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Category Archives for "Herbs and Flowers"

Dec 28

How to grow garlic from bulb

By chadchaffin | Gardening , Herbs and Flowers

A member of the allium family of onions and shallots, though sometimes referred to as a herb, garlic is not difficult to grow and quite easy to maintain. It can be grown directly into the  ground or in containers, so is quite a  versatile plant which can be accommodated in whatever space you have available.


Garlic for planting is bought as a bulb, usually two or three to a pack. The bulbs need to be split into cloves first and planted with the flat bottom part of the clove downwards. Garlic likes a fertile, well-drained soil, so apply plenty of well-rotted manure and organic matter in autumn for spring planting, and in early summer for autumn planting.
If you have recently harvested a crop on the same patch which was well manured, garlic could be used as a follow on. If your soil is acidic, add lime to increase the alkalinity of the soil (up to about 6.5 pH).
Cloves should be planted 5cm (2in) deep, 7.5cm-10cm (3in-4in) apart and 20cm (8in) between rows. Alternatively, you can grow them in 40cm (16in) pots. Some growers prefer to start their garlic cloves off in modular cells to get them off to a good start and then plant them out a few weeks later or even overwinter them for planting out in spring.

Looking after your plants

Garlic requires very little maintenance other than watering if the weather turns dry and regular weeding. Even though cold is good where garlic is concerned, if the weather turns very cold, say below -5°C (23°F), a little mulching around the plants will help protect them, or cover with fleece or a cloche until the weather warms up a little.


Garlic is ready for lifting when the leaves begin to turn yellow and start to bend over. Leave the bulbs in too long and the cloves will start to split, though if you lift them too early they will have had insufficient time in the ground to dry out and will not store so well so monitor closely come harvest time.

Use a fork to loosen the soil around the roots before lifting and then spread the bulbs out on trays to dry for a few days, or under cover if it’s wet. If you keep the stalks on you can plait or string them and then hang them up to dry in a cool, frost-free shed.

Varieties to try

Hardneck types produce large cloves that don’t store as well as softneck types which produce more cloves too. Hardneck varieties often produce scapes (flower stalks) which should be cut off – though they are edible and can be used to flavour savoury dishes. Elephant garlic, which belongs to the leek family and is therefore not a true garlic, produces mild-flavoured, very large, whole bulbs which don’t divide into cloves.

  • Elephant garlic‘: This aptly named variety of the leek family produces whole bulbs that dwarf garlic bulbs. Suitable for both spring and autumn planting.
  • Germidour’: A purple-streaked softneck variety with a mild flavour. Suitable for spring and autumn planting.


  • Provence wight‘: This softneck variety produces large bulbs. Suitable for autumn planting.


  • Red duke‘: A hardneck variety which produces purple-tinged bulbs with a strong flavour. Good for autumn planting.


Watch out for

Garlic tends to be relatively problem free but can experience the same problems that also affect other members of the onion family.

  • Allium Leaf Miner: This is a relative newcomer, first appearing in the early years of the 21st century in the southern half of the UK, but spreading fast. The fly lays eggs on the plant and
    the maggots burrow into all parts of the plant. The resulting pupae are brown. Covering with fleece or fine insect netting will keep the flies out.
  • Leek Moth: The caterpillars of this moth feed on the leaves, causing serious damage to the plant and consequent rotting. Covering with fleece or fine insect netting will keep the moths out. Clear the debris away from around the plant too as adult moths are likely to overwinter there.
  • Onion White Rot: This can devastate a crop and is more likely in hot, dry summers with the leaves turning yellow and the base of the bulbs showing fluffy white fungus. Nothing much to be done here other than avoiding growing any of the onion family on the same patch for five years or more as this is a soil-borne disease.
  • Rust: This is an unsightly fungal disease which shows itself as orange-red-brown pustules on leaves (below). Unless seriously affected, the bulbs themselves tend to be unaffected.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the October 2015 print issue of Kitchen Garden.
Dec 23

7 easiest tea herbs to grow in your garden (#3 is my favorite)

By chadchaffin | Gardening , Herbs and Flowers

Succumbing to the promise of bagged herb tea often leaves me disappointed as the flavour never quite lives up to the scent – or, for that matter, to the blurb on the back of the pack. Homemade herb teas, on the other hand, are a different story. The flavour delivered by freshly picked leaves and flowers is richer and tastier than anything you can buy in the shops, while taste options range from chocolate mint to lemon and full-on liquorice, with many others in between.

