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Miss J

Kitchen gardens

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So, I'm a Londoner with a teeny little patch of back garden (that's a yard to you North American types) and I'm taking my first fledgling steps with seeds, young plants, and the rest of the green thumb business. (My dad's entire family is addicted to this sort of thing, so I suppose it's no surprise that my first patch of earth has caused a deep desire to make things germinate.) And because I'm an egulleter, I've also got a preoccupation with growing good things to eat.

But here's the issue. In spite of its small size, our garden needs to look nice and fulfill all the roles of a wee London garden  - private outdoor space, property-value improver, barbeque party centre and source of envy to all of one's gardenless flat-dwelling urban friends. This means that racing into full-scale food production is not a viable idea. (Unless someone knows how to create bee-oo--tiful veggie borders...I'm very open to suggestions.)

So, at the moment I've got:

A very big, old, enthusiastically cropping Bramley apple tree right smack in the middle of the lawn (makes GREAT pie!)

An even bigger, older Victoria plum pressing against the back fence

Tomatoes in pots on my patio (beefsteak and plum)

Herbs in pots (moroccan mint, sweet basil, thai basil, french parsley)

Nasturiums (currently germinating, soon to be moved into hanging baskets)

Borage (going completely insane in one of my borders)

Sunflowers (currently germinating, soon to be in the sunny border)

Courgettes in a window box (the better to keep an eye on them so I can pick 'em when they're young...I spent many, many years of my young life watching my dad hike up & down the street trying to give away our surplus of oversized courgettes)

...and that's all so far. (Almost literally...except for the trees, we basically started off with a blank space.) So I'm very enthusiastic about doing more.

What else can I do? What looks nice (ie nice flowers/foliage), and produces things I can eat? I'm thinking maybe a bunch of nice salad leaves might pass as ornamental as well as tasty...

Miss J

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You might consider growing following herbs: lavender, bronze fennel, sweet cicely, and scented geraniums.

Helena - Bronze fennel sounds great! Does it need any special care and attention?

About the geraniums - I've currently got some a plain red geranium in a hanging basket donated by my boyfriend's mum. Can I put the petals into salads? Or should I get a particularly scented geranium to use in other things? (And what other things? I haven't heard many good geranium-petal suggestions lately...)

Miss J

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I think just about anything in a vegetable garden is beautiful to look at.  How about beans growing up a trellis or tripod?  How about pumpkins? (They're kind of big, similar to zucchini, but really fun to grow )  How about more tomatoes?  You really can't have too many tomatoes.  Maybe try some heirloom varieties.  Also, a cherry tomato is a good addition, especially for salads.

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Fennel is basically care-free.

For scented geraniums, try the rose-scented. The leaves are used in cooking.

And ornamental peppers are also very beautiful.

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one word: arugula

(or is that rocket to you Brits?)

Anyway, here in the temperate Pacific Northwest the stuff grows like a weed, and I'm guessing that it would do fine in London, too. It starts from seed tossed directly into the garden, grows quickly, and provides edible leaves and flowers almost all year long (until it freezes...mine overwinters unless it gets below about 25F).

I also like to grow things that are either epensive or hard to find. A big chunk of my space is in shallots. You plant these in the fall and harvest in mid-summer, so they have the additional benefit of providing some green during the winter (also very cold hardy).

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Herbs such as chervil, cilantro, mint, parsley, lavender, and thyme do not need a lot of sun, which living in London once myself, I recognize as your circumstances. Lavender in particular makes a lovely border plant, which spritzes its aroma with each passing leg brush. (It also winters over well).

Good luck with the courgettes. Overgrown as they almost always are, we used to find them cricket-bat sized (baseball-bat for the Americans) and try to fob them off on neighbors or use them as security devices.

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what about gardens indoors or in window boxes--i live in brooklyn, ny.  some direct sunlight but i live over a fairly major thoroughfare and all that dirt and exhaust....

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if you can grow tomatoes in pots, you can probably also do an eggplant [aubergine?]?  i'm thinking also that if you've got enough warmth and sunshine for tomatoes you can also do peppers--a nice mild-to-hot variety, from anaheim to mirasol.

your london climate is great for almost any herb--they like lots of sun but they also like LOTS of rain.  sage?  oregano?  chives?

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Thanks to everyone for some great suggestions!

helena - bronze fennel is definitely on my list. I've found a great herb supplier (Jekka's Herb Farm), which posts seeds and young plants all over the UK. They also have a website which is a bit difficult to use, but does make it easy to order things from the comfort of my desk.  :smile:

Jim - I'm very into your idea of growing rocket. It sounds like it's got all the qualities I'm looking for: easy to sow, easy to grow, long lasting, edible and loves lots of rain. I'll keep the shallots in mind for later this year. Hopefully I'll have a really obvious place to put them...

