The Basil ūüĆŅ has Sprouted!


WE DID IT!  WE HAVE ACHIEVED SPROUTYNESS!!!!

Italian Genovese Basil Sprouts © 2018 Marie Stephens
It took less than a week! We planted the seeds last Tuesday afternoon, and the seeds were beginning to sprout by Saturday morning! It’s now Monday morning and the sprouts have formed cotyledons(the first set of baby leaf forms), and are beginning to green up!

Now What?????

If you have made it this far, you might be wondering what to do next to keep your basil babies alive. ¬†Here’s a short list of things to do to keep them going.

  1. Remove your seedlings from the top of the fridge once they begin to sprout
  2. Reduce the number of times you spritz your seedlings to once a day, and gradually taper down to every other day, and then just start watering them with a watering can as the soil starts to dry on the surface. Why?Seeds need to be kept moist constantly until they sprout, then you want to gradually reduce the amount of water you give them to avoid causing them to rot or suffocate. This could be another separate article!
  3. Take the set up to a warm, sunny room, away from heat vents(at least 5 feet away) I have mine sitting on the top shelf of a bakers rack that sits in my sunny foyer.
  4. Begin removing the clear lid from the seedlings. Why?
  • To prevent your seedlings from getting to long and spindly (leggy)
  • To prevent mold from growing that can cause a disease called (dampening off) that causes your seedlings to die off right at the base of the stem.
  • To begin getting your seedlings acclimated to air movement. (air movement will ultimately help your seedlings get stronger, sturdier stems.

If you ordered seeds this winter, this poem is for you!

How to Start Your Own Basil

Marie’s Favorite Kinds of Basil

Day 8 Seedlings are growing. Now what?

  1. Rotate your seedlings once a day to prevent them from bending too much in one direction towards the sunlight.
  2. You can now leave the clear dome off permanently
  3. Reduce watering to once every 2 or 3 days. Just make sure that you water deeply so the soil gets wet all the way to the bottom of the container to stimulate deep rooting down into the soil.
  4. At this point you can still water with a mister, but you can adjust the nozzle from mist to more of a heavy spray and eventually a small stream.
  5. Avoid blasting the delicate seedlings with hard streams of water.
  6. Teach little ones to wet the soil surface rather than aiming directly at the seedlings.
  7. Teach little ones that the seedlings will get their water from their roots which are buried in the soil. This is why we aim at the soil instead of the leaves.
  8. You could even gently pull one seedling out and show your kids the little white root! Tell them that the root is kind of like a paper straw! It can suck up water through the tip and can absorb through the sides kind of like a wick.
  9. If you use a magnifying glass, you will also see root hairs which also help your plants get a drink.
  10. Make sure your container is not standing in a saucer full of water. Standing water causes the roots to be deprived of air and will cause suffocation and rot which ultimately results in death of your seedling.
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Seed Starting Basics


We Planted Our Basil!

This is a mister that is about the same size as the one we have. ¬†It’s small enough for little hands to hold and still be able to squeeze the trigger. ¬†It is also BPA free, and has 3 different spray settings. We keep ours in the kitchen cupboard to use for spritzing seedlings, and also to tame crazy hair in the mornings as we head out the door to school! ¬†It’s a life saver for moms of boys!

We Did It!

Finally, after talking about it, we made some time to plant a few basil seeds. ¬†It’s so easy to put it off, and then 3 weeks have passed by and still no seeds planted! ¬†I try not to stress too much about it, because I know I can always buy a plant at the garden center if I get behind. ¬†The point of all of this is to have fun and learn something anyway right?

The Case of the Missing Basil Seed

So I was all ready to get started. ¬†I went to the basement, found the wooden box that we keep all of our seed packets in. ¬†I began digging, and digging…..and digging some more. I am now the proverbial squirrel in search of the nut! No luck. ¬†No basil seed to be found! ¬†“I could have sworn I still had some of that basil seed!” ¬†I did find about 3 packages of Arugula seed, and a bazillion packages of Zinnias and other garden flowers, tomato, pepper, and other seeds, but no basil. ¬†And this is how a gardener ends up with an entire box of seeds with multiple packages of the same kind! ¬†It’s the squirrel syndrome!

I picked up Harrison from school, and we headed over to Wallace’s Garden Center to buy some seed. ¬†It was so dreary yesterday, so seeing some green life forms was good for all of us. ¬†My boys love to look at all the cute little cacti and succulents in the tiny pots there.

