Wednesday, 25 August 2010

soap, soap and abbeys

Lots of experimenting going on at Cooks Lane: new products being prepared for Christmas - and tried out at some of the sales we have/are doing in the next few weeks. We have a new lavender and ylang ylang cold-pressed soap that made its debut at Eastwell fete last Saturday - and sold out.

But the herbs have not been forgotten. We have some lovely young myrtle plants, some African blue basil and, at last, some sellable ginger mint, that are coming good just as the herb-growing season is winding down. Typical.

Still, there are a number of sales coming up. On Saturday, for the first time, Cooks Lane Herbs is taking on two sales on one day. Sian will be in King's Hall, Market Harborough, with some of those lovely soaps, while Richard is at Launde Abbey, near East Norton, with the herbs. We are both at Launde Abbey on the Sunday and bank holiday Monday with both soaps and herbs. A good chance to stock the garden/kitchen with herbs before the real bad weather sets in or to pick up some early stocking fillers.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Polytunnels and greenhouses, I reckon, are like London buses. You wait ages to get one, scrimping and saving before taking the plunge and putting one up. Then you quickly realise what genius they are and before you know it there’s three of them in your garden at once.

Take us: we started three years ago with a modest little greenhouse as we started growing herbs and last week, found ourselves trying to put up a 3m x 4m polytunnel in the back garden in lashing rain and howling winds.

If you count the tiny three-tier ones from Aldi, currently jostling for space in the patio, that makes five.

And there’s still not enough room!

We even have a waiting list of herbs waiting to go in – because with cuttings being taken nearly every day it’s a real struggle to find the space. Our window ledges are crammed to the rafters with softwood cuttings taken from rosemary, curry plants, lavender, southernwood and sage, to name a few.

Softwood cuttings are as the name suggests, the soft tip growth of the plants. Take cuttings in the morning – pinch off about 10cm of a non flowering shoot which has three or four pairs of leaves on it, and pop it straight into a plastic bag so it won’t start to stress too much and wilt.

Pinch out the top of the cutting, which will encourage the plant to branch, and next trim off the lower leaves.

Cut the stem near a leaf node (where the leaf meets the stem) and put it into a prepared pot of compost mixed with a good mix of grit. You can use rooting hormones, but to be honest we have never found them necessary.

Cuttings taken at this time of year may take a bit longer to strike, but they generally don’t wilt as badly as those taken in late spring/early summer. You can tell when they’ve taken if you see new growth coming from the centre of the plant.

Rosemary cuttings like this will take a couple of months to root. They like hot and humid spots, but out of direct sunlight, so a greenhouse or polytunnel is ideal. Be careful though - don't overwater rosemary or you could kill it.

Pretty soon, you won’t be able to stop yourself from walking through the garden wondering what new plants you could get free!


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