14 Apr 2022

Ginger Nuts! How to grow fresh ginger (part 1)


I've been trying not to get too experimental with what I'm growing this year but ginger is a staple in my kitchen (so useful for warding off winter colds).  So, for the past few weeks, I've been nurturing a root into life in the dark warmth of my kitchen cupboards.

I last tried growing ginger seven years ago, and failed. But, inspired while watching Marcus Wareing's Tales from a Kitchen Garden on the BBC, my thoughts turned to the summer warmth in my sun trap of a salad garden and I decided to try again. And on my next shopping expedition, I came home with a sturdy chunk of promising looking ginger in my basket.

I've followed the method shown in episode 8 of the show where Marcus chats to a grower about spices. And that included ginger.  Compulsive viewing for a food grower - I now know where I went wrong before! 

As the saying goes ... if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Especially as I've now seen a tried and tested method that practically guarantees success. (I'm nothing if not optimistic.)

So this is what I've done (so far) ...

  • First, sprout the ginger.  Soak the ginger chunks in water for a couple of days; that helps to revitalise it.
  • Next, seal the chunks in a clear plastic tub and store it somewhere warm.  I found the gentle warmth of the cupboard near to my oven perfect.
  • Finally, try not to forget about it! In a couple of weeks, buds on the ginger had started to form a tuber with visible roots (see main pic).  The whole chunk of ginger was then potted up into good peat free compost, leaving the growing shoot above the soil level and the new roots just buried. Keep the plant warm and the soil moist (never wet) and in six months or so, I should be harvesting my own fresh ginger. 
  • I used a 3 litre/7.5" pot because it's what I had to hand but a 10 litre/11" pot would be even better. I'll pot mine on once it's established. 
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a subtropical plant, thriving in humid conditions and nutrient rich soil. It spreads along the ground as it grows (hence the need for a big pot or greenhouse bed) and will need feeding weekly. 

Sprouted ginger root planted into pot.
Snuggled into it's new home ... 

Part Two of this post will be if/when this experiment progresses ... and my next experiment will be the lemon grass stalk previously destined for a pot of Thai breakfast soup but now sitting in a jar of water on my windowsill.

14 Mar 2022

Goodbye Storm Moon, Hello Worm Moon

Or to put it another way, goodbye February, hello March. And hello rhubarb, wild garlic, spring flowers and first tiny blossom on the fruit trees!

Fresh picked rhubarb, chard, carrots
Harvested this morning - love that Peppermint Chard!

26 Jan 2022

Herbs, the Wolf Moon, and the first snowdrop

Last week, at half past four in the afternoon, I realised that it was still daylight ... and I spotted my first snowdrop. Now that doesn’t seem much to get excited about does it,  but daylight has lengthened by almost a full hour since new year; spring is on its way.  

Little flower, huge significance

In the past week, clear night skies have settled a good crusting of frost on rooftops, plants in the garden have gently iced over and I’ve seen a bright full moon in the dawn sky. That was the start of the waning as the moon gradually reflects less of the sun’s light ... the phase when it’s allegedly beneficial to start off crops that grow below ground. That’ll be the garlic then. 

These days most people pay little attention to the moon unless its something really spectacular but, in folk lore, each monthly cycle is named to reflect what’s happening in nature. The January moon is known as the Wolf Moon as this is the month when wolves would call to each other by, literally, howling at the moon. (The upward trajectory allows their voices to travel over greater distances. Fascinating.) While the name is wildly romantic, I’d guess it’s less relevant in the UK today but other Celtic and Old English names for January include Stay Home Moon and Quiet Moon. Given that the Covid pandemic rumbles on, that’s definitely a moon for these times.

I’ve been thinking a lot about herbs this week, mainly because of Alys Fowler; I’m reading her book, A Modern Herbal. I’ve already got several books on the subject, mostly for reference rather than a good read.  But Alys’s book is that good read - quite the page turner for a herb geek like me. It’s made me rethink some of the herbs that I’ve grown in the past and got rid of or moved - lovage, for one. I might have to reinstate my thuggish Lovage plant back into the herb garden ... when I can find it, which will be when it starts growing again.

Lovage is an enormous plant so I relegated it to a spot behind the fruit trees a few years ago where it’s no longer in the way but usefully ornamental. Which also means that I can’t easily reach it.  I’ve now read what a useful herb it can be. It’s supposed to be helpful for digestive problems (including, ahem, wind) as well as gout, arthritis and kidney stones. Luckily, I don’t need it for those reasons. But, on a brighter note, the stems and leaves make a great addition to a Bloody Mary cocktail. Good to know.

As Alys says, ‘it’s the giant cousin of parsley and celery’ ... giant being the operative word here! I used to use a few leaves to flavour soups, stews and stocks but the smell would linger for hours. Not bad if you like the smell of celery spiced with cumin but a bit much when it dominates for the rest of the day! 

Woundwort, as she shall henceforth be known.

Another novelty inspired by the book was to discover how useful my Ajuga reptans can be. She’s been left alone to quietly colonise a patch between the cherry and plum trees for several years for the sole purpose of reducing weeds. But now her hidden qualities have come to light; apparently she not only excels as ground cover but, made into a poultice, will speed up healing of surface cuts and grazes! Very, very useful as I’m forever scraping my arms in the garden. Ajuga’s folk name is, aptly, woundwort. Obviously I need to be nicer to her (them? for she has been very prolific) and will move a few of her offspring into the herb garden. This is easily done as Ajuga spreads by putting out runners (like strawberries) that will root into any damp spot.

So, this week I’ll be ...

  • planting garlic
  • cutting down last year’s autumn fruiting raspberry canes
  • clearing the last of the leeks
  • starting a new Ajuga/woundwort patch
  • ... and watching the hellebores flowering. 

Spring is on its way ...

Stay warm, stay safe x 

9 Jan 2022

The Winterlude

Happy New Year and welcome to the Winterlude - the ‘dormant’ phase of the garden year and a perfect time to read, take stock and plan ahead. 

6 Jan 2022

So that was 2021

2021 has been an eventful, challenging and fun year ... but it hasn't all been about the veg...

Hampstead Heath ponds frozen over in February

Well, there she goes ... goodbye to 2021; a bittersweet year but one that I will remember fondly. That may seem a strange thing to say, given that the country was in lockdown for the first part of the year, and held to ransom by the coronavirus pandemic, but I was one of the lucky ones who remained in excellent health and was grateful for vaccines when offered. 

So, for me, conversely, lockdown was a time of freedom; freedom to improve my run across Hampstead Heath, to potter in the garden in the morning sun, to walk by the Thames and its tributaries, and to explore the Greater London area. 

26 Dec 2021

Solstice - And the world turns back to the light

The winter solstice can be considered to be a dual edged sword for it brings both the start of gradually lengthening days as well as the true start of three months of winter. Brrr... but not quite yet. And there's unlikely to be any snow over the holiday festivities, let me explain why.


20 Dec 2021

Belated Book Review: Veg from One Bed - an excellent book for new veg gardeners

This is not a newly published book but having recently discovered it for myself, I wanted to highlight it for readers of this blog because it provides a foolproof way of building confidence and growing success for a beginner veg gardener.

Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review; as ever, all opinions are my own. 

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