The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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making the most of basil

As I have mentioned before, it is worth buying potted herbs from shops, rather than trying to grow your own from seeds.  Growing from seeds has been lengthy and bit of a hit and miss. I do still try.  Recently I read about making the most of shop bought herbs.  One of the tips was to re-pot the herb after buying and the other tip was to cut off the tip.  I tried both techniques and this is what happened-

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The pinched basil is more bushy, the leaves more rounded and tasty.  In the picture to the right, I am holding up the type of three leafed bud that needs to be taken out.  The re-potted one which has flowered as well, has more pointy leaves which are less tasty and a bit woody.  However, it might be worth doing both things- re-potting and pinching to encourage even more growth and I shall do that an dlet you know the outcome.  Both plants were bought about 3-4 weeks ago and I imagine should last me the whole summer if not more.

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Elderflower tests

Elderflower juice

This photo shows some of my elderflower cordial being sold at my son’s school fair- it was very popular and sold out soon, even though it was not the sort of weather for it, i.e. cold and rainy.  I made the cordial this year with a little added Chinese wine vinegar which appeared to have improved the taste.  Now the elderflowers on trees are slowly turning into elderberries, so soon it will be time for compotes.  This summer I tried some more experiments with elderflowers.  Here are couple-

1. Growing elderflowers in a pot

My previous potted elderflower died- they do not like containers but that is all I have, so I have to keep trying to grow them.  This year while getting the flowers for the cordial I made above, I managed to tear down an entire small branch. Racked with guilt, I didn’t want to throw it away.  So I thought, why not try to plant this in the pot. I kept it for a few days in some water and then using some rooting compound on the cut stem, I put it in a pot. It seemed to a be failure and I was about to throw it away yesterday but lo behold, it seems to be growing. Now I need to see what happens- will keep readers updated and if any of you have have success with growing elderflowers in a pot, please let me know.  Apparently they need severe pruning in early spring or late autumn and they may die after three years (as it happened with my last one)

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2. Elderflower tea

I did a taste test between dried and frozen elderflowers.  In samples tasted by four people who didn’t know which one was which, all concluded that the dried elderflower worked the best for tea. So next year, more dried elderflower tea (the good thing is it doesn’t need any kind of sweetener- it is lovely as it is) and has many health benefits.  Elderflower is rich in bioflavonoids, mostly flavones and flavonols. The most abundant flavonols in elderflower are quercetin, isoquercitrin and anthocyanins, which have antiviral properties as well. Elderflower also contains chlorogenic acids, such as cinnamic acid, which may help with allergies, regulate blood glucose levels and have a laxative effect on the body (so take in moderation!). Triterpenoids, especially β-amyrin, erythrodiol, and oleanolic acid, are also found in elderflower. These triterpenoids offer a variety of health benefits including analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects.

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A year later!

I started writing this blog as a diary of transformation of my garden.  See my first post from May 2013 and this photo of how it was-

Starting out

This year I have managed to put some effort into the garden which is what you will see below.  Many of the pots were got from street, some from charity shops, some given- only one was bought.  Most of the plants were either grown from seeds, rescued from somewhere or given and a few were bought as ‘baby plants’.  I have used wooden pallets found on the streets, tyres, home made compost and bits of furniture to create a container garden.  I love the fact that not everything grows all at once- there is always a new surprise all year, especially summer.  There is a bit of everything- things to eat- herbs, salads, tomatoes, potatoes;  things to look at- ornamental cultivars; and wild things- nettles, wildflowers, dandelions- all of which I use for cooking or decorating.  Someone once said that they spend about one hour each day, on the garden and from this experience, I concur.  A lot of the work is upkeep, rather than simply planting.  Again, I think, container gardening is harder than conventional gardening- the amount of moisture in the soil, the nutrients and the placement of pots are very important and take planning and time.

 

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