Category Archives: Garden Guide

Growing Basil for a Culinary Treat

The excitement and anticipation of growing a garden is shared by many people all over the country. It’s no wonder with the wonderful variety of flower seeds, vegetable seeds and garden accessories to be found in free seed catalogs, garden centers and nurseries everywhere.

Whether you enjoy growing flower or vegetable seeds there are many seed options to consider. One of the most popular and useful seeds may be that of basil, which not only smells lovely but can be used in an endless variety of recipes. Basil is easy to grow from seeds with over two dozen types of basil including lettuce leaf which has large leaves, cinnamon basil and purple leafed varieties. Basil is not frost tolerant so it’s important to to only plant after soil completely warmed, after planted the herb needs full sun and a lot of moisture (especially in pots) after the season ends you can bring herb inside as a window herb. After harvesting you can freeze, dry or preserve basil in oil.

If you plant your basil during warm weather in pots or garden accessories (containers and window gardens) and bring inside to grow be sure to use a bright and sunny window to ensure the best results.

Lemon Basil

I adore basil and love citrus, so it was a special treat to find a superior cultivar of lemon basil which combines the flavors of both. ‘Mrs. Burns’ lemon basil is the best strain we’ve ever grown, with vigorous big leaves and a wonderful bright lemony taste mingled with rich basil aroma. It grows easily like any other garden basil and stays in the leafy stage for a very long period so you can enjoy it fresh for weeks. I love to add about a half cup of chopped lemon basil to rice dishes or to season chicken and fish. It’s also a perfect seasoning for fresh squash, eggplant, green beans, and carrots. Lemon basil made into fresh pesto is also a treat.

Basil Can Be a Bit Tricky When Growing Herbs

Growing herbs in your vegetable garden from vegetables seeds is usually very simple – that is until you try growing basil! Basil is very sensitive to the climate. If you plant their vegetables seeds in herb gardens too early when the ground temperature is still cool and the rain is still plentiful, you will probably not be successful.

Basil seeds require lots of sunshine as they germinate, and they grow very slowly in the vegetable gardens or herb gardens. So the number of days of sunshine must be guaranteed – something that can’t be done in the spring. These vegetables seeds require tender loving care.

You may wish to start these vegetables seeds in a greenhouse, therefore ensuring less moisture and more warmth and sunshine. Or you can start basil vegetables seeds in a cold frame before transferring to the vegetable garden.

After several years of rainy wet spring weather, I resort to buying seedlings rather than basil vegetables seeds to transplant into my vegetable and herb gardens. This has proved to be most successful, since I do not have a greenhouse set-up.

I am being daring this year and have planted my basil vegetables seeds in containers. Let’s hope it works this time! Even though basil is difficult to start, once the plants take hold, your harvest will be plentiful. And there is nothing better than the taste of home-made pesto sauce! Very much worth the effort.

Autumn Crocus Provide a Touch of Spring in Fall

During September a plant with crocus-like blossoms comes into bloom. This plant is the colchicum, sometimes called meadow saffron. The flowers rise from the soil without leaves and may be as high as 8 to 10 inches above the soil. Although the flower shape is similar to crocus, they are members of the lily family while true crocus belong to the iris family of plants.

While colchicums are normally planted just before they bloom, they can even be planted while they are blooming. The large storage bulb that they produce contains enough nutrients and water to complete flowering without being in soil. It was once a novelty to purchase the bulbs and allow them to flower indoors and plant them in the garden only after flowering was completed. Some drying of the bulbs occurs during this process indoors and flowers do not last as long as outdoors. If this is done, prompt planting after flowering is important to insure good growth in spring and flowering next fall.

The leaves of colchicum are produced in fall after flowering has been completed. However, they do not grow significantly until next spring. By late spring the leaves, which are fairly coarse and about a foot tall, will collapse and die. There will then be no further above ground evidence that the plant exists until the flowers appear in September.

Several varieties of colchicum are available. Among the most spectacular are Lilac Wonder and The Giant which have the largest flowers in violet-mauve and rosy-lilac, respectively. A double-flowered pink called Waterlily is also available. It is not quite as large or as vigorous as the previous varieties, but very attractive. A white form also exists. It is smaller and the least vigorous of the group, but the smaller flower size is closer to that of true crocus.

The large bulbs, or tubers, of colchicum need a well-drained location. They are tolerant of many soil types, but poor drainage or very tight soils can weaken them or help induce bulb rots. Rock gardens, raised beds or sites under trees are suitable. They will not grow in dense shade but can tolerate light shade from deciduous trees. Much of their leaf growth occurs in early spring before most trees have leafed out fully. There are no major pests of colchicums, but a word of caution should be given – the bulbs are poisonous. These are the plants from which the material used in plant breeding called colchicine is extracted.

There are species of true crocus that flower in the fall rather than in the spring. Like the colchicums, these bulbs (or corms) need excellent drainage, and failure to provide it insures decline, rots, and eventual loss of them. Loose soil, somewhat sandy, fits their needs best. They are also suitable for rock gardens, raised beds or similar locations under trees without dense shade.

Autumn crocus are not as large as colchicums. The flowers rise only about 6 inches from the soil and the foliage is more grass like. It is produced to some extent after flowering, but makes most growth early next spring. Flowering in autumn crocus is later than in colchicum. Most flowering of fall crocus takes place in October. One of the best and most durable fall crocus species for our climate is Crocus speciosus. The flowers are light purple with violet veining.

Probably the best known of the autumn crocus is the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus which has light purple flowers. This is the plant from which the spice saffron is obtained. It may also be grown in our gardens, but is quite sensitive about drainage. The deep orange-red stigmata which are harvested from the flower to obtain the saffron are also very attractive.

Colchicums are suitable for use among low ground covers such as vinca where they can remain undisturbed and protected. The true autumn crocus are more delicate and need to be in a rock garden or bed with smaller plants. They cannot compete well with larger plants.

Garden Propagation Tips: Stooling and Tilling

What do you know about the propagation technique called stooling? I visited a garden recently, and the owner said that she only uses this method.

This is a simple layering method of propagation. The established parent plant is cut down to the ground, and resulting growths from the stub (stool) are covered with soil no more than one-half their total height. It is repeated after further growth, being careful to work the soil amongst the shoots and thus excluding all light from the base of the shoots. The soil ends up being 6 to 8 inches above the base of the shoots.

At the end of the growing season (plants are dormant), the soil is removed, and all the shoots are cut or broken away from the stool.

These new rooted shoots form new plants. The stools are left exposed until a further crop of shoots arise, and the whole “earthing process” is repeated as in the previous year.

Stools have been known to remain productive for 20 years or more.

Is it possible to rototill my vegetable garden too much or to often?

Tilling the garden performs a number of necessary functions. It mixes manures, fertilizers, com post and clippings into garden soil. And, it temporarily loosens the soil and helps control weeds that compete with crops for moisture and nutrients.

Frequent tilling, though, may do more harm than good. Soil loosened by cultivation usually returns to its original condition after one or two irrigation. Continued tilling tends to destroy the structural qualities of a soil and may eventually leave you with a soil that is better suited to making bricks than producing crops.

Till garden soil only when it will accomplish some useful purpose, such as turning under organic matter, controlling weeds, breaking crusted soil for water penetration, or loosening up a small amount of soil for planting seeds.