How and When to Mulch Tomatoes

Mulching tomatoes with straw with Tomato Dirt

Mulch is a covering placed over the soil around your tomatoes. It’s key step to take in effective tomato care!

Benefits to mulching

  • It keeps moisture in. A layer spread over bare soil allows the area to soak up more water. The outer layer dries faster than the soil below it. That reduces the rate of evaporation from the soil, plus it lets the soil to retain moisture for your tomato plants.
  • It regulates soil temperature. In hot summer months, a layer helps keep the underlying soil cooler. In the fall when temperatures fall off, the layer around your tomato plants keep roots warm.
  • It smothers weeds. Fewer weeds sprout because seeds are buried beneath the surface. And the weeds that sprout are weak and easy to pull.
  • It prevents disease and fruit rot. A layer keeps water from splashing on the soil, absorbing bacteria and fungi, and bouncing up onto your plants. Likewise, when a tomato falls onto a layered area, it is less likely to rot quickly than if it falls onto soil.
  • It improves the soil. Organic varieties can be turned into the soil at the end of the season.

 

Tomato Dirt Tip: Don’t mulch too early – wait a couple of weeks

Bottom line: wait or you’ll be waiting extra long to eat fresh tomatoes.

Kinds for best tomato care

Organic varieties include shredded leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, newspaper, biodegradable weed mats, shredded hardwood, sawdust, and wood chips. Organic mulch is good for the soil. As it decomposes, it adds organic material to your garden. Most are cheap or free. Take care to use grass clippings only when the yard has not been chemically treated.

Inorganic varieties for tomatoes include plastics and fabrics, such as Recycled Plastic Weedblock or various kinds of sheet plastics. They are sold in rolls at home improvement and garden centers or online.

Compare types to see what will work best for you. They each have advantages and disadvantages for your gardening situation. Read weed mat reviews for more information.

How to mulch tomato plants

  • Spread a 2-4-inch layer around your tomato plants
  • Pull back the layer about 1-2” from around the tomato stem, forming a small well around the base of the plant. This prevents compaction around the stem, which could lead to stem rot. The well creates a natural dish to capture water for your plant.
  • If you have plenty of extra, apply it in the rows between your tomatoes to keep weeds down.
  • Water your tomato plants. Make sure the moisture has penetrated by testing it with your finger.

 

Have a favorite mulch for growing tomatoes? One that works well for you?

Tell us what you use to mulch your tomatoes why you like it. Other gardeners want to know so can grow great tomatoes, too!

Umbrella Greenhouse

Umbrella  Greenhouse 2

So if you have been following this blog, you might remember back to last fall when you got a first glimpse of my potted herb garden. This post is a little upgrade that I made to my herb garden that allows me to get out into the garden early in the season.

In Southern California we are obviously blessed with pretty amazing weather. The problem is   that when we have nice warm days in January I want to get outside and get my garden going. What is this thing we call frost? How am I supposed to know when the last frost will be when we have no clearly defined seasons? So in seasons past I have been way to eager and all my little plants die because of frost and I have to end up planting everything again anyways. A perfect example is that I planted my herbs about 2 weeks ago and this morning there was ice on my windshield. I didn’t even know how to get it off, this is Southern California right?

Anyway, I am really glad I made this little greenhouse because not only have my herbs not died a premature death, but they are actually flourishing in their protected new bio-dome.

Umbrella  Greenhouse3

So the whole idea is pretty simple and you only need a few supplies:

  • one bubble umbrella (got mine at target)
  • one large pot/planter (mine is a galvanized steel basin)
  • potting soil
  • herbs (or whatever you like!)

Tips: I recommend trying to find a pot that is very similar in diameter to the umbrella that you have purchased. So umbrella first, pot second.

Step 1: Fill your pot with potting soil and plant your desired seeds or plants. Don’t overcrowd the pot because soon your plants will be filling in just fine. The only important thing to note is to make sure to not plant anything in the direct center of the pot. This is where the pole of the umbrella will go.

Step 2: Using large metal cutters, cut the handle off of the umbrella (and by cut, I mean I had to squeeze multiple times and then bend the handle back and forth). This should leave the pole crushed into a flat shape at the base because it is hollow. Using duct tape, cover this end. This will not only make it safer for handling, but will prevent dirt, water, and bugs from making their way into the umbrella.

