Saturday, August 30, 2008

Time To Stop Pinching~Herbs of Course~

If you are planning to save seed from your basil plants, then the time is now to stop pinching the tops and allow it to set seed.

The buds that aren't pinched off will develop into spikes of pretty blooms. As the flowers mature, the blooms will drop. The green carpels that remain attached to the bloom stalks contain the developing seeds. These little "pods" dry up and turn brown as the seeds mature. Break one open and you can see the developing round seeds inside. As the seed coat hardens, it changes color from green to brown to black.

Pinching should stop at least 6 weeks before your projected first frost date. Once frost visits a basil plant, it's done. The exact time from bloom to mature seed seems somewhat variable. If I want to be very sure of getting seed from a particular variety, I usually allow the flowering to start in early August. Some varieties will not flower until mid to late September. So you have to know your plants and act accordingly.

When the seeds are ready, you can strip the brown carpels from the bloom stem and crumble them between your fingers to release the seeds. Mature basil seeds are small, round, and black. Separating the seed from the chaff (the dried bits and dust) can be a challenge, but with a little practice you'll find a technique that works for you.

Dry carpels will drop some seeds if you stir them in a bowl or shake them in a bag. To get more seeds, break them up by crushing them or rubbing them between your fingers.

I have a couple of sieves that allows the separation of seed from chaff. A coarse sieve separates the larger bits of chaff from the seeds and dusty stuff. Then, a fine sieve lets the dust fall through while the seeds remain behind. At that point, 90% of the chaff should be gone.

I allow my seeds sit out a week or two, just to make sure they're completely dry before I put them into labeled storage containers, I prefer dark colored jars.

Saving your own seed from your prize plants will always insure that you have good plants for the next year. You can also have fun trading seed with other like minded gardeners.

Feel free to contact me if you have seed or plants to trade.

Happy August Ending~

Bea Kunz

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Autumn Rising~

Sage Hill Farms is slowly moving into the