Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Indian Beans

Long, long ago, well, last year actually, I ended up in an Indian shop about 15 miles from home. While everyone else was eyeing up the Indian sweets, I paid a little more attention to the discarded box that lay near the till. In this box were Indian bean seeds that no one had purchased. These had been imported from India. The instructions were in Hindi and as I am illiterate in the language, I couldn't read it. The shop keeper took pity on me and gave me the packet of seeds. It must have been something to do with my usual helpless, lost, doe eyed look. We chatted about my efforts at growing vegetables. I told him that one day, I was going to grow lovely plants in India where the weather is hot.

Of course, the Indian seeds made my day. While my thoughts focussed on the seeds, the rest of my family "sighed" at yet another one of my eccentric interests in growing foreign plants. I believe everyone felt it would be an impossible task.

I had never grown Indian beans in England before. I pattered home to try and germinate them in normal weather last summer. We all thought at least one bean tree had been a success until it was a case of mistaken identity. It actually grew into a large Sunflower who laughed at me for nurturing it so well for months. So, essentially, one sunflower seed at fallen in. The rest of the bean seeds had not germinated at all possibly because the temperature had not been high enough. 

This year was a little different. Initially germination took place indoors. The result was the above. I used  simple good quality compost, a well heated area with daily watering. They needed plenty of light.

These are flat Indian beans. Hopefully, they will be successful. We shall see. So far so good. The next update will be in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see if these plants survive the English weather. 

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Art of Water

Most gardeners have clothes on

Water is vital for all plants. Indeed, it is the most essential factor in the growth of healthy plants. When I first started gardening, I didn't have a clue about the time periods for watering. Perhaps I just didn't think about it. Logically, the best time to water plants is at a time where there is the least evaporation. Essentially, this is best done at dawn or first light and at dusk. In the summer when it is unreasonably hot, watering plants may have to be done twice a day. 

The BBC guide has a number of aspects on effective watering. Of course, you need good hosepipes if you have a large enough garden or a good sized watering can. I find that a good  Watering cans that is of reasonable size works the best. I also have a smaller watering can to water potted plants. Reasonable priced ones can be found at Wilkinsons or Poundland. 

England has been in drought. I have had to contemplating saving rainwater to water the plants. Water butts may be one option but they look a bit pricey to me since I am always obsessive about spending as little as possible on my garden. So far I have developed most of it on a shoestring budget. The Environmental Agency isn't wonderfully useful. This website tells me how to build a rainwater collection system but I am probably too lazy to do that. The BBC is interesting and fairly useful as well. I though am going to think about adapting a large bin for these purposes. We shall see how it goes. Nothing like an engineering adventure that may go completely wrong.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


I have always thought that poppies are beautiful. I love spending summer days in the park just looking at fields of poppies. Last year, I noticed poppies growing in the garden of a house in our neighbourhood. The lady promptly asked me whether I knew how to grow poppies. I said "no". That winter the elderly lady offered me the dried poppy seeds from her garden. I kept them safely until three days ago. Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death.  In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep. A second interpretation of poppies in Classical mythology is that the bright scarlet colour signifies a promise of resurrection after death. 

There are various different types of poppy listed here. Ancient physicians of Egypt used poppy seeds as pain relief and modern medicine shows us that morphine and codeine is derived from it. Growing poppies is relatively simple. 

Shake Shake Shake 

I think everyone makes it too complicated so here is me doing what my elderly friend told me to do. I took the dried poppy flowers, took the seeds out of them and threw the seeds in the soil in one patch of my garden. Let us see if it grows! :)

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Magical Garden.

My friend has a magical garden. She teaches me all kinds of things about plants. The other day, she came over to tell me that I needed to whip the heads off the dead daffodils and tulips to preserve the bulbs for next year. This weekend, I trotted down to see her pottering around in her greenhouse. The greenhouse is the most amazing place I have ever seen. It has a built in heater that germinates all her plants in record time.  Interesting, she keeps her plants warm by using bubble wrap all around the inside of her green house.   The above are her seedlings. It is only May 2012 and its houseful. Today, she gave me some broccoli, marigold and flower seedlings to plant. I shall hopefully return to her magical garden soon. The above are spare seedlings apparently! :). 

Anyway, I love visiting my friend's house. It is always a bit like walking into a magical garden with the most amazingly beautiful plants. It is a magical world - well, certainly my magical world of greenery. 

Emergency :). Gardener in love.

Last year, the poor Mint Tree went missing. I find out that the gardener in question was all loved up. Anyhow, this year, I had planted rows of carrots and cabbages. I was quite proud of my free seeds from Birds Eye this year. Anyhow, two weeks ago, news flew to my phone that the gardener had dug up my seedlings by accident. So there we go, weeks of hard work gone down the pan. He had sheepishly sent me a text. 

