Sowing flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’

It’s time to sow some flat-leaf Parsley ‘Laura’ – it’s more than just a garnish.

I’ve added a third pot to my propagator… and yet another seed sowing that wasn’t on my 2018 plan (I wonder how many times I’m going to do that?).

Ever since 2012, when I was given a packet of Parsley seed within a leaving present I’ve grown it, but it has been with mixed results. I don’t think the seed keeps particularly well, but when it does grow, it is a handy nutritious addition to salads and as a garnish.

I don’t really like the look or taste of the curled leaf parsley, with this flat-leaf variety taking on a more discrete salad leaf taste.


Parsley 'Laura' in pot
My 2014 Parsley ‘Laura’ sowing – it grew for months.

I really enjoying tearing some up to have on scrambled egg, sneaking it into a sandwich, or using it as a garnish for a soup.

My 2014 pot lasted on my windowsill for about 6 months – happily growing and renewing me with fresh green leaves. I managed to do a second sowing that year once it had tired out.

I don’t grow this outside, as it saves it from garden pests and makes it reassuringly cleaner for me to quickly wash and use in the kitchen.

There’s plenty of health benefits for Parsley, with claims that it can aid digestion and reduce gas, contribute to kidney health, provide Vitamin K and C, and acts as an antibacterial, amongst many others.

A Parsley 'Laura' seedling in a pot
The first of the Parsley ‘Laura’ seedlings, from that first sowing in 2012.

So, with this in mind, I’ve sown a pot with some Parsley ‘Laura’ seeds, and added it to my propagator. Hopefully in a few days it will begin to push out above the compost and start to throw those green little leaves skywards.

As I type this, the blacbirds are singing, and I can hear loads of other birds twittering around. I think Spring is definitely on its way, even though the sky today is grey and a bit drizzly.

Thanks for reading, and as ever, happy gardening!


Dealing with Blackfly and Rosemary Beetles

The Courgettes are thriving but they’ve come under attack from blackfly, and the Rosemary has a beetle infestation.

The sun has absolutely been blazing over the last couple of weeks, so this has meant a lot of running around with watering cans desperately trying to save the plants that are waiting to be planted out; the plants that can’t be planted out because the ground is like concrete; and the plants that are planted out and roasted.

Blackfly on the Courgette plants

Today, whilst on my watering can round (i need a hosepipe, don’t i?), I spotted some familiar friends have arrived to celebrate what looks like a bumper crop from my Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ plants.

courgette flower buds with blackfly
The Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ flower buds are covered in Blackfly.

On the flower buds were the little black things, with the occasional ant running around. Yes, it’s the blackfly!

I’ve already had these visiting my Tomato ‘Minibel’ plants, but they’ve now migrated to the four courgette plants in my raised bed (the other two are a few metres away, but have a companion plant by luck).

Blackfly on Tomato 'Minibel' plants
Spot the Blackfly on the Tomato ‘Minibel’. Their sap sucking holiday will come to an end.

I’ve not suffered with slugs and snails in this raised bed, and I’m wondering whether this is because i put some copper tape around most of it, or whether it’s because the wood of the bed is pretty rough. Either way, this doesn’t stop blackfly, but it would mean it’s a good place to plant the protective Marigold French ‘Orange’ plants – cheap and cheery – and something the blackfly don’t like. This seems to have helped the tomatoes, otherwise, i’ll be getting the soapy mister out again to spray them with.

The beetles: live at the Rosemary

Whilst watering my patio, where several plants sit waiting to be potted up, I then noticed some elaborately black and gold-y looking beetles in the replacement Rosemary plant that I had to buy when the big old one didn’t survive the house move ;(.

rosemary plant with rosemary beetles infesting it
My new Rosemary plant is being invaded by these pearlescent Rosemary Beetles. Pretty, but they’ll seriously damage it.

It needed a good soak, but curious of what these beetles were, I googled them and discovered that they are specifically Rosemary Beetles (or Chrysolina americana) and have only been known in the UK since the 1990s. The RHS knew all about them, and also have a survey (which i’ve just filled in).
Despite their name, apparently they’re also not restricted to rosemary, and may well spread to Lavender, Sage, and other aromatic plants. I really don’t need that, as I have plenty of those plants, and last weekend was establishing a herb garden area (i’ll show this off soon).

