Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

The Date is set for the London Permaculture Festival, again being held at the Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London on Sunday the 29th of July, 2018.

LPF 2018 Banner

Every year that I go to this event they do make the effort to change things around to keep it interesting, I highly recommend this for anyone especially families alike, if you are into permaculture and live somewhere far, this is still worthwhile to go to as before or after the event you can still mosey over to Camden Market for a stroll around or for some food before you decide to head on home. The venue is a mere 5 or so minute’s walk from the Regents Canal, the Zoo and also Regents Park and about 10 min’s walk from Camden High Road and main Underground Station.

With Highlights such as the Rare Edible Plant Nursery Edulis (They offer pre-order where you can organise your plants to be delivered for collection at the event), otherwise the stock at the event itself is good with many many various useful varieties of edible, medicinal plants, Herbs, Nitrogen fixers and more! It is a very family friendly event, there is the Permaculture Media / Permanent Publications bookstand, hand baked cakes / pastries including for vegan diet etc. Not to forget the many various Workshops and Skill share trainings you can attend (there is always a Workshop Schedule posted before the event and posters available on the walls around the event so you can choose which ones you will be attending). One particular attraction that toddlers and even older kids love is the Critter Hunt in the garden where bugs, arachnids and insects are placed in magnified viewing containers around the garden for kids to find and view, there’s face painting, storytelling and bottle cap construction too!

The following are links to info on previous events:

Lon Perm Fest 2015   –   Lon Perm Fest 2016   –   Lon Perm Fest 2017

What was on in 2017?

London Permaculture Festival Homepage.



One of the best ways to obtain a stock of Perennial Herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano etc. from what I know is to pass by near the Vegetable section of a large Sainsbury’s Supermarket (Found on a metal shelf at the end of one of the aisles).

As long as you are okay with the idea that these plants are not of Organic cultivated stock and have likely been fed with a Chemical Fertiliser of sort, that this is a great way to save some money and increase your herb variety if you cannot or will not want to wait for seedlings to become decently sized.

They sell these in potted form and if I remember correctly, I got a Rosemary and Thyme for only £1 each which is a little more than buying a pack of freshly cut spigs! As Sainsburys is not actually my regular shop, I cannot say what other stock they have and which season they sell them in, my purchase was a last minute effort just before I finished my Herb Spiral on my allotment and my large Herb Planter at home in my kitchen garden. So far all of the plants purchased are still surviving and look healthy.

Cheap Herbs Sains.jpg

Cheap / Decent Sized Perennial Herbs – £1 per pot!

As always, I like to encourage my followers or any visitors to try go from a mainly intensive annual crop production to a more relaxed approach which includes loads of Perennials, a system like this gives you more free time and could help you to produce a better Annual crop due to the fact that you can spend a little more time on them.

Starting off with Herbs is a great way to start up on a Perennial approach, species such as Terragon, Chinese Chives, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme to name the most common are quite cold hardy and will live for more than two years. Most of those mentioned are very nice in herbal teas which have healing properties, they have more than one function other than for flavourful cooking!

Don’t get too hasty if you see a plant that seems to have died off, some plants such as the Terragon, Chives and Oregano will die off above the soil but new shoots will emerge from the soil in Spring!

To add to the above, I would recommend to plant the following in order to be able to create or at last add to salads during the summer months; French as well as Red-Veined Sorrel, Red Valerian (a common ornamental plant whose leaves are edible – not so great on their own but nice as a sandwich filler or added in a salad), Salad Burnet, Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle – another very common ornamental – young leaves in a salad), Cedum (Ice Plant – quite common ornamental, also in salad) < All three of the latter mentioned Ornamentals are quite drought tolerant once established! The final one which I have yet to plant / try is Hablitzia taminoides, another salad plant which is said by Mandy at Incredible Vegetables to be happy growing in a shady corner in ones garden.

For those of you in the Tropics / Sub-Tropics where either all of most of the above-mentioned species will not grow well, please refer to the Plants For A Future Database if you would like to research Perennial Herbs and edible / medicinal plants suited to your climate and soil conditions etc.

Nature provides! I say no more, well I still have to give you all the basic recipe for this natural Immune System Booster.

At the moment, Elderberries (‘Sambucus nigra‘) are still available on most Elder trees (pay attention to trees that are mostly in shaded areas or situated behind / under larger shrub or trees as these will bare berries a little later or / the berries will take a bit longer to spoil).


