Dan is making me write a blog, he says it is very important to update our website with new and exciting information every week. I would rather be out in the garden, or at least in the greenhouses, or doing yoga in the garden…anything to avoid sitting at the computer on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.We have plenty of employees working out on the sales floor though, and I have already procrastinated with a couple of hours of planting in the garden under the pretense of preparing for spring tours and our annual Open House, so I am out of excuses. So, I guess writing about gardening is better than nothing!
This week spring has really hit, and everyone has decided to plant a vegetable garden this year. I laugh a bit of course, to see everyone coming out in full force to plant tomatoes, but in reality it makes me feel great to see people going back to planting useful plants, and learning about growing their own food. Talk about a taste bud opening experience to eat veggies straight out of your garden! And it makes us all appreciate those hard working local farmers who work very long hours to bring produce to the farmers markets. If you are scratching your head over your first veggie garden, or need some vegetable garden questions answered, please join us for one of our free vegetable gardening classes coming up in April, either April 5th or April 25th, at 11 am.
One of the first questions customers ask about planting tomatoes is when is the time to plant. Now, understand, as a seller of tomato plants I will sell them to you starting early March. But, as a grower of tomatoes with a desire for success with the first planting, it is important to wait until after that last frost, or at least have a cloche or other covering in case of cold nights. The last frost here at the nursery is April 3rd, so I won’t be planting my veggies out in the ground until after then! But of course in town, with lots of radiating heat from homes, fences and concrete, freezes are less likely even now. My general rule for when to plant tomatoes is…if you can comfortably sit on the ground for a few minutes with a naked butt, then tomatoes can go into the ground! It isn’t scientific, and your neighbors may be shocked, but it will give you a good appreciation for what those roots have to live in!
Basil is another plant that we would like to plant out in early March, but this is the first week I feel comfortable trying to get it out in the garden. Like all years, we have many varieties available, including lemon, lime, cinnamon, thai, spicy bush, African Blue and of course the classic Genovese, but two newer varieties that I would like to highlight are Napoletano and ‘Pesto Perpetuo’. Napoletano is a sweet basil style, with huge lettuce style leaves that can be used on sandwiches and a sweet mild flavor. It is big, growing to 20 inches tall. ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ is my new favorite, with a sweet basil flavor and a leaf that is variegated. The best thing about ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ is the fact that it NEVER BLOOMS! Quite a breakthrough in the world of basil. The last 2 years I have grown it in a pot and have found it to be a bit more drought tolerant, snail and slug tolerant, and cold tolerant. I make sure I grow this one every year! My last comment about basil today is that I still don’t know of any basil that is actually a perennial, at least not in Sunset zone 8. Perhaps someone is working on this, and we will all be able to rejoice when a perennial basil is available. I usually suggest to people to plant basil at their vacation home in Santa Barbara or Thailand if they want to harvest year round…
Plant out cool season annual herbs right now, especially cilantro and dill. These two herbs prefer cooler temperatures for plenty of leaf production, so plant in March and April, and give up in July and August, as dill and cilantro will both bolt and produce seed (which is also delicious for cooking) during the summer heat. This is always a surprise for gardeners, who expect the cilantro to be ready when the hot peppers are ready in their garden for salsa making. If you want to harvest cilantro in the summer, you will need to plant it out at your vacation home on Orcas Island in Washington state. If you can’t afford all those vacation homes right now to extend your gardening posibilities, try planting the perennial Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) in an afternoon shady spot to use as a delicious alternative for cilantro during the heat of the summer!