Whilst I work in the garden most days of the week, I appreciate that not everyone is as nutty as I am subjecting myself to these finger-tingling cold temperatures. But, despite the weather we’ve had over the past few weeks it brings me great happiness to start on spring preparation in the garden. Spring is on its way, buds are swelling, spring flowering bulbs are popping up left, right and centre and I’m thankful for my neighbour’s bright pink camellia that I can see from my front window – it’s certainly a colour in the garden that is hard to come by this time of year.
Mindful interaction with nature can’t always be done outdoors; with the ice and bitterly cold winds we’ve experienced recently I don’t blame you for snuggling under your Welsh blankets in front of the fire. Last month, seed sowing was suggested as a therapeutic gardening activity you can do in the comfort of your home, and this month we can go full throttle sowing a wide variety of edible plant seeds indoors. Towards the end of this month a few varieties can be sown outside under cloches or in a cold frame as it’s not quite warm enough to plant directly into the ground without shielding from the elements.
Practising mindful seed sowing:
- PREPARATION: have everything to hand; seeds, growing medium, sieve, labels and pen, seed trays, watering can etc. It can take away from the mindfulness practise, tooing and froing to the shed. Get everything you need ready in advance so you are undisturbed and serene.
- GET SETTLED: take some deep calming breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- TAKE YOUR TIME: mindful seed sowing is about focusing completely on the activity; the feel of the soil and the rattling of the seed packets. Each time you notice your mind wandering onto what should I make for dinner or whether or not you’ve had a reply to that email you sent earlier…bring your attention back to the activity. There’s no rush, this moment is about you. Don’t punish yourself if your mind wanders, just bring your focus to the present.
- NOTICE THE SUBTLE CHANGES: mindfulness increases our awareness and opens our eyes. Paying closer attention to the plants as they germinate and mature, as mindful gardeners we will spot early warning signs of stress or need to change the plant conditions. Too warm? Not enough light? Etc.
- KEEP PRACTISING: over the next few days, come back to the seed trays and practise your mindfulness. Notice the small changes – the seedlings breaking through the surface of the soil once germinated, and the way they are pointing towards the light source. Observe the set of true leaves it produces after the first seed leaves, the subtle differences in varieties even as young seedlings.
Basil is a winner to sow and grow indoors and keep on a windowsill in your kitchen, adding to recipes as you go.
SOW: sow seeds indoors from February onwards.
HARVEST: always harvest from the top, the more you pick from the top the bushier the basil will get.
STORE: unwashed leaves can be stored for a few days in the fridge. You can tear them up and pop them in ice cube trays with some water and freeze for several months.
TIP: of course leaves can also be dried, but fresh leaves offer much more flavour. In fact, the seeds are also edible.
COOK: MR GOOD THYMES GARDENING’S BREAD PESTO
Save odd ends of ciabatta in the freezer to replace expensive pine nuts in this Bread Pesto recipe. You’ll need a little more olive oil than usual as you’ll miss the oil from the pine nuts, but you’ll get the same great taste.
- 2 big handfuls of fresh basil leaves
- 35g ciabatta bread-crumbs
- 35g parmesan cheese
- 1 garlic clove
- 150 ml olive oil
- Pinch of salt to season
- Spaghetti or your favourite pasta shape
If storing the leftover ciabatta in the freezer, allow half an hour to defrost before putting the bread chunks into a food processor to turn into breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and whizz together. Add a little more oil if the mixture is too dry – it is that simple!
I stirred the pesto into some spaghetti, with chopped fresh cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse and mozzarella.
Wellbeing through gardening
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