Posts Tagged ‘Herbs’

Taking Rosemary Cuttings

Look for where the green of this years growth changes to brown wood stem

You may remember a while back I posted a piece back about how to propagate your own rosemary plants from cuttings. Well it proved very popular and still today is one of the most frequently read posts on the site.  But what I didn’t appreciate at the time was this lovely, tasty, flavour some little Mediterranean herb called Rosemary has very special health benefits.

Apparently, in the small coastal village of Acciaroli in Italy the villagers appear to live on average much longer than the rest of us. The facts suggest many live well past their 100th birthday and stay free of many of the debilitating diseases the rest of the world suffers.

The Rosemary Village
When I read this I just had to dig a little deeper and find out exactly what was behind all the excitement! I discovered the main stream media (including the BBC) have reported on this before and several of the broad sheets such as The Times no less!

Turns out that there are compounds in Rosemary that can affect memory performance. But why is it the people of Acciaroli live so long and appear to be in good health? Well when researchers looked a little closer they found a key element in the diet of the villagers was Rosemary … and lots of it!

Rosemary has anti-oxidant properties and is an anti-inflammatory. I even read one article where they suggested it has anti-carcinogenic properties and protects against dementia and alzheimers. Of course it goes without saying I’m no expert, but if you research it online you’ll find plenty of evidence to back up the theory.

Personally, I love the flavour of rosemary, especially with roast lamb but one’s things for sure based on the experiences of the villagers in Acciaroli I’m going to be eating a lot more of it moving forward. I think I might even have a go at making a beverage from it. Just have to remember it’s fairly pungent and you probably don’t need much of it. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on. 😉

If you don’t grow rosemary in your garden, then give it a try. You can grow it in the borders, or make a hedge from it, or even better grow a few plants in clay pots on the patio. They like free draining soil and will stand dry conditions to a point, but try not to let them dry out too much or they’ll simply wither and die.

If you’d like to know more about how to propagate your own rosemary plants from cuttings you’ll find all you need to know here.

Healthy Rosemary Plants

Go on give it a try this summer and feel the benefits that the lovely people of Acciaroli in the province of Salerno enjoy every day of their lives.
Back soon.


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Baby Basil plants

Baby Basil plants ready to be pricked out into 3″ pots for the summer.

Growing Basil from seed

Like a great many other gardeners April and Easter more specifically is is an incredibly productive month in the garden.

I’ve just come in from the polytunnel having pricked out about 50 basil seedlings into 3″ pots. The smell on my hands is just fantastic … can’t help thinking of tomatoes when I’m pricking out Basil plants. They go so well together and if you plant a few alongside your tomato plants the aroma will help to keep the whitefly away.

This years basil seedlings

Basil is an annual which basically means it will produce for you in one year but you will need to grow new plants next year.

We’ve been sowing in a light well drained compost mix since the beginning of March right through and so far we’ve been fairly successful with our germination.  I particularly love the broad leaf basil varieties as they are really easy to grow and don’t take a lot of looking after … and they remind me of holidays in the Loire with the children. Wonderful times.

Secret to growing great Basil plants?

Don’t over water and keep the plants in a warm, sunny spot in the garden or window sill. We grow a few outside but mostly in the polytunnel to be honest so we can control the watering and this year we’re also succession planting as we hope to sell to the local pubs and restaurants to raise a few extra pennies for the coffers!

If you want to grow a few plants of your own plant your basil seeds in a tray or pot from March onwards. We’ve sown Basil seed pretty much up until the begining of September and still produced reasonable plants, so the season is generous.

After about 4-5 weeks prick out into 3″ pots and 4-5 few weeks later you should have some handsome basil plants!

What can I do with Basil?

We use Basil all the time in the kitchen mainly on tomato salads, but also have been known to make our own pesto!  I also read somewhere the Amish chew on Basil to treat colds and flu although I’ve never tried it myself.

If you’ve never grown Basil plants from seed then give it a try as the flavour of home grown Basil is simply fantastic.

Basil Plants

Eventually those tiny plants will grow into great little plants.

Happy Easter to one and all!

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener

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A good time of the year to take your Rosemary cuttings

It’s about this time I take a few Rosemary cuttings.

It’s about this time I look at replenishing my stock of Rosemary plants. It’s one of my favourite herbs, which I like to have in plentiful supply as I use it all the time in the kitchen, not to mention throwing a few sprigs on the BBQ on a summers evening.

Also I like to get something for nothing if I can, and Rosemary cuttings are really easy to propagate at this time of the year, so if you have a plant or know someone who has, then I urge you to have a go.

All you need to take Rosemary cuttings is a nice bushy plant, a free draining compost, some rooting compound and a dibber or pencil to heal in the cuttings.

We’re fortunate at Blackbirds to have a few bushes that we can use as stock plants, but they all came from cuttings that I took a few years ago and have gone on to flourish on our well drained chalky soil.