Whilst they spoke of insecticides, I’ve opted at this point for a thorough shake and flick method, and a meet and greet with my shoe, which is still very successful with the slugs and snails. It feels like such a shame to kill them, as they’re quite pretty, but this new rosemary plant is suffering before it’s even been planted out.

Anyway, elsewhere in the garden there are lots of things growing, and I’ll be sharing a few of these – including the first harvest photos, in my next post.

Happy gardening, and if you have to go out in the sun, make sure you wear suncream and/or a hat out there!

Thanks for reading – Andrew.


Getting fresh in the herb garden

I go hunting for some new Mint plants to kill off.

It was a public holiday on Monday, and so I wandered into the centre of market town St. Ives (the proper one in Cambridgeshire 😉 ) and there was a huge market on. Amongst the stands for cheap socks, scratchy knickers, and jigsaw puzzles, were a few plant stands. They all seemed to pretty much have the same stock, but there were some subtle differences in prices, and there were plenty of lush green plants and interested customers buzzing around them.

I’ve been looking for some new Mint plants for a while. Despite having taken cuttings and rooted chunks from my mother’s rambling mint plant, I just cannot get it to survive in my current garden. I think i’m the only person capable of killing Mint rather than having it take over. It seems to rot, fry, or just blow away in my current garden.

So, whilst perusing around the market stalls with a friend, we had a look at the herbs on sale – there were all sorts, but I soon began searching for some common garden mint. I couldn’t see this, but did see a few variations – Pineapple Mint (think: urinal blocks), Applemint (which I’ve grown before but it has since died off), Moroccan Mint, and then I stumbled across Ginger Mint ‘Mentha Gracilis’ – one i’d never heard of before.

I’m a big fan of gingery foods and drinks, and despite giving a leaf a gentle rub, it did not smell of anything, I decided to buy it anyway – just for my love of ginger. Maybe it’ll taste of ginger, or suddenly grow more gingery in my care. Maybe not.

Then, I considered the other mints and in honour of my Spanish friend who was helping me sort through them, I bought a pot of lush green Spanish Mint ‘Mentha Spicata (Spanish)’, which looks and smells somewhat more like the kind of mint I was after.

These little pots are living indoors at the moment, but fingers crossed, when I move house in the next few days, that I will be able to take living mint plants with me, and finally be able to grow it outdoors in abundance beside my patio. I’ll be keeping it in a pot, of course, and curiously I’ve seen advice that says that mint plants should face East, but I’m going to risk it – it’s a reasonable sized garden. The RHS website seems to ignore the East directional planting, and I’ll follow their advice on planting mint in pots and compost.

Have you ever had problems growing mint? Have you managed to kill it, or has it simply taken over?

Let me know in the comments below.

As ever, thanks for reading, and I wish you happy gardening – there’s so much to do right now.


The tulips begin to bloom and the propagator is full of new life

Last year’s Tulip bulbs are now coming into flower, and the seedlings are thriving in the propagator.

I came home in the sunshine earlier this week to a crimson welcome, and the green shoots of new life in the propagator.

The Tulip ‘Negrita’ bulbs that I planted last year have overwintered and spent the last few weeks throwing lush, waxy-looking, green leaves and stems skywards. Now I have been rewarded with their beautiful blooms.

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tulip ‘Negrita’ on flower.

There were about 10 bulbs and they seem to all be present and happy..

Tulip 'Negrita'
Tip-toe through the tulips (nepeta and a nettle) with me.

However, I also stumbled across a terrible thing, and it comes as somewhat of an absent-mindedness confession, of which I’m not really happy with myself about – it looks like i might have forgotten to plant ANY of the beautiful cream and green lacy Tulip ‘Madonna’ bulbs. I found bag of them on my bench. There was a bit of a hole in the bag – so i *might* have planted a few, but there’s no sign of them yet.

As for the bulbs in the bag – they looked quite dried up, but i’ve planted them out anyway and now they have two chances. They’ll be massively behind for this year though – which makes me annoyed with myself.

