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Gardening in climates such as Utah, part desert, part mountains, always changing, can be a challenge, to say the least. This article is based on a garden located in the Salt Lake valley at approximately 4,500 feet above sea level. Gradi’s Organic Garden is this writer’s small, urban garden my daughter and I have created and maintained for practically nothing.
The goal of the garden was to raise organic fruits and vegetables, from seed. We have certainly dealt with some issues and are making notes for next year.
One plant we have been extremely grateful to have produce an on-going, healthy harvest is basil . We started with 4 bedding plants we grew from seed, beginning in February and creating a garden nursery in our spare bedroom. Those 4 small plants have now evolved into 8 large and beautiful, tree like, sweet smelling producers of pesto and more. To see how we primed and prepared for this garden on essentially no budget, please review the article available at this link.
Basil is an excellent green that can be easily grown in any space, even a small container garden. The plants tend to grow in to the size of the space into which they are introduced. In other words, larger plants require larger pots .
This Sweet Basil enjoys at least 6-8 hours of full sun, with a little shade in the afternoon and does not require a tremendous amount of water, about one inch a week. We usually water each in the early morning and try to keep from adding water during the heat of the Utah summer day. They can wilt slightly, but if they are receiving enough water in the morning, they will perk back up after sundown.
Mulch is an important part of any garden and with part of our goal with our garden this year is to due it as organically and free or affordably as possible, we contacted our gardeners who mow the lawn of the entire condominium complex we live in. If you don’t have such an HOA or program, contacting local apartment or condo complexes can be a great avenue of obtaining local, sustainable and free organic mulch. We found that by offering our gardeners a cup of coffee, once very early in the Spring, they have become very friendly, offering to bring over a large load of cut grass each week. They also know where to place it in the garden so it does not affect any of the already prepared spaces . It is a real pleasure to take place in a sustainable practice in an urban environment.
Caring for basil is fairly simple. It enjoys a loamy soil with good nutrients and a pH of about 6.4, according to the “Herb Society.” Pruning an essential part of growing healthy and productive basil and does not require any special tools. Look for blossoms featuring small, white flowers with little sacs growing underneath them. These will grow at the end of stem, signaling the end of the growth of the plant. If allowed to fully blossom, the entire plant will begin to shut down, believing it is the end of its life cycle.
In our garden, Utah heat tends to make our basil grow exponentially and each plant requires at least daily pruning, sometimes 2-3 times per day. Check for the blossoms, pinching each off and either save them for the seeds to plant next year or drop them into the soil of the plant itself .
We like to harvest leaves from each of our basil plans 2-3 times a week, letting the plants recover between harvests and ensuring a perpetual access to this tasty treat. A special recipe we enjoy often is the Perfect Pesto – here is a link for a medicated recipe, which is also delicious without cannabis infusion.
Our family also enjoys using basil leaves in lieu of salad greens or combined with some fresh arugula as the peppery taste with the sweetness of the basil combine to form a true summery treat. We combine it with tomatoes, some mozzarella, a little oil (cannabis infused, if preferable, works well and stays fresh) with a little balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and black pepper. If we have any extra protein like leftover bacon or hard boiled eggs, my daughter (who recently has become much more healthy – running her first 5K this Fall!) can enjoy without the guilt of unnecessary, processed or fatty foods.
With proper attention such as blocking blossom production, approximately one inch of water a week and mulch and/or other nutrients, basil will continue to produce delicious leaves well into the Fall season, or the first hard frost. Once the temperature reaches below approximately 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the basil will freeze, blacken and quickly die off.
We have been fortunate enough this season to share some of our basil with friends, with some people actually cloning it, much in the same manner as cannabis (disclaimer – I hypothesize – not that this writer has ever or will ever plan on growing cannabis while in Utah while it is still illegal).
A good way to ensure the most use of the entire harvest is to gather all of the available leaves just prior to the freeze and create a few batches of pesto – it freezes very well in ice cube trays and is very convenient during the winter months, to bring a memory of summer, past and future.
Love getting your hands dirty? See previous posts on Ladybud about gardening here!