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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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Indoor Garden- Essentials for Year-Round Edibles

February 2nd, 2014

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Maintaining a steady stream of vegetables throughout the year can be difficult in some places. Let’s face it, most plants were never built to produce edibles while covered in snow. Although the weather outside may be frightful, your indoor garden can still be delightful. As long as you can provide what they need…let ‘em grow, let ‘em grow, let ‘em grow. Setting all fun aside, you can maintain a good indoor garden that can produce year round edibles. What are the essentials for creating an indoor garden?
1. Temperature Variance - It is important to provide a stable temperature that can allow fruits and vegetables to grow. For most edibles, a temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. This can be harder to maintain in the winter than you may realize, however. Drafts, windows, gaps in the doors and other instances could drop the temperature too low for a plant to flourish. Keep your indoor garden as warm as possible throughout the winter months.

2. Light - While many people believe that only heat lamps and sunlight can be used to grow an effective indoor garden, you should never underestimate the power of a $20 fluorescent ballast and bulb. Although sunlight allows for the production of vitamin D, plants utilize photosynthesis to exist – meaning virtually any light source will do. There have been many gardeners who saved money while providing fruits and vegetables by providing a regular balance of light through CFL and long fluorescent tubes.

3. Containment - You need an area that is not going to be trafficked by people and pets that could ruin a plant or a crop. This is especially difficult if you have cats and dogs. However, you can keep your furry friends out of these indoor gardens by using a cheap roll of screen that you would use on windows and doors. As long as you’re not growing anything of consequential interest such as mint or catnip, your pets are easily deterred by the screen mesh.

 

Putting it All Together

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a shelving unit with built in lighting, you could spend less than half of the cost and build a unit yourself. It doesn’t take a great deal of engineering skill or electronic nuances to build an effective edible producing garden. Must have indoor gardening supplies, include:

-A shelving unit: These can be as high as $60 or more for large plastic shelves from your local hardware store.

-Fluorescent lights: The long tube ones are better for mounting on the shelves lengthwise. Just make sure the ballasts are shorter than the width of the shelving unit.

-Roll of screen mesh: These rolls are usually quite inexpensive at hardware stores. You’ll want to wrap the screen around the openings, but leave a place where you can enter and water your plants.

-Pots and containers for your plants: These are usually inexpensive, too – especially if you pick them up at yard sales throughout the summer.

-Power strip: You’ll need one of these if you plan on using more than two florescent ballasts.

Of course the screen is not necessary if you don’t have pets or children that can mangle the plants. The creation of this garden unit is simple enough and can provide an endless stream of edibles if you time the plantings correctly. As long as you can simulate the ideal growing environment, any plant can flourish indoors. 

 

Folks, what successes have you had with indoor gardening?

 

About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest bloggers. This great article was contributed by Elizabeth Reed. Elizabeth is a freelance writer and a resident blogger at Live in Nanny. She particularly enjoys writing about parenting, childcare, health and wellness. In addition, she is an expert consultant on issues related to household management and kids.

 

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5 Easy Tips For Seed Starting Indoors

January 22nd, 2014

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Starting seeds indoors can sound confusing to beginner gardeners – especially with the extra steps involved.  Yet the benefits make the extra steps worthwhile. For one, plants have a better chance of thriving in harsh weather, and secondly, seeds are more likely to stay organic from the start.

Here are five tips to get your seed underway.

Prep Your equipment Collect the necessary equipment and supplies for seed starting. You can start simple by using good old-fashioned yogurt cups, seed starting potting mix, and sunlight. As you get the hang of it, you may want to invest in seed flats (large containers that can hold many seedlings), peat pots, nutrient-rich potting mix, a grow-light system built for seed starting indoors, heating mats and cables, and organic compost.

Have A Plan Save yourself a lot of time (and heartache) and buy a Garden Planner before seed starting.  The planner will provide all the information your need for starting your seeds indoors – from when to start and frost dates, to planting seed depth and when to transfer outdoors.

Get Your Seed Cozy Prepare your seeds indoors by first gathering your containers and make a few drainage holes. Fill each container with a moistened seed starting mix (either store bought or make your own), and sow in seeds carefully. A good rule of thumb is seeds ought to be at a depth of about three times the thickness of the seed.

Give the seeds a light sprinkle of water and place plastic wrap or a sheet of glass over the containers for a cozy and moist environment. Ideally, you want each plant to be at a humid 70 degrees F. for optimal germination. Keep the soil moist by misting with water, or filling the trays with water below.

Maintain With Attentiveness When you first notice your seed sprouting, go ahead and move your plants to a bright location (after clicking your heels up in the air!). The bright location can be a sunny window, a greenhouse, under fluorescent grow lights, or an alternative steady high-powered light source. Keep in mind that if you live in an area with little sunlight or short days, you may want to consider an alternative lighting system.

Next, seedlings should be moved into a cooler location. Continue composting and lightly water your plants a few days a week. Also, many gardeners practice gently ruffling out seedlings so that roots and stems grow strong. Once the plant is too large for the container, transfer to a larger one without damaging the fragile root system.

Harden Them Off After consulting your planner (see tip 2), determine the date that you will transfer your plants outdoors. One week prior, begin toughening up your plants by exposing them to the outdoors a few hours a day. Start by placing them in a shady location, and gradually allow for more time exposed to the sunlight and weather patterns. When you’re ready, go ahead and transfer your plants outdoors unless you’re experiencing terrible weather.

***Friends, what are your tips for starting your seeds indoors? Let’s hear your successes! Also, what didn’t work?

 

About us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  Enter seed15 at checkout to save 15% off your next order.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside: What You Can Grow Indoors

January 5th, 2013

Baby it’s cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to deprive your inner gardener of fragrant herbs and fresh vegetables this winter. In well-insulated homes with temperatures kept above 60 degrees F., growing plants indoors can be an ideal environment for both young and mature plants.

Growing Herbs Indoors: Most herbs can grow very well indoors, and require minimal maintenance. Place herbs near a bright window, and ensure they do not come in direct contact with the window. If a sunny window this winter is hard to come by, your next best option is supplementing their sun exposure with grow lights.

The best herbs to grow indoors are perennial and do not require significant sunlight. These include flavorful herbs like chives, marjoram, oregano and rosemary. Herbs like basil, parsley, sage, and thyme grow well indoors, but keep in mind that they require strong sunlight to thrive.

Growing Vegetables Indoors: To successfully grow vegetables indoors, choose small vegetables that do not build lengthy root systems. Delicious varieties of beets, carrots, eggplants, peppers, radishes, and tomatoes all have relatively short root systems and will do well in a container next to a sunny window. Leaf lettuces like Bib and Boston are also quite easy to grow from seed indoors, using a small container.

While your herb garden may not require supplemental light, the shorter and darker days of winter may not provide vegetables with the 6-8 hours of sunlight required to survive. Using fluorescent lights that provides a full UV spectrum or grow lights can make all the difference. Ask your local garden center which lights will work best for your vegetable needs.

Tips For Growing Plants Indoors:

*Keeping a fan nearby can regulate plant temperature, and will help to properly circulate the air to prevent mildew and fungus from forming.

*You may need to water indoor plants a little more often, as winter heaters tend to keep soil pretty dry. Water plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.

*Plants need darkness as well as sunlight in order to survive. Set a timer on your fluorescent lights, and don’t get overly ambitious about providing excessive supplemental sunlight.

*Add a time released fertilizer to plants as needed. Do some research on all of your plants, as different plants require varying amounts of fertilizer. Generally, plants that are growing rapidly will require more fertilizer than plants that are slow growing.

 

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.

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