Les’s Patch: Herb garden in mint condition

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For a really attractive herb garden choose the coloured or variegated versions of the common herbs.

Mint comes in purple, white striped or yellow striped.

Sage can be grey, purple-yellow striped or purple and green striped.

Thyme and rosemary both come in variegated forms and they all have a slightly different taste.

To make an attractive miniature herb garden lay four decorative concrete screen blocks on the soil, fill the gaps with compost and plant a herb in each hole.

When sage plants grow leggy, propagate new plants by covering the old plant with a mound of earth leaving just the tips showing.

Each branch will produce roots in a couple of months and can be cut off and planted.

For a low maintenance garden make hedges of evenly growing shrubs which can be clipped just once a year to retain their shape.

Choose Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya Ternata), Viburnum (v Tinus), Firethorn (Pyracantha) or one of the bush roses which have attractive hops after flowering.

If choosing evergreens include some variegated forms as too many dark greens can be depressing in the winter.

Cover bare ground with mulches and say goodbye to weeding.

Use light-coloured bark chippings or even light coloured stone chippings. These cut the work down as well as look bright on the dullest of days.

To provide a support for a tall pot plant, straighten out a wire coat hanger, bend one end into a spiral or loop, push the straight end through the hole in the bottom of the pot and sit the pot on the spiral before adding compost and the plant.

If cracks appear in your lawn in dry weather brush sharp sand into the cracks.

This will improve both the appearance and the drainage, since the problem is caused by high clay content in the soil.

For a more permanent solution spike the lawn in autumn and top dress it with a mixture of peat and sand.

I know I have mentioned sowing winter vegetables previously, but traditionally November is the time to sow peas and broad beans.

They should be ready for harvesting from May, somewhat earlier than spring sown crops.

Aquadulce is the variety of broad bean normally used for autumn sowings, but I have seen the variety Sutton used at this time and it did very well.

Over wintered broad bean sowings are at risk from severe weather and fungal rots the seed and seedlings, so it is worth sowing a few spares at the side of the row just in case of failures.

For peas use hardy, round seed varieties such as Feltham First or Oregon Sugarpod.

Be mindful of mice eating the seeds and pigeons taking seedlings.

To control mice set mousetraps.

Placing these under some sort of cover will prevent birds from being snared accidentally.

You can protect the plants from birds by covering them with fleece or netting.

Peas will need the support of sticks or netting which should be put in place at the time of sowing.

Select ground that has been manured for a previous crop. Fork and rake over.

If the ground is poor add a light dressing of blood, fish and bone.

Sow broad beans in double staggered rows at eight to 10 inch (20-25cm) intervals in rows of 24-36 inches (60-90cm) apart.

Sow peas in a double row, at two inch (5cm) intervals in rows four to eight inches (10-20cm) apart.

Sow both the beans and peas at a depth of about two inches (5cm).

Tips

*You can easily sow seeds singly by using a dampened end of a matchstick.

*Cut flowers don’t last very long if they are in the same room as a bowl of fruit. The gas ethylene, which fruits give off as they ripen, will fade cut flowers very quickly. Bananas are the worst culprit and will see off a whole vase of flowers overnight.

*A fence post will last a lot longer in the ground before it rots if the bottom 18 inches (46cm) is soaked in old engine oil for a few days. The end should then be wrapped in clingfilm before concreting into the ground. A bit of effort but this can add years to the life of the post.