I bet you’ve heard the term ‘true leaves’ tossed around in the gardening community like common every day jargon. But if you’re new to gardening, the term may not be as obvious as experienced gardeners may think. Recognizing true leaves on your tiny seedlings and understanding what to do when they appear is critical to the success of your seed starting efforts.
Asters are perennials, which means they will return to your home garden year after year. Their star-shaped blooms offer a vibrant display of color from summer to frost in late fall. Asters have become a particular favorite of mine because they bring a needed pop of color to my garden just when the zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers are beginning to fade. Plus, they offer a late season food source for bees, butterflies and other pollinators with nectar and pollen as they prepare for winter.
Although Asters are very easy to grow (full sun, moist well-drained soil), there are a few simple things you can do to prepare them for winter to help ensure they make a grand entrance next summer. Of course you can choose to leave Asters and other fall perennials alone over winter, as many plants prepare themselves for winter by taking cues from Mother Nature. But if you opt for a bit of tidying up and overwintering care, then here a few things you may want to do to help your Asters thrive this winter.
- Water the soil around your asters several days before the first freeze.
- Cut the stems back ~6-8 inches above the ground. Leave the lower stems/leaves alone.
- Cover your asters with 2 to 3 inches of organic matter such as mulch, dried leaves, straw, or hay. Adding a layer of insulation protects the roots from sudden changes in soil temperature (freezing or thawing) during the winter months.
At the first sign of growth in spring, pull away the mulch. Your Asters are preparing for a comeback!
Peace and zen,
Basil is one of my favorite herbs to grow. It’s an easy plant to grow indoors and out. I have a pot of basil growing right outside my kitchen and it requires very little maintenance which is perfect for my busy schedule. The most I have to do, other than an occasional watering when Mother Nature needs help, is to pinch off the tiny flowers that bloom every few days.
I usually look in on my herb garden in the morning before work while sipping my coffee. Generally only 2-3 flowers need pruning, which only takes a couple of minutes, and adds a few minutes of calm before the start of my day.
When plants flower, they use up energy to produce seeds that would otherwise be used to grow leaves. So if left alone, the stems with flowers will grow tall and leggy with sparse leaves. But if you snip off the flowers, the stems branch off and the plants grows fuller and bushier because it’s now refocused on producing more leaves.
It’s amazing to see the new shoots grow and transform your plant into a bushy, delicious version of itself. I find all kinds of ways to use my basil leaves. Of course, there’s pesto and pasta sauce. I also add fresh basil on top of my homemade pizzas and sprinkled along with garlic on oven roasted tomatoes.
On hot summer days, I love to prepare infused water. I simply fill a large Mason jar with water, add cucumbers and fresh basil leaves and refrigerate for a couple of hours. It’s so refreshing – and reminds me of beverages I’ve had at a spa. When I finish drinking the whole jar, I refill it with water and refrigerate again. It’s just as good the second time around!
When I grow more basil than I can eat, I either give it to my mom, freeze it or dry it. I hate waste, so throwing out excess basil is a last resort. But on the occasion that I do need to toss out some, it goes into my compost bin to make “black gold” for next year’s garden.
What tips do YOU have for growing basil? Do tell….
Peace and zen,
I love onions. I think they’re delicious in almost any dish. I use onions routinely constantly in my kitchen, so I always have plenty on hand. Sometimes I have too many, and they sprout in my pantry before I can use them. But that’s not such a bad thing, because I plant them and grow more onions.
Before I started my raised bed garden, sprouting onions and other kitchen scraps got tossed in the trash without a second thought. Now our kitchen waste goes into the garden instead of the landfill.
So here’s to yet another plant you can have fun growing in your garden space! But before you get started, here are answers to a few of the questions I had in the beginning…..
Do I need to separate the onion?
This spring I tried planting cut bulbs and whole bulbs. Honestly, I can’t tell one from the other growing in the garden. From the ground up, all the green onions look the same. From now on, I won’t bother to separate the bulbs because they seem to grow fine either way. But you do need to make sure that roots are visible at the base of the bulb. See the tiny white roots growing from the bottom of the bulb?
Can I grow them in a container?
You can plant sprouting onions directly in the ground, in a deep container or in a raised bed garden. As you know, I grow mine in my raised beds. Plant just deep enough so the green shoots (sprouts) are not covered. So root base down, sprouts up.
Will I get a bunch of onion bulbs?
No, but you will get a bunch of green onions! Sprouted onions will produce green onions, not more bulb onions. This is because bulb onions are biennial, which means they grow and produce bulbs in one growing season. So when you replant bulbs that have started to sprout, their main purpose for growing is to flower and produce seed. They won’t produce another edible bulb. So if you love green onions, it’s still a win!
Why are my green onions flowering?
As I mentioned earlier, sprouting onions have one main goal and that’s to flower and produce tons of seeds. So as the shoots get larger and taller, you’ll eventually see a flower head forming like the one in the picture above. You can still harvest the green onions to eat, or you can allow them to continue growing into beautiful and unique globe shaped flowers. Not only are onion flowers beautiful, they will attract tons of bees that will pollinate your garden.
When can I harvest my green onions?
I begin to harvest onion greens once they are anywhere from a few inches to a foot tall. I pretty much cut them when I need to use them. I typically add green onion shoots to omelettes, stir-fries, soups and salads.
Simply enough, right? So give it a try. Get your hands dirty. Have fun. But most of all, find ways to grow along with the plants you grow in your garden.