There is an increasing pressure for us to modify our familiar gardening habits for more environmentally-friendly practises. It is difficult knowing what’s best for your plants – the weed killer or pesticide spray can be very tempting. However, there are a few tricks you can try at home before reaching for the spray bottle…put it down for now and bear with me:
Mulching will suppress weeds
This is just a fancy term for covering the soil, whether you use compost, bark or straw. What you use will depend on what you’re trying to achieve, perhaps improved drainage or a nice thick layer to tuck the more tender plants away for winter. The best part is that it will reduce the amount of sunlight going to little weed seedlings.
Don’t be afraid of a good hoe
Hoeing cuts the top off weeds from their roots; it can be done very quickly over a bed regularly (even weekly) and saves meticulously digging out each individual weed – a tedious task for smaller seedlings. You can leave the ‘hoed’ weeds on the plant bed as they will usually crisp and die in the sun.
Air circulation is important between plants, not enough air circulation and spacing can encour-age disease and fungus. Cutting back plants to maintain a good size or keeping beds weeded helps air flow!
Up, up and away
You don’t need grass or to create big plant beds to introduce greenery to your garden. Containers and creating vertical plantable spaces can be fun and a creative way of bring-ing nature to a smaller or concreted over garden.
No dig gardening
The idea is to minimize soil disturbance, layer-ing mulches on top rather than digging them in. It’s better for the soil; it’s better for your back and reduces the need to weed. Research also suggests no dig gardens suffer little slug damage!
Companion planting can be effective for deterring pests, attracting natural predators, attracting pollinators or distracting pests elsewhere (like a sacrificial plant). Use this power wisely! For instance, attracting lady-birds will benefit your garden as they eat hundreds of aphids in their lifetimes.
Mindfulness in the garden will help you become more aware of the subtle changes and earlier signs of pest infestations or diseases taking hold. Early intervention can be quite effective, allowing you to plan and initiate your counter-attack without resorting to non-selective harsh chemicals.
Our broad beans in the kitchen garden were planted for Mr GTG and positioned to create some shade across the plant bed where the brassicas are growing (pic right). However, they have been overrun with aphids, an insect apocalypse. There is a small ant’s nest nearby, who are not-so-kindly farming the aphids across the beans. It is fascinating, but I would prefer it if they stopped. I am pleased to report however that there are benefits to the aphids being localised to the broad beans, as they don’t appear to be anywhere else. Sacrificing the broad beans is keeping the many other fruit shrubs, vegetable plants, flowers and herbs in the kitchen garden aphid-free, sorry Mr GTG. Dislodging them with water every so often keeps numbers at bay, you could gently wipe them off with a cloth, but I enjoy blasting them off. A garlic oil and washing up liquid mix with some water in spray bottles also discourages them from the plants. It means the beans are safe to handle and eat and pollinators aren’t being deterred from the garden or killed – remember those pesticides are often non-selective!
SOW: Now is a great time to plan autumn sowing plants. A number of broad bean varieties are hardy enough to tolerate our winters, which will give you a head-start on next year’s growing season. Over time you can add a horticultural fleece to take the edge off the cold in winter. You can use canes to support bean stems, tying string in between canes around the stems to stop them waving around.
HARVEST: Flowers will form pods once pollinated, give them a gentle squeeze to help judge the size of the beans tucked away before harvesting.
STORE: Broad beans can be frozen but need to be blanched first.
COOK: Mr GTG’s VEGAN JAMBALAYA
Jambalaya is a dish of West African, French and Spanish origin, and a staple in Louisiana. Jambalaya usually combines rice slowly cooked in stock with meat, seafood and the ‘Holy Cajun Trinity’ of onions, celery and bell peppers. This is a vegan version and you’re encouraged to get as much of your home-grown veg in a possible.
- 400g long grain rice
- 3 bell peppers (diced)
- 2 medium brown onions (diced)
- 50g broad beans
- 4 sticks of celery (diced)
- 6 Wicked Vegan chorizo sausages
- 250g firm block of tofu (drained and diced)
- 800g vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp thyme
- Large bunch of fresh parsley finely chopped
- Optional: 1 tbsp Japanese seaweed (chopped nori or aionori)
METHOD: Rinse the rice once in cold water – we want to remove some, but not all of the starch. With the Wicked Vegan Chorizo sausages, I find that gently frying them whole for 5 minutes makes them easier to slice into thick coin shapes to be tossed into the jambalaya later.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive or rapeseed oil in a large, deep pan and then add the onions, bell peppers and celery. Fry on a medium heat for about 10-15 minutes until nicely browned. Add the vegan chorizo and tofu with the paprika, cayenne and thyme. Fry for another 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir in the pan for a minute to pick up all the flavours from the pan and then add in all of the stock (we don’t need to add it bit by bit like risotto).
Add the broad beans, half of the parsley and the Japanese seaweed (if using it). Cover the pan with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the stock has been absorbed (there should be a little stock left that will have thickened and absorbed lots of the flavours). Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve (4 servings).
TIP: if you have leftovers (on purpose of course) Jambalaya is great replacement for rice in burritos.
Good Thymes Gardening – Wellbeing through gardening
M: 07964 182453 W: www.goodthymesgardening.com