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Herb Garden

Follow our herb garden at The Herbal Dispensary
This page is erratically updated!  hopefully it will provide you with inspiration to start your own herb garden. 
Herb plants are available direct The Herbal Dispensary heart Raglan-133-923-413from The Herbal Dispensary, with the best selection during the spring and summer months.

21/09/ 2010
herb garden start.jpgThe herb garden at The Herbal Dispensary is a new project, one that is growing this spring. The hard landscaping has been done during the winter and is now finished. Some plants are in the ground, already in are the buxus around the edges of the beds to shape the form of the garden. Also in are some cuttings from my old garden.  The roses that were transplanted in August are now showing green buds, a good success, I was told by a gardener once that you can't kill roses, so I was keen to move these as they are the old fashioned rose that gives the beautiful red rose-hips, so suitable for rose-hip tea or rose-hip syrup.

Now that the soil is warming up, seeds will soon be directly planted into the ground. Seedlings planted in trays and already germinated are chamomile, borage, lemongrass, white sage, echinacea, burdock, calendula and bergamot. These seedlings will need to be pricked out and planted into their own pots, a job for next week.

Planted out into the garden yesterday coriander, oregano, chives, rocket, fennel, chervil and parsley. Our garden is very sheltered, even from the strongest winds, so we can plant early, it could be a little early for some of you in colder areas to plant coriander, but it does prefer to be planted in some shade, so it doesn't bolt and go to seed to soon.

Wow, we have been so busy there has been no entry for a while!. The herb garden is looking fantastic with the soil warming and the recent rain the plants are really settling in now and growing well. Last night for dinner we picked fresh rocket for a salad and dill and chervil to make a very easy quick herb butter to go with fresh fish from Raglan. Using fresh herbs daily in your diet is a great way to stimulate digestion, improve mineral and vitamin absorption and improve the taste of your meals.  Growing well in the garden now are all the culinary herbs: coriander, oregano, basil, chervil, dill, chives, marjoram, thyme, and mint.

We have now opened our garden to the public and as I write this I can hear children out there playing, such a lovely sound to hear while at work. Recently planted in the garden are burdock, borage, calendula and chamomile, seedlings that were sown back in October.

Out in the garden early this morning picking chamomile flowers and calendula flowers which will be dried and used in  herbal teas and also for herbal oils. These are from seeds sown in late September, so only about 3 months from seed to picking which is great. I expect these plants to last throughout the summer and will need to pick the flowers every day as they are at their best. The best time to pick herbs for drying is in the morning after the dew has dried, but before it gets to hot. Flowers should be laid out on cane trays or similar where there is good air flow but out of direct sun. When the flowers are dry, they can be stored in brown paper bags or in jars out of direct sunlight.  If you are picking leafy herbs like parsley, dill, bay or rosemary etc, you can tie them in small bunches and hang them out of direct sun, where there is good air flow.  Depending on the time of year these bunches could dry within days. For storing leafy herbs, you can also put them in paper bags or strip the herb of the stem and put into jars.

chamomile for herb tea.jpgLast week we pulled out the coriander plants that we left to go to seed, the seed heads will be placed in a brown paper bag and shaken to collect the seeds, which will then be used in cooking. Also harvested were fennel bulbs which we used in a lovely herbal risotto, a good handful each of tarragon, parsley, fennel, basil, chives also went into the pot, giving a very simple but delicious dish.  Culinary herbs are very easy to add to any dish and you can certainly add generous helpings to create some wonderful flavours.  Planted last week were basil plants, coriander, echinacea, comfrey, lemon grass and white sage.  The echinacea, lemon grass and white sage were grown from seed and are now good sized plants.  These plants will still get enough growth before the winter to establish well and have a good root system for the dormant period.

borage calendula bees.jpgAll flowering herbs are now in full bloom and the bees and bumble bees are loving our garden, at any time during the day you can see a large number of both in the garden.  Great for pollination and a good indication that our bee hives will go well. Herbs flowering now include marshmallow, valerian, feverfew, chamomile, chives, dandelion, pineapple sage, catmint, st john's wort, sorrel, rose, yarrow, evening primrose, thyme, borgae, calendula, fennel, oregano, parsley, nettle and heartsease.  While we are picking some of the flowers we are also letting some plants follow their natural rhythm,  when picking any herbal material always remember to leave some for the plant, it is also a good practice to give thanks before picking. 

voilet flower cropped.JPGWell the winter has passed us by, and as you can tell from the above entries (or lack of) there has not been a lot of activity in the garden. Things are starting to happen though. Just these week, I have been doing some propagating of some soft wood cuttings from the herbs in the garden and planting some seeds. The herbs that we were propagating are: the mints, peppermint and common garden mint, feverfew, oregano, peppermint gerainum, apple geranium and motherwort.
It is amazing to see after just one years growth in our new garden that these plants are self seeding in the garden, and are producing enough stock to propagate from. I have also sown a tray of micro-greens and have them sitting in a warm spot to grow: they will be a nice addition to our salads. It is time to start thinking about cleaning your seed trays and getting your seedling mix/potting mix and seeds organised for a successful season in the garden.
Although it is warming up, it may still be a little early for the more tender seeds unless you have a very sheltered spot or glasshouse to start them in.  So hold back a little longer, read all the catalogues and get inspired for a busy summer in the garden.
Looking out the window to the herb garden we still have flowers on the pineapple sage, the borage and the feverfew. 
The little daphane bush that we planted under the native pukka is flowering as is the lovely purple violet, that is spreading a lovely carpet of green leaves in our shady patch. It is such a delight to be able to wander out and pick a little bunch of flowers for our shop counter.