Umbrella Greenhouse 1

Step 3: With the umbrella open, fit over your pot using the pole as a post to anchor the umbrella in place. If you pot is smaller than the umbrella, release the latch and allow the umbrella to “custom fit” your pot. The greenhouse effect still works this way.

Umbrella  Greenhouse 4

You should still remove the umbrella weekly to water, but watch how your plants grow faster, are shielded from the weather, and are protected from an abundance of bugs!          http://www.nanthinifarms.com                                                 Whats app me +9003395600

Email Me; nanthinifarms@gmail.com

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UMBERLA GREEN HOUSE

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Cd Case Greenhouse

I originally made this greenhouse last year. But thought I’d repost it because spring is right around the corner and this little greenhouse would make the perfect place to start seeds or showcase some spring bulbs that still need a little extra protection from the cold. Plus earth day is coming up and it’s a great reuse project for old CD cases!

The tutorial is pretty long… but don’t get scared off because the greenhouse really isn’t difficult to make. There are lots of details I wanted to be sure were explained clearly. To do that I had to break this down into a bunch of steps and include a lot of pictures. The toughest part about the whole project is cutting the cases into angles- and even that’s not really hard to do, it just takes some patience. The rest of the project is just gluing!
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
  • Old CD Cases- it takes 40 to make a greenhouse this size (about 11″x 18″ x 20″) but you’ll also want some extras in case a few break while being cut (I broke 2).
  • Plastic Glue- that dries clear.
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Safety Glasses
  • Tweezers
  • You’ll also need a craft knife, ruler and cutting board, and a large flat surface (that can get a bit of glue on it) for the cases to lay on while drying.
Step 1: Preparing The Cases
Start with clean cd cases. More than a few of mine needed a bit of dusting off and some old price tags removed. Since most of my cases also had black plastic disc holders in them, and I only needed the clear parts of the cases, I removed and discarded the black plastic. When you remove the disc holders you’ll notice it leaves an open space near the hinge. I’ll talk more about this in Step 2, I just wanted to point out that this is normal and nothing to worry about.
I also came across a few cases that had clear disc holders. The circular pattern reminded me of the fans you see in large greenhouses so I left those whole and used one on either end in the center of the wall’s peak.
Step 2: Making The Walls
You’ll need to make four walls for the main part of the greenhouse. The two end walls are each made from four cd cases. The side walls are made from six cases each.
Since the cases are rectangular, not square, it’s important that they are oriented the same way. All the walls have the hinges either on the left or the right, never on the top or bottom.
Before glueing anything lay the cases out and decide if the hinges are going to be on the left or the right. And remember the open space near the hinge I mentioned? Make sure on each case that open space faces down, that way you’ll have one side of each wall that’s smooth solid plastic.
For my end walls I chose to have the two cases on the left have the hinges on the left. The two cases on the right have the hinges on the right. I thought this arrangement made a nice pattern, but you could place them so that the hinges all meet in the middle- do whatever you think looks nice!
For the side walls I arranged it so cases on the left had the hinges facing left, cases on the right had hinges facing right. The cases in the middle alternated. On one wall the hinge for the case in the bottom row faced left and the hinge for the top row case faced right. In the second wall I flip flopped it, the bottom case had the hinge face right and the top faced left.
 
Once the pattern has been decided, the cases can be glued together.
Start by making the two end walls (4 cases each) then make the two side walls (six cases each). Apply glue to the edges wherever a case touches another case. Line them up carefully so the walls are even and leave them laying flat until dry.
Step 3: Attach The Center CD To The Wall’s Peak
The last whole cd case to go on the end walls is what I like to think of as the center or focal point of the peak. It’s where I used the cases that have the disc holders still in them.
Once the glue on the end walls has set enough that you can touch the walls without disturbing the alignment you can move on to this step.
Place the cd case in the middle of the wall- use a ruler to be sure it’s centered. Glue into place.
Step 4: Cutting Cases For The Wall Peak
Believe it or not you can cut cd cases with a craft knife (it just takes a bit of patience). 
 
