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Basil Basics: Tips For Growing This Tasty Herb

October 17th, 2014

Basil is an annual-growing herb and happens to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. There are many delicious varieties of basil – some are spicier, others have a lemony, cinnamon, or have a peppermint flavor. Basil grows easily in sunny, warm climates – and also quite well indoors next to a sunny window in the fall and in mild winters. The pointed leaves are used for cooking and the flower buds are edible too. Some basil gardeners use their surplus for naturally dying fabric or for children’s crafts (learn how here). If you’re looking for a new way to use basil this fall, check out our Pumpkin Seed Basil Pesto below.

Tips On Growing Basil Outdoors Growing basil outdoors does best in warm spring and summer climates (for growing basil in the fall and winter, see Tips On Growing Indoors below).  Sizes of basil varies – the “sweet basil” can grow up to 6”, but many gardeners like to grow it only up to 3″. Since basil loves heat, you should plant it when the day temperatures are higher. Basil also likes rich, moist soil. Plant the seeds about 10” from each other. Once the plants reach about 6” in height, start pinching off the top layer of leaves to encourage better leaf growth and to prevent the plant from getting “leggy.” Keep in mind that basil is sensitive to frost – as soon as autumn comes, you should bring it indoors before frost touches the leaves and turns them black.

Tips On Growing Basil Indoors This method is best in fall and winter climates, as basil can be kept warm and away from frost while indoors. You will need direct sunlight (a south facing window does best) and provide plenty of warmth by either using a heat mat or by keeping plants near a heater. If you cannot provide at least 6 hours of sunlight next to a window, you might want to consider supplementing with artificial light. Using fluorescent grow lights or specially designed high intensity lights can keep basil lush and delicious all year round. Remember to keep artificial lights at least 5 inches away from the top of your plants. High intensity lights need to be two to four feet away from basil plants to ensure vitality. We also like to keep a fan running 2-4 hours a day (we suggest from the time you get home from work to bedtime) to simulate a natural environment. We find that the air does not get too stagnant and the plant thrives even further.

Tips On Preserving Basil’s Flavor Try to prevent the blooming of the basil plant as long as possible. This is to ensure a full, bushy plant with loads of tasty leaves. To stop the blooming process on your basil plant, harvest the top layer of leaves when the plant reaches 6”.  When the plant eventually goes to seed, you’ll notice the plants bright flavors get a little wah-wah. You can still cut them, as well as the flowers, and use them in cooking if you’d like. To preserve your plant when it’s tastiest, either preserve it in a container with olive oil and salt, or store it in an ice cube or herb log. 

Pumpkin Seed Basil Pesto 

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas

1 clove garlic

1 cup fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons parmigiano reggiano

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Method: Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Add a splash of water if you prefer a smoother texture. Top on pastas and spaghetti squash, drizzle over polenta, and use it as a dip for veggies, bread, and pizza.

***Friends, how is your basil doing this year? We’re curious, what tips would you give to someone who was growing basil for the first time?

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you simply don’t have the space? The Tower Garden may be the answer for you!  Passionate about gardening and healthy living, or looking to expand your current health-based business? Consider becoming a Tower Garden distributor! Email info@humbleseed for more information or message us on Facebook.

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3 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Space

June 5th, 2014

container gardening

If your patio is the size of a postage stamp (been there), then making the most of your space is paramount. Luckily, a small space does not mean you have to give up growing your favorite fruits and vegetables; it just means you have to get a little creative! Hoop houses, vertical, and container gardening are three fantastic ways to manage urban and small spaces.

Hoop Houses – These are miniature, unheated greenhouses made with a series of metal hoops covered in plastic, and set over a raised bed to trap heat. 

     Advantages: This creates a microclimate around your plants, while jump starting and extending the growing season. Hoop houses are a low tech structure to build, and should cost no more than $50 if you want to go simple. This method is especially ideal if daylight length is less than 10 hours with harsh winters – but have little space for a greenhouse. With proper ventilation, hoop houses can be used in the summertime too.

     How To: First, a support structure needs to be built using PVC tubing or standard metal pipes – we’ve even seen it constructed using ocotillo cactus bones. Cut that to the size needed for your garden, and push both ends into the ground in an arc. Once you have this done, cover them with plastic, and presto! Your hoop house is ready to go.

Vertical Gardening – While there are numerous ways to create a vertical garden, there are essentially two types of vertical garden styles: those that grow in soil and those that grow in water. If you’re interested in water-based vertical gardening, our hydroponic Tower Garden posts (including our goals, experiences and photos) is something you may be interested in. Check in with us every month for these posts!

     Advantages: Some of the advantages of all vertical gardening include: plants become less pest and disease prone since plants are away from the ground where pests tend to gravitate. Gardeners also don’t have to be stooped over a garden for hours, as less time is spent  harvesting while leaning over a garden bed. Weeding and tilling become less necessary in some circumstances.  Another fantastic benefit? Typically less water is required for vertical gardening, and your plants will look healthier as oxygen has the opportunity to circulate more evenly. 

     How To: To grow a vertical garden inexpensively, use a chain link fence, trellis, hanging baskets, or a garden lattice. Other effective structures include: nailing decorative cans to a wooden fence, using an old dog kennel or shelving unit, and building your own structure using garden fencing and pipes. Watch to see how the vines and plants grow naturally, and secure the plants with garbage bag twist ties or gardening green tape. Plant the vertical garden next to shade loving plants like herbs, and away from sun-loving plants like vegetables. Did you know that if you hang your plants from baskets or pots, you can actually have the same number of plants as a square foot of garden space?

Container Gardening – Container gardening is another practical way to garden in a small area.  Likewise to vertical gardening, almost anything grown in a regular garden can grow well in a container garden.  

