and labour. That being said, the startup cost isn’t very high.

Countertop composting

This type of composting is ideal for urban dwellers. Those who found a way to maintain a garden despite the limited space will also benefit a lot from countertop composting. A good example would be in apartment buildings where you do your gardening on the balcony or perhaps, indoors.

 

At the same time, this is perfect to reduce your kitchen’s carbon footprint since leftovers and scraps are more than welcome in the compost bin. Do note, that meat and fatty foods should be avoided unless you want your compost to be a party place for insects and pests. Citrus peels and onions are also a no-no because their acidity will kill essential microorganisms which can slow down the decomposition.

 

Pretty much, all you need to have is a container where you’ll be putting all your organic waste into. You can buy them in stores, or if you want to save money, you can go for a DIY countertop compost.

Compost tea

Yes, you heard it right! There is such a thing as compost tea. But don’t worry as it’s not the same as the very popular beverage and no, you’re not going to drink it.

Compost tea is organic fertiliser in liquid form. The process of making compost tea is as simple as steeping aged compost in water. It can be made right at home using your well-finished compost.

Here’s why compost tea has become a hot trend with gardeners:

  • It increases plant growth since the nutrients are easily absorbed by the soil and the plants through spraying.
  • When used as a foliar spray, the surfaces of the plants are occupied with by beneficial microbes which prevent pathogens from infecting the plants.
  • The nutritious content of compost tea is easily absorbed by the plant roots. This encourages the growth of root systems to help your plants pull the nutrients farther down.

Bokashi composting

Bokashi is the Japanese word for “fermented organic matter”. This method was developed by Dr Teuro Higa, a professor at University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan, in the 1980s. How it differs from the other types of composting lies in the fact that it’s done anaerobically — no oxygen.

It’s also one of the least expensive and labour-required methods of composting. The Bokashi bucket has an air-tight lid and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the liquid that will be produced. You will need to layer kitchen scraps (you can also use meat and dairy which are not allowed in aerobic composting) with a Bokashi inoculant inside a bin.

The inoculant or Bokashi bran consists of either wheat germ or sawdust combined with molasses and Effective Microorganisms (EM). You can buy them online or get them from stores. And yes, you can also create your Bokashi bran.

The mixture can be used after it has fermented by letting it sit for up to 10 days without direct sunlight. The fermented mixture can be dug into the garden or added to a compost pile to complete the decomposition process.

Why you’d consider Bokashi composting is most likely because there are no restrictions on what can go inside the bin. Another advantage of it is that it requires very little maintenance because you can just leave it be while waiting for the mixture to ferment.

Conclusion

The truth is, there’s no right or wrong method of composting. The best method is the one that works best for you and fits in with your lifestyle and budget.

Remember: The goal of composting is not only to provide healthy food for your plants. It’s also to reduce the waste which ends up in landfills and help save the environment.

Have you tried composting? Which method do you prefer?

 

Wildlife friendly gardening – keeping it untidy!

Take a walk on the wild side

Wildlife friendly gardening

Wildflower patch

We aren’t worried about a tidy garden here at Shoestring Cottage. Just as well as we don’t have enough time to spare to keep it immaculate. We are more interested in wildlife friendly gardening, with lots of grasses, nettles and wildflowers. There is a little pond that attracts loads of frogs and insects too, and always lots of birds singing and bugs buzzing around.

This year we decide to finally sow all the little packets of wildflower seeds that we seem to collect; freebies from various garden shows and magazines. We had a tiny circle of wildflowers surrounding a beautiful clematis last year. It was very pretty but I longed for a meadow with a carpet of colour.

Move over carrots

We had two vegetable patches previously but just didn’t have time to cultivate and preserve so much produce. This year we gave over the smaller patch to the wild! We sowed about 7 or 8 packets of wildflower seeds and then let nature get on with it. It hasn’t turned out like the carpet of flowers I imagined. Rather, the plants are tall! But there is a huge variety like cornflowers, poppies, foxgloves, daisies and loads I have yet to identify. It is choc a bloc full of bees and insects as well, which is fabulous.

Wildlife friendly gardening

Not too tidy

We deliberately keep some areas of grass long so that the frogs have somewhere to hide.  There is a big pile of old logs and twigs at the bottom of the garden, which the stag beetles like. They are rare generally, but we happen to live in a stag beetle hot spot so like to encourage them. I am hoping for a hedgehog some day but haven’t had one so far.

Lightly controlling some areas of the garden and keeping them a bit untidy means that wildlife friendly gardening saves us time – this is great for busy people! I will save the clipped and perfect lawn for my retirement (maybe).