As a group, the tea herbs are an easy-going bunch with a preference for a reasonable soil in a well-drained, sunny spot. They are pretty plants, too, pleasing to our eyes and to all manner of beneficial insects, making a tea garden a busy place, buzzing with life. There are dozens of plants to choose from and if you grow a selection of different flavours you can ring the changes, depending on your mood.

Leaves and flowers should be picked early on a fine day when the warmth of the sun has excited the essential oils that give the plants their characteristic scent and flavour. They are usually best enjoyed fresh from the plant; however it is worth drying some, quickly and out of direct sunlight, to keep for winter use.

Seeds can be harvested by cutting the mature flower spike, popping the flowerhead into a paper bag and hanging it upside down until it releases its cargo. Of course, what you grow depends on the flavours you prefer, but don’t be afraid to try something different. Who knows, you may discover a new favourite – and the really good news is, many of these plants look as good as they taste.

  1. Anise (Pimpinella anisum) and dill (Apium graveolens) are 2ft tall annuals with lacy umbels held aloft above ferny foliage. Both dill (yellow flowers) and anise (white  flowers) are grown for their seeds and leaves. Anise has a strong liquorice flavour while dill is fresh and bright.
  2. Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum, A. rugosa ‘Golden Jubilee’) is simply beautiful: a 4ft tall perennial with a good neat shape that adds a big splash of purple to the tea garden. Worth growing for the flowers alone, it  is for the leaves and stems that the plant is really prized.
  3. Mint (Mentha) is hard to beat for flavour. Apple mint (M. suaveolens) and pineapple mint (M. rotundifolia) add fruity overtones to summer cups, while chocolate mint (M. x piperata ‘Chocolate’) tastes like minty hot chocolate. It can be untidy, but the dark green leaves are pretty and the scent heavenly. Used to flavour sweets and cakes, peppermint (M. x piperata) is lovely alone or added to fruit teas. Like all mints, grow it in bottomless buckets to keep it contained.
  4. Bergamot and lemon bergamot (Monarda didyma, M. citriodora) are my favourite tea plants. At 3ft tall with a long flowering season, they are the stars of the border. Blooms come in shades of red, pink, white and purple, and the spicy leaves have been prized by Native Americans for millennia. They dry beautifully for use in winter cups.
  5. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) makes a deliciously scented, soothing bedtime drink. The plant grows to a rather straggly 2ft, and While it isn’t as pretty as the catmints that have been bred for the border, the scent and flavour are far superior. Pick individual leaves or cut whole stems to use fresh or dry.
  6. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) grows to 2ft and is the archetypal herb tea, with a delicate grassy flavour that goes well with fruity hints. Pick the flowers for drying when the petals have turned back to expose the central cone.
  7. Violets (Viola odorata) have a scent and flavour reminiscent of parma violets. Use the leaves and flowers to make a springtime tonic, or combine with fruity flavours for a refreshing summer tea.
  8. Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca) have tiny fruit that taste like strawberries and toffee. Use the leaves and fruit for a delicate strawberry-flavoured tea.

Others to try

To give height, grow climbers such as roses, blackberries or raspberries (a classic tea herb prized for its leaves). Or add some Eastern spice with a summer jasmine (Jasminum officinale). Also worth including in your mini tea plantation are varieties of lavender and pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) with their bright and spicy petals. Tiny lemon thyme and 2ft tall lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) taste like lemon sherbet, while borage combines well with mint and fruity flavours. And don’t forget liquorice-flavoured fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’), an obvious back-of-the-border choice at 6ft tall.

Credited Elizabeth McCorquodale from Amateur Gardening