But first things first- before cutting any cases you’ll want to put on safety glasses. When the cases are being scored and snapped there’s always the possibility that little shards of plastic can go flying. Those little bits of plastic can be just as sharp as glass… and you really don’t want one of them in your eye!
The most important part of this step is getting the angles accurate. Starting with the right corner of the peak place a whole case in the empty space (with the hinge facing the left and the open space facing down).
Lay a ruler across the case so that the edges line up with the corner of the full cases next to it and below it. Use your craft knife to score a line across the case that’s going to be cut.
Once the case is marked, flip it over and line the ruler up so it looks like it matches the line you’ve already scored on the other side. Then score a new line on this side of the case. Now that both sides are marked with a line, open the case up so it lays flat and score matching lines on the inside.
Using a fair amount of pressure, repeatedly cut over all the lines on the front, back, inside, and outside of the case. You’ll also need to cut the plastic on the edges of the case, where the front and back lines match up. After you’ve gone over the lines several times the case will begin to cut all the way through in some spots. When this happens the case can be snapped. To do this, carefully apply pressure along both sides of the score line
until the case snaps cleanly.
It may take a little practice- I broke two cases before getting it right. The two most important parts were making sure the harder plastic on the edges of the case were scored enough and changing the blade when it got dull.
Once the case is cut you’ll notice that the two pieces don’t hold together very well and that there’s no support at the tip of the angle. To fix this, first take a leftover part of the case and cut a piece off the edge.
Go back to the angle piece that you just cut and glue the edges of the case together. Then, using your tweezers, glue the leftover edge piece in between the front and back of the case to support the top.
Repeat for the left side, making sure the hinge of this case is on the right and that the open space is facing down. Glue both pieces into place.
To make the top of the peak you’ll need to cut a triangle. It’s done the same way as the side pieces, only this time to mark the angle you’ll place the ruler along the corner pieces that were just cut.
Step 5: Gluing The Walls Together
Once all 4 walls have dried stand them up and face each wall so the open spaces are on the inside. It’s a little harder to glue this way- but the result is a nice smooth wall on the outside.
Glue the edges of the walls, holding them in place with tape until the adhesive dries.
Once the glue has set you may notice gaps or weak areas; if that’s the case, use your glue like caulk to reinforce the joints. Run a bead of glue up the inside corners where each wall meets. Immediately wipe most of the glue away with a paper towel, moving from the bottom of the wall in a straight line towards the top while applying a little pressure with your finger. This will force the glue into the gaps and remove any excess.
Step  6: Making The Peak Of The Roof
To make the top of the roof four cd’s are bent in half and lined up to form a peak.
In order for the roof to lay flat against the end walls the plastic edge on the short side of the case (the part that’s opposite the hinge) needs to be cut off. Here I’ve shown one cd with the plastic cut off next to another cd with the plastic still on.
Once all four cd’s are cut it’s time to set the angle of the roof. I thought this step was going to be difficult but it turned out to be very easy. Put some glue on the hinges of two cd cases. Balance one on the top of of each end walls and let them dry in place.
Once the glue has dried it will keep the case at the correct angle, and now it can be used as a template to set the angle on the last two cases needed for the peak.
Remove the cases from their balancing place on each wall and set them on the flat surface. Before you glue all four cases together line them up so the openings alternate sides. The cases seemed to fit together more evenly this way.
Glue the other two cases to the ones that have already been glued into an angle, using tape to keep the angle matched until the adhesive is dry. When those two pairs have set, glue all the cases together, and you’ll have four cases for the top of the roof at the correct angles.
When that piece is dry it can be centered on top of the walls and glued into place.
Step 7: Finishing The Roof With Folding Panels
This last part was so much fun! I think it’s the finishing touch that really makes this little greenhouse sing.
You’ll need four cases for each side of the roof. Open the cases so they are laying flat, and glue the edges together to make a panel. Be careful not to get glue into the hinge or else your panels won’t be able to fold up once they are dry.
You’ll notice that on one side of each case there are three raised plastic edges, the other side of the case has two raised edges and one flat edge. I placed the panels on the roof so that the side with the flat edge was at the bottom closest to the walls. But you can place the panels however you’d like- it’s an aesthetic choice.
Place the panels so they overlap the roof’s peak, cover the open area of the roof, and overhang the walls just a little. Be sure the flaps fold up or else you won’t have panels that open for watering and ventilation! Glue along the top as well as the front and back sides (again it’s important to not get glue in the hinges or else the flaps won’t open). Use tape to hold the panels in place until the glue dries.
When the glue is dry remove all the tape and you’ll have an incredibly light, very strong, kinda cute little cd case greenhouse!
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Mini Greenhouse Ideas