I was quite proud of myself, as I only spent $7 on seeds.  I purchased some Italian Genovese Basil and some Thai Basil.  The first packet cost $5!  I thought that seemed a little high, but then I looked at the seed count on the packet.  There were about 1000 seeds in the packet, compared to about 200 in the others that cost around $2.  Since I am planning to replant the basil more than once, as I am going to use it more as a microgreen and get a shorter lifespan out of it.

We got home, and settled in, and a light bulb went on in my mind. The spice cabinet! ¬†“I think I saved some seed heads in a baggy and put them in the spice cabinet!” ¬†Sure enough, there was the suspicious baggy. ¬†A bunch of dried up leaves that smelled like basil! ¬†I noted there were a few seed heads in the bag, so I decided to try to collect a few seeds from them. ¬†It took some time and patience, and now I realize why seeds cost what they cost! ¬†It’s all about the time it takes! ¬†If you want to learn how and maybe work in a little life lesson for your kids with during the seed collecting activity, click the link below to see!

Collecting Your Own Basil Seed From Dried Flower Stems

 

How to Collect Basil Seeds From Your Garden


Why collect seeds?

I say why not? ¬†Isn’t it kind of cool to save a buck or two and learn something with your kids at the same time? ¬†Plus, you can use those saved bucks to go buy some ice cream or a cup of coffee for $3 and not feel so guilty!


“I think it’s important for us and our children to know that it is possible to find something that looks dead and worthless, and know that underneath that withered exterior, lies the key to something beautiful and full of life that is fragrant, nourishing, and even if you don’t like to eat it, is still fun to scratch and sniff! ” ¬†– Marie Stephens


Aside from the idea that you can eventually eat the basil that emerges from these adorable little onyx colored seeds, do you see the beautiful metaphor about life that you can teach to your little ones? ¬†Collecting seeds and being able to grow them on is a great lesson for that old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” ¬†That’s one of the things I love most about gardening! ¬†So many life lessons are hidden amongst all of the leaves, dust, and dirt!

So here is how to get started on your seed collecting adventure

  1. Allow your basil plants to form flowers
  2. leave the flower stems on the plant
  3. let the flowers form and wither leaving them on the plant
  4. wait until the flowers die away, and little seed heads start to swell on the stem
  5. allow the seed heads to get brown and crunchy
  6. cut the dried flower stems with seed heads away from the plant
  7. Get ready to harvest your tiny seeds!
©Marie Stephens 2018 basil seed head
Dried up basil flower stem with seed heads
©2018 Marie Stephens gardenshapers basil seeds with chaff
The tiny black things are the basil seeds. ¬†Aren’t they cute?

 

©2018 Marie Stephens Gardenshapers basil seeds after blowing away chaff
It took me about 10 minutes to harvest this small amount of seed.

Once You Have Your Flower Stems

  1. Find the dried flower stem ( if you are like me, you might be like the squirrel who knows they burried the nut some place, but you just can’t seem to remember where!)
  2. pluck off the seed heads
  3. use a small white dish  to crumble the seed heads into
  4. crumble the seed heads over a strainer so all the chaff doesn’t fall onto the plate
  5. you should get 3-5 tiny black seeds per seed head
  6. roll the seed heads between your fingers, crushing the dried capsule, until the seeds fall out.  They are about the size of a small caterpillar turd.
  7. When you have crumbled all the seed heads, ever so gently blow over the plate and the rest of the dust will blow away, leaving the seeds on the plate!
  8. Ideally all seeds should be stored in a cooler or climate controlled environment.
  9. My hand harvested basil seeds may or may not sprout, as I didn’t store them properly, but I am willing to try….because they are from my Spicy Globe Basil Plant, and they didn’t have that seed at the store!

 

Self Watering Seed Starting Kits


I found something interesting today related to seed starting.  The older I get, the more I think I should simplify.

I was looking around on line for some cool indoor containers that would be fun to grow basil seeds and found this cute little kit.  It seems a bit pricey, but it looks sleek and contained.

This unit is self contained and includes:

  • a grow light
  • a self watering system with water reservoir
  • cartridges of special soil with seeds already embedded in them (evidently these are re-usable)

 

How it works:

According to the video, you pop in a pre-planted seed thingy that has the perfect amount of nutrients, special soil, etc. all in a cartridge of sorts.

  1. pop in a cartridge,
  2. fill a reservoir with water,
  3. and plug it in.
  4. Self watering seeds are a go.

 

Who Could Benefit from a Product Like This:

It could potentially be awesome if you are one of those crazy busy people who wants fresh basil, but can’t handle one more thing to remember to take care of. ¬†Or if you are going to be gone for a few days, and don’t want to have your seedlings dry out, this might be something worth checking out.