Liza - lavender is a good suggestion too. And I'm particularly interested in candying the flowers to use on desserts this summer. (Between that and the geranium petals, I'm thinking I could have some very pretty puds on the go.)

Stellabella - I'm not sure about growing aubergines, as I think I'd need a greenhouse to get a good yield (which is a shame as there's some really attractive ones out there). I think some peppers would be good (which helena also suggested), especially as I'm such an unreformed chilehead! I'm not sure I can get a large variety of chiles in the UK, though - I may have to stick to sweet peppers.

It's interesting that everyone has mentioned herbs, which is good on a logistic level as I can get Jekka's to just bus out a whole load of baby plants when I get tired of sowing-my-own. I really like the whole process of gemination, but I've only so much room for seed trays in my little flat, which means that it can take a while to get a whole bunch of plants from packet-to-beds.

And after reading the tomato thread I've got a couple of fantastic-sounding tomato plants to go looking for too. So hopefully I'll be up to six or seven tomato plants as well as everything else... :biggrin:

Roll on the summer!

Miss J

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what about gardens indoors or in window boxes--i live in brooklyn, ny.  some direct sunlight but i live over a fairly major thoroughfare and all that dirt and exhaust....

knews9, your flat sounds like my old one (pre-garden flat). I found that a few herbs worked well in sunny windows - mainly basil (both sweet and Thai), although I was always tempted to get a little bay tree as well.

In my very limited experience, I think as long as you've got some sun you can usually grow herbs indoors. You just may be a bit restricted when it comes to how big they can get.  :smile:

Miss J

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Could we make this thread an ongoing gardening discussion, not just about the garden in London? I was just thinking of starting a thread like this.

For the first time we decided to grow some stuff from seeds (snap peas, string beans, okra, beets, mustard greens). Then the day after planting we were inundated with rain. Is this beneficial to the germination or could they have been overwatered by this?

In addition to the above seeds, we also planted seedlings of about a dozen different types of tomatoes, chiles and other peppers, zucchini, cucumber, 3 types of eggplant, cantaloupes and herbs. What is everyone else growing? How do you choose? We try to grow things that are either expensive or hard to get in the stores (the beets we planted are striped beets, I'd plant some golden beets if I could find the seeds or seedlings). Or, items that we love to eat young and fresh from the garden (the cukes and zukes and string beans).

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Could we make this thread an ongoing gardening discussion, not just about the garden in London? I was just thinking of starting a thread like this.

Of course you can. Let this be the Adam Balic of gardening threads.  :raz:  :biggrin:

Miss J

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Here's what's growing right now...

Shallots and garlic planted last October (harvest in mid-July)

Artichokes (three total, from a single plant I bought three years ago...I have two big and about 5 small 'chokes ready to eat)

Cavalo nero, aka lacinato kale (I brought back seed from Italy and only got one plant to grow 2 years ago...but let it go to seed...of course now you can just buy the seed...)

A few volunteer leeks

Tomatoes (4 starts, maybe more later)

Arugula and some misc lettuce starts for salad greens.

Sage, thyme, oregano, flat leaf parsley, mint (2 kinds), rosemary, and lemon verbena in the herb garden

Asian pear, French petite plum, pineapple quince, and white fig trees

Everbearing red raspberries, golden raspberries, and blueberries.

I still need to plant Chioggia beets (the pink, bull's eye patterned beets) and Swiss chard.

Everything but the berries is in a plot about 20 feet square...three raised beds with the fruit trees around the perimeter.

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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That's the kind of beets whose seeds I just planted, couldn't remember the name before.

Let me ask you about the berries. Do they vine or bush and if vining, could I let them grow up the chain link fence we just put up to keep the dogs out of the garden? Do the berry plants come back every year or do you need to replant them? Should I start from seed or roots or seedlings? Does anyone know any good mail order sources as I haven't seen them at local garden centers? I'd really like to grow blueberries and blackberries (I don't like raspberries as much).

Thanks!

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Rachel:  Berries such as blackberries and raspberries (don't know about blueberries) grow from thick, reed-like stems, and they are perennials, thus come back year after year.  They are also quite invasive, and will spread.  They don't need any support.  Some varieties of raspberries yield fruit twice per season -- late June, and October, though in my yard, it seems that the October yield is much smaller, and is usually overrun by ants.  Blackberries are almost like weeds -- they ramble in forests, and seem to require nothing more than a fall pruning.  Beware, they have tremendous thorns.  In my raspberry plot, which measures 8' by 6', I usually pick 150 pounds of fruit (the variety is called Heritage, and is what the production growers plant in France -- they are fairly large fruits and very flavorful).  I know you are not interested in raspberries, but I think blueberries, blackberries and boysenberries follow a similar life.

