Frances Tophill shares autumn gardening tips including how to grow herbs & veg

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Frances Tophill has been passionate about gardening for a number of years and has been appeared at the likes of Blenheim Palace Flower Shower, Hampton Court Flower Show and the Eden Project Green Fingers Festival. She has also recently become a part of a nationwide competition with Higgidy which aims to get the nation growing their own vegetables. 

With the cold weather setting in, Frances has shared with her top tips on how to look after your crops as well as how to get into gardening if you don’t have a garden yourself.

Frances explained that autumn is a great time to grow crops and herbs.

She said: “She said: “If you have anything like cabbage, so sprouts and kale, broccoli should go through the winter.

“But if you haven’t started anything yet then you can grow some broad beans, sweet peas, they’re good to start sewing now and you might even get a bit of germination if you sew things like radishes…if you have a polytonal you could definitely grow coriander which is really good.

“But otherwise you can grow things in the house now which you can get from supermarkets, so things like lemongrass…ginger I grow as well.”

“If you don’t have a garden you can still grow things through the winter that you can eat.”

The horticulturist shared that growing your own herbs is super easy and anyone can do it from home.

Frances added: “Often when you grow herbs from the supermarket, they just sew loads really really thinly and then they’re really weak plants.

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“If you grow herbs from seed, they’re so much easier and you get much more bushy plants and it tastes better.

“Generally speaking herbs like parsley, basil, coriander are a little bit more tricky because they are greener so they need a bit more water and a little bit more care.

“Parsley once it gets going, will just get massive and keep on growing and then when it flowers it’ll seed itself everywhere. Same with coriander, which is one of my favourite herbs to grow because you get the herb and then you also get the seed bit at the top which tastes sweet.

“So it’s great to grow but coriander from seed is super easy, you just stick it in the ground and it grows.

“I think the easiest things to grow in terms of care are things that the mediterranean herbs – so thyme, rosemary, lavender if you like using that to cook with, are so easy to cook with.”

Higgidy and Frances’ campaign aims to transform unloved community spaces into glorious vegetable patches. It also gives the winners the chance to win £5,000 towards the cost of transforming their nominated patch into a vegetable garden. 

Having a vegetable patch and growing your own fruit and vegetables has so many benefits including tasting better.

Frances said: “I think it can save money but there are a lot more benefits than people are finding from it and the research that Higgidy has done has revealed, especially in the lockdown, a massive help in people’s stress levels…really helping to feel physically healthy, especially with more people working from home…just to get outside in the fresh air if they’re lucky enough to have that space and it’s helped them to eat better food. 

“I think that was a good thing that Higgidy found from the research is that all the food tastes better, I think people who grow their own veg have been banging on about this for years but there is so comparison when you eat something you’ve grown yourself.

“And also to educate kids at home which we’ve all had to do, it’s a lovely thing to teach children about nature and about climate change – kids are learning about all that stuff at school now.”

“There are so many benefits to growing your own at home.”

With another potential lockdown on the cards, Frances said that autumn is a good time to clear beds and resign things in the garden.

She explained: “I think that gardening in winter is really good, there’s a lot to do just from a practical point of view so I think a lot of people assume that the summer and spring is when gardening may happen because thats when they see things flowering, but actually when things are flowering you kind of miss the time to do it.

“Autumn is a really good time to plant things because they get a time to establish before the cold winter and then before spring comes they can go away really quickly and start growing but its also really great time for clearing beds and looking at the space you’ve got, rethinking, redesigning things.

“With there being another potential lockdown, I would seriously recommend people who don’t have their own garden if they possibly can, to try and join some sort of community.

“Something the research showed was that people would often feel more likely that they would do gardening if they had the support of the community and I know for my sake that even having my allotment in this lockdown was a god send and so if you don’t have a space try and join something.”

Launched to celebrate the arrival of Higgidy’s Ready to Bake meals in Waitrose, the competition gives communities the chance to nominate unloved, built up areas such as schools, youth clubs and community centres that could benefit from a horticultural overhaul.

To enter, community groups, teams and charities are encouraged to visit and submit their entry, explaining why they think that area deserves a veg patch and what the benefits to the community could be.

A shortlist of local spaces will be announced in January.

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