I emphasise on the importance in obtaining Fresh berries as opposed to buying dried berries online, buying online should be a last resort only if you have actually made the effort in trying to locate the Trees and found none or if you live in a highly polluted area…

The steps are really simple and this syrup can be made into many different recipes for various Medicinal Benefits, here however, I am giving the very basic recipe and you can then go ahead to try different herbs / spices to make different batches for the Flu / Cold season.

What’s needed:

  • Harvested Elderberries that are enough to make Two Cups of loose berries (I recommend you pick a lot and freeze he rest but please, remember to leave some for birds and other wildlife),
  • Water (2x Cups),
  • Local Honey (One Jar per 2 cups of berries),
  • Muslin cloth or bags,
  • Optional: Cloves, Ginger, Thyme, Cinnamon sticks etc. for more advanced medicines


  • Place the Two Cups of Elderberries in a Saucepan / Pot together with the Two Cups of water and a cinnamon stick, then boil,
  • Once Boiling, lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to around half the original volume,
  • Pour into a heat resistant container and let cool down to room temperature ( a measuring container might be best for your first time),
  • Once cool, pour the mixture through a Muslin cloth or bag into a new container, lift out the cloth / bag and give it a good squeeze to release extra juices,
  • Add the same amount of Local Honey as your leftover liquid so for example, if you had 350ml of the juice after it cooled down, then add 350ml of Local Honey and mix well,
  • Place into clean sterilised jars (I Highly recommend the Washing and Oven method)
sambucus nigra

‘Sambucus nigra’ – Ripe Elderberries

This recipe is to boost the immune system for the flu and cold months and needs to be placed in the fridge / freezer immediately.


  • Take one spoonful every morning during or near the flu season, increase to three times per day if you feel flu or a cold coming on.

In the fridge this should last 3-4 months only so I reccommend actually making a large batch (4x cups of Elderberries makes around 3 standard jam / honey jars with some leftover) and freezing the rest to keep aside for closer to December onwards.

One good idea I have seen is to pour them into ice trays for freezing, you can then remove a few cubes for your own use anytime between or before December!

elderberry syrup

Elderberry ‘Sambucus nigra’ Syrup, medicinal recipe


Today whilst trying to get a list of Perennial Herbs which are good in most Temperate Climates (mainly for the UK climate due to locality) I came across this extensive list that is short in descriptions, to the point and advises whether the plant is annual, biennial or perennial.


I’m just sharing the link below for anyone interested, their organisation has morals too, they have a pledge to be 100% peat free in their business – take a quick read on the peat free page, it is quite interesting and might make you think twice when buying compost again. This list is a great reference you could use to decide which herbs to obtain, further research for each plant’s specific requirements is likely to be needed once you have selected species and varieties.


I came across this festival via a pamphlet I got at the London Permaculture Festival last week and decided to help promote it, unfortunately the date of the event is just next week and is far too late for me to be able to even attampt to attend. I will now hopefully be able to book it for next year if possible …

This years event will be held between Thursday 10th to Saturday 13th of August 2017 and you can still book tickets on their website.

o g f 2017 ao g f 2017

Watching the video (3.5 mins long) this is definitely an event which is worthwhile to go to, I’m sadly going to miss the opportunity this year, it looks excellent especially for kids!

For those who are unable to watch the video or stream it for some reason, the following are some of the events and things to do at the festival based on last year’s video:

  • Archery,
  • Off Grid College,
  • Crafts and Tech area,
  • Well Being Area,
  • The Wildwood,
  • Off Grid Kids Area,
  • Live Music Barn,
  • Eco Build Demos
  • Organic Food and Drink,
  • Family Camping.

Another World Is Possible

Off Grid Festival Website (Click Here).

Other courses / talks on offer are:

New Economy – Permaculture – Eco-Build – 12v Technology (solar / wind power) – Bushcraft – Growing Food – Low-Impact Living – Land – Social Enterprise – Community Housing – Energy – Forest School – Conflict Resolution – Foraging & Wild Medicine – Yoga – Dance & Meditaion

Honestly, I’m contemplating faking a semi serious illness to get off from work now …. 🙂


I have been meaning to do this for ages and here it finally is, I have a dedicated page with a calendar for seed sowing and planting.
Click Here to jump straight to it, but keep in mind it is a page tab at the top of the screen near the ”About Growingarden” tab.


