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SOLTIMES AUGUST 2010

There are nearly a thousand varieties of mint, but only six or so are worth cultivating. They are easy to grow in both shade and sun and require very little maintenance needed.

Mouthwatering Mint

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Where To Grow… Mint is very tolerant of almost all conditions, but like all plants it will grow best in certain conditions. The soil should be well-dug, fertile and water-retentive, but not water-logged. Whilst mint will grow well in full sun, it does not like dry conditions. Its preference is therefore for partial shade, and it is well suited to a North facing wall Mint is sold at most garden centres in small pots - they can be planted straight outside.

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They can be harvested for at least six months of the year when grown outside, and are superb when used to flavour meats (lamb is best known), vegetables (especially new potatoes and peas), salads, tea and jellies.

Propagation…

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Their problem is that they grow too well! If left to their own devices, they will rapidly take over your garden. Mints were used by the Greeks and Romans both for flavouring food and as a medicine.

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Mint has shallow, creeping roots which can be broken off and placed either directly in the ground or in pots containing potting compost. Because mint is such a strong-growing plant, it can easily kill nearby plants. The solution when planting outside is to sink a bottomless container, such as an old bucket, in the ground and plant the mint in this area. The roots might not be stopped 100%, but it will do the job. Another alternative is to dig a hole to a depth of 30cm (1ft) and line it with black plastic (pierced with small holes for drainage). The soil is then replaced in the black plastic and the mint planted in that area.

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Care of Mint… Mulching the soil will go a long way to keeping mint happy - it will achieve the all important job of keeping a moist root run which mint likes so much. A twice yearly feeding with bonemeal will keep it even happier. Remove the flowers by hand as soon as they appear because if left, they will reduce the amount of leaves. There is very little else to do except enjoy it. Mint suffers from only one disease and that is rust allow it to get a hold and it will kill all your mint plants. There are chemical sprays for rust, but they can often be only a part solution. The best method is to examine each plant carefully for signs of rust (orange blobs generally on the underside of the leaves) and remove any leaves affected - spray as well with a chemical if you want. If this does not remove the infection chop the plant down to ground level and burn it all - drastic, but the only cure in the late stages of rust infection.

Recommended Mint Varieties… Choosing a variety of mint is a matter of personal taste. However, for starters, shown below are a few tried and trusted varieties: Spearmint (Mentha spicata) - a traditional mint for mint sauces. A strong grower with attractive dark green leaves. Alpine Mint Bush (Prostanthera cuneata) - try something different, mint leaves with pure white flowers, a herb with true beauty. Chocolate Mint - really does taste a bit like mint chocolate! A novelty worth a try?

Harvesting Mint… Basically, cut the leaves when needed - a pair of scissors or nipping with the fingers both work well. It pays to cut the top leaves first, because this will encourage the plant to shoot out again further down the stem. Never strip the plant of all its leaves. It is possible to store the leaves in a warm place to dry, but some of the flavour goes.

Container Growing… This herb is ideally suited to container culture and will grow happily in potting compost. Attention throughout the year is minimal. Water if the compost is drying out, and feed with liquid plant food monthly throughout the growing season. Container grown plants are more likely to affected by severe frosts, so move the containers close to the house walls in colder months.

Gramp’s Veg Garden st heap! the co m po …tips fro m As I sit here having a well earned cuppa, I’m

dreaming of raspberry pie with clotted cream, an ice cold glass of Chablis, bird song, and the crack of leather on willow.

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Suddenly I’m brought back to earth by the dulcet (?) tones of ‘Er Indoors shouting “Have you finished picking the raspberries yet?” Back to work… if you are lucky enough to have autumn fruiting raspberries, now is the time to give your canes a good soaking, and I mean a REALLY good soaking; not just a can full. Then put at least 10cms of mulch around them to keep the soil moist because the sun will dry out the moisture as fast as you can put it in. I know that this is a veg page, but soft fruit is often grown in the veg plot. I also have a grape vine growing along the fence of the veg garden, courtesy of a bird, so I’m leaving it there to see what happens...there are a few grapes on it about the size of small pea!

AUGUST... If your plot is empty now, make sure it is well weeded then dig in the horse and cow manure; the older the better, but check for those CHAFER grubs! Now is the time for the seed bed to be prepared. Select a patch, preferably with a bit of shade at midday. Rake the soil to a fine tilth, make a depression (drill) and water. Sow seeds in moist drill then cover with fine dry soil. Using a watering can with a fine rose, keep the seedlings damp and shady until they are strong enough to look after themselves. Seeds suitable for planting now are:- cabbage, leeks, lettuce, onions, caulis, broccoli etc, NOT carrots as it’s still too hot for them. Seed potatoes are not available yet but look out for sprouting potatoes in the veg market Plant a few plugs of lettuce for those summer salads, and keep the tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers well watered. Keep an eye open for wasp nests amongst pots or near water butts.

GOLDEN RULES TO REMEMBER

Keep those weeds down, and don’t let the plants dry out. Wear your hat, drink plenty of water and take regular breaks

Happy Gardening! ‘Til Next Month, GRAMPS

Sol Times Newspaper Issue 249 Roquetas Edition  

Sol Times Newspaper Issue 249 Roquetas Edition

Sol Times Newspaper Issue 249 Roquetas Edition  

Sol Times Newspaper Issue 249 Roquetas Edition

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