The other day I wrote about hardening off onion and leek seedlings. This week I am planting out onion and shallot “sets”. Planting sets may seem redundant since I already have seedlings on the go, but I assure you there is a method to this madness.
In my house, we cook with shallots and onions everyday and we never seem to have enough. This year I plan to step up my game and grow more than ever. I don’t want them to be ready for harvest at the same time. Now THAT would be madness. Starting from a range of sources (seed, sets, and even store-bought transplants) allows me to have a steady stream of edible alliums (as well as tender onion greens) available for use in our meals throughout the growing season and well beyond. Not only have I already been using the fresh greens clipped from my onion seedlings, but I have even harvested some of the full-sized perennial bunching onions that I planted last fall! Over the years I have found that if I take care to plant at intervals and protect the plants, I can have some form of edible allium available almost year-round!
‘Lime Green Salad’ is a compact, bushy, dwarf variety that produces loads of tangy, green fruit. Coming in at 2′ tall, it’s a great tomato option for containers when space is at a premium. However, the crinkly leaves also make it pretty enough to pack into an ornamental bed alongside your perennials.
Last year, I moved the container around the garden. Here you can see it alongside garlic, dianthus, and parsley. I find the plant can’t withstand very hot conditions, so as the season’s heat came on I moved it to a slightly sheltered spot among a patch of purple basil.
I’m currently in the process of hardening off the first round of onion and leek seedlings in preparation for permanently planting them outside. To recap, here’s the planting calendar that I follow:
Spring is happening here in Toronto. Flowering bulbs and hardy perennials are popping up in my garden quickly now and the local corner shops have begun hauling out carts full of plants to tempt us. Right on schedule, emails about basil have come flooding in.
“Hi there, I bought a basil plant a few weeks ago. I swear I’ve been doing everything right but it’s going all brown. Is it dying?”
“I only water it when the soil is dry. What am I doing wrong?”
It’s not you, it’s the plant. No, really. Of all of the herbs I have ever grown — and I have grown a good many — basil is consistently the most finicky of the lot and the hardest to get going. Don’t get me wrong, a lush basil crop is easy enough to grow mid-season when it is sunny and warm and nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F (10°C). The plant is surprisingly amenable to life in pots and even though I have been experimenting with basil since the start of my gardening “career” and have grown as many as 22 varieties in one season, I am still amazed by the exceptional variety of forms, colours, and flavours available. This is a fantastic herb, and my second favourite food crop to grow besides tomatoes. Judging by the questions I receive about this plant, I think it’s one of your favourites, too.
‘Cinnamon’ basil. A really pretty variety that is delicious as a tea, in deserts, or made into delicious ‘Cinnamon’ basil jelly.
Last Friday, I took a trip out of the city with some friends to buy herbs, and came home with something unexpected. Pig’s Ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) is a pretty grey-blue-green succulent with big, fleshy leaves and orange flowers. According to my favourite go-to succulent identification book, “Succulents: The Illustrated Dictionary” by Maurizio Sajeva and Mariangela Costanzo, it’s from South Africa and not hardy in my zone so I’ll be keeping it in a pot and it will go outside in another month or so with my other tender succulents. Those of you in zones 7 and up will have the good fortune of keeping it outside year-round and may even be able to put it in the soil if you have lots of sun and a dry spot that drains well. It’s look and spreading growth habit reminds me of Flapjack (Kalanchoe thyrsifolia), but with pointier leaves.