The sweet smell of oregano

Fortunately for me, the rain held off for much of the afternoon, so I took advantage of the still dry weather to get one job done in the garden. It was a glass half full or glass has empty moment as ‘still’ soon became ‘no more’.

I’d watched the borage and phacelia growing and taking over the herb garden. Then get past their best, fall and turn increasingly brown. So, with the compost bin ram-jam full, I mulched the rhubarb with the stems.

This has come back to life, presumably because of the continuous rain, so I have picked a sneaky stalk or two. However, as it needs as much food as possible to build up its strength after being moved, I’m sure it will appreciate a phacelia and borage mulch.

The surprise for today turned out to be two. First was the delight at smelling the oregano as I pulled away the overgrown vegetation. I almost never use oregano but after meeting this aroma my appetite has been whetted.

The second surprise was noticing seeds on the borage. I’d previously imagined that the seeds fell with the flowers but, now knowing differently, I will leave borage to produce its seeds before cutting down, so that I can have a greater number of plants. The flowers are so tasty as well as good for bumblebees.

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Red campion – hair conditioner?

Since learning that the roots of red campion can be a substitute for soap, I have been curious to try them out as such. The thing is, though: I have found no source which shows me how to make the soap, apart from vague instructions to boil in water. Oh, and apparently, the soapy water can be used to wash laundry.

Now, as I do like to experiment, I decided to cover the root

in water in the pan and boil till the water had reduced to half its volume. Then I used the resultant liquid to wash my hair – once it had cooled down.

Did it work? Mm, to clean my hair probably not. Of course, it would have eliminated dust, odours and such but I doubt the hair got a thorough clean. On the other hand, the next morning, my hair had a luxuriant thickness to it. So, I’ll give the experiment another try as a hair conditioner and see if the result is replicable.

Posted in herbs, In the kitchen | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Introducing the ferns

I have long wanted a fern in my garden and finally a couple of weeks ago I acquired two from RHS Wisley. These were destined for the spot between the fence and the pond.

The roots are said to be a sugar substitute. As some ferns may be carcinogenic, sugar may prove to be the better (regular) option.

However, two weeks ago, the phacelia was in full swing and the bumblebees were loving it. It therefore didn’t seem the best time to plant anything else, so the ferns have had to wait until now to get their feet in the soil.

I’ve put cardboard round the ferns to minimise weed/phacelia competition. Hopefully, it will also help the soil retain moisture, particularly until the ferns grow and cover the soil more themselves.

I think there are spaces for other plants along that border

but I will see how the ferns progress first. In the meantime, I have amassed a large amount of phacelia seed. The bumblebees continued to feed off it even when it was in a pile on the ground but I wonder if the recent rain hasn’t sent them a little doolally. One tried the same on my plain brown jumper this morning.

Posted in perennials, Pond and bog garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Never so much excitement over a drill

After lots of behind-the-scenes planning, today was the first Composting Champions workshop at The Real Junk Food Project TRJFP) in Horsforth, Leeds. For those of us involved in the planning as well as for those who were hoping for a repurposed wheelie bin, it was an afternoon of learning.

It was tanking down but under the tent we were humming like bees round my phacelia on a sunny day. One particular participant could hardly contain herself with excitement at putting holes in the sides of the bin and others became quite competitive about finishing first.

Making holes in the side of the bin

The reason for the holes was to allow air to circulate through the food waste, destined to go in the bins. In other words, they will be aerobic composters. Then there is a hatch which is connected to the bin with hinges – so much easier to use than the hatch on a darlek-style compost bin. Finally, there is a tap to drain off the liquid produced as the food decomposes.

Finished bin on the left

The motivation for the food composters is to both save food from landfill and to provide compost to grow more food. TRJFP does a great job of saving food for human consumption but compost is needed to feed soil and not all food can be eaten. Unless anyone out there has got a recipe for the eyes on potatoes perhaps? Burnt toast? Or other culinary fails?

Posted in Days out, Good for the environment, soil management | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Red taking over

It’s a few years since I bought my rose and I moved it from its first spot, so it has taken some time to settle in – maybe three years. But this year the blooms are once more beautiful.

The rose in the middle of the picture

I’m tempted to make Turkish delight again. The first year, the sweet turned out well but the next was not such a success. Something to do with the gelatine burning. However, much as I love Turkish delight (must have got that from my nanna, my mum’s mum), the rose looks too good to eat.

The poppies, of course, I can’t eat, apart from the seeds. So, when each flower has had its day, I pick off the seed head and add it to the collection. The seeds which I extract will eventually go in bread, a taste which also goes back to my childhood, holidaying in Scandinavia.

For the first time, the herb garden, featured above, is looking full. This is going to change soon, as I cut down the borage and phacelia. They are finished here, whereas the strawberries they’ve been hiding are starting to ripen. So, perhaps by the end of the weekend, we could have a few on our plate!

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The verdict on the hosta

It must be at least two years since I learned that hosta is an edible plant. And luckily for me, against all the odds, it grows fine in my forest garden.

However, I’d not tried to eat it, not knowing when to pick it or whereabouts it was best to pick it from. Until I read the relevant part of Stephen Barstow’s Around the World in 80 Plants.

Since vegetables are bit thin on the ground at the organic farm where I purchase a good portion of my provisions, tonight therefore seemed like the night to give the hosta a whirl. I only picked a few stems (with their leaves) in case I didn’t like it. Besides, I have read that when trying new foods it is advisable to eat only a little on the off-chance they doesn’t agree with one’s stomach.

Knowing that the stems are reputed to taste like asparagus, I wasn’t surprised that they did. That said, would I have said the same if I hadn’t read this nugget of information?

As for the leaves, they tasted like cabbage to me. Not as sweet as the actual cabbage that was also on the plate but perfectly edible. I think they need to be steamed for slightly longer than I gave them – for a good ten minutes at least – so I’ll try them again soon.

Posted in forest garden, In the kitchen, perennials | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

With a hardened heart…

I pulled a load of poppies earlier today.

Every year, I say I am going to stop the poppies from dominating the landscape and plant some beans instead. Then I let one of my favourite flowers have its way. Until I decided I really did want French beans this year.

So, the mini hugelbed I built by the back door last winter is now graced with five French bean plants, which I hope the pigeons don’t eat. One of them stole its nerve to take a drink of water while I was hanging out some washing, so either it was dreadfully thirsty or I’m not seen as too much of a threat. (I have to admit I tried not to move or make eye contact from behind the tea towel on the line and the pigeon didn’t linger.)

As for poppies, not only are there others scattered all over the garden, on a walk to the post office I saw some happily growing out of the pavement.

Posted in Gardening, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments