Grow your Greens

Therapeutic Gardening with Sophie Lacey

Sophie of Good Thymes Gardening’s philosophy is that you don’t make mistakes in gardening – it’s simply experimenting. This month she shares her experiences of growing long stem broccoli.

Mindfulness in the garden, if practiced regularly for a few minutes at a time, can really help open up your awareness of the more-subtle changes. Your plants will tell you what is wrong or what they need. Being able to notice small changes like discolour-ation in leaves, little nibbles from pests or buds starting to form gives you the opportunity to jump in and support your plant as soon as you notice these changes.

I say this often to people who are new to gardening and are feeling nervous or perhaps a bit overwhelmed; the garden will teach you something new every day if you open yourself up to it. If you find yourself staring out at the garden not knowing where to start or trying to figure out if that plant you bought last year is dead or dormant – take it one step at a time and embrace the research process.

Researching is a rewarding activity as you get to learn a lot about what is already in your garden, and you can embed it in your planning process. What conditions does a plant like? Will they stay green all year? Will they regrow each spring? What kind of maintenance do they need etc? Some websites contain a lot of jargon, don’t be put off by words like “dioecious”, “ericaceous”, “mulching” or “scarification”. The RHS has a very helpful glossary for new gardeners: to peruse over a cup of tea and a shortbread biscuit. If you’re finding the research overwhelming the best thing to do is to get outdoors and experiment. Gardening is a proven mood-booster. Relax and enjoy the interaction with nature, become present and practise your mindfulness. Whilst I do encourage research and a bit of planning I appreciate the vast amount of information online can be conflicting: RHS will tell you to prune your rose one way, David Austin will tell you to prune it a completely different way.

There are no such things as gardening mistakes, only experiments!

Take my purple long stem broccoli as an example. It was sowed directly into the ground last spring, but having a baby meant I was not on top of regularly watering the plants that summer. Broccoli does not like hot roots, and so it bolted. Bolting is when a plant produces flowers (and ultimately seeds) because it is struggling in the conditions it is in (e.g. not enough water, or too hot), so will try to go to seed as soon as possible to ensure the next generation. Clever eh? Rather than kicking myself for neglecting my plant-babies or giving up on them entirely, after a bit of reflection and research I cut back the flowers and reduced the main stem to encourage side shoots and left it over-winter. Now we’re harvesting some delicious, fresh broccoli and the baby can’t get enough of it. Through improved awareness, patience and a bit of research, the broccoli had been saved and was well worth the wait. This summer I’ll be giving them a mulch to help retain moisture and keep roots cool if I’m struggling to get out and water the plants regularly.


This is well worth the wait and will fill the veggie beds over winter. It’s hardy so it won’t need protection and can be pretty much left over winter until harvesting the following spring.

SOW: In April, sow either indoors and transplant when a bit bigger, or sow directly outdoors but I recommend putting netting over the beds to protect them from pests. These grow very big, mine grew to about a metre high so you want to give them plenty of space in-between the plants.

HARVEST: A year later, yes a year, cut the top central broccoli spear and the plant will respond by developing the side shoots more for harvesting. You can pick these regularly off the same plant over a number of weeks.

STORE: If, after a couple of weeks, unlike my baby, you cannot stomach any more broccoli, it stores very well in the freezer.

TIP: Water them regularly to keep the roots cool. You can put a mulch of bark down to help retain moisture.

BEWARE: I kept mine organic so handpicked the caterpillars and snails off. I found it to be great daily mindfulness practice looking for butterfly eggs or sneaky camouflaged caterpillars.



  • 250g sushi rice (cooked to packet instructions)
  • 1 large, thick rump steak
  • 1 Handful of purple sprouting broccoli
  • 1 small brown onion (sliced)

Garnish: sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

Teriyaki sauce (mix all of the following in a bowl):

  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 minced clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp minced ginger


Make the sushi rice as per instructions on packet, cook and then keep it warm in the pan with the lid on before moving on. Heat a pan until hot and then add a good drizzle of oil, before adding the steak. Fry for 2 minutes each side and then add the Teriyaki sauce to the steak pan, frying for a further 3 minutes.

Remove the steak and let it rest, leaving the teriyaki sauce in the pan to reduce on a very low setting.

Add some cooking oil to another pan and start gently frying the onions and broccoli. Add a little water to help steam the broccoli. After 5 minutes add a few tbsp of the reduced teriyaki sauce and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

To serve mound the rice into a bowl and place upside down onto the serving plate. Thinly slice the steak and arrange around the rice, also adding the onions and broccoli. Drizzle the remaining teriyaki sauce over the steak. Serve with a raw egg yolk on top of the rice and garnish with sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

Good Thymes Gardening

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