Hannah Thickett

A little view of my world


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For Pleasure Or Profit : Growing Herbs

Herbs can add a touch of magic to your garden with their supernatural associations and practical uses.

Growing Herbs

Records show that herbs were in use in ancient Greece where they were valued as flavorings and for their fragrance. Certain herbs were also credited with mystical properties. Herbs were introduced into Britain by the Romans who also valued the reputedly supernatural powers of the plants, as well as their culinary and medicinal uses. In Britain, too, herbs became a focus of superstition, reaching their peak of importance in the Middle Ages when every village had its witch, and every witch her herbs and potions. Herbs were also used to combat the witches’ powers; garlic, hyssop and wormwood all combated witchcraft and evil spirits.

The medicinal qualities of herbs were even more important. In 1597 John Gerard, the London herbalist and apothecary, published his “Herball”, a volume containing 1000 pages with woodcut illustrations of some 3000 plants. A rather smaller collection of some 400 plants was included in Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal first published in c1640 and still available from bookshops today.

For most of us today the main use for herbs will be as flavorings in cooking. A few plants within easy reach of your backdoor so that they are handy for the cook will be well worth the effort. You can even grow a small selection in a container on a sunny windowsill.

Generally herbs thrive on a light and well drained soil. Although herbs can be planted in borders throughout your garden, it is more usual to group them in one place. Many formal planting schemes have been devised ranging from a chequerboard design of alternating square slabs and plants to using an old wagon wheel with plants in between the spokes.


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Growing Vegetables in Containers

Container vegetable gardens are a great alternative for those that don’t have access to backyards. There can be a range of reasons to grow your vegetables in containers…easy access to the kitchen, safer environments for children and the handicapped or just lack of a yard to use for gardening.

Vegetable Growing

Vegetable gardens in containers can also be extremely attractive and serve the dual purpose of style and function around your patio.

The no dig vegetable garden can be just as successful in containers provided similar guidelines are followed.

Drainage is vital so ensure your containers have appropriate drainage holes to allow water to escape. If they don’t, the plants will literally drown and will be susceptible to diseases. They also need a sunny space. The advantage with vegetables grown in containers is that you can move the containers around to follow the sun if no one spot in your patio or garden is suitable.

Vegetables grown in containers will need some additional attention. Their root system is restricted to the pot so make sure you keep them well watered. Containers are far more likely to dry out in hot conditions which will kill your plants or have them ‘fruit’ poorly.

It is also very important that a mulch is put on top of the container. This will slow evaporation and keep the surface temperature of the soil cooler. Plants like tomatoes have small, fiberous roots which will dry and die in hot soil.

Container vegetables may need some additional fertilising due to the extra watering. Nutrients will be washed away quicker in a container than in the ground. A diluted water soluble fertiliser is the best option to use regularly with vegetables.

There have been many varieties of vegetables that have been bred to grow in containers. They are generally referred to a ‘dwarf’ varieties for obvious reasons. A list of suggested varieties and container sizes may help with your selection. Check with your seed supplier on the varieties they recommend.

Having said that, there are many vegetable varieties that will do very well in containers. Tomatoes, lettuce, beets, carrots, cabbage, peas, beans, capsicums and peppers are all good choices. Cucumbers, cauliflower and broccoli will also do well as will virtually all herbs.

Crops like potatoes, corn, pumpkins and vine fruits generally need more room than a container can provide. But the size of your containers and the varieties available to you will dictate what you grow. As with most gardening, trial and error is your best education.