The trees grow up to 20 m tall, having alternately arranged leaves of 12-25 cm long. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 5-10 mm wide. Trees are partially self-pollinating. The fruits have a green-skinned, fleshy body and may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. They and are 7-20 cm long and weigh between 100-1000 grams. The fruit has a large central seed, 5-6.4 cm long.

The avocado is a climacteric fruit, like bananas, which means it matures on the tree but ripens off the tree. Avocados must be mature before picking in order to ripen properly. Once picked, avocados ripen in one to two weeks at room temperature. Avocados that fall off the tree ripen on the ground. Generally, fruits are picked once they reach maturity.

All avocado trees need to be protected from heavy frosts and strong winds. The subtropical species needs a climate without frost and with little wind because high winds reduce the humidity, dehydrate the flowers and affect pollination. When even a mild frost occurs, premature fruit drop may happen.

Avocados prefer to be planted in sunny locations that are protected from wind. They will need a well drained soil, ideally more than 1 m deep, and will not thrive in heavy clay soils for long. If you do have heavy clay soils consider planting your avocado tree in a raised bed. The raised bed should be at least half a meter above the existing level of the soil. It is also very important not to plant avocado trees too deeply. Plant them at least 3-5 cm above the existing soil level and then create a small mound around the base with a mixture of compost and well drained soil. Avocado trees are susceptible to root rot so you should avoid planting a new avocado tree in a place where an old tree had died, as the soil may be contaminated.

As most avocado trees can reach a height of more than 7 m tall when fully grown, selecting the proper place to plant your avocado tree is important for successful growing. Avocados should only be minimally pruned in order to shape and control size and this should be done after fruiting. Frequent pinching of young trees is a good method to shape the tree, rather than heavy pruning.

Do not overwater your avocado trees. Over watering trees in the ground in certain soils is often the main factor in causing root rot. Avocados prefer infrequent deep root watering. It is best to allow trees to dry out watering again. Avocados growing in containers need consistent frequent watering.

Avocado trees should be fed on a regular basis. Fertilize using well balanced citrus food. Avocado trees that have been well feed year-round are better able to deal with cold temperatures in the winter. Apply a 8-10 cm layer of mulch to avocado trees each year to help retain soil moisture and improve soil quality. Apply mulch in spring and fall under the canopy of the tree, keep it away from the trunk of the tree.

You can grow your avocados indoor if your climate doesn’t allow you to grow it in the garden. Usually, avocados are grown from pits indoors. Remove the pit from a ripe, unrefrigerated avocado. Stab it with three or four tooth picks, about one third of the way up and then place it in a jar or vase with tepid water. The pit should split in 4-6 weeks and roots and a sprout should appear. Once the stem has grown a few cm, place it in a pot with soil. Water it every few days. As avocados grow quickly you must be ready to repot the plant several times.

The species is only partially able to self-pollinate. This limitation makes the species difficult to breed so most cultivars are propagated via grafting.

Avocados can also be propagated by seeds but it will take about 4-6 years to bear fruit. The offspring is unlikely to be identical to the parent cultivar in fruit quality so prime quality varieties are therefore propagated by grafting to rootstocks. After about a year of growing in the greenhouse, the young rootstocks are ready to be grafted. The best time to plant avocado trees is in spring or in autumn. Prepare the ground two months before planting by adding compost and well-rotted manure to avoid the delicate roots being burned.

Harvest the fruits when their skin will begin to dull. A good indicator to know that your fruits are ready is when the first fruits start to fall to the ground. It will be fully ripe two weeks later. You can harvest the other fruits progressively, as you need them.

Gardening with Herbs

Herbs come in all shapes, sizes, colors and flavors. They include plants that vary in form from creeping plants and spreading shrubs to climbing vines and towering trees. And after playing all these roles in the garden, they are very useful plants too. They are used in the kitchen, crafts room, spa and also having a long history of medicinal use. Herbs plants are useful from top to bottom. The leafy green parts of most species are used for preparing food or making tea, other produce edible flowers too. Stems of some herbs are also used, useful as grilling sticks and some herbs are grown for their flavorful roots.

Herbs are also very easy to grow plants. It doesn’t matter what climate you live in, there will always be a wide range of species and varieties that will find place in your garden, complement the landscape growing in pots and containers or adding edible beauty to your space, outdoor or indoor. Plants are categorizes by their life cycle in three categories: annuals, biennials and perennials, and herbs fill all these three categories. You will see that no matter what type of plants you want, you will always find herbs that will suit your search.


You can always know how much of an ingredient you have bought, but when you pick it from your own garden is not always easy to estimate the quantity, so a scale is needed. A kitchen scale is good for small quantities, or you can measure them in small amounts.

If a really large quantity is need to be measured, than you can use your bathroom scale. Put the pan or any other large container on the scale, reset the scale to zero and then add the ingredients that need to be measured. Alternatively you can note the weight of the empty pan or container, add the ingredients and deduct the pan’s or container’s weight from the total.


It should be made of a non-reactive material, such as stainless steel, or have a non-stick or enamel lining. Unlined copper or brass pans, or anything made of aluminium, should not be used as they will interact with your produces.