I merely shook my head. He must have been all loved up again. Such is the circumstances of young men these days. The rest of us have to trek down through the rains and the muddy grass to replant further seeds. Tough life for me.


I never quite realised how easy it was to plant garlic. Actually, the idea came to me after I visited my friend's house. Her husband had decided to use raw garlic from the shops to plant an entire box full. While I sat in her kitchen gossiping about the the world, my mind was ticking on growing the above. I had never tried this before so I grabbed the old cloves of garlic from the kitchen basket and simply planted them. The result is the above. The plants are low maintenance, require light some regular water to keep the soil moist. I am a bit late planting them as they should be done in the winter. I didn't actually read up about it because on occasion, I simply like to "wing it" to see what happens. I simply separated the cloves and planted them as above. The above took about 8 weeks. Anyhow, hopefully, this will keep the vampires away :). Given the price of garlic these days, I was hoping not to buy garlic for the summer. This was my first attempt. I hope to go into more advanced garlic growing in the future. The above is a good start. At least no insects gobbled it up, it managed to survive the gardener and the awful rains that have plagued us in the UK. 

To do this properly, please visit Gardener's World.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Tale of the Missing Vampire Mint Plant.

Year 2012

The interesting aspect about mint is the fact that it lives forever - literally. My mint plant started with a few springs from my lovely elderly friends. They both sat there last summer and told me that all I had to put them in water and then just watch them grow. So I did this. Soon, I had a large bushy mint plant. I added it in lamb and all kinds of dishes. 

Mint is a bit like a vampire because no matter how much you try, you can't actually kill it totally. It will arise at the next dawn apparently. I didn't know this during my first attempt at developing mint.

Mint With Bite. It never dies.

A new gardener prowled our land during that particular time. Apparently, one summer's day he was clearing up. He cleared up alright. He had mistaken my mint plant for a grubby weed and thrown it in the dust bin. 

Of course, I was distraught. Soon the entire family gruffed that " Rita was in a mood because her master mint plant had got lost in the garden bins". It wasn't just a "mood", I was positively huffing and even chocolate had not tamed me. Not about to give up the mint plant for dead, I started to huff at the gardener by text. Finally, after digging in his brain for about 2 hours, he found the memory packet that held the location of the mint plant. Apparently, it was at the bottom of one of the twenty bins he had put out for collection.

No one appreciated the care I had put into my mint plant and why I was distraught that it had been killed. 

By this time I had obtained the information about the missing mint, it was nearly midnight. While everyone had gone to bed, I hopped outside dressed in nightdress and dressing gown to hunt for my mint plant remnants. My idea was this - if I could salvage the roots, it would revive itself much like the vampire. All I had to do was replant it or take a few strands and place it in water. It would grow after a few days. Afterall, the mint plant had sentimental value as they were given to me with love by my elderly friends. 

So started the rummaging through the twenty bags. During that period, of course, I was not a happy bunny. Infact, I was a very unhappy bunny. So, while I was rummaging around, neighbour number 1 started to ruffle their curtains, soon its relatives were at the window. The neighbour number 2 started to twitch their curtains as did its family. Then the opposite door neighbour decided to open the door and walk out to ask if there was anything he could do to assist. I simply stated I had lost something and was searching for it.

" In your nightdress and large bunny furry slippers, Rita," said one neighbour.

On police watch.

Yes, well, I didn't expect an audience who technically should have been fast asleep and not staring at my rather quaint high heeled bunny slippers. Then of course as is always the case, the police drove by. They stopped to ask if there was anything they could do. What was I going to do, ask two tall officers to look for a missing mint plant?  I mean the week before they had lost a pig's head and failed to locate it. I found that rather surprising really.

On all these occasions, the best policy was to smile sweetly, act totally dim and simply carry on. The police asked whether I always wore slippers like that.

" Is there a law against it officer", I said with a cute smile.

Having waved to the police and uttered a few unlady like words under my breath, I continued to rummage through the bins.  I came across the "roots of the mint plant". Of course, I was elated and I said "Good Night" to my bemused neighbours and hopped back into my house. 

Of course, I am infamous for tending to my plants at night. I took the roots to the emergency operating table in the greenhouse and started the process of re-potting. I was quite proud of myself to have the original roots of the sentimental plant given to me by my elderly friends. At least I had saved it. That is of course, the tale of the above mint plant. The mint plant has lived for two years since its attempted assassination attempt. The above picture was taken two days ago.

Related Links

1. All About the Mint Plant.
2. How to grow mint.
3. Gardeners World. How to grow mint from cuttings.