The company claims you can grow your own cherry tomatoes in it, but I am highly skeptical about that. ¬†Do they have a clue as to how huge a cherry tomato plant gets? ¬†Even if it’s a super dwarf variety meant for containers, I would still not plant a cherry tomato in it, unless you plan to just start the plant and then plant it outside once it gets about 5 inches tall or so.

Plants that I think you would have the most success with using this unit:

  • basil,
  • cilantro,
  • arugula,
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens),
  • radishes(if using for microgreens),
  • beets(for microgreens),
  • basically, any kind of plant that you would like to eat regularly for microgreens.

Why I think small leafy greens would work best:

The reason I think it could work well for herbs that you eat regularly, is because you can maintain a small enough size plant that is compatible with the size of the unit because you will be eating your greens regularly.

I would love to test this product out and give a review! ¬†I think it would be great for a city dweller with a small apartment or condo who doesn’t want to mess with a huge garden, but enjoys being able to pick a few tasty herbs to garnish meals, or simply to scratch and sniff!

What do you guys think of the look?

I found this little gizmo intriguing. ¬†What do you think of it? ¬†It’s a self-watering seed starting kit. There is a short video description of how it works with a time-lapse growing video to see it in action. ¬†Click the pic if you want to learn more from the manufacturer.

 

I Garden Because I Can….Pun Intended


This post is about gardening, and why I love it, why I hate it, and why gardening will always be a part of my life!


I garden because I can!

There’s no place I’d rather be.

In this place, treasures abound,

when searching around,

hunting on bended knee.

 

My arms are getting itchy,

The bugs are beginning to bite!

Yet still,

I feel,

A calm respite.

 

My buns are sweating, 

My back is breaking, 

SO MANY TOMATOES,

I should be staking!

Muscles I never knew I had,

soon will be aching!

 

Weeds are tall,

My patience is shrinking!

My boobs are sweating!

My armpits are stinking!

And then I start thinking:

 

How I would love to fall into a pool

But then I look at my haul,

and I begin to drool!

 

My shirt is stained

My body is drained

My thirst needs quenched

My clothes are drenched

 

But…

 

My mind is clear

My soul is cheered

My heart is full

along with my bucket!

 

My bucket is full

of gardeners’ loot.

I’ve hit the jackpot

in multiple pounds of delicious fruit!

 

My garden may not be perfect,

after all, it’s full of weeds,

but still it remains

an escape for me.

 

Not to be alone,

but to live in community

with birds and bees…….

and those stinking rabbits,

the snakes that give me the shivers,

the caterpillars,

other creepy critters

and let’s not forget the coons!

Yes they have a right to be here too,

so I guess I could spare them a tomato or two.

©Marie Stephens 2018

Are You Ready?

If after reading this poem, which is almost a disclaimer stating that gardening is not glam, you still want to give it a try this year, then I found a collection of seed at a decent price to get you started!  I read a little bit about the company, and it warmed my heart!  Take a peek and see for yourself when you click the pic!


The “I Garden Because I Can” Gift Collection, by Marie Stephens Art

Below, is a link to a small collection of “I Garden Because I Can” items that I created as gifts for gardeners and home grown food preservation fanatics! ¬†They can all be personalized and shipped directly to you or to the person you’d like to send the gift to!

So far, I have designed a

  • kitchen floor mat with funny canning puns and phrases,
  • a tshirt that can be ordered in multiple styles and colors,
  • an apron,
  • a bandana to hold your hair back on canning day,
  • and a mason jar mug with the graphics I designed to make your fellow gardener/canner smile, especially if they hate bunnies…even though they really are so cute!

I hope you will get a chuckle, and if you do order something, thanks so very much!  I earn a royalty for the items purchased with my art on them!



Canning and Gardening

Starting Basil Indoors


How to Start Basil In Your Kitchen

I just got a question from Shaina about how to start basil so she could have fresh herbs in her kitchen.  Basil is an easy one to germinate, or start from seed.  And fresh basil tastes wonderful in so many dishes.  So this one is for you, Shaina, hope this helps:)

First and foremost, you’ll need some seeds! ¬†Below are links to where you can order some of my favorite varieties! ¬†And there are tons of different kinds of Basil!

As I was hunting for links for Basil seeds and looking at pictures of this delicious herb, I began smelling Basil! ¬†I told my family, “Man, all of this talk about Basil is making me so hungry, I am starting to smell it!!!” ¬†Then I walked into the kitchen and realized that my son, Harrison, was eating his breakfast, leftover angel hair pasta with basil pesto mixed in!

