Tuesday, May 15th, 2018
Fresh basil on homemade pizza, fresh oregano in a pasta sauce, fresh thyme on roasted chicken – when it comes to cooking, fresh herbs are the secret to taking your dish from good to mouthwatering! Luckily, herbs are also one of the easiest things to grow and will thrive in containers, which means that you can blow your dinner guests, or just your family, away with homegrown scents and flavours that totally transform your cooking.
Here are our experts’ five essential tips to growing a vibrant and lush potted herb garden:
1. Grow organic
You may be surprised to learn what a difference this makes, but herbs grown in organic soil and with organic fertilizer have much better flavour and potency. We recommend using a quality organic soil like this one to get the best results. Don’t forget that regular feeding is an important step in caring for any plants, and it’s best to go organic here as well when it comes to growing herbs. During the growing season, feed your herbs with a slow-release organic fertilizer, or a half-strength solution of organic liquid fertilizer such as Sea Magic every three to four weeks.
2. Provide good drainage
Herbs thrive on good drainage, so before you do anything else, make sure that your pot has sufficient drainage holes. Elevating pots on pottery feet, bricks, stones, or even another pot turned upside-down can also help to improve drainage. And it’s not just your container or your pot placement that matters – well-draining soil is KEY! To help you on this front, we’ve created a lightweight and porous ‘Magic Mix’ that is perfect for herbs. The mix combines lava rock with organic soil for optimum drainage. You’ll want to be sure to grab some Magic Mix when you’re picking out your herbs to make sure you get the most out of your herb garden!
3. Plant with the herb varieties’ needs in mind
Chives are perennial and overwinter very well, so they are a great option for planting directly into the ground. Mint is an aggressive plant that will take over an entire area or container, so you’ll want to give it its very own pot. Watering needs will vary according to the variety of herb as well as the pot size and type, where you place the container, and the time of year, so be sure to consider all of these factors when planting.
4. Know when to water, and when to wait
Mediterranean and other drought-tolerant herbs such as rosemary, lavender, thyme, and oregano like soil that is on the dryer side, so let the potting soil dry slightly between waterings. For moisture lovers like basil and chives, keep the mix slightly moist – about as damp as a wrung-out sponge – at all times.
The best way to tell when it’s time to water is to let your finger be your guide. If the soil feels dry 1 to 2 inches below the surface, then it’s probably time to water. Be sure to do so thoroughly until you see water flowing freely from the pot’s drainage holes.
5. Pinch and harvest!
Remember that the more you pinch off and use your herbs, the more they’ll be encouraged to leaf out and produce. The result will be a bushier and more productive plant, so don’t be shy – snip those flavourful sprigs and flowering stems and get cooking! If you really want to get the most out of your herb garden, place your pots in close proximity to your kitchen; you really will use them more often. A wall planter like this one below can be hung in a sunny spot right in your kitchen!
Now that you’re prepped and ready to grow, get started by scrolling through this lovely list of fresh herbs that are popping up weekly in our nursery. Then, browse this helpful collection of specific tips for your favourites. You can make your selections with total abandon, or have fun with a theme like Mexican or Italian – it’s all up to you.
Now… what’s for dinner?!
Sunday, May 6th, 2018
When colour giant Pantone declares its annual Color of the Year, everyone from fashion leaders to interior designers take notice, and before long we start to see the colour all around us. We were overjoyed and very much on board when Ultra Violet got top honours for 2018, because purple just happens to be one of our favourite colours in the garden!
It’s no secret that colours have serious power – take a look at how the beautiful blooms you choose can affect things like mood and energy here – but our love for purple goes beyond the aesthetic. Fruits and vegetables of this hue have been linked to many health benefits that prevent disease and enhance our wellness.
Studies indicate that antioxidants produced by purple power foods can:
- reduce the risk of high blood pressure
- lower cholesterol
- help prevent obesity and diabetes
- assist in lowering the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases
- reduce inflammation and therefore chronic disease
- aid cognitive functions
- help prevent urinary tract infections, fight ulcers, and reduce liver damage and diseases which affect cell development
So with all of that in mind, here are a few of our favourite ways to put some purple on our plates!
Purple Ruffles Basil
Why we love it: The large purple leaves of this basil plant have both a strong fragrance and flavour.
How to serve: We recommend using this basil to create colourful and flavourful herb vinegars.
Cosmic Purple Carrots
Why we love it: Who says you can’t mess with an old favourite? These beautiful carrots will not only make your side dishes more lovely, the flesh is also particularly sweet.
How to serve: Try it cooked in a side dish, or add some colour and variety to snack time and enjoy raw.
Red Ball Brussel Sprouts
Why we love it: These little beauties are sweeter than your average brussel sprout, and pack an even heavier nutritional punch.
How to serve: Pull the leaves apart for a lovely salad, serve whole drizzled with a creamy hollandaise sauce, or go with a classic roasted method to get these on your table.
Pomegranate Crunch Romaine Lettuce
Why we love it: Is the name enough reason? Think of this lettuce as a cross between romaine and butterhead varieties.
How to serve: The salad possibilities are endless!
Honeyberry or Haskap
Why we love it: The first reason to love this berry is its sheer hardiness; this plant was made for the Canadian prairies, just like us. The second reason is that nutritional studies show the haskap to have antioxidant levels similar to or perhaps even greater than blueberries! The plant attracts butterflies to your yard, and the berries are delicious.
How to serve: Eat fresh, or make preserves.
Ruby Mizuna Mustard
Why we love it: It looks pretty and tastes great, but a major reason to love this plant is how easy and versatile it is to grow. Expect great results in cooler soil and winter harvests, in outdoor containers, or right in your kitchen.
How to serve: This plant makes for tasty microgreens or delicious and nutritious salads.
Why we love it: This grape is perfect for making wine… need we say more? Aside from its edible properties, it also makes a great landscaping component for hedges and screening.
How to serve: Try your hand at making juice or wine!
Long Purple Eggplant
Why we love it: The eggplant is such a beautiful purple that “eggplant” has become a colour in its own right. This particular variety is productive and hardy.
How to serve: Try in a stir-fry, or roasted in the oven.
Purple Peacock Pole Beans
Why we love it: These beans are a triple threat! They flower and produce quickly, provide an extremely prolific yield – as long as you pick them, they’ll keep coming in – and they retain flavour extremely well after being picked. Basically there are no reasons NOT to love them.
How to serve: Any way you enjoy green beans will translate – we like these lightly steamed!
Why we love it: Ah, the saskatoon, that uniquely prairie berry. Like its cousin the haskap, this plant is hardy and versatile, and the berries are lovely but also delicious.
How to serve: If you’ve never had saskatoon pie, you’re not really living. Okay, that might be a little dramatic, but it really is a must-try!
Why we love it: This beautiful plant produces clusters of lovely little blueberries that are sweet and juicy. So long as you get the soil and drainage formula right, you can expect a bumper crop from this plant.
How to serve: Really, you can enjoy these in almost any way. Sprinkle them fresh on cereal, salads, or ice cream, mix up blueberry pancakes, bake in pies or crisps, make jellies, jams, and preserves… the list is endless!
Some cultures consider purple to be the colour of royalty, and it’s not hard to see why! Add this shade to your garden and your table, and you’ll feel like you’re eating like a king.
Long live purple!