If you are passionate about gardening and have a small space but want to have a greenhouse then this post is for you. With these mini greenhouse ideas, nothing will stop you from growing everything you want during unfavorable conditions. These ideas are more useful for those who are city dwellers and have a limited space garden

Also, these mini greenhouse ideas are economical too.

Before you start working out, calculate well the space you want to allocate for the mini greenhouse. Another very important aspect to be calculated is the purpose of your greenhouse. If you are planning a mini greenhouse for one season, then you should invest in simple and light structure, easy to assemble and dissemble. If, however, your goal is to dedicate each day to the healthy and good garden, you can create a more durable mini greenhouse that is slightly more complex, which allows you to organize plants both in winter and in summer.

Some Ideas for Building a Mini Greenhouse

1. CD Case Greenhouse

cd case greenhouse

Do you love to recycle? Learn how to make this versatile and good looking greenhouse from old CD cases. It is easy to make and you’ll need about 40 CD cases to make a greenhouse illustrated in the picture above.

2. Umbrella Greenhouse

Umbrella-Greenhouse_mini

This creative greenhouse is very fun to make. Just follow the simple tutorial to protect your plants from the exploitation of weather and save them from pests and diseases. Learn how to do it.

3. Turn Window into Greenhouse

window greenhouse

instead of spending the winter gazing through glass panes at frozen flower beds, transform your window into a mini-greenhouse where herbs, houseplants, and even little pots of grass will thrive. For best results, choose a large inset window that receives lots of light

4. Plastic Bottle Greenhouse

bottle greenhouse

This mini greenhouse is economical and simple to make and the best way to recycle plastic bottles. These micro greenhouses can be made with one or two soda bottles with the labels removed.

5. Pallet Greenhouse

pellet greenhouse

Pallets are really useful recycling material, especially for a gardener. If you own a patio or a rooftop garden, you can try this. This simple greenhouse is adaptable to small spaces and only require pallets

 

Gardening Success

Thriller, filler, spiller

Every times don’t use  same formula in your home garden. Change the formula

THRILLER :

  • A dramatic, attention-getting “THRILLER”

Tomato , Brinjal ,  Bhendi

  • An accent “FILLER” for shape and volume

Amaranths , Fennel  , Mints

  • And a “SPILLER” to extend the visual effect downward

Lotus , Hibiscus , Moringa

Discover how easy it is to create a vegetable garden to savor with your eyes AND your taste buds!

You’ll be amazed at how beautiful, productive, and easy this groundbreaking technique makes your vegetable garden!

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What Is A Green Roof: Ideas For Creating Green Roof Gardens

green-roof-400x274

Densely populated, large cities can cause what is known as an urban heat  effect. Tall mirrored buildings reflect light and heat, while also restricting airflow. Black asphalt on roads and roofs absorb sunlight and heat. Pollution, fuel emissions and other byproducts of civilization add to the buildup of heat that can surround a city. Essentially, a large metropolis can become a much warmer climate than rural areas around it. Green roofs have become a popular solution for reducing this urban heat island effect. Read on to learn more about how to grow a green roof garden.

What is a Green Roof?

Green roofs, also called vegetative roofs or rooftop gardens, have existed for centuries as an effective way to keep a home warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Sod roofs have been popular since ancient times in places like Iceland and Scandinavia.

These days, green roofs are still valued for effectively reducing heat and cooling costs, but also because they can reduce water runoff in areas with high amounts of precipitation, improve air quality in polluted urban settings, create habits for wildlife, increase usable space in the landscape, and help reduce the urban heat island effect.

Green roof garden designs are usually one of two types: intensive or extensive.