This is Italian Genovese Basil. If you sprinkle it right on top of the soil and give it a pat, several little seedlings will pop up, and make a nice green stand of basil babies! Kinda like a Chia pet, but with larger leaves.
This is Spicy Globe Basil. It is the cutest, in my opinion of all the basils. It has tiny leaves and makes a cute little ball that you can clip and sprinkle on everything. The flavor is less licorice “y” than other basils and more spicy sweet. Click the pic to order from Amazon.
If you can’t decide on which variety to try, many companies offer collections of seed, like this one that features Dark Opal Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Lime Basil, Italian Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, and Cinnamon Basil. Click the pic to order via Amazon.

This is a set of 5 pots from Ceramo, a company I used to order pottery from when I had my flower shop.  The size is 4.25 inches.  You can also order clay saucers from them. I prefer using a pretty plate and then putting 2 or three pots on the same plate.

 

You will need a basic potting mix to start your basil seeds in.  There are hundreds of brands and recipes out there.  I have always found Miracle grow to be a good basic mix to start with. Click the pic if you want to order some from Amazon.

Getting Started

Potting Soil Prep:  

One thing that nobody seems to tell you is that potting mix is hard to moisten in the beginning. ¬†It usually has peat moss in it, which can hold a ton of water….but because of that, it takes a while to soak up! ¬†I would advise that prior to planting any seeds………

  1. grab an old bucket
  2. grab an old large spoon or trowel
  3. pour the amount of soil you need into the bucket
  4. turn on some warm water in your kitchen sink
  5. turn the spray nozzle on
  6. gently spray some water into the bucket, being careful not to spray directly onto the soil, because if it’s really dried out, the soil particles might poof into your face and make you sneeze:)
  7. start mixing the soil, to work in the water
  8. add squirts of water until the soil feels moist, and will clump together when you squeeze it…kind of like shortbread cookie dough, or pie crust…still crumbly, but will hold together if you squeeze it.
  9. Once it has enough water, put the soil in the pot
  10. You are now ready to plant your yummy Basil seeds!
  11. Doing this soil prep will make it much easier to water in your seeds after you plant them. Why? ¬†Really dry potting mix tends to float and repel water at first. ¬†If you are trying to get the soil to soak up the water after you have already planted the seeds….think flash flooding of baby seeds and drowning and suffocation of baby seeds…not good:)

What if you Don’t have time for soil prep as described above?

  1. Here’s a cheat. ¬†In plant nerd terms, we call this process capillary action. ¬†Just set the pot that you planted your seed in, in a saucer and fill the saucer with water
  2. Let the water soak in from the bottom, up through the soil, from the drainage hole in the pot.
  3. refill the saucer until the soil appears to be moist on top.  This may take a few hours.

Planting the Basil Seeds

1.  Find a small 4 inch pot.  I prefer clay pots, because they are cute, and because they allow the soil to dry out faster, which helps me to avoid rotting my seedlings from overwatering.

2.  Get your favorite variety of Basil seed

3.  Sprinkle the Basil seeds right on top of the soil

4.  Gently scratch the soil surface to let the Basil seeds fall into place

5.  Water in the Basil seeds with a gentle shower from your kitchen sprayer

6.  Make a mini greenhouse environment for your newly sown basil seeds by

     a. covering the soil with a clear baggy dome, or

     b. you could set the whole pot inside one of those clear plastic lidded spinach

         boxes from the grocery store that acts as a saucer to catch the drips and

         keeps the air humid which will make the seeds germinate faster.

7.  Place your mini greenhouse with your newly sown basil seeds on the top of your      refrigerator, as the bottom heating of the soil from the fridge will stimulate them to sprout.

8.  After they sprout, take the baggy off  or remove the salad container lid and keep them in a bright place.  Away from heat vents and scorching sunlight.  A foot or 2 away from a sunny window would be good to start out.

9. ¬†Once the sprouts get 4 leaves, pinch off the top 2 to get the plant to branch, each place you pinch, you should get 2 new branches right below the pinch. Once those get big enough, pinch and use for cooking, and you’ll then have 4, then 8 then 16 branches and so on. Feed at least once or twice/month and don’t let it flower, so you can get more greens off it. mmmm, now I want to try it! ¬†I think I will be trying spicy globe basil, because it branches so easily and is a nice looking plant, plus, it should have great flavor too.

After all of this talk about planting seeds, I think I am ready to start some of my own for this year. ¬†It seems quite appropriate given this weeks weather of snow, snow and more snow! ¬†Thank goodness we don’t have to wait until spring to start gardening!!! ¬†Check back for updates and maybe even some pics of our planting day. Or follow along on @gardenshapers on Instagram!

Learn How to Plant Basil Seeds from a 7 year old!