Ending on a happier note…

The seeds that I sowed at the beginning of the month are doing pretty well. Both Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ seeds are now sturdy seedlings, there are 5 Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings, and 1.1 of the Sweet Pea ‘Candy Cane’ seeds have germinated.

The Tomato ‘Minibel’ seedlings are doing well in the propagator.

Add to this, the Parsley ‘Laura’ (a delicious flat-leaf variety that’s great with mushrooms,  scrambled egg, or as a salad leaf) is thriving.

With the sunshine out, it finally feels like summer is lurking just off the horizon somewhere.

Welcoming Spring with new plants and a splash of colour

Now that we have proof that Spring is actually coming, I’ve been tidying up the garden, planning ahead, and uncovering the colourful bulbs.

Finally the sunshine has come and it now begins to feel like Spring has arrived. It’s time to get the garden moving again.

On Saturday I sat having breakfast with the windows open, enjoying the sunshine and non-arctic fresh air, and I could hear the Sparrows chattering on the roof, and some Doves cooing somewhere off in the distance.

Inspired by this sudden heatwave, like probably thousands of others, I ventured off to the garden centre to look for something new for the garden.

Rosemary Upright
My new upright Rosemary plant. I often use Rosemary in cooking.

I found a new upright Rosemary plant to replace the one that was killed during the Winter before last (feels good to say that – adds a sense of distance!).

I also decided to go and look for some new flower seeds – something cheerful, but also something that can handle the partial shade of one end of my garden.

The Light in the shade

I’ve chosen some Aubrieta ‘Cheeky Mix’ – a perennial that spreads and comes out in a range of colours. These aren’t likely to flower this year  – these will come into their own in 2014, but need to be sown now.

Next up was three Begonia ‘Prima Donna Pink’ bulbs which apparently have ‘strong stems for pots or gardens’. These will flower in a bright frilly pink in about July time, reaching a high of 10 inches. The bulbs look near lifeless, but i’ll get them started in pots and hopefully they’ll soon spring to life and be ready for planting out in a pot in the garden – to brighten that partially shaded spot.

I also got outside and tidied up a few stray branches and seed heads and stumbled across a blue Hyacinth in flower. It’s come up right next to the Buddleja – too close really.

The welcome blue of the Hyacinth, but it’ll have to be moved a bit for next year.

And finally, the Crocus ‘Giant Ruby’ and some Narcissi have recovered from the snow, and are looking bright and cheery. So far, i’ve spotted one bumblebee!

Crocus 'Giant Ruby' meets some Narcissi
Looking much happier without the snow.

Poppies and Sweet Peppers flourish in the garden

Heavy rain and sunshine has led to the garden responding with poppies, Sweet Peppers begin to grow fruits, and a fresh batch of Parsley begins to germinate.

Heavy rain and sunshine has given the garden yet another boost – bringing a splash of colour and lush green leaves.

The self-sown Common Garden Poppy ‘Papaver somniferum’ plants have come into bloom – their grey-green rubbery foliage standing in contrast against the soft green leaves of the nearby Foxgloves.

Common Garden Poppy
One of the self-sown Common Garden Poppy plants.

Meanwhile, both of the Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants that I sowed months ago, and have carefully nurtured on windowsills, are now beginning to show signs of producing fruit after I had planted them out initially in the wicker basket, but then moved them to their own pots after they showed signs of not liking the position.

Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello'
Both plants are showing signs of producing fruits.

About 4 days ago, I also sowed some Parsley ‘Laura’ seeds, which like the Pepper (Sweet) ‘Frigitello’ I was given by CBM. This variety is a flat-leaved type which I would use in salads. I already have some curled parsley.

So far, one of the seeds have germinated, although I am hopeful that more will soon follow.

Parsley 'Laura'

Elsewhere in the garden, white Campanula (persicifolia, i think!) have emerged – taking a minority amongst the many blue ones which were also earlier to flower, and the snails seem to have finally gotten the message after my regular early evening ‘meet and greet’ sessions.