  • Intensive green roofs are rooftop gardens where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown. Rooftop gardens are oftentimes public spaces, usually have specialized irrigation systems and may incorporate courtyards, paths and seating areas.
  • Extensive roof gardens are more like the ancient sod roofs. They are created with shallower soil media and usually filled with herbaceous plants. Extensive green roofs can be done on a very small scale, such as a birdhouse or dog house roof, but they can also be made large enough to cover a home or building’s roof. If you’d like to try creating green roof gardens, you may want to try it out first on a small structure.

Creating Green Roof Gardens

Before starting a DIY green roof garden project, you should hire a structural engineer to make sure the roof can support the weight of a green roof. Also, make sure to get any building permits required by your city or township. Green roofs can be created on flat roofs or a sloped roof; however, it is recommended that you hire a professional to install a green roof if the pitch is more than 30 degrees.

Green roof kits can be ordered online. These are generally a system of planting trays that can be attached as needed and ordered in custom sizes. You can also make your own planting box frames with 2 x 6s and 2 x 4s. Green roofs cost approximately $15-50 per square foot. This can seem expensive at first, but in the long run green roofs save you money on heating and cooling costs. In some cases, grants for green roof projects may be available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Taking accurate measurements is the first step in creating an extensive green roof. This will help you know what to order if you are ordering a green roof kit. If you plan to build a green roof yourself, measurements will help you know how much pond liner, wood, draining media (gravel), weed barrier and soil media you will need.

Green roofs are a system of layers:

  • The first layer consists of two layers of pond liner or rubber roofing.
  • The next layer is a drainage layer, such as gravel.
  • Weed barrier is then placed over the gravel layer and a moisture blanket is laid over the weed barrier.
  • More drainage can be added with a layer of wood chips or the final layer of soil medium can be laid. It is suggested that you use a lightweight soilless growing media to keep the overall weight down.

In extensive green roofs, xeriscaping plants are often used. Plants need to have shallow roots and be able to tolerate times of drought and high precipitation, as well as intense heat, high winds, and possible pollution. Good plants for extensive green roofs are:

  • Succulents
  • Grasses
  • Wildflowers
  • Herbs
  • Mosses
  • Epiphytes

5 Golden Rules of Garden Planning

It’s never too late to plan a garden, even if you’ve missed the early spring sowing dates. The first secret to a super-productive garden is a well-planned garden. This avoids common issues that affect the health and productivity of your plants.

unt

Plan For Success:

Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by simply moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

Is your garden as productive as it could be? Plan for success! Using the Garden Planner, you can easily identify the best growing position for each plant’s needs by moving them around until you get the perfect layout.

In this short video we explain the 5 golden rules of garden planning to help you to avoid many of the pitfalls and grow your most productive garden yet

Rule 1: Provide the right growing environment

Full sun is essential for most veggies. For shady areas, choose crops such as leafy salads and greens.

Ensure you soil is fertile, moisture retentive yet well-drained by regularly mulching with or digging in compost.

Rule 2: Grow what you like!

Concentrate on the fruits and vegetables you love to eat. By growing your own you can choose varieties that promise exceptional taste and quality.

Rule 3: Make the most of the space you have

Choose vegetables that are hard to find in the grocery store, or expensive to buy.

Many types and varieties of fruits and vegetables are well-suited to growing in containers. Miniature varieties of vegetables, naturally compact salads and dwarf fruit trees can all be grown in pots.

You can use our Garden Planner to maximize the use of garden space. The Planner will show you exactly how many of each vegetable or fruit you can grow within the space available to you, without overcrowding them.

Rule 4: Make gardening easy

Opt for varieties that are suited to your growing conditions and the time and resources you have available. Pest and disease resistance is worth seeking out.

Place your vegetable garden or containers close to the house to make it easier to tend and harvest. Install water barrels to collect rainwater from greenhouse or shed roofs. Paths between beds should be wide enough for a wheelbarrow, while beds should be of the right proportions for easy maintenance and crop rotation.

Rule 5: Timing is of the essence

Sow quick-growing crops at one- or two-week intervals to spread harvests out and ensure that your garden is achieving its full potential. Harvest prolific croppers such as pole beans little and often to encourage more produce to follow.