If you’d like to know more about how to take softwood cuttings or perhaps improve your chances of success you’ll find loads of really good content on the inter web.

Selecting your cutting material

By this time of the year rosemary plants will have put on lots of new healthy growth, and if you follow the green stems back to the base you should be able to see where the green stem changes to a woody brown.

This kind of material makes great cuttings and gives you a fighting chance of producing a healthy plant.

Taking Rosemary Cuttings

Look for where the green of this years growth changes to brown wood stem

What should I grow my cuttings with?

Last year we tried raising cuttings in sharp sand, and although we had some success the cuttings took slightly longer to root and the plants didn’t seem to grow on quite so well.  So this year I’ve returned to a mix of 50% sharp and, 50% John Innes potting compost (number 2), and the results have been excellent.

How to ‘strike’ a cutting

Take hold of the cutting and pull it back towards the base of the plant. It should break away from the main stem fairly easily, just be careful not to choose anything to large, or you may damage the plant.

Perfect cutting material with decent heal

Perfect cutting material with a decent heal

I use both seed trays and pots to raise my cuttings and both seem to work just as well. Dip the cutting into some water, (makes the rooting powder stick to the cutting far better) and then into the rooting compound.

Prepare a few holes about an inch deep in the compost and drop the cuttings into the holes. Firm them in, and give the pot or tray a quick shake to settle the compost around the cutting.

Dip the cutting in water to help the rooting compost to stick

Rooting compound will help to ensure success.

Do they need any special treatment?

If you want to guarantee success with your cuttings the key thing to remember is to avoid them drying out. When a cutting is removed from the parent plant it has no way of taking on water, other than through the leaves, so I like to spray the leaves of my cuttings with water at least 4-5 time a day, unless it’s been raining, in which case I leave them pretty much to get on with it.

In about 4-6 weeks your cuttings will develop their own root system and be ready to transplant into the garden, or into 3-inch pots for growing on. The roots are fairly delicate at this point so take care not to damage them or all your hard work will be wasted.

I took a few pictures earlier today from my nursery bed to demonstrate how a cutting grows from basically a rooted twig into a mature healthy plant.  I’ve included a rooted cutting, a 1-year-old cutting and 2-year-old plant.

As you can see they don’t put on a huge amount of growth in year 1, but by year 2 they find their feet and grow away quite happily.

To keep the plants nice and bushy it’s worth pruning them each year to encourage the plant to grow into a more compact shape.  It’s the basic premise for producing bushy plants … don’t be afraid to prune, your plants will be so much better for it.

Rosemary Cuttings

A rooted cutting from this year – 1 years worth of growth and 2 years worth of growth

Back Garden Nursery Update

If you’ve been following our blog you’ll know one of my ambitions is to start a little back garden nursery of my own. I had planned to launch earlier this year, but I lost a fair few cuttings due to the cold weather despite keeping them in the Polytunnel, the cold was just too severe.

As a result it’s meant we’ve had to put that on hold for the moment while we build up our stock levels.

Best wishes,

Rural Gardener




If you’d like to keep this post for future reference I have created a PDF.

It’s absolutely free, so please feel free to download as many times as you like, with my best wishes.

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Money saving tip
I’m always on a drive to save some money and what better way than to create something for nothing by propagating a few basil plants for free.

One tip I was given a few years ago is to buy a basil plant off the supermarket shelf, usually cost around £1.60. You can find them usually next to the fruit and veg stand.

When you get it home leave the plastic wrapper on until you’re ready to transplant but make sure you water it straight away.  Basil has soft fleshy leaves which is usually a sign of a plant that needs to be kept moist.

Next, take four three-inch plant pots (or larger) and half fill with good quality compost. I add a little bone meal into my mix because it will benefit from the extra nutrients.

Gently take your basil plant out of its pot and work it apart into 4 smaller plants.  It should come apart fairly easily, then, lant each one into its new pot and top up with a little more compost to just below the rim, and finally give it good water.

Basil plants like warmth so best to leave them in the house until they start putting on new growth.  By my calculations that’s just over 40 pence per plant which isn’t bad at all!

Give it a try and see if you can get more than 4 plants from a single plant.

Happy gardening!

Best wishes,


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Patio is almost complete so we’ve started to think about how we might soften it a bit as it feels like a concrete landscape at the moment.

A few years ago I saw the great Geoff Hamilton lay a patio on Gardeners World.  As he was laying the slabs he left  few gaps which he later used for planting herbs  for summer scent.

So we decided to do the same thing.

Basically we chopped out the sand and cement and then filled the hole with a 50/50 mix of sharp sand and topsoil.  The Mediterranean herbs, like thyme, marjoram etc are not particularly fussy about the quality of the soil but don’t like to sit in water, so good drainage is important.

Looking forward to the summer by which time they will have taken and should be growing away well. Just need to keep them watered until they are established.

Update – 2 years later and the thyme looks like it’s been there for ever!

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