Our first garden update for the year!
The holiday season has been great in the shop, we've been really busy looking after our Raglan visitors and customers.  The weather has been good for the garden with rain and warm days and the growth is phenomenal.
  Globe Artichoke      burdock      Heartsease2

We're about to start harvesting our leafy herbs such as lemon verbena, red sage, wormwood, white sage, yarrow, tansy, lemon balm  and rosemary.
We will also be harvesting our culinary herbs such as  thyme, oregano, parsley, lovage, and mint.
Picking culinary herbs often helps with continued growth of the plants and provides plenty of material to make bouquet garni.
A bouquet garni is a bunch of herbs used to flavour a soup, stew or casserole. 
It will turn a plain dish into an excellent meal, help with digestion and provide valuable antioxidants to your meal.
A simple bouquet garni is made of parsley (including the stalks), thyme, and a bay leaf.
You can add any other culinary herbs that you'd like to use such as oregano or lovage.
Better Bouquet Garni     Bouquet garni in bag     
It would be nice to make a selection of different bouquet garni to use for specific dishes.
To make a bouquet garni you can dry the herbs individually and then tie them into bunches/bags.
Or you may like to make your individual bunches with your selected herbs and hang them to dry in a warm, dry, (not too sunny) spot.

Rosemary and Lemongrass
Yesterday we made harvested rosemary to make rosemary vinegar: you can read about how to make it in our blog:
We have not done any new plantings in the herb garden, mostly due to time and the fact that the soil is quite dry, however it is still okay to get another round of plants in such as parsley, corriander, sage, thyme etc (this will depend on your climate) but you can always plant up pots and put them in a sheltered spot for the rest of the summer and autumn.
We also harvested a lovely crop of lemongrass, I have recently discovered the secret of how to grow lemongrass from a lovely cambodian lady who visited our garden. When she visited my plants were doing okay, but they were not fantastic. Here's what she told me to do: take out all the dead growth, and feed heavily. So I did that and put a really good amount of sheep pellets around each plant. The growth since then (about 2 months ago) has been amazing, hence we were able to pick a lush and bountiful crop which we will do again before the end of summer.
She also gave me some tips on how to propagate lemongrass, which I will share with you once I have mastered it myself.

Gosh, with staff taking their annual leave and the weather being generally unpleasant for gardening not much has been happening lately.
However the last couple of days, we have had frosty starts and beautiful sunny days. Just enough to entice me outside to the garden, instead of staying in the shop.
So what have I been up to?

Life does get busy sometimes.....lucky for us the herb garden looks after itself to a certain degree.
Herbs are very tolerant of neglect, and will happily keep growing especially if the conditions were good when they were planted. Even though this garden page hasn't been updated we have been doing things in and with our garden. We continue to plant our culinary herbs for year round picking. We have found the best for us in Raglan are the good old favorites: Parsley (both curly leaf and Italian), thyme, sage and oregano. Lemongrass continues to grow well in its sheltered spot and has been regularly harvested during the summer season, our vegetable box club often had lemongrass to cook with this summer.
We were fortunate to have a WOOFER here recently and a great job was done in clearing some rubbish trees and scrubby bushes from around our back garden. This area will be planted up this winter with some citrus and other fruiting trees, maybe limes and avocado's as it is such a sheltered spot.

Dandelion - just a weed?
Just today I presented a short talk to a local group about the benefits of herbs and weeds that are readily available, the first herb I talked about was dandelion. Dandelion really is everywhere at the moment, it is easy to identify with its single flower stem, but please if you are going to pick herbs that you correctly identify them first.
I was able to tell them about a lady that we had seen recently, who had swelling (fluid retention) on her foot due to an injury, she was concerned about it and dandelion tea was suggested, about ten days later she was back to tell us that the swelling has gone and she is feeling great! This was from the simple addition of dandelion tea into her daily routine. dandelion leaf can also be eaten raw, add a little to your salads, it aids your digestion, you can also eat the flower petals, and if you have the time this winter dig(and dry) the roots for a drink to aid the liver function.
The uses of dandelion are many and varied and are beyond the scope of this entry, but even if you add a few leaves to your salad a few times a week you will be supporting your body in a nourishing way with weeds, great!
So next time you are just about to pull out that weed, think again :)