First things first: the sowing of seeds is proceeding full steam ahead, so this week has seen “Cupidon” green beans going into raised bed 4, with more in a pot as back-up in case they don’t germinate well in the beds. In addition, I’ve sown two rows of Thomson & Morgan “Moneta” beetroot in RB 1.
It seems I forgot to order heritage beetroot, or any other beetroot seeds, while in London, so I’m using up a packet from last spring, before I did a re-think of what seeds I use in the garden.
I’ve also transplanted into RB 1 a celery seedling that popped up in the lawn, offspring of celery that had in turn removed itself to a flower border some distance from the mother plant: The original migration takes us back a few generations. It’s hard to keep up with migrating plants.
And now we are at last cutting the hedge down to size – I mean really down, probably no more than half the height it used to be, while stripping out vast amounts of deadwood to boot – I am rearranging the border along the back of the garden. The aim is to create a dense cover of rosemary and basil at medium height (wish on! When I last checked, one basil was at the top of the hedge, i.e. 6-7 feet high), with room for calendula and small herbs at the front of the border.
The fun thing is that every rosemary we have in the garden is a cutting from one mother plant situated at a corner of the lawn, which has grown like topsy over the past 5 years or so. Confusingly named “Boris” some time around June 23 – for reasons that are explained in And then there was Boris…. – he/she has been a, well, er, runaway success, though usually out of control and arguably not suited to a civilised setting.
As you can see from the photo below, even the offspring don’t behave well once they get going.
So why ever would I want to plant more of them? The aim is to make all the borders as bee-friendly as possible. Previously occupied by shrubs with insignificant flowers, the kitchen garden borders are better used if we make sure they feed the bees (and other insects too).
Returning to the sowing schedule, with a bee-friendly theme: last week we called on a traditional A’ataar shop in Midan El-Gama’a, the heart of old Heliopolis, to stock up on seeds.
We use so much rocket -it’s in every salad I make, and we eat it as a snack with cold drinks – that I had almost run out of seeds. I also needed fuul herati or broad beans, to sow as a crop, as food for our bees and as a green fertiliser. Rather than using clover, which I have in stock, it seems preferable to plant a crop that would be good for everyone sharing the garden. It’s also true that, once they start to flower, rocket plants are incredibly attractive to the bees.
In Egypt, we usually buy seeds from a supplier of basic foodstuffs; historically, the same was true in Britain, where grocers used to stock seeds for purchase beyond what gardeners and farmers could save from their crops.
Besides seeds, the old-fashioned shop in Heliopolis stocks pulses, rice, flours and herbs either in large, battered wooden containers or in sacks. Antiquated in every sense, it’s like something from the Ottoman era; only the digital scales give it away. When we visited, there were numerous items I didn’t recognise – among them, neatly coiled flax fibres for cleaning pots and pans, apparently.
And one curious thing: a sack of corn meal, like polenta, was a huge attraction to some bees. Hovering over it, occasionally dipping down onto the meal, were they after a quick sugar-rush, I wonder?