What an interesting year! Sadly COVID-19 is still with us but, with vaccines and lateral flow tests, there is hope that there will soon be some form of normality. We wish you all a safe an enjoyable start to 2022.
Regardless of everything going on, Herbs have continued to grow. Herbs provide both flavour and colour to our gardens as well as homes and food for numerous insects and birds. Throughout the last couple of years, gardens, patios and balconies have been a vital escape and place for improving your health and well-being. Whether as a place to sit or do something physical through digging, planting or clearing, gardens are now, and will always be, an essential part of life.
Check out Jekka’s blog on The health and well-being of gardening & horticulture.
Do you remember the beginning of the year? It was very cold and we had that cold wind that caused havoc in Jekka’s Herbetum and possibly to your herb garden. It damaged both Rosemarys and Myrtles alike.
Jekka showed you that you could save both by careful pruning and highlighted the fact that Myrtle will shoot off old wood allowing you to prune Myrtle hard back as it will reshoot. Rosemary, on the other hand, being part of the Lamiaceae family, can only be cut back into the green (a live wood).
You can check out the pruning videos online here: Jekka’s Guide to Pruning.
With a bumpy start to our Open Days due to the odd (and, we believe, unnecessary) restriction of nurserys not being allowed to open, our first open days were delayed until the middle of April. Thankfully they were very well attended with many wheel barrows of herbs going out the gate. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces after a difficult start to the year. Our first open days in 2022 (all being well) will be the Friday 1st April & Saturday 2nd April 2022 (see our Events Calendar for dates).
In Spring, we also started sending our culinary herb collection boxes with colourful and perennial Easter collections. Jekka’s Herb Box Collections come with grow guides, recipes and information cards. We love hearing about our herb boxes after they have left the farm and are very grateful for everyone who has brought a herb box through the year. Sign-up to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram to be notified of next year’s collections.
Probably Jekka’s biggest achievement, or the thing she is most proud of this year, is cracking the propagation of Curry Trees. We plan to have these on sale in the Spring of 2022. We already have a massive waiting list, thank you for all the interest, and will be contacting people in the new year when they are ready (fingers crossed for a favourable Spring!). For more information on the Curry Tree and to understand why there is so much interest, please read Jekka’s new blog: All about herbs: Curry Tree, Bergera koenigii
Jekka also enjoyed her visit to Charles Dowding vegetable garden and new herb garden that was planted with Jekka’s herbs. We learnt all about Charles’ no dig philosophy and left with an extremely tasty bag of salad leaves. Watch the video of Charles and Jekka discussing herbs in Jekka’s How to Grow Herb Guide.
The biggest highlight for us in 2021 was running our first ever Jekka’s HerbFest in July. This 3-day event was filled with cookery demonstrations, talks, Jekka’s Herbetum bee tours, music and herbs, set around the farm and Jekka's Herbetum. We had Chefs, Garden Designers, Food writers, Herbalists & Garden Experts all sharing their passion for growing and using herbs. Our 2021 Speakers & demonstrators were:
Chris Collins, Mark Diacono, Charles Dowding, Kate Durr, Josh Eggleton, Romy Gill, Rob Howell, Simon Mills, Sally Nex, Alex Noble, Nathan Outlaw, Barbara Segall, Naomi Slade, Jo Thompson, Tamsin Westhorpe, Jean Vernon & Jekka McVicar.
We were pleased to have our friends from the National Institute of Medical Herbalists at Jekka’s HerbFest. They had a tent and were making herb tisanes as well as giving informal consultations. We look forward to continuing our collaboration in 2022.
We also received some lovely messages about the event:
"Thank you for such a great experience at Jekka's HerbFest today. A lovely, friendly atmosphere, great talks, delicious food and wonderful plants and memories to bring home."
– A. Mant, Surrey
Check out our www.jekkasherbfest.com for pictures from the event and pencil in the first weekend in July 2023 for the next one.
Throughout 2021, Jekka continued her partnership with Riverstone who provide high quality retirement living in the heart of London. Jekka is creating the herb gardens at Riverstone that residents can enjoy in their entirety. Following Jekka’s philosophy for herb garden design, friends, children and grandchildren will be able to pick herbs, enjoy the space and, most importantly, make it their own. We are very excited about this project and looking forward to seeing it grow next year.
In the Summer, Jekka visited Riverstone and ran a Herb discussion on the ‘Spice of Life with herbs’. If you are interested in growing herbs as house plants, please check out our blog: Jekka's top 10 herbs as houseplants.
We were delighted to finally be able to hold Jekka's Master Classes in the Autumn of 2021 that were postponed and rescheduled from the beginning of 2020. We ran Jekka’s popular Garden Design Master Class as well as Master Classes on How to Use Herbs and Botanical Screenprinting.
The Autumn also saw our first Friends of Jekka’s Master Classes on Spice and Fermentation. The ‘Alchemy of Spice’ was run by Kumud Gandhi and covered the journey of spice and explored both their culinary and medicinal uses. Attendees also made a number of delicious dishes to take home including butternut squash and chickpea tagine, Lebanese kibbeh and caponata. Read Jekka's Blog by Kumud on the "The Alchemy of Food"..
This was followed by Mark Diacono who ran his fermentation course on the back of his acclaimed book Sour. This was a very informative master class where attendees learnt about the different types of ferments as well as making sauerkraut and Giardiniera to take home.
In the Autumn as the climate change talks approached, we focused on the sustainability of the farm and revisited the blogs we had previously written on our environmental approach, sustainable gardening tips, organic gardening and rewilding. Our sustainable gardening approach, as well as the great biodiversity on the herb farm, was highlighted recently in Alan Tichmarsh’s series ‘Love your weekend’ on ITV (available to watch online, links on Jekka's Press Page).
In our spare time, we wrote and published a New Jekka’s 2022 Herb Calendar, which is a celebration of herbs throughout the year. Jekka’s Herb Calendar is full of beautiful pictures taken by Jekka of Jekka’s Herb Farm, Jekka’s Herbetum or culinary & medicinal herbs at that time of year. In each month, we highlight a Herb, provide Jekka’s top tips and give you some handy advice on what to do to ensure your herbs always look their best and bring both colour to your garden and flavour to your kitchen. Throughout Jekka’s Herb Calendar, you can also simply scan the QR codes to be taken to the relevant page on our website for more information.
Winter is often seen as the quiet time in the garden as plants go into hibernation and the cold weather sets in. For any nursery or herb farm, this is not the case as this is the time to prepare and propagate for the next season. We recently covered a number of activities for the winter months in our November Newsletter but we also do the final seed harvesting and start cleaning as well as dividing and propagating mint.
We started Christmas Charity Open Days last year, and this year we ran our second for St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots program. Thank you for everyone that came and provided support. We are delighted to have raised over £1200 for St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots this year. It was also wonderful to have Jekka’s Christmas Carol sang by the Avon Harmony A Cappella Chorus (watch it now on Instagram or see the Carol in Jekka’s 12 Herbs for Christmas blog).
What 2022 will bring in terms of COVID-19, lockdowns, climate change and potentially something new, no one really knows. Therefore, we encourage you to live sustainably and grow herbs wherever you can. We look forward to welcoming you back to the herb farm in 2022.
Happy Herbs from all at Jekka’s