I cannot walk past some plants in the garden without stroking or pinching. Some are soft and pettable. Some just smell heavenly.
Herbs probably take up most of my sniffing time in the garden. Basil is one of these plants with heightened fragrance, and it comes in so many shapes, sizes, and aroma intensities.
The Purple Ruffles Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’) shown here is beautiful in a pot in the garden or plucked and put into a glass bottle filled with vinegar or oil. The spicy Globe Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Minimum’), shown below, makes a beautiful, aromatic edging to an herb garden. Its bushy growth and tiny leaves is easy to keep trimmed into boxwood-like hedges.
There are many types of basil with fragrance other than the sweet cloves aroma of most basil. Below is a photo of Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’). Other flavors and aromas include Lemon Basil (Ocimum americanum) and Anise Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Anise’).
Plain old sweet basil is far from “plain”. This versatile herb’s large leaves are used in many dishes, including pesto, tomato dishes, in soups, in poaching water for meat or fish, with vegetables, and in salads. Try it in the Tomato, Feta, Basil Salad Chef Linda has prepared for us this week in her article, “A Herb is still An Herb”.
Basil is an annual, so you grow it from seed each year to get new plants. It is very cold sensitive, so harvest the leaves in the fall before the nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. After the first frost, collect the woody stems and use them as skewers for grilling vegetables or meat.
When sowing your seeds in the spring or moving plants into the garden, wait until the danger of frost has passed, the soil has warmed up, and the nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees F.
For best germination and growing, start seeds indoors using a heat mat to bring the potting mix to 75 - 85 degrees. You can use a commercial seed starting mix, which is sterile and will give you the best results. Plant the seeds about an eighth of an inch deep, barely covering with the mix. Keep the soil moist, not wet. It helps to cover the pot with plastic wrap to keep the medium moist. Remove it when the seedlings have germinated and are up.
Good air circulation is very important when the seedlings are young. Damping off disease occurs when the growing medium is too wet and fungus has a chance to develop, rotting the stems of the plants at the soil level. They collapse and cannot be saved once this condition hits them.
Set the plants out in the garden in a sunny spot, either in containers or in the soil. Space them about a foot apart in the garden, closer in a pot. Basil thrives in well-drained rich soil. Mulch the plants to keep the soil moist and to keep weeds from invading your herb patch. Keep the basil plants well watered during the drought days of summer.
Picking and pinching is the way to get healthy, thick herbs. So, go ahead and pilfer as many leaves and stems as you like. You’re not just surrendering to your senses; you are helping your herbs grow and develop into bushier plants with more sensuous leaves for plucking.
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While out this season planting bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and other spring-bloomers, put some aside and pot up a container or two. Gardeners who regularly pot up amaryllis or paperwhites for the holidays often don’t think to grow spring bulbs in pots that will bloom outdoors long after the indoor flowers are just a memory. It’s as quick and easy as potting up annuals.
Join fellow garden lovers, history buffs and music enthusiasts to discover the quaint towns and colorful gardens of Holland and Belgium in May of 2018.
This exciting journey will be hosted by nationally known host Eric Johnson, of Public Television's blockbuster show GardenSmart. Your river cruise begins in Amsterdam where you'll see works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh, Anne Frank's House, and see the city's most famous gardens. Then spend a full morning on the grounds of the most beautiful spring garden in the world-Keukenhof! Visit the picturesque Belgian towns of Bruges and Ghent as well as Kinderdijk, with the Netherlands' iconic collection of 19 authentic windmills that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, history buffs will experience a captivating tour of the WWI trenches of Flanders and WWII Arnhem Battlefield of A Bridge Too Far fame. You won't want to miss this extraordinary garden adventure to Holland and Belgium.
Book by November 15, 2017 and save up to $1200 dollars per person!
To register call:
Alki Tours at 800-895-2554
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