Whether it's a bleak December or the more mild weather we are becoming used to, you can still spend useful time in the garden. David Coton suggests the jobs that can occupy the shortening days.
Interest in growing herbs has increased sharply over the last few years as we have turned back to nature to exploit the culinary, medicinal and aromatic properties of these plants. David Hall gives you a few tips on what herbs to choose and how to grow them.
Botanically herbs are divided into annual, perennial and shrubby varieties, and can be grown in the garden in appropriate beds.
Annuals can go among bedding plants, or sown in rows among vegetables in the kitchen garden. Perennials are at home in the herbaceous border, whilst the shrub herbs can be planted in mixed borders.
Some of the sprawling kinds can be introduced into cracks and crevices around the patio or any paved area. Alternatively a separate herb garden can be established even on a plot of land just one metre square. Here culinary herbs can be planted in the same bed as the aromatic or fragrant herbs. For convenience it is useful to site a herb garden near the house, for when fresh herbs are preferred, even in winter, it is helpful to have them near at hand. A bed near the house is often more protected than one in the open.
If you have only recently started to grow herbs it can be even easier to start off by using containers on the kitchen windowsill. They really are that adaptable!
Grown in pots outside they can be attractive specimens in their own right, and since many of the best herbs for pots are also evergreen, these captive gardens can be of interest, and use, all year round.
Always choose healthy plants to start with and plant seed in good compost, remembering that containers are prone to drying out very quickly, particularly in the sun. Keep them moist as many herbs, when dehydrated, will never recover.
Herbs in pots will also be dependent on you for liquid feeding once they have exhausted the fertiliser content from the compost.
Any list of herbs can be exhaustive, but I've selected a few, all commonly available, that are well worth growing.
Tarragon: (perennial) The aromatic leaves can be used fresh or dry to flavour omlettes, meat and fish.
Rue: (perennial) Used to reduce eye strain.
Rosemary: (shrub) Strongly aromatic, for use with all meat and poultry dishes.
Balm: (perennial) Used fresh for salads and with iced drinks.
Chamomile: (perennial) Can be used as a tea, for facial care, and in pot pourri.
Marjoram: (perennial) Cook with meats and also used for hay fever.
Feverfew: (perennial) Can be used as a tea to help migraine sufferers.
Caraway: (biennial) Use in cakes and buns and as a spice.
Lavender: (shrub) The dried flowers can be used in sweetly scented sachets for fragrance.
Although the days are short and the view from our Garden Centre is frosty and overcast, Andy Taylor suggests various jobs that can be done in the garden during the month of January.
Showcasing young musical talent, this year's Winter Concert at Arthur Terry School was an outstanding success and took place against the stunning backdrop of a Christmas Tree donated by GardenSite.
It was quite an honour for GardenSite to be asked to supply the Christmas Tree to Birmingham New Street Station this year, and to celebrate we're offering a Champagne High Tea to the winners of a seasonal selfie competition.
With Storm Caroline reeking havoc many people are likely to be contacting their insurance companies at some time regarding damage caused to sheds, greenhouses, fences and other garden property. Robert Hall explains how GardenSite.co.uk can help with an independent insurance quote and claim.