The preserving pan should be heavy and have a thick, flat bottom, so that heat is conducted evenly through the mixture in the pan and the mixture do not catch and burn.

When choosing a pan for preserving, if possible, choose one with sides that slope outwards. This will provide a larger surface area that will allow a rapid evaporation of surplus liquid and steam. For small quantities of sauce or syrup you can choose a large, non-stick frying pan or a non-reactive saucepan.

Always check for the pan inner surface to be intact, free of blemishes, pitting or any damage.

For easy handle and lifting make sure you use a pan with two handles opposite each other. This way you can safely move it from the stove to a working area.

When cooking sweetened mixtures, always make sure that the pan is not more than half full, as they can spit and splutter while boiling.

Herbs that attract wildlife

If you already have some herbs in your garden and want to add some more to attract wildlife, here is a combination of herbs for each type of winged wildlife that you might determine to visit your place.

Bees are a sign of a healthy garden, so seeing them buzzing busily from flower to flower in your garden is a good sign. They gather nectar for their honey and the same time they spread pollen and pollinate our garden plants. The herbs that bees love most include borage, chamomile, germander, hyssop, lavender, basil, lemon balm, bee balm, anise hyssop, mints, sage, savory, rosemary and thyme. They prefer flowers from sunny locations. Also they will navigate easier on single flowers as double-flower plants are harder to sip from.

Butterflies are colorful, ephemeral and joyful creatures and they are always a welcoming presence in our gardens. These delicate creatures are attracted by a variety of flowering annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees. They like to sip the nectar from herbs like mint, catmint, marjoram, chives and thyme. As you can see, butterflies and herbs prefer the same conditions. Sunny spots in places without too much wind are their favorite places.

If you want to have butterflies in your herb garden you will have to consider their whole life cycle. Butterflies life start as a larva – a caterpillar, so you must accept them in your garden if you want to enjoy the following butterflies. Learn to identify them before you destroy any caterpillars.

In warmer areas you will be able to see hummingbirds in your garden. They dine on the nectar of many flowering herbs. Their long beaks are best suited for tubular-shaped flowers like the ones of pineapple sage, mint, hyssop, lavender and bee balm. They also prefer the red color, so try to offer them red-blooming varieties of bee balm and pineapple sage. There are also some other herbs that will attract hummingbirds to your garden: anise hyssop, catnip, comfrey and rosemary.

Edible Flowers

Artichoke flower buds, Broccoli and Cauliflower flower buds, Zucchini blossoms are used cooked.

Caper flower buds are preserved salted or pickled.

Chamomile, Bergamot and Jasmine are used for tea.

Chives flowers or buds are used fresh in salads.

Borage flowers, Chrysanthemum flower, Citrus blossoms, Clover (Trifolium), Daisies (Bellis perennis quills), Honeysuckle and Lilac are used as garnish.

Dandelions leaves are used for salads, roots are roasted and grind and use as a coffee substitute, flowers are used to make jelly, petals are used as garnish, and buds are pickled.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) buds, flowers, petals are used as garnish.

Elderflower blossoms are used for drinks, making syrup or some sort of champagne.

Hibiscus flowers are used for tea or as garnish.

Lavender flowers are used as garnish or for flavoring tea and pastry.

Nasturtium blossoms are used as garnish and seedpods are pickled as caper.

Marigolds petals with white heel removed are used as garnish.

Roses petals with white heel removed are used in tea or to make jelly, rose hips are use for syrup, tea or to make jelly.

Rocket flowers are also used in salads.

Sunflowers buds are cooked like artichoke, petals are used as garnish and seeds are eaten row or salted.

Violet leaf and flowers are used in salads, candied flowers are used for pastry decoration and for making jelly and syrup.

Zucchini flowers can be fried, stuffed, or used in salads.


Bulb-onions are cool-season, frost-tolerant crop, growing best at 13-24 Celsius degrees (55-75 F). They grow well in an open site, in fertile, light and well-drained soil. Prepare the planting area in autumn by digging in a lot of well-rotted manure.

Usually the onions are grown from sets, but they can also be grown from seeds. Growing them from seeds is cheaper but slower to develop. Sets are easier to grow but you might find only certain cultivars. Either way, bulb onions require a long growing period, especially if they are grown for storage.

Sets are usually planted in early spring, at the same distances as you would keep the seedlings after thinning. Plant them in shallow furrows so that the tips protrude just above the soil. There are also autumn planting sets available.

Sow the onions in spring, when the soil is workable. Choose a firm seedbed, sow seeds very thinly 1 cm deep, in rows of 23-30 cm apart. Thin out the seedlings in stages and use them in the kitchen. For medium size onions keep a distance between them of about 4 cm and for larger onions thin seedlings to 5-10 cm apart. In colder area you can start seeds under cover starting from late winter to early spring. Sow them in seed trays or modules at 10-15 Celsius degrees (50-59 F) and harden them off when the seedlings are at the two-leaf stage and then plant them out. Also there are some cultivars that may be sown in summer or autumn to overwinter for earlier crops the next year.


