Recently I decided to try my hand at drying my large Parsley patch that was threatening to run to seed. I'm glad I did because there is no way we could have used the whole plant in time even though we did try! I cut the whole plant back to the base and hung the bunches to dry in my hot water cupboard above the cylinder. I left it for about a week as I never seemed to find the time to tend to it but it actually did help to keep it dry even if it didn't get that crispy feeling that it is meant to.
So a few days ago I finally got the chance to dry the parsley properly. I did this by cutting the long stalks off and then laying the leaves in a thin layer on a baking tray. I turned the oven to bake on high and once it had heated up I turned the oven off completely and sat the tray in the middle of the oven with the door slightly open. After about 20 mins I checked on the parsley and I was very pleased to see the result. Dry, crisp parsley leaves that were ready to be gently crushed (stalks and brown leaves removed) and stored in a glass jar in my pantry. I had to repeat the drying step a few times as I had too much parsley to fit on the tray at once.
The first of my home made herb collection :)
My day didn't end there though. I was lucky enough (or unlucky depending on your view) to glance out my kitchen window only to see my chickens had finally decided they weren't going to play nice anymore and were stripping my Brassicas that were only weeks away from harvest. I was not impressed but there really wasn't much else I could do at that stage apart from make a mad dash outside to try and save what was left of my garden. I collected as many milk bottles as I could, then quickly cut them in half and placed them over my smaller plants to try and deter the chooks from eating anything else. I did lose a few spinach and silverbeet but I managed to save most of my greens. This isn't the first time they have attempted to nibble on my plants. I could handle losing a few leaves off some little plants but having entire large vegetables stripped to the ground is a bit of a different story. I spent the following afternoon digging the remainder of my plants out of the ground and setting them up in containers on my upstairs balcony away from hungry beaks. I know I probably should have done that from the start but you will probably have noticed by now that I'm one of those people that likes to do things the hard way. It may take me longer to get to my destination but the lessons I learn along the way are usually very good lessons. Like put a fence up BEFORE you plant out rows of yummy green vegies... So now that my garden plans have changed slightly I decided to fill in the now empty space with more garlic instead. I have bought 4 more bulbs of NZ garlic and if the weather allows I will plant them out this weekend. My first batch of garlic has started to make an appearance above the soil. I planted roughly 3 dozen and have seen almost a dozen green shoots appear so far. The shortest day of the year was two weeks ago but because I planted my first batch out early, they have had a bit of a head start. I plan to buy more garlic in the following weeks until I have enough to fill in the whole bed. I decided it would be best not to waste the space as I will have another 3 garden beds to use once the weather warms up again so there will be no problem of running out of space from now on. As a random side note. I have three 1-metre tall sunflower plants that I kept from my sprouts which have taken up permanant residence in front of the glass doors to our balcony. Even though they are only getting minimal sun right now they are still healthy and green. I grew them in plastic milk bottle containers and they are definitely ready to be moved into bigger containers now!
I decided to try growing them over winter firstly, just to see if it would work (so far so good) and secondly, to see how quickly they flower once the weather warms up compared to seeds that are planted in spring. I think this spring is going to be one busy fun filled season :-)

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