Wildlife friendly gardening saves money

The great thing about wildflowers is that they tend to self seed. We have foxgloves pop up every year, although we never bought any. They arrived all by themselves! I am hoping that our beautiful wildflower patch will come back each year and won’t cost us anything. So wildflower friendly gardening saves cash too!

The garden is just starting to become productive and tonight I picked our first red and blackcurrants, as well as three courgettes. We should have broad beans in the next week as well. Food production can carry on alongside the wildlife friendly gardening.

Do you make room for the wildlife? Do you have bug hotels or a pond? What works best to attract nature into your garden?

This month’s achievements in our frugal garden: May 2017

frugal gardenAs we head towards the end of May, it is time to look back at our  achievements in our frugal garden.

It is always hard to accomplish exactly what we want in the garden. We both love getting out in the fresh air to plant, cut back and keep it looking tidy. Time is limited because we have to do that boring going to work thing! If only we could stay home and tend our garden it would be our little piece of paradise!

frugal gardenWe also don’t have endless cash to spend. This can be frustrating as we know what we would like but can’t always justify the expense. But it’s easy to have a frugal garden as well as a beautiful one if you are creative and put in some time.

Managing our time

frugal gardenThis year, we decided on a little and often approach. Rather than being intimidated by the amount of work to do in the garden and waiting until we have lots of time to do it, we have been focussing on one task at a time. Weeding a single bed, cutting the hedge, sowing the vegetables, etc. We might only spend an hour or two in our garden over a weekend but it makes all the difference. Even 10 minutes in the evening helps.

Seeing the fruits of our labours (literally in the case of the redcurrants) encourages us to do a bit more. I might pot up a few plants after work, Mr S will whip round with the lawnmower, etc or attack the weeds on the patio.

Flushed with success

frugal gardenYesterday it was a boiling hot day but I was determined to sort the greenhouse. It needed to have some compost dug in and the tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers planted. We were sweating like pigs by the time we had finished but it’s all done. A heatwave wasn’t perhaps the best time to choose for this task!

I managed to pot up half of my geraniums, purchased as plugs when they were on sale in Wyevales recently. Because they were cheap we ended up buying loads. These will make a lovely display. I will finish the others over the next couple of days. Little and often!

Ways to save money: growing from seeds and cuttings

frugal gardenTo save time and money we are focussing on planting flowering shrubs in the beds. We have grown some of these from cuttings, such as beautiful wallflowers and spreading geraniums. They fill a space in no time and cost literally nothing. Others have been purchased very cheaply in places like B&M, Home Bargains, Lidl and Aldi. These stores are also good for bags of compost at very reasonable prices. We  grew sweetpeas from seed and these are beginning to grow in pots up wicker frames that I picked up for a fiver.

frugal gardenLook in the reduced section

We managed to find trays of violas and pansies for just a pound each recently on the reduced section at the garden centre. These are all over the place now and looking fabulous. It is often worth looking as the reductions are often substantial and you can coax plants back to their best with a little love and attention.

Growing your own food in the frugal garden

frugal gardenIt’s a win-win. A pack of seeds costs a pound or two and you can use half and reseal the pack for the following year. You can have top quality fresh produce on your plate ten minutes after it has been picked!  We have cut down a little this year but the veg patch still has rainbow chard, broad beans, runners, courgettes, pumpkins and Jerusalem artichokes. We haven’t grown stuff that will be cheap in the shops. This, on top of the produce in the greenhouse, should save a lot of money over the summer and give us some exercise too.

frugal gardenWhat have you achieved this month in your frugal garden? Do you find it saves you money or do you spend a fortune in the garden centre?

Grow your own fruit and veg to save money, even when you’re feeling delicate 

So… the downside of entertaining 😊. I did two loads in the dishwasher as we went along, but we didn’t want to stay up all night washing up. So many glasses!

Growing your own hangover

We had a lovely evening. Mr S enjoyed being the centre of attention and we even sang happy birthday. The cake was delicious. This is what it looks like inside. It was more sugar than I have eaten in almost three months though and gave me a headache, although that might have been all the prosecco I managed to quaff. I felt a little ‘tired’ when I got up.

Growing your own fruit and veg

It is a gorgeous day. Gardening and fresh air can be a good hangover cure!  We had a few jobs in the garden that needed to be done as we are off on holiday in a few days.  At Shoesbring Cottage we are always growing our own fruit and veg to save money – well some of it anyway. We had to get the runner beans into the vegetable patch as well as the courgettes.

