Basil Fawlty

Many years ago I tried growing basil from seed, for some reason it never germinated, I gave in and put it down as ‘one of those things I can’t grow’. Every once in a while I’d buy a basil plant from the supermarket, when nibbled raw I’d always be hit with disappointment that the bland faint flavour never matched it’s tempting smell, when cooked any morsel of flavour would vanish, so I just viewed basil as a waste of time and never understood its hype.

This year I was given a selection of herb seeds, one of which was basil. Not being one to neglect a packet of seeds I sprinkled them in compost and to my surprise they all quickly germinated.

Basil seedlingsBasil seedlings

I planted the baby basil out under the tomato plants in the green house, using the companion planting theory. Tomatoes and basil share nutrients enhancing each others flavour, the smell from the basil also helps confuse insects seeking tomatoes to eat. Well it worked a treat; we’ve had an enormous and delicious crop of tomatoes. The basil aroma is divine and to my amazement surpassed by the incredible full flavour it has raw and cooked. It’s a herb revelation; I finally understand why the Italians can’t cook without it and friends who have grown it for years are evangelical when discussing their basil crop. The essential key is to grow your own basil, never waste your money on the fake imitation supermarket plants.

BasilBasil under a tomato plant

Tomato and basil saladHome grown tomato and basil salad, a fabulous combination

Regular readers and friends have no doubt guessed the title of this posting is the husbands wit; sometimes he needs to be humoured!

The kitchen garden in May

May is ending on a wet note. I’m not complaining, the weather this month has generally been good, friends have even commented on my gardening suntan. The newly planted dahlias have been looking a bit limp and in need of a good water. The dahlia bed is not linked to a watering system; past experience has proved that dahlias can survive a fairly dry summer. When first planted out they do need regular watering to give them time to establish. So this wet end to the month has come at the right time. I have finished constructing the frames in the dahlia bed. This structure gives the dahlias support as they grow. A strong wind can easily snap dahlia stems at the base restricting dahlia produce for the year.

Dahlia bed with frameThe dahlia bed with the completed frame to support the dahlias

 My herb bed which I planted outside the kitchen door last year is flourishing, the chives and thyme are both in flower and looking stunning. I will cut the chives back hard as the flowers go over, this will produce lots of new fresh growth and stop the flowers setting seed, leaving me with chive weeds everywhere. Once the Thyme has finished flowering I will lightly prune this, stimulating new fresh growth to crop for the kitchen.

Thyme in flowerThyme in flower

Chives in flowerChives in flower

 My Broad bean plants are well over 4 feet high, laden with flowers and at last I have some miniature bean pods developing at the bottom of the plants. Hopefully I’ll only have to wait another couple of weeks to savour this produce from the garden. I have spotted today that black fly have discovered the fresh luscious top shoots of the broad bean plants. It’s now time to cut off the tips, taking away the temptation for the black fly, who if allowed will heavily infest the plant resulting in poor pod formation.

Black fly on broad bean tipsBlack fly on the broad bean tips

 We had our first dish of turnips this month. Once they reach golf ball size they’re ready for the kitchen. I simply steamed the turnips until tender. Cut them into 1cm sized cubes and finished them off in pan with melted butter and a selection of fresh herbs presented to me by my eldest, a handful of marjoram and thyme. They were delicious and got thumbs up from the whole family.


The greenhouse has thrived this month, we have lots of green tomatoes, a tomatillo forming, mini cucumbers and lots of basil, a companion plant for the tomatoes, the basil helps repel whitefly, mosquitoes, spider mites and aphids, it improves tomato health and flavour.

TomatilloTomatillo ripening

Tomatillo flowersTomatillo flowers

Green tomatoesGreen tomatoes

We’ve started to crop our perpetual spinach; this really is a kitchen garden essential. I only put last years plants on the compost heap last month. There aren’t many vegetables that provide produce 11 months of the year. The shallots which I sowed in modules and planted out without separating individual plants are doing really well; they seem to be spreading out making space for themselves. This is a great time saving tip for growing shallots from seed.

Shallots and SpinachShallots and perpetual spinach