Thursday, 18 October 2012

Growing Basil- An Edible View from the Window

Basil has to be one of the easiest herbs to grow and a very versatile one too- I just had some for breakfast with rice cakes, humus and black sesame seeds. And I snipped it from right outside my living room window too. My edible window view is well on its way. The basil seedlings that I picked up from Dubai Garden Centre are thriving. Here's a few tips for growing fragrant, glossy basil plants in pots on your patio.

  • Basil likes rich, healthy soil. Start with good quality potting soil and amend with slow-realese all-purpose NPK fertiliser, compost or fish based fertiliser.
  • Basil likes plenty of water. Don't let the soil dry out completely between watering. Give it a good, deep drink every other day on cool days and every day when it gets warmer. Water around the base, not from the top, in the cooler times of the day. 
  • Basil likes to be fed regularly. If growing in pots, fertilise every fortnight with an all-purpose liquid fertiliser such as Phostrogen or fish emuslion if you can get hold of some to get the most aromatic leaves.
  • Basil likes sun. Place it somewhere where it gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight daily. In our region, it may do well to give it some afternoon shade while the heat lasts.
  • Basil likes to be pinched back. When your plant is well established and has reached a good height, snip off the main stem just above the pint where you see two new shoots emerging. This will encourage your plant to branch out and become bushier. As these branches become bigger, repeat the same process. 
  • Basil likes to be picked regularly. There's no hard and fast rule really. Everyone has their own way of picking herbs. If you need a few leaves, pick the larger individual leaves at the bottom that are threatening to turn brown. If you need a whole bunch such as when making pesto, snip off branches as described above. Merely picking lots of leaves will leave the branches looking ugly.
Most common leaf problems such as brown/black spots are caused by over- or under-watering and water splashing onto the leaves that can transport soil-borne fungal and bacterial diseases to the plant. Also, water droplets on the leaves in hot sun is not a good idea as it can burn the leaves.If you spot browning on your leaves, the first thing is to check your watering and location of plant. Too much sun here can usually cause leaf edges to curl and brown. Move it around a bit to see what helps. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Natural Pest Control from the Kitchen: 5 Recipes to Defend Your Plants

Natural pest control can be as simple as using items from your kitchen to rid your beloved plants of undesirable critters. However, before you try any of the recipes for homemade pesticides, keep a few important points in mind.
  • Keep soil healthy and plants happy. Good pest control always starts with healthy soil, regular watering and fertilizing your plants as required.
  • Never spray plants with any type of pesticide in direct sunlight.
  • Always test by spraying a small area of the plant. If no leaf damage occurs, proceed to spray the plant.
  • Regularly inspect the underside of leaves as that’s where most pests reside.
  • Encourage ladybugs, wasps and bees into your garden as they are natural predators for pests like aphids.
  • A word about soap: don’t use harsh chemical soaps or detergents when soap is called for in a recipe. Always go for pure soap or biodegradable dish washing liquid.
  • Use pesticides, even natural ones, sparingly as they may also affect beneficial insects in the garden.

Garlic, Onion and Chilli Spray
Leaf-eating insects such as caterpillars, Japanese Beetles and Spider Mites chew off juicy green leaves, leaving behind the tell-tale c-shaped bites on leaf edges, lace patterned or skeletonised leaves. Other soft-bodied pests such as aphids and thrips insert their mouthparts into plant tissue and suck out sap. Infested plants show stunted growth, yellowing or curling leaves and even death. This spray is very effective as a general purpose natural pesticide around the garden.
4 bird’s eye chillies
2 large onions
2 bulbs garlic
1 tbsp pure soap
2 litre water