Fresh herbs. Salads. Two of my favourite things at any time of the year. I use herbs in everything. They add flavour and contain trace elements and minerals we need. Thyme, for example, contains a compound the brain finds particularly nourishing and which isn't found in any other foods.
Salads, I live on these in the summer. I like to make a big bowl up at the start of the day, and have it there to nibble away at throughout the day. Just with a simple dressing. A spoon of olive oil with a teaspoon of lemon juice is my favourite. It stops the leaves from curling up as well.
So, why not grow your own rather than buying them from the shops? Which is why when the Stewart Company asked if we'd like to see their new products, The Kitchen Garden Propagator Set and the self watering Herb Pot I said yes.
I gave them to PlayPennies mum of three Linda to test out. Read on below to find out how she got on, in her own words.
The Kitchen Garden Propagator
I'm not a great gardener. We have a garden but I don't really know what to do with it. Generally plants I put in there die, unless they're really hardy. So it looks pretty much as it did when we moved in 15 years ago.
The Kitchen Garden Propagator (which you can buy from Plant Me Now for £9.95) comes with a 67cm long tray, two 22cm propagator trays, and five little flower pots. You put gravel in the tray that the propagators and pots sit on.The compost and seeds go in trays and pots. All of that you have to buy yourself though, they don't come with the set!
This setup makes it quite nice and tidy, and while it was a little large to fit comfortably along the window ledge in our kitchen, it was easy to slip it into a sunny but sheltered corner of the conservatory.
This was necessary as the box says you need temperatures of 15 to 21 degrees to germinate. We've put in tomato, and carrot seeds so far. I'm looking at some other types of vegetables to plant. I just need to find out when the best time to plant them is. Did I say I know nothing about growing plants?
What I liked was the practical and simple advice given on the instructions on the box for this. Such as sprinkling water gently if the surface of the compost is drying. I suspect now that over watering was the reason why I've failed to grow plants in the past.
They sent me a third, separate propagator tray. I could just about squeeze it onto the tray with the other two. But it didn't really fit three propagators, with one slightly on a tilt it wasn't really ideal. It would have been nice if they did fit, so you had the option of three propagators or the flower pots. I haven't used the flower pots yet. I think I will put herbs in them, but I'm worried it is still a little bit cold even in the conservatory.
The propagators seem to be working well, even though the weather hasn't really warmed up a lot yet. I already have a few green shoots peeking through. I'm worried though that by now I should have a lot more!
The self watering Herb Pot (which can be found at Veg Growers for £9.99) is pretty much a necessity for me I think!. I'm really excited about this as I love fresh herbs but always kill any I try to keep on the window ledge in the kitchen.
I am wondering now, after my experience with the Kitchen Garden, whether in fact it is over watering that is my problem.
Despite the name, you do actually have to put some water in it! Unfortunately it doesn't turn the tap on and pour the water in itself. Maybe one day.
I liked that this is an attractive pot, and looks a lot nicer in my kitchen than a standard brown pot sitting on a saucer. There are four compartments that can be picked up and taken out individually. So you can grow four herbs in there, with their own soils, and replace as necessary without disturbing the others.
You pour half a litre of water into the central reservoir while the pots are out. There is a capillary mat in there, which is the key to the self watering system. You can then keep this topped up by pouring water down the middle of the column. Overflow goes into the tray beneath the pots. So there's no chance of flooding the pots unless you put a heck of a lot of water in there!
The pots then soak up the water the plants need, and you're sorted. Right now I have basil, thyme and sage in there. I bought these from the supermarket. The herb pot contains very clear and practical instructions for transferring these plants to the pots, so I am fairly confident that they will do well. It has been two weeks now, and they aren't dying yet!
And Finally ...
For less than a tenner I would say that these are good value. I am not keen on the white of the herb pot, I seem to spend a lot of time cleaning that. But it does look very fresh on my window ledge. The Kitchen Garden Set isn't exactly a design classic. I would have liked it to have had something less of a potting shed look to it, as I have to keep it in my conservatory at the moment.
But it does keep everything tidily together, and will make it easy to put the propagators outside when the weather gets warmer.
The important thing is that I know now I can grow plants. It is just a matter of having the right equipment, and importantly, the right knowledge. I think having the basic, simple instructions included with the sets has made a huge difference for me.