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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Vines And Other Climbing Plants.

Fish Ponds

Books By
Alan J Hartley



Herbs - Seeds And Cuttings.

Culinary Herbs are very popular at the moment, but they can be expensive to buy and most are fairly easy to grow cheaply from seed. 
A few weeks ago I wanted to put in a lot of Herb seeds for Oak Tree and I found that one of the local Garden Centres was displaying quite a big range of Herb seeds of all sorts with a promotion by a well known author and broadcaster. There were Herbs that I had never heard of including Caraway, Cumin, Red Orach and Sorrell as well as all of the popular ones such as Basil and Parsley. Angelica was another unusual one that was included, but I didn’t need to buy that as I have grown it on my Allotment in years past and it always seeds down very well. Every season I also keep a bit of the seed for sowing. Some people do this with things like Beans, but it is a good thing to do with Herbs as well as most will come true to type with no cross-pollination, or reversion. Bergamot was another Herb in the range that few would recognise these days, but it may be better known as “Monarda Didyma,” that is grown for its showy flowers. Traditionally the Herb was used to flavour drinks, but has been hybridised in more recent years to give spectacular flowers. I have several plants on my Allotment for cutting. Seeds sold for fancy flowering Monarda varieties are one herb that will not come true and that will revert back to the natural strain, but it will still produce attractive blooms. 

After sowing the different packets of seed it started to germinate well, but I got the Basil too wet and slime started to build up on the surface of the compost. This led to a bit of “Damping off,” that can happen to seeds, especially types that are more used to dryish conditions like many of the Mediterranean Herbs. It may also have been in part down to the poor nature of the recycled type compost that I used instead of one of the old type peat based ones that many growers still use. It will teach me to use a better quality compost for seedlings. Maybe another solution would be to put a thin layer of Horticultural sand on the surface of the compost when sowing and even when transplanting the seedlings. TV gardeners are fond of using fine grit-sand, Perlite and Vermiculite on pots of seedlings. One of the TV gardeners also warned about pricking out seedlings when they are too small - another thing that I seem to have done as many of them are just sitting there and not growing.

It dawned on me that I also had several Herb plants at home that I could take cuttings from. Spring is a good time for cuttings as long as fresh growth has started on the plants. In my Greenhouse I had two tatty Oregano plants that I had over wintered and they were starting to shoot, so I took a tray-full of cuttings. As with Basil, they are quite tender so need to be kept frost free until Summer really comes if you are going to put them outside on the Allotment. I took the Mint plant, which is kept in a big pot on the yard, into the Greenhouse to bring it into growth earlier, so that I could also get some cuttings from it. Mint is always best grown in pots otherwise it can spread and take over. Other popular herbs like Sage, Rosemary and Bay are good for cuttings, but can be left in the ground all year in your Allotment, although, Bay Trees do take a long time to root and do need a little bit of a sheltered spot to grow well. I have a lovely row of 4 Bays that have been in an exposed part of my Allotment for 5 years now and they look magnificent. I regularly cut and give away, great armfuls of Bay leaves to other Plot-Holders from them. I did not actually grow these bushes from seed, but they were grown on from a little pot of seedlings that I bought from a local Garden Centre. You can often see the pots on sale for a few pounds with anything up to a couple of dozen plants in each pot. They need a lot of care when splitting the seedlings up, but you should get enough plants survive to make a short hedge if you want. It works out much cheaper than buying individually potted specimen plants that can cost the earth.

Another hardy Herb that I have at home and have taken some cuttings from is Artemesia - commonly called Wormwood. One variety is used to make the drink with a bad reputation called Absinthe and the original variety of Artemesia with the common name of “Old Man,” used to smell offensively. However, there are many, new, more attractive varieties these days including a pretty blue one called “Powis Castle,” that smells of Mint when you brush against it.
One tender variety of Artemesia goes under the well-known name of Tarragon and it is of course a popular Herb for the Kitchen. Oriental Limelight is a very decorative and hardy variety that grows well in our back garden with its yellow and green variegation. Most Artemesias are as tough as old boots and will tolerate all sorts of poor growing conditions. Indeed, like Artemesias, many other perennial Herbs are tough and resilient plants in the right conditions and they need not be grown just in the Kitchen Garden, but can fit in, in borders, to provide decorative foliage as well as welcome scent. What better than to have one, or two colourful Sages and a sweet scented Rosemary near the Kitchen door? 


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