Keep their beds weed-free. Having fairly shallow-roots they only need little water once established, but they will need some watering in very dry conditions.

Spring-sown bulb onions will need 12-18 weeks to mature and summer-sown onions up to 42 weeks. Consume them as needed to use fresh. For storage you should wait until the leaves have died back naturally and then uproot all the onions. Leave them in the sun to dry for about 10 days or if the weather is wet, hung them in nets to allow maximum ventilation and place them in a greenhouse. Before putting them to storage, make sure the outer skin and leaves are completely dry. Keep them at 0-7 Celsius degrees (32-45 F) and in low humidity. Never store bull-necked onions, they are the ones that need to be consumed first.

Cape Gooseberries

The fruits have smooth, waxy, orange-yellow skin and juicy pulp containing numerous very small yellowish seeds. The golden-yellow fruits are about the size of a cherry tomato and are deliciously sweet. As the fruits ripen, they begin to drop to the ground, but will continue to mature and change from green to the golden-yellow of the mature fruit.

They like a sunny, frost-free place, sheltered from strong winds, so they will do well if planted next to a south-facing wall or on a patio. They will grow in any well drained soil but will do best on sandy to gravelly loam. Very good crops will be obtained on rather poor sandy soil then in rich one. The plant needs consistent watering to set a good fruit crop, but don’t like a waterlogged soil, so where drainage is a problem, the plants should be planted on a gentle slope or the rows should be mounded. When the fruits are maturing, the plants will no longer need constant watering. The plants become dormant during drought.

Excessively rich or fertile soil will give you attractive, green plants but with few blooms and few berries. For this reason, no fertilizer or soil amendment is recommended. Even moderate fertilization will encourage excessive vegetative growth and depress flowering. So you will obtain high yields with little or no fertilizer. Pruning is not necessary unless the plant is being trained to a trellis. Pinching back of the growing shoots will induce more compact and shorter plants.

The plants are mostly grown from seeds and will produce fruits in the summer as long as you sow them early in the season, just like tomatoes for indoor or outdoor growing. High humidity is required for good germination. Sow three seeds to a small pot and pinch out the weakest ones, leaving just one healthy plant per pot. The young plants can be repotted as necessary into a larger pots and kept well watered. The young plants can be hardened off and planted out in late May or early June or kept and grown on in the greenhouse. In areas where frost may be a problem, provide the outdoor plants with some overhead protection and move the potted specimens to a frost-secure area.

The plants can also be propagated from 1 year old stem cuttings treated with a rooting hormone. Plants grown this way flower early and yield well but are less vigorous than seedlings.

The fruits are harvested when they start to fall to the ground, but not all fallen fruits may be in the same stage of maturity and must be held until they ripen. The covers turn papery when the fruit is fully ripe. Properly matured and prepared fruits will keep for several months. The ripe fruits can be eaten raw or used in a number of other ways. They make interesting ingredients in salads and cooked dishes. Cooked with apples or ginger they make a very distinctive dessert. The fruits are also an attractive sweet when dipped in chocolate or other glazes or pricked and rolled in sugar. The high pectin content makes cape gooseberry a good preserve and jam product that can be used as a dessert topping. The fruits can also be dried.

Propagate Herbs in Water

For best results start with easy herbs like mint or basil which will root in only few days, but you can also try rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, lemon balm or lavender.

Start by choosing a healthy stem that has no pests or diseases on it and preferably a non-flowering one. Cut the stem using a sharp knife or secateurs, 10-15 cm long and just underneath a node. Stripe off the leaves from the lower part of the stem so no leaves will be under the water level and cut down any flower if it has any. Then and place the stem in a bottle or glass full of water and put it on a sunny window sill.

You can use all sort of bottles and glasses to place your cuttings in. Propagating herb cuttings in water is an effective way to grow herbs but in the same time is a great way to recycle old and funny bottles or to display a vintage bottle collection on your window sill.

Make sure you change the water every couple of days so it will be clean, fresh and free of bacteria, else the stem will rot instead of rooting. In about a week or so you should see the roots, depending on the herb you try to propagate. Some may take longer.

After the roots start to appear keep an eye on your plants and don’t let the roots grow longer than 5-10 cm because else they will be hard to plant out in the soil. The roots grown in water are quite fragile and brittle so when you transfer them into the soil make sure that you make a hole in the compost large enough so that you don’t squash the roots too much. Keep the pot in the shade for about a week until the plant get used with the new medium and is well established. Grow them on and use after the plants are showing good growth.

Plant up Roses in Pots

Use a soil-based compost to plant roses or any other shrubs in containers as this is better than any other type of compost because it holds a supply of nutrients more easily then soilless compost and also retain moisture better. This will cut down the need for watering and fertilizing further in the season. You can also use slow-release fertilizers and water-retentive crystals so you can save some work through the year.

After planting or replanting your roses you should prune them hard to encourage plenty of new growth. After a couple of months after planting your roses you should feed them regularly with a high-potash feed to encourage a rich flowering that will keep for weeks.

Regular watering is also needed and in dry weather watering must be done once or even twice a day. If the weather is too hot and the sun too bright you should consider moving your container grown roses into a shaded place over this period.