Basil is an annual herb that is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine – you would be hard-pressed to find a pasta sauce that doesn’t have basil in it. Not to mention it is one of the staple ingredients in pesto (the others being garlic, olive oil, and pinons or walnuts).
Green manure is not fresh out of the horse. In fact, it’s not even manure. It’s another name given to cover crops, or crops that are planted for one reason only: to benefit garden soil. Think of it as a grow-your-own organic fertilizer, literally. Cover crops also stabilize soil and attract beneficial bugs, providing them with food and shelter.
First of all, “bargain bin” seeds are no bargain. If you see packets of vegetable seed marked down to a ridiculously low price, ask yourself why they’re marked down. It might be that the retailer is trying to get rid of seeds that didn’t sell well (maybe rutabagas aren’t all that popular in your area and the retailer bought too many wholesale, for instance)…but chances are, they’re old seeds that may or may not germinate when planted. Look at the date on the seed packet, and if it’s last year, don’t buy them. Only buy seeds that are meant to be planted this year.
Also called Broad Beans, they actually aren’t beans at all – they’re a member of the pea family. Go figure. A bush plant rather than a climbing vine, varieties include Aquadulce, Broad Windsor Longpod, Bunyards Exhibition, Imperial Green Longpod, Futua RZ, and The Sutton.
Companion planting is not an exact science, but certain combinations of plants grown together seem to be an effective way of enhancing food security by reducing the chances that crops will be destroyed by diseases or pests. The smell of certain pungent plants can repel pests. Other plants attract birds and insects that eat garden pests. One plant will feed the soil with the nutrients another needs, creating balance. A few specific examples follow.
The Sweet Bay or Bay Laurel tree is…well, a tree. Not your typical herb, it is an evergreen whose leaves are used as an herb in cooking, often added two at a time to sauces, soups, and stews for a slightly bitter edge. The Latin name for the Sweet Bay/Bay Laurel tree is laurus nobilis, not to be confused with any other entirely different species commonly referred to as “bay.”
Why so many different plants in one post? Well, they’re all members of the same family (asteraceae) and genus (cichorium) and have remarkably similar planting requirements and growing conditions. Chicory belongs to the species intybus, and radicchio is a chicory variety. Endive belongs to the species endivia, and escarole and frisee are endive varieties. All of them are cool weather vegetables that tend to bolt during the heat of summer. They make it possible to enjoy salad all year long.
Most people are only familiar with the dried version of the black currant, sold in boxes alongside raisins in the supermarket. Smaller and a little more tart/tangy than raisins, they make a flavorful addition to baked goods and hot cereals. The fresh fruits are a tasty alternative to grapes and are ideal for making preserves.
If you live in a colder climate with a shorter growing season, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will not only extend the growing season, but will also protect your plants from harsh temperatures while they are still extremely vulnerable. If you live in a warmer climate, starting your vegetable seeds indoors will give you a head start on the growing season so that you will end up with a larger harvest. Keep in mind that you don’t want to start the seeds too far ahead. 6-8 weeks before the projected date of the last frost for your area is ideal.
There’s nothing quite like an herb garden. Not only do herbs ward off some pests who are repelled by their strong scent, they just look beautiful, and the taste of fresh herbs in your cooking cannot be beat. You will wonder how you ever cooked with that dried stuff in the bottles at the supermarket.