For unusual seeds, go to Johnnies Seeds or Seeds of Change.  Here you will find your golden beets, and a skillion other things. They sell Seeds of Change in some gardening places and health food stores, but the selection is highly limited.

Rain is good for germination and for the just-planted.  Since it is important to keep seeds wet for germination, nature just did this for us so we don't have to go out with our watering cans.

Miss J:  I am not sure how peppers will do in London.  Peppers of all sorts need lots of sun and heat.  Also, for herbs, don't forget rosemary, though unlike sage, thyme, etc., these are not winter hardy in your climate, so you must either harvest or re-pot to bring indoors during winter.  And if you plant coriander, you may want to let some of it go to seed -- it's fun and productive to harvest your own coriander seed.  I can't say enough about lavendar.  I planted a tiny seed about 10 years ago, and now my first bush is 8 feet in diameter.  I hang the dried flowers in my closets and pack my yarn with it -- it smells great, and is a natural moth repellent.

Jim:  Thanks for the shallot suggestion.  Also, I hadn't thought of using arugula flowers.  I have hundreds in bloom right now, from over-wintered plants. Thanks for that suggestion, too.  

My questions:  Does anyone know of a source of seeds for teeny cucumbers, aka cornichons?  Or are these simply cukes that are picked while still very young?  And what other types do folks suggest for pickling?  Gooseberries -- has anyone in the NJ climate planted these, and what are the details (source, problems, special circumstances).  Snow peas and eggplants -- I try them every year with limited success.  Any tips?

Every year I try to put in some herbs that are hard to come by in Central-Western NJ, such as Vietnamese coriander, lemongrass, curry leaves, and unusual basils.  Any suggestions in this regard?

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Miss J:  I am not sure how peppers will do in London.  Peppers of all sorts need lots of sun and heat.  Also, for herbs, don't forget rosemary, though unlike sage, thyme, etc., these are not winter hardy in your climate, so you must either harvest or re-pot to bring indoors during winter.

Believe me, rosemary _is_ winter hardy in the UK. I planted a small rosemary plant when we moved into our current house three years ago, and it's now about two feet across and three wide. I also have marjoram, sage, oregano and three sorts of thyme in my herb plot.

Adam

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We live in the High Desert, and gardening is challenging.  Spring lasts about a day here.  One day it will be 80 and the next we'll have frost or snow.  Because we have a shorter season, we tend to buy plants rather than start from seeds (such as tomatoes, squash, pumpkins).  Our tomato plants are in the ground, but we're debating whether to put them in Walls of Water for protection.  We do start beans and peas from seeds.  We planted sugar snap peas several weeks ago, and the birds seem to eat the seedlings as fast as they can grow. Pretty soon, it will be too hot for the peas. Sometimes, things work, and sometimes they don't.  We're trying peppers.  I'm not sure the season is long enough, but it's worth trying.  I cover stuff with nylon netting  to protect it.  Two nights ago I picked lettuce for the first salad of the season.  Once we're past the chance of frost, the garden really goes to town.  We'll plant beans and squash in a few weeks.  Last August my mother in law visited and I think she thought we were vegetarians because of all the vegetables we ate!  Of course we've been eating rhubarb.  I like growing my own vegetables because when it's good it's very good.  Really, nothing compares to homegrown tomatoes.  I also like growing extra to be able to give away.

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I like growing my own vegetables because when it's good it's very good.  Really, nothing compares to homegrown tomatoes.  I also like growing extra to be able to give away.

I bet you have a lot of friends.   :biggrin:

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Uh oh, don't get me started! In the lovely Pacific NW, we have some seasonal challenges, but my small (300 sf?) vegetable garden is planted with peas - shell, snap, and snow (and sweet) - planted late February, potatoes (various colors), onions (also various), mixed salad greens (includes arugula), mixed chinese greens (mustards and choi), black kale, rainbow chard (hmm, a theme?), beets, and spinach. Setting fruit currently is a great strawberry patch, as well as a small fig tree. I have a ton of lovage (what am I to do with it?), angelica which I am allowing to flower for the first time - awesome, many varieties of lavendar, thymes, mints, coriander, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, lemon balm, raspberries, blueberries, sorrel, feverfew, and a few leeks. Ready to plant are starts of tomatoes (embarrassing quantity - 10 varieties?), corn, peppers, eggplants, cauliflower, cukes, basil, lemon grass, a stevia plant, lemon verbena, and a tarragon. Somehow, I'll find room for carrots (maybe not - they have been infested the past few years), winter and summer squash, and a few more things I must be forgetting (oh yeah, I put in some beans (at least 6 types) but bet I'll need to reseed in about a month - too cold this spring). Picked my first artichoke this season. I give away a lot of produce each summer - and find eating out a challenge. Who needs a fine tomato/basil salad for $ when I can't keep up with the fresh picked garden produce? Best seeds for around here - Territorial Seeds. Great variety too.