Soon I will update the other months such as March onwards so you can order your seeds in advance and also prepare / think how you would like to arrange your garden design this year.
Keep in mind, newer concepts like Companion Planting, Planting for wildlife especially Pollinators etc. Some herbs are pungeant, they release off strong odours which repel and confuse pests.

Remember, to keep things interesting, think what did not work so well last year and apply one of the Permaculture Principles ”The Problem is the Solution”- in other words you can fix a problem by turning it into a solution and working with it instead of against.
For an off -the-head example: If you have had problems with slugs and no matter what you do, their numbers never drop and the population keeps staying high, get a duck or two! Ducks love them and you will be introducing a pest controller into your system which will produce eggs and even meat if you wish, lets not forget they also have a built in rear compost spreader as well! 😉

This Seasonal Growing Calendar is only valid for Cold Weather  / Temperate Climates such as in the Northern Hemisphere / Europe/UK where frosts are expected during winter.


Another Plant which I cannot see myself ever doing without unless moving to a climate which it cannot thrive in is the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ (there are a few varieties). My obsession with these came when I snapped a photo of one flower head which had around 9 or so bees on it alone!


The plant has a pleasant ‘Silver Tone’ effect which covers Greys and Silvers in an ornamental bed (Perennials)


Multiple Flower Heads ‘Cynara cardunculus’

A friend of mine says that his Grandparents in the past, used to cook  the young shoots in a type of stew / broth recipe in the South of France.
There is the famous ‘Globe Artichoke’ which is edible and the varieties I am mainly focusing on here which do not produce edible flower heads such as the latter, but are great for Bees and Pollinators.
The plants are Perennial and once established should last years, in colder Temperate regions these Herbaceous plants will die down in a cold Winter and re-sprout in Spring. I am classing the Ornamental Artichoke ‘Cynara Cardunculus’ as Semi / Beneficial with the Edible ‘Globe Artichoke’ Variety as a good Beneficial Plant (Multiple Uses / Purposes) in a Sustainable / Permaculture System (Edible parts, good Cash Crop if grown in bulk, Perennial, Medicinal uses as described below and Pollinator attractant / forage plant. Another point is the leaves produce good green waste for composting and the tall woody stems you will chop down in Winter are great biomass, can be used as canes, in Hugel Mounds / Hugelkultur etc.)



Bees Love the Artichoke Plant ‘Cynara cardunculus’

The plants are used medicinally and the following is taken from WebMD:

” Artichoke is a plant. The leaf, stem, and root are used to make “extracts” which contain a high concentration of certain chemicals found in the plant. These extracts are used as medicine.

Artichoke is used to stimulate the flow of bile from the liver, and this is thought to help reduce the symptoms of heartburn and alcohol “hangover.” Artichoke is also used for high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), kidney problems, anemia, fluid retention (edema), arthritis, bladder infections, and liver problems.

Some people use artichoke for treating snakebites, preventing gallstones, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar; to increase urine flow; and as a tonic or stimulant.

In foods, artichoke leaves and extracts are used to flavor beverages. Cynarin and chlorogenic acid, which are chemicals found in artichoke, are sometimes used as sweeteners.

Don’t confuse artichoke with Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus).

How does it work?

Artichoke has chemicals that can reduce nausea and vomiting, spasms, and intestinal gas. These chemicals have also been shown to lower cholesterol. ”



‘Cynara cardunculus’ grown commercially

The plants can be propagated by root division, take an established plant in dormancy (Winter / end of Winter towards Spring), using a spade, you will merely slice into the center of the root crown and dig around this newly sliced section, taking as much of the root with you as possible with soil to transplant to a nursing bed or in its final location. A layer of mulch is always a good idea once placed as protection from frost to ensure survival of the new plant.

Growing a couple of these plants in your garden together with other local / native as well as non native Bee Friendly plants will be very helpful for our Bee friends as an important food supply, ensure you study the different flowering times so that you can ensure that you alway have a plant or two supplying them with pollen and nectar most of the year round. You can even place one plant in a semi / shaded spot and this plant will flower later on, its flowers will still be going when the other plant has already finished its flushes.