Indoor plants @ 1

Aloe Vera

An Aloe Vera Plant is a drought resistant succulent plant that can be grown indoors or outdoors. Medicine Plant is the nickname given to an Aloe Vera Plant because the sap from its leaves soothes minor skin irritations and burns. This makes an Aloe Vera Plant a great plant for a sunny kitchen.  An Aloe Vera Plant has long, narrow, plump leaves with little spikes along the edges, so be very careful when handling it. An Aloe Vera Plant can be used as either a table plant or, when larger, a floor plant.

800px-Potted_Aloe_vera_plant-256x192

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Inverted Pepper Plants: Learn About Growing Peppers Upside Down

I’m pretty sure most of you have seen those green Topsy-Turvy tomato bags. It’s a pretty nifty idea, but what if you wanted to grow pepper plants upside down? It seems to me that an upside down tomato is the same idea as an inverted pepper plant. With the thought of growing peppers upside down, I did a little research on how to grow peppers vertically. Keep reading to find out if and how you can grow peppers upside down.

Can You Grow Peppers Upside Down?

Absolutely, it’s possible to grow inverted pepper plants. Apparently, not every veggie does well upside down, but upside down pepper plants are a go probably because they don’t have really deep roots. And, really, why wouldn’t you try growing peppers upside down? Upside down gardening is a space saver, lacks pesky weeds, foils pests and fungal disease, doesn’t need staking and, thanks to gravity, delivers water and nutrients easily. How do you grow peppers vertically? Well, you can purchase one of those Topsy-Turvy bags or a copycat version, or you can make your own upside down container out of all kinds of things – buckets, cat litter containers, heavy duty plastic trash bags, reusable plastic topes, and the list goes on

How to Grow Peppers Vertically

The container can be as simple and inexpensive as a re purposed container with a hole through the bottom in which you thread the seedling, a coffee filter or newspaper to keep dirt from falling out of the hole, some lightweight soil and a sturdy twine, wire, chain or even plastic weed eater string. Or, for those engineering, enterprising gardeners, it can be more complex and include pulley systems, built-in water reservoirs and spiffy liners of landscape fabric or coconut fiber. Buckets are the easiest thing to use, especially if they have lids which will help the upside down planter retain water. If you have a container without a lid, consider it an opportunity to grow something vertically atop the upside down peppers, like herbs that will complement the peppers when they’re ready for harvesting. As with upside down tomatoes, add about a 2-inch (5 cm.) hole/opening in the bottom portion of the chosen container and use a coffee filter or newspaper to anchor your plant into place (add a slit for easy installation of the plant). Slowly and gently push your pepper plant through the hole so that is hangs out the bottom with the roots inside the container. You can then begin filling in around the plant roots with potting mix, tamping the soil as you go. Continue filling the container until you reach about an inch (2.5 cm.) or so from its rim. Water thoroughly until it drains out and then hang your inverted pepper plant in a sunny location.

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Basil (Ocimum bacilicum ‘Genovese’)

Image

Featured in cuisines across the globe, basil is an indispensable flavoring. Plant seeds or transplants after all danger of frost has passed and soil is warm, and it will yield an abundant harvest within weeks.

Types of Basil

The type of basil you’re most likely to find in garden supply stores and mail order catalogs is bush or sweet basil, a compact plant that grows 18 to 24 inches tall. Purple basil’s richly hued leaves add color and interest to an herb bed or even a flower garden. Use it like common basil, but expect it to be less sweet. Steeping leaves in white vinegar produces a lovely tint. The number of basil species and varieties are growing by the year. You can find lemon and lime basils that bring a citrus fragrance to both the garden and the kitchen, and Thai basil, which imparts a licorice flavor. You’ll also find cinnamon-flavored varieties, clump-forming types with tiny leaves, and “lettuce leaf” basil, among others.

Caring for Basil

Plant basil in fertile soil in a spot that gets direct sun for at least 6 hours per day. Pinch the tip from the center shoot of basil after it has grown for 6 weeks to force side growth and prevent early flowering. If flower stalks develop, simply snip them off.

Basil needs a steady supply of moisture and warm soil temperatures to produce well, so you have to play a balancing act with mulch. In cool areas, delay mulching until the soil temperature has reached the mid-60s. Where summer really heats up and soil loses moisture quickly, you can add mulch sooner.