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Rachel,

Cane berries (like raspberries) will do fine along a fence. I don't train mine aling a wire like the commercial growers do, but I do put up a few posts with vinyl-covered wire rope to hold them back so they don't lean over too far. I think the best bet is plant starts, and they do spread very quickly.

if you don't like red reaspberries, try Marionberries, a raspberry/boysenberry cross developed at Oregon State in the 1950s...like a wild blackberry but less thorny and bigger fruit. Out here (and I'm guessing almost everywhere) the himalayan blackberry is a tremendous pest...they grow everywhere and create a wasteland under their thick canes..the new growth goes over the last, so the mounds build up higher and higher...but I've picked them ever since I was little, and still love a seedy blackberry pie or jam best.

Jim


olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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I've started is broccoli raab (sp??).  I've seen them use it on cooking shows, but I've never seen it in the stores.  So far, it's an inch tall.  Not to count my chickens before they've hatched or anything, but does anyone like to cook it, and if so, what's they're favorite dish?  Regarding bronze fennel, it appears to like our climate, and has naturalized itself here.  I haven't done anything with it because until just a few days ago, I had never heard of fennel pollen.  However, I really want to grow Florence Fennel (the bulb) and so far, it's not doing as well as I hoped.

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Uh oh, don't get me started! In the lovely Pacific NW, we have some seasonal challenges, but my small (300 sf?) vegetable garden is planted with peas - shell, snap, and snow (and sweet) - planted late February, potatoes (various colors), onions (also various), mixed salad greens (includes arugula), mixed chinese greens (mustards and choi), black kale, rainbow chard (hmm, a theme?), beets, and spinach. Setting fruit currently is a great strawberry patch, as well as a small fig tree. I have a ton of lovage (what am I to do with it?), angelica which I am allowing to flower for the first time - awesome, many varieties of lavendar, thymes, mints, coriander, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, lemon balm, raspberries, blueberries, sorrel, feverfew, and a few leeks. Ready to plant are starts of tomatoes (embarrassing quantity - 10 varieties?), corn, peppers, eggplants, cauliflower, cukes, basil, lemon grass, a stevia plant, lemon verbena, and a tarragon. Somehow, I'll find room for carrots (maybe not - they have been infested the past few years), winter and summer squash, and a few more things I must be forgetting (oh yeah, I put in some beans (at least 6 types) but bet I'll need to reseed in about a month - too cold this spring). Picked my first artichoke this season. I give away a lot of produce each summer - and find eating out a challenge. Who needs a fine tomato/basil salad for $ when I can't keep up with the fresh picked garden produce? Best seeds for around here - Territorial Seeds. Great variety too.

tsquare....and everyone, your gardens are inspiring.   We're hoping to plant ours over the weekend.  tsquare, if you get a chance, could you please share with us what types of beans you have planted, and what are your favorites? (are they all from the Territorial Seeds)?   Also, what type of eggplant do you plant?

Also, if you get a chance, could you please share with us either here or on the Homegrown Tomato thread, what your 10 varieties of tomatoes are?  I listed the ones we normally plant each year, but am always looking for new ideas for ones that do well in the NW.  Thanks.

Pitter... if you are still looking for a source for cornichon seeds, Shepherds Seeds carries them: Click here

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Blue Heron and all,

I'll post my tomatoes on the tomato thread, here's the beans and eggplant info:

Pole beans - zebra, helda and musica (romano's), and painted lady (runner) - all Territorial Seed and new to me this year.

Bush - black coco (T.S., new) and saved seed of cannellini and dragon tongue.

I like 'em all. My saved scarlet runners stopped germinating. I used to plant purple podded and yellow wax, easier to see at dusk for harvesting and fun for looks. Unfortunately, purple podded turn green when cooked.

Eggplant - short tom (T.S.), long purple (Lilly Miller), italian white (Seeds of Change), and turkish orange (Seeds of Change). The orange are inedible, but I understand if I pick them earlier they might be better.

I grow all these from seeds, some years I get no eggplants, so there is alot of luck involved. I'm not terribly precise in my growing strategies.

Forgot to mention, I also have a bay tree, currently flushed with new leaves.

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Blue Heron:  Many thanks for the scoop.  I just ordered my cornichon seeds from Shepherd's (I didn't know they were associated with White Flower Garden) as well as about an  acre full of other stuff.

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