Campanula 'Persicifolia' in blue and white
The self-sown Campanula ‘Persicifolia’ in blue and white

Sunshine coaxes the Foxgloves and I am bee-seiged by ‘friends’

The garden has grown a lot thanks to rain and lots of sunshine – with Foxgloves and others coming into bloom… plus a surge of bees cause a problem!!

After weeks of dreary rain, and then days of hot sunshine, the garden has rapidly grown.

Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrids Mixed'
The first Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ flowers

Today has seen the first flowers emerging from the lush green growth that has flourished in the recent weather conditions. The Foxglove ‘Excelsior Hybrids Mixed’ that I sowed last year and have spent months nurturing, have finally opened the first of its flowers, having spent the last couple of weeks reaching skywards with long prongs of tightly closed buds. The first of these opened today, but many others have their buds ready to uncurl in the next few days.  It’s very satisfying to see these finally come into flower.

Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant'
The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ survived the winter.

These Foxgloves were joined by the return of the Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ with its gentle blue flowers that lure bees, and the bright white of the Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herb – another survivor of the winter, which probably disgusts mistaken passers-by who wonder why i’m growing ‘Cow Parsley’ (Anthriscus sylvestris).

Caraway 'Carum Carvi'
The Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ on flower

Anyone following me on twitter will know that after all my efforts to encourage bees to the garden, I have somewhat overdone it…. by getting bees in my loft. Whilst they pose no immediate harm, a bee-keeper will soon be venturing through the loft hatch to coax them out before they do any damage.

In the meantime, their night-time buzzing and strange noises are fascinating, and there’s a distinct warm spot on my ceiling, caused by their nest, which gives an agitated buzzing reply if you gently tap it.

I’ve also planted out some of the Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’, the French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ and the Nasturtium ‘Jewel Mixed’ – the latter two no doubt causing great joy amongst the snail herd.

Running out of windowsill to sow Courgette and Dill

Whilst clearing windowsills to make way for some newly sown vegetables, an unwelcome pest gets its comeuppance.

I’ve just sown a couple of Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and some Dill seeds into some pots and popped them into my propagator with the Cineraria ‘Maritima Silverdust’ that’s busy germinating.

In a couple of weeks i’ll also be sowing some French Bean ‘Blue Lake’. I last grew these in 2010 and was kept in a steady supply of green beans for the whole harvest season. Fingers crossed that they will be as successful this time too.

Harvested Courgettes and French Beans.
My harvested Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ and French Bean ‘Blue Lake’ from 2010.

I’ve been rapidly running out of windowsills, so I’ve cleared an entire windowsill of my Spider Plants ‘Chlorophytum Comosum’ – which i often add to containers as bedding.

Scale Insects
Close-up of Scale Insects. Photo: Gilles San Martin.

However, whilst clearing the windowsill I’ve discovered that these plants had Scale insects – tiny brown/orange sticky bugs that suck the sap and secrete a sticky solution over the leaves and anything else they come into contact with.

So, I’ve really had to clear the windowsill with hot soapy water (and a blast of Dettol spray for luck!). Those Spider Plants are now outside where they’ll spend the rest of their days – dodging frosts.

The Magical Powers of April Showers

After some heavy April showers, the garden has leapt forwards with lush growth and flowers, but there’s still plenty more seeds to sow… including some for next year’s garden!

There’s a drought on at the moment but whilst I do live in the dry of East Anglia, my water provider (Cambridge Water Company) has not imposed a hosepipe ban. This has been a hot topic of conversation here on local radio and television but it wouldn’t really affect my garden as it is small enough to cope with lots of watering cans and buckets when it comes to it.

Wallflower 'Ruby Gem' about to bloom.
The Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’ were planted out last year and are now starting to flower.

Fortunately though we did see a few days of refreshing rain (albeit typically and neatly fitted into a bank holiday/Easter weekend!) and then a few days of sunshine. This has resulted in a surge of lush green growth from things like the Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’ plants that I planted out last year which are just starting to flower, the hardy Welsh Onion ‘Allium Fistulosum’ and Caraway ‘Carum Carvi’ herbs are also lush green,  and those pretty Daylily ‘Hemerocallis Bonanza’ have thrown-up lots of leaves.

The Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’ is on flower, and with it a delicate scent wafts closely to it’s branches. I’ve just captured a few photos of a large bee collecting pollen from the bright yellow flowers.

Bee and the Broom
A bee on a mission as it collects pollen from this flowering Broom ‘Cytisus Scoparius’.

With this warmer and rainy weather around, I’ve started putting the Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ outside so that they can begin adjusting to the different environment. I’m bringing them inside at night as we’re still seeing low temperatures. Leaving them out all night might be too much of a shock for them. They were lucky to receive rain on their first day outside too!

The Chives and Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ that I sowed a month ago are now at the pricking-out stage. I also planted some Coriander on 1st April, to make up the third pot of the BBC Gardeners’ World herb kit. Some of these have germinated too but will need a couple more weeks before they will be potted on.

Two Pepper (Sweet) 'Friggitello' plants grown from seed.
The Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants are growing well.

Those two Pepper (Sweet) ‘Friggitello’ plants that I grew from seeds given to me by team CBM, are now several inches high, one of them requires a support cane. I’m sure it won’t be many weeks until they’ll need potting on again before finally going outside to hopefully produce their fruit in July-October time.

Yet to sow in april…

  • Courgette ‘Black Beauty’ – my third sowing of this variety. They were plentiful in year 1, but poor in year 2 – having suffered from mildew.
  • Night Scented Stock ‘Matthiola Bicornis’ – This will be my first sowing of these, and they are sown directly outside.
  • Dill – I’ve missed not having Dill around for cooking – the leaves and seeds can be used for flavouring dishes, and in pickling, and can be used to aid digestion.
  • Delphinium ‘Pacific Giants Mixed’ – I’ve always liked the towering spires of Delphiniums (like the Foxgloves), so as with the Foxgloves,  I shall sow some of these now for flowering in next year’s garden.

The seedlings, the survivors, and the casualties

Seedlings are thriving at the moment, and there are some surprise winter survivors in the garden, but also some unexpected casualties.

It won’t be soon until I can stop buying those expensive bags of Rocket leaves, which supermarkets seem to pollute with Watercress. I don’t particularly dislike Watercress, but it seems that any bagged salad that contains Watercress is like buying a tasty crop of green leaves, with a special handful of slimy, rotting waste thrown in. It almost feels like your bag of salad has become Baby Bio by the time you get it home.

The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seeds that I sowed in the Unwins salad kit, germinated within 4 days of sowing, and the seedlings are now more than an inch high.

Rocket 'Skyrocket' seedlings
The Rocket ‘Skyrocket’ seedlings are growing fast.

Meanwhile, the seeds for the Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ and Chives (from the other Christmas gift) are happily growing on the next windowsill along. These will need pricking out soon. I’ll have more than enough of these plants.

Parsley (left) and Chives (right) have germinated
Parsley ‘Moss Curled’ (left) and Chives (right) have germinated in their BBC Gardeners’ World growing kit.

Last year’s Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ has continued to thrive in its pot, so this afternoon i took some of the top soil out and replaced it with some fresh compost. I’m really pleased that this survived the harsh winter, as it was last seen completely covered in snow alongside some bright blue/indigo Polyanthuses that sadly didn’t survive. When the Salvia flowers, I hope that it will once again attract the bees into the garden.

The Salvia survived
The Salvia ‘Nemerosa Ostfriesland’ survived the harsh winter and is lush with growth for 2012.

My second wave of 2012 Salvia ‘Farinacea Victoria’ seed sowings seems to be more successful. I’d previously managed to prick out the paltry four seedlings from my January sowing into some 3″ pots to grow on, and now my sowing from a couple of weeks ago is beginning to see the lush green leaves poking through the compost.

Garden discoveries

I managed to spend some time in the garden lightly digging and removing some of the weeds that had managed to take hold. These weeds will easily take hold at this time of year, so it’s important to remove them now.

I discovered that a Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’ has self-sown and a small but healthy plant is merrily growing halfway along a border. The Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ has self-sown – again, another flowering plant popular with bees.

Sadly, my Rosemary Upright Rosemary Officinalis (which I often use in cooking as it grows fast and is very aromatic) was unable to survive the hard winter in its pot, so I’ll aim to replace this soon.