July Newsletter 2007

Hello and welcome to the July newsletter.

It's hard to believe we are halfway through our show season. It gets harder at this time of year to keep the plants looking fresh as they are growing so quickly and it becomes difficult to load them in the van without bending them.

The one saving we have had for the last few weeks is the watering, of course. Usually at this time of year many hours are spent making sure everything is kept well watered, especially as the plants have a lot of leaf on them. Due to all the warm weather we had been having the first Herbal Haven barbecue was organized last month. After a glorious day it lashed it down with rain all evening with lots of thunder thrown in for good measure. It doesn't seem to have stopped since. For us this has also meant a plague of the most voracious slugs we have seen in a long time - and they are huge. No doubt everyone is having the same problems in their gardens. I'm sure dispatching them over the neighbour's fence only causes them to have built up a good appetite crawling back again. John does the nightly slug patrols around the tunnels and Geoff does one on his rapidly disappearing vegetable patch. There is no easy answer to slugs. Plants that are grown in pots are easier to protect. You can buy special copper wire or put a layer of Vaseline around the rim. Egg shells or crushed glass help protect the most susceptible plants growing in the garden. Beer traps can be used, but apart from the constant hassle of the beer being diluted by water, they also tend to attract and kill other insects in the garden. Some one told me their trick at a show recently, which I thought was rather ingenious. Slugs absolutely love thyme. She buys big packets of seed and regularly broadcasts it around her garden. The slugs chomp away happily on the emerging seedlings and leave the rest of her plants alone. Brilliant! There are also some very good biological controls using nematodes on the market now.

Our experiment with the three new varieties we grew in May produced some interesting results. The tree spinach was snapped up very quickly, so we will be growing that again next year. The amaranth was a little slower, but we sold it all in the end. The purslane was a disappointment, though. We didn't sell much at all and it is now being incorporated in to the compost heap.

The vipers bugloss is just coming to the end of flowering and we have kept back a few plants so we can harvest the seed. It is loved by the bees. It can be a bit of a thug in the garden, seeding itself very well. The easiest way to remedy this is to cut it down after the flowers have died, or collect the seed for resowing before it drops naturally. That way you have control over where it grows. In Culpepers book he suggests the seed is drunk in wine to increase breast milk production. Probably not recommended.

St Johns Wort Growing Wild

I have seen lots of St. Johns Wort growing whilst out walking Socks. It is a hardy herb that likes a well drained soil and sun. It is a herb well known for the antidepressant hypericin, which is the red pigment that oozes from the crushed flowers. It is also a very good wound healer for cuts, bruises, grazes and scalds. To prepare an oil, fill a glass jar (Kilner jars are good for this) with the flowering heads and top up with olive oil. Place in a sunny windowsill for four weeks shaking daily. As the contents settle add more flower heads. You will be left with a reddish amber oil which needs filtering to remove sediment and then bottling. It is also good for cracked dry skin.



Lots of the medicinal herbs and wild flowers are coming into flower at this time of year. Out of the ditches you can see the frothy heads of meadowsweet and on a lot of the grass verges there is yarrow, common mallow, bed straws and vetches, among many others. Down near the little stream close to us there is soapwort and right down by the water is comfrey. It is a great time of year to get out with a good book and see what you can identify. There is always something new to find.

Think that's it for this month. As always, email with any queries or constructive comments.