I'm no gardener - I'll own up to that from the start - I've tried to grow my own vegetables but simply ended up making my garden resemble a scene from The Day of the Triffids (probably because of over-fertilisation) but yielding very few edible vegetables. Living in an early Victorian cottage, I yearn to have a typical cottage garden filled with pretty flowers and, most importantly, lots of herbs, and with these I have been a little bit more successful.
For my Authors in Bloom contribution, here are my six golden rules gleaned from years of trial and error and an extra tip for preserving your herbs once grown.
1) Be ultra careful when buying herbs from garden centres; in my experience it's better (and more rewarding) to grow them from seed. Having an array of herbs in pots on the kitchen windowsill is very satisfying for aspiring chefs.
2) Pay attention to the directions on the seed packs regarding spacing requirements. It can be fiddly handling tiny seeds but never crowd them
3) Keep them well-watered but don't allow them to stand in water for too long. Good drainage is essential for healthy roots.
4) Move the pots around regularly for even light-distribution.
5) Never overfeed (I've lost so many that way, mistakenly believing they'll grow better if well-fed). In fact herbs will grow well in relatively poor soil conditions.
6) Don't be tempted to harvest the leaves too early. Allow them to grow up to 8 inches and strip leaves sparingly. Then wait for regrowth before snipping more. For the herbs you use most frequently, grow extra pots.
Top Tip: If you want dried herbs - a brilliant way to dry them quickly is to cut them and spread them onto newspaper on a sunny window ledge or in the back of the car on a sunny day. Close all the windows and they'll be dry in no time - leaving your car deliciously aromatic at the same time.
My heroine, Juliet in my giveaway novel The Apple Tree (winner of Inspired Romance's inaugural writing competition) has, like me, very little knowledge about gardening and plants. When she visits the gardening centre owned by an old family friend, she meets Nicholas and immediately mistakes him for a gardener. This is something Nicholas, if only the demands of big business permitted, would happily embrace. The misunderstanding is soon cleared up, however, but Nicholas' love of gardens is certainly one of the reasons Juliet falls in love with him.
Here is the blurb for Giveaway One: The Apple Tree.
Escaping from your past is never easy, as young hospital doctor Juliet discovers when she tries to start afresh, leaving both her marriage and her career behind. Love blossoms rapidly when she meets the mysterious and forthright Nicholas, who seems to herald the new beginning she craves.
The past quickly dissolves into insignificance as their all-consuming romance propels them forward but Juliet has to learn the price of happiness in the cruellest way possible. Will she be able face the painful roots of her past in order for her future to grow strong and healthy?
Giveaway 2: Shopping for Love
Now when it comes to cooking, I know much more, believe me. I love nothing better than experimenting with exotic cuisine and frequently globetrot in my kitchen. In my second giveaway novel Shopping for Love, my lovely hero Greg fancies himself as a bit of a Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen. In this excerpt he prepares a Thai fish meal for Emma.
He handed her a glass of chilled wine and she leaned against the tall fridge sipping it as she watched him busy himself with a wok and bamboo steamer. “I feel guilty just standing here. Can I help?”
“You already are. Just by decorating my kitchen, making eye candy – it’s almost ready, anyway,” he told her with a grin. “It’s all in the prep, you see.”
He had steamed the fish over banana leaves in a bamboo basket and poured sizzling sesame oil over it at the last minute. It was accompanied by little bowls of perfectly cooked rice and vegetables and Emma was almost too impressed to think about eating.
“This is wonderful. Where on earth did you find fresh banana leaves?” She asked peering into the bamboo steamer in the centre of the table.
“Oh you’d be amazed at what wonderful things you can pick up in supermarkets these days,” he said with a knowing wink which reduced Emma to helpless laughter for some time until he apologised and ordered her to begin eating, which she did, accompanied by appreciative sound-effects.
“How can a man who cooks like this possibly be divorced?” she asked at length.
Greg laughed, genuinely amused. “Spoken like a true foodie. But, you know, it takes more than culinary skills to make a marriage work.”
“Not for me, it wouldn’t,” Emma said with a smile, transferring more of the succulent white flesh from the sea bass onto her plate before coaxing it between her chopsticks. “If I could eat like this every day, I would ask for nothing more in life.” She paused before bringing any more of the food to her mouth. “Would it be out of order for me to ask what happened?”
If you'd like to win either of these books in any e-book format, simply leave a comment or answer the following question and don't forget to leave your email address and say which book you'd prefer to win.
Recent research claims that the smell of the herb rosemary can help what? (Hint - Shakespeare had a fair idea about this 400 years ago - so it's hardly new research!)
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