Sunday, February 19, 2012

Make Sure Your Basil Ain't Faulty

The second part in this series deals with herbs that like a wet soil.

Basil is dead easy to sprout from seeds and it likes plenty of water but it also likes plenty of sunshine. Temperate conditions outdoors in an Irish or British climate swarm the slugs and promote disease - fungus and mould - so keep the plants on indoor window sills in full sun or in greenhouses and give them plenty of water. When you're starting off your seeds on windowsills or under glass, make sure they're sown widely apart or they'll cluster tight together and come down with a fungal disease. it can do well outdoors in a temperate climate in well watered and fed containers and beds from May onwards. You will need to take account of the pests who will wipe it out this tender juicy verdant without adequate protection.

Basil will eventually stretch skyward and flower. Prolong its useful life by pinching off those rangy long stalks and flowers as they appear. Once they get too stretchy and stick like, it's time to chuck them. Sow a load of basil every three weeks or so to keep tender plants coming on. Resist the urge to eat them fresh. The smell is fantastic! When in containers they're prone to mites (a whitish web) or aphids. Kill this problem by spraying with lightly soapy water - leaving the plant sit for half an hour and then rinsing it's foliage. Pick the leaves, tear them up fresh and throw them on pasta. Mmm!

Watch out for some of those runner herbs going native...

Fennell and Dill
A doddle to grow anywhere. Great for fish and these look really good in summer, attracting plenty of bees with their flowers. Be warned though, they grow high - in the case of fennell up to four or five feet. They need a good sunny spot. The seeds, which taste of aniseed, can also be harvested, dried and stored. We use it for fish. Cut back hard at the end of every year. And try and keep it controlled or corral it in or else you’ll find yourself picking bits of fennel out of everywhere for years to come. It produces thousands of seeds and spreads them well.

Mint/Lemon Balm
We’ve grown both regular mint and lemon balm. We’ve made our own mint sauce and icecream. Our own mint laiden Mohitos. Crush a handful and bring it to your nostrills…mmmm!  It likes rich damp soils and should be cut back hard to keep the fresh green leaves coming. Be warned though - and do take this very seriously - this plant is a thug which will take over your whole garden without adequate control. Never, but never plant it freely in the ground. Put it, not only in a planter on a patio, but also if you can, in a planter with no drainage holes. This plant has to be seen to be believed. It sends out runners through the bottom of pots and over dry pavement to reach soil. Once it gets "free range" in open soil, Frgeddaboudit!

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