Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Borage & Basil


Last year I had pollination issues with my summer squash & cucumber plants.  A lot of female cucumber & squash blossoms dropped off the plants and I also had some incomplete pollination that resulted in oddly shaped cucumbers.  Borage is apparently great at attracting pollinators, so I have decided to include a few plants in my squash & cucumber beds.

Most (but not all) culture instructions for borage indicate that it should be sown directly into the garden because it has a long taproot & does not transplant well.  Since I want to grow borage for its pollinator attracting abilities, I need it to flower as early as possible.  From what I've read, borage takes about 80 days to mature so if I wait and sow it outdoors, it wouldn’t bloom until August – far too late.  So I’m going to take a chance and try transplanting it – after all, parsley has a long taproot as well & it does just fine when transplanted.

Starting the borage seeds was a breeze the 1st time round (yeah!).  Borage prefers a temperature of around 21°C (70°C) to germinate.  I found that the temperature on the outer lid of my heat mat tray was around 22°-23°C (71°-73°F) - so pretty darn close.  I placed the baggie of seeds on the lid & it took them only 2 days to germinate.  Then I sowed the germinated seeds about ½” deep in cell packs.  I placed the cell packs on the heat mat tray & put on the plastic cover.  Two days later, the seeds emerged from the soil at which point I transferred them to the light stand.  As my kids used to say when they were in JK – Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy!

Borage Seedlings - 10 days old
 
I started my basil seeds a few weeks ago (on April 4th).  Last year my plants did ok but not great.  I had planted them among the tomatoes, which is supposed to be a great combination, but it didn’t work out that well for me.  The tomatoes didn’t do well at all (as I talked about HERE) and my basil stayed relatively small.  Of course, having their little heads chopped off by rabbits within a few days of my putting them in the raised bed didn’t help.

I sowed 2 types of basil – Genovese & Thai.  I’ve never grown Thai basil before, but since I love making Thai food & will often see it listed as an ingredient (which I usually just omit), I thought I would give it a try.  In terms of sweet basil, I had 2 packages of seeds in my stash.  One is “Genovese” and the other is “Sweet Genovese” – is there a difference? Probably not, but I have noticed that sometimes seeds with similar names from different sources may produce plants that are not exactly the same.  This happened to me last year when I planted pak choi.  “Pak Choi” from OSC produced a small plant that bolted quickly.  “Pak Choi – Joi Choi Hybrid” from Burpee gave me a much larger plant that produced leaves for several weeks longer.  So just in case there is a difference, I am keeping the basil seedlings from the different packets separate.

Basil seeds are tiny, so I sowed them directly into cell packs.  The Genovese basil I sowed normally, with a bit of soil covering the seeds, followed by vermiculite (to help prevent damping off).  The Thai basil instructions indicated that it should be sown directly on the soil – I’m assuming it needs light to germinate?  So that is what I did – I lightly pressed the seeds onto the soil surface, then gave them a light covering of vermiculite as well.  I placed the cell packs in the covered trays on the heat mat & placed the whole shebang under lights.  Germination started by Day 3 & all the cells had at least one seedling by Day 5.

Basil Seedlings - Just over 2 weeks old
Genovese basil on the left; Thai basil on the right
 
And look at what arrived yesterday:
 
9 Yards of Triple Mix - What a Beautiful Sight!
 
Ok - so you can't really see the full magnificence of it.  I forgot to take a photo before I covered it up (we were expecting rain today).
 
The sight of a big ol' pile of soil on my driveway makes me absolutely giddy!  Only another gardener can truly appreciate the feeling...everyone else just gives me a half smile with a long, drawn out "riiiiiiiight...".
 
I'm in the process of making more raised beds right now and hope to have at least half of them done by the end of the week.  I will be doing a separate post soon about the beds & how I built them.
 
Till next time…

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

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