We aren’t doing as much this year. I love growing our own produce and it definitely tastes better and fresher, but it involves a lot of work and we don’t have time to do it on a larger scale at the moment. Growing your own means that you can eat food that can be quite expensive in the shops and a tiny fraction of the price.  So we just have the aforementioned courgettes and runners, plus broad beans, pumpkins and spinach. I have also put in a globe artichoke for the first time and we have rhubarb that is now well established.  In the greenhouse we have tomatoes, chillis and cucumbers.

We have quite a lot of fruit: red and black currants, apples, grapes and raspberries. I will freeze some of these as they are lovely on our porridge throughout the year.

I am really happy with how the garden is looking at the moment. We have been working really hard to keep on top of it and it’s paying off.  I just hope my darling daughter waters it all next week as she has promised!

Do you grow your own fruit and veg? What have you got coming along?

Garden money saving

Springtime in the garden

Garden money savingI have been a bit rubbish at writing daily blog posts over the past few weeks. I have been busy with work, boot sales, eBay and, most of all, the garden! Garden money saving has been most on my mind. How can we make it look fabulous without spending a fortune in the garden centre?

Garden money saving

Wallflower cuttings

Garden money saving

Wallflower grown from a cutting

It is a busy time of year in the garden. I have been weeding, chopping stuff back, sowing seeds and moving things about.

We have a large garden at the back and a biggish one at the front as well. I love that we have so much green around us, but it’s hard work!

My ideas for garden money saving

I don’t have lots of cash to splurge so I save money everywhere that I can. I am not an expert and I am sure there is plenty I need to learn, but this is what I have learned about garden money saving:

Boot sales and supermarkets are excellent places to buy cheap plants (Aldi in particular).

The reduced section in the garden centre is worth a browse for perennials. They might look a little sad but can be revived!

Most things can be grown from seed extremely cheaply. Share packets and seedlings with friends and family to save even more.

You can grow great plants from cuttings for free! Mr S pinched a bit of a multi-coloured wallflower from a garden we visited. It grew spectacularly and this year he has taken cuttings from that.

You can also divide plants such as grasses to create new plants. I have a geranium that spreads and is good for filling a gap or two so have just divided that.

Places like Home Bargains and B&M are good for cheap compost. Even better, make your own. We use a bit of both.

Pots, planters and containers can be expensive but other gardening friends often have too many. Ask! Failing that, boot sales can be a treasure trove. But you can also be creative – old tyres make good planters, for example.

Boot sales are great for old gardening tools, as well as Freecycle if you have a group in your area.

Bird scarers can be made easily from aluminium containers on strings – they make a great clatter!

garden money savingHow about raised beds from old bottles? We saw this recently on an allotment and thought it was a great idea.

Several water butts around the garden will save you money if you are on a meter. You can also use ‘grey water’ from your shower or bath to water the garden.

Your garden saves you cash

As well as finding ways to save money in the garden it can save you £££S. Gifts from your garden cost very little: home made jams and chutneys are often appreciated presents, or a hamper of seasonal fruit and vegetables. How about growing your own pot plants as gifts?

Finally, of course growing your own fruit and veg can save you a lot and is also free exercise.

What are your garden money saving tips?

Grow your own

grow your ownGrow your own to save money

Finally, spring has sprung! This afternoon we got out into the garden to get some jobs done. Mr S dug up and moved the compost heap as it had been invaded by bindweed so the compost was unusable, whilst I dug over one of the veg plots. We are getting ready to plant some veg seeds and save ourselves some money! Do you grow your own?

grow your ownWe have decided to sow wild flowers on one of the plots this year. We were short of time last summer and cultivating, harvesting and preserving everything felt stressful. If I didn’t work full time I would grow a lot more but it is difficult to find the time. So this year we will stick with a few crops that we know are likely to do well: perpetual spinach, runner beans, courgettes, broad beans and chard. We shall also grow tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse. Keeping it simple, but still growing some of our own food. A wildflower garden will be lovely too!

grow your ownLow maintenance

We have blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries and a few apples as well, but they take very little work. So healthy and delicious.

I just loved getting outside. I am sure we must both be lacking vitamin D, we have been cooped up so much!

We went to see my lovely Mum in hospital this morning. Her hip replacement operation seemed to go well. She was a little uncomfortable but not in great pain. I will pop in again on my way home from work tomorrow. She has had a steady stream of family in today so she might actually enjoy some peace when we are all back at work tomorrow 😀.

Have a good week. Bye for now.