     Advantages: This type of gardening is easy to maintain, and can be done inexpensively. Once you have built your container garden, you may continue using it season after season, and year after year.

     How To: Luckily there are a wide array of containers to choose from that will suit a variety of needs. We find that wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but can easily rot and sustain wear and tear after frequent use. Therefore, if you prefer containers that will withstand the hands of time, then ceramic or metal containers are worth the investment.  Just be sure you drill a few holes at the bottom if they do not already have a drainage system.

***Friends, we’re curious: what are your tips for making the most out of your space??

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease. We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed. We’re also proud to say we have taken the Safe Seed Pledge!!

 Does starting your first garden seem too overwhelming or you have limited space? Check out this option: The Tower Garden Aeroponic Growing System.

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Vertical and Container Gardening: How To Create An Eiffel Tower of Plants

November 7th, 2011

If your patio is like mine and about the size of a postage  stamp, you will notice that it is imperative to manage space.  Yet a small space does not mean you have to  give up your favorite plants, fruits and vegetables; it just means you have to  become more creative with how you grow your garden! Vertical and container  gardening are two fantastic ways to manage the space in a small area, while  yielding a bounty of fresh produce comparable to those with larger areas to  grow.  The techniques described below are  useful for gardening at homes with small backyards, apartments, and for those who would like to grow more plants per square foot.

Vertical Gardening: Vertical planting refers to growing plants upwards in lieu of horizontally in a traditional garden bed. There are a number of simple and more elaborate ways to build a vertical garden.  And it seems there are just as many benefits  to building a vertical garden as there are modes to make them.  Some of the advantages include: vertically  grown plants will naturally become less pest and disease prone.  This is due to the plants being away from the  ground where pests tend to gravitate.  You may also be keen to the fact that you will no longer have to remain stooped over a garden for hours, as vertical planting means less time spent  harvesting while leaning over a garden bed.  Weeding and tilling also become less necessary in some circumstances.  Another fantastic benefit?  You (and the environment) will like that less water is required for vertical gardening, and your plants will look healthier as oxygen has the opportunity to circulate more evenly.  Now stop counting all the money you’ll be  saving on your water bills and from avoiding the chiropractor and let’s get gardening!

Plants Suitable For Most Vertical Gardening: If you plan on building your vertical garden up from a chain link fence, trellis or vertical lattice; be aware that you are limited to what you can grow.  Plants that grow upward and can be trained and/or have vines work best for this type of vertical planting.  Plants that work best are: Tomatoes, Green Beans, Lettuces, Cucumbers, Melons, Squashes, Corn, Chard, just to name of few.  All of these varieties can be found within Veggin’ Out and The Producer. If you plan on hanging your plants in baskets; all herbs and plants from Uncle Herb’s Favorites and Hot Mama’s Chiles and Peppers will work exceptionally well.

Vertical Gardening Tips and Tricks: To grow a vertical garden inexpensively, use a chain link fence, trellis, hanging baskets or a garden lattice. Other effective structures include: nailing decorative cans to a wooden fence, using an old dog kennel or shelving unit, and building your own structure using garden fencing and pipes. Watch to see how the vines and plants grow naturally, and secure the plants with garbage bag twist ties or gardening green tape.  Secure the plant at the bottom, again at the center, and one at the top without impeding the growth. Vining plants climb by twisting and clinging.  Therefore, build  a structure that can sustain the weight of the vines and plants.  Once the vines have been trained, they will grow naturally upward on their own.

Plant the vertical garden next to shade loving plants like herbs, and away from sun-loving plants like vegetables. If using hanging baskets, line them with moss to keep in moisture after you water.  Did you know that if you hang your plants from baskets or pots, you can actually have the same number of plants as a square foot of garden space?

Container Gardening:  Container gardening is another practical way to garden in a small area.  Likewise to vertical gardening, almost anything grown in a regular garden can grow well in a container garden.  In addition, this type of gardening is easy to maintain, and can be done inexpensively. This is because once you have built your container garden, you may continue using it season after season, and year after year.  Below are a few helpful tips to avoid the common mistakes made when container gardening, and to ensure your garden thrives just as well as a standard outdoor garden.

Choosing The Best Container:  Luckily there are a vast array of containers to choose from that will suit a variety of needs. We find that wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but can easily rot and sustain wear and tear after frequent use.  Therefore, if you prefer containers that will withstand the hands of time, then ceramic or metal containers are worth the investment.  Just be sure you drill a few holes at the bottom if they do not already have a drainage system. Please note that large containers are also the easiest to maintain plants in due to the extra growing space.

Get clever with your containers and have the most original garden in the neighborhood! Who would have thought that laundry baskets, decorative trash cans, pumpkins, used soda bottles and wooden barrels make great containers for gardens? You’ll soon be that savvy gardener all the neighbors talk about (in a good way!).

Plants Suitable For Container Gardening:  Most plants from Uncle Herb’s Favorites, Veggin’ Out, Hot Mama’s Chiles and Peppers and The Producer will work well in your container garden.  Stay away from exceptionally large vegetables like watermelons, cantaloupe or squash.  Large containers can also fit a variety of plants with different shapes and sizes in just one container.

Tips and Tricks For Container Gardening

Use the Humble Seed companion planting blog post to find which plants grow well next to one another so that you can easily plan each container successfully. Redwood and Cedar wood is relatively less likely to rot than other wood containers. Drill holes at the bottom of the containers for drainage (if holes are not already present), and line the bottom with newspaper so that soil does not escape. Plant bright foliage around your container garden for some added texture and color.  Do not use flowers. Use light colored containers in the summer to reduce heat absorption, and darker color in the fall and winter months.

Happy gardening!

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