Should I let my herbs flower

Well, this a good question. Some culinary herbs should not be encouraged to flower as the plant will use all those precious nutrients to produce the flower. This has the effect of the older leaf becoming tasteless or a bit coarse and the plant will not produce young, fresh leaves whilst flowering. However, you also would want to keep the flowers for insects and a flowering herb garden can be a mass of butterflies and bees in the summer. The answer is to grow more than one of each variety. You can than let some flower and cut the others back so you have the best of both worlds!

I love the idea of a Chamomile Lawn. How easy is it to create one?

For those people who think it would be an easier option than constantly mowing the grass, I am afraid that I have some bad news! A sweetly scented chamomile lawn is a real delight but it can be quite hard work! We would suggest trying a small patch in your garden first, just to make sure conditions are suitable. Firstly, ensure that the area is completely weed free. Unwanted plants emerging through your chamomile carpet are rather difficult to remove. The best time to plant is in late Spring when the chamomile is growing at a fast rate. The rapid, prostrate growth will help to suppress any weed seedlings below. Keep well watered during warm, dry weather. The lawn will spread by sending out fresh runners. Eventually, you may find that the centre of the original plant dies off, leaving a hole in the sward. Simply remove the affected area, add some garden compost in the gap and re-plant with a fresh, rooted runner from a thick part of the lawn.

A chamomile lawn can be sown directly into the soil with seed of Roman Chamomile but this method, although cheaper initially, is really not practical. This form of chamomile will grow quite tall before flowering and would require constant rolling with a heavy, old-fashioned roller to suppress growth. Not only is this rather hard work, it would also eventually compact the soil, spoil the drainage and encourage moss instead of chamomile! The best varieties to use are the non-flowering clone ‘Treneague’ or even Double Flowered Chamomile both of which are very prostrate although the spent flower stems of the latter would have to be removed to allow for fresh foliage growth. Although neither of these varieties can be grown from seed, we can supply small plug plants to order to get you started which can be planted about 5″ apart or you can visit the nursery and purchase fully grown plants which can be set about 6-7” apart.

Which mint should I use for potatoes, peas and mint sauce?

Any of the Spearmints are best for this use, although which one is a matter of personal choice. Choose from basic Spearmint, Curly Spearmint, Tashkent, Swiss or Moroccan, the latter being a compact variety for a container. See catalogue for descriptive advice.

Why does my Parsley go yellow?

Parsley has a very large root system and requires a roomy pot with good compost and feed. Purpose-made, window-sill parsley pots are usually much too small. Use these outside for Creeping Thymes instead!

How do I stop my Coriander from bolting so quickly?

Coriander is a fast growing hardy annual. As with all annuals, their one ambition in life is to set seed before the season is over. Once Coriander sends out a flowering stem, the culinary leaves at the base are no longer produced. Firstly, choose a variety that has been bred for leaf production. Try not stress the plant into thinking it has to flower and seed. Transplant gently, keep watered and pinch out central shoots as they form. Alternatively, sow directly into soil in succession throughout the season for a continuous supply of delicious, spicy leaves.

I think my Lemon Verbena has died this winter

Are you sure? Lemon Verbena is a deciduous plant and the stems will look like dead twigs in Winter and will take a long time to spring to life. Provided you have kept it in a frost-free place, you should start to see some stubby, green shoots appearing in April.

Does this apply to my straggly Lavender also?

Yes! Following the above advice will prolong the life of lavender, as well. Remove the faded flower stems or cut the flower stems for drying just as the flowers are opening. A light prune in the Spring will also help.

How can I stop my Thyme becoming leggy?

Firstly, create a strong, healthy plant by growing your Thyme in the sunniest place possible in a very free-draining soil. Thymes will survive winter wind and cold if their roots do not sit in a heavy, waterlogged position. If growing in a container, choose a pot with drainage holes in the bottom and fill with a gritty, soil based compost. Avoid using a general purpose peat compost as this will cause your Thyme to develop soft, weak growth lacking in scent and flavour. Plants grown inside will also suffer with this problem so try to give your plants as much fresh air as possible. Then all you have to remember is to trim off all of the flowers as they fade. This is especially important for prostrate, carpeting Thymes, which always flower so profusely. Leaving on a thick covering of decaying flowers will suffocate and rot any fresh, new growth below. Removing dead flowers will encourage dense re-growth which will reduce the likelihood of leggy plants and winter fatalities.

How do I shape a Bay tree?

Bays will tolerate extensive pruning during frost-free periods. To create a standard or pyramid specimen tree, first choose a young plant with a straight central growth stem. Allow the tree to grow to the required height without pinching out the tip. Once it has reached the required height, stop extra growth by pinching out the top and start shaping! All you need to remember is to prune to just above an inward facing bud, so that all new shoots grow towards the trunk . Regular trimming in this way will produce a neat and bushy shape.

Why are some of your herbs out of stock

You may have noticed that some herbs are out of stock. This could be for 2 reasons:
1. They may be generally sold out, in which case we will have more growing on in the tunnels and we will be available very soon.
2. The herb may be out of season. We grow as naturally as possible with no excessive heat or light. This means that, for example, we don’t grow Basil until the weather warms up in mid April.

Is there a perennial Basil?

Yes. The Basil ‘African Blue’ will last through the Winter if the following care is given. Grow outside from June until September in a sunny, sheltered position. Harvest the leaves in the same way as classic Basil but leave just a few shoots so you can enjoy the beautiful mauve flowers. Bring into the house as the nights grow cooler and over-winter on a warm, sunny window-sill. The night temperature should not fall below 10 degrees Celsius and the surrounding air must not be too humid. Reduce watering during this period.

I am having trouble keeping my Basil (applies to all annual Basils)

Basil as a growing plant is a very tender annual in this country. Plants are best purchased in early Summer and should not be placed outside until night temperatures are warm. Even then, a wet and windy Summer’s day will be enough to spoil a basil plant. We would therefore, suggest that plants are kept in a large container with good drainage and placed on a sunny window-sill in the house or in a conservatory or greenhouse. If possible, only water your Basil at the hottest part of the day in order for the compost to drain before a cool night. Give plenty of humidity and liquid feed when the weather is warm and reduce this on bad weather days. Pinch out flowers as they form and take leaves for eating from the top shoots to encourage bushy growth. By mid-Summer, you should have enough foliage to harvest for freezing purposes and, with care, your Basil should last inside until the Autumn.