This heat-loving herb is susceptible to even mild frost; harvest the remainder of your crop if temperatures are predicted to dip into the 30s.

Basil has few pests, but occasionally generalist pests such as aphids, flea beetles, and Japanese beetles will feast upon it. Rinse off aphids with a garden hose. To prevent beetles from munching, cover the crop with fabric row cover. If slugs are a problem on new transplants, try a barrier of copper flashing.

Diseases are more of an issue for basil-lovers. Fusarium wilt of basil, first identified in the early 1990s, arrived via infected seed imported from Italy. Symptoms include sudden wilting and leaf drop, accompanied by dark streaks on the stems, usually in weather above 80°F. If you notice these signs, quickly dig up the infected plant, along with all soil around the roots, and discard it. If part of your garden becomes infected, avoid spreading the disease by moving soil around on your tools or tiller, and consider growing your basil in containers. You might also try a fusarium-resistant variety, such as ‘Nufar’.

Basil is also susceptible to a few bacterial rots that show up on stems or leaf clusters, usually in cool, wet weather, often late in the season. Keys to control include planting in well-drained soil, spacing plants so they dry off after rain, and removing infected plants from the patch.

Harvest and Storage

Basil is at its most flavorful when fresh. The best time to harvest is just as the plant starts to set flower buds, well before flowers bloom. Basil is programmed to initiate flowering when it has six pairs of leaves on a stalk. For maximum production per plant, cut it back to two leaves per stem, and don’t let it grow past four pairs. You can harvest the entire plant about every three weeks, and at the end of the season there will be 12 to 24 lateral branches.

The later in the day you harvest basil, the longer it stays fresh. In a perforated bag kept at around 60°F, it will keep for 10 to 14 days. In contrast, refrigerated basil lasts two or three days. You can also store stems in a vase in your kitchen, close at hand for cooking. As for flower bouquets, change water in the vase every few days.

To best maintain the flavor of dried basil, store it in the freezer. To quick-freeze basil, dry whole sprigs and pack them in plastic bags with the air pressed out. To dry basil, pinch leaves off the stem and spread them out in a shady, well-ventilated area. Check in 3 or 4 days, and if they don’t crumble easily between your fingers, finish drying in the oven; otherwise the leaves may turn brown or black in storage. Use the lowest heat possible with the door slightly open, turn leaves for even drying, and check them frequently.

Another method is to make pesto (or even basil processed with olive oil), pack it into containers or ice cube trays, and freeze it. Once cubes are frozen, you can pop them out of trays and into plastic bags for easy storage.

Meet the Variegated Pink Eureka Lemon

potted tree

Meet the lemon that took the gardening world by storm—if you plant only one citrus this year, make it this tree

The tree: The variegated pink Eureka lemon is usually sold in a 5-gallon container when it’s 2 to 3 years old.

In the ground, it grows 12 to 15 feet tall. Keep it small enough for a pot by pruning the foliage and roots every four to five years.

The foliage: Apple green leaves have creamy white to pale yellow edges.

Where to grow: Display in a site that gets at least 4 hours of sun a day (8 is better), and is protected from wind and frost.

Which zones: It grows well outdoors in Sunset climate zones 8, 9, 12–24, H1, H2; indoors elsewhere. Find your zone in the Sunset Plant FinderEureka lemon tree

The pale yellow fruit is streaked with green before fully matured.

The fruit: Green streaked ​ with gold when young, it matures to pale yellow. Pink flesh produces clear juice. Expect a few lemons early on; more when the plant is four to ​five years old.

How to plant: Choose a pot at least 16 inches in diameter. Fill the bottom inch with fast-draining potting mix, set in the rootball, fill around it with more soil, then water.

dwarf citrus tree

‘Gold Nugget’ mandarin.

Gold Nugget’ mandarin: Seedless and super-sweet, these easy-to-peel mandarins ripen on the tree from early spring through summer.

Australian finger lime: Its jalapeño-shaped fruit can reach ​ 5 inches long. Inside, “beads” filled with tart juice burst when you bite into them.

Dwarf citrus tree

Organic Meyer lemon: The favored sweet-tart fruit is now available on an organically grown tree. It starts bearing fruit early on and can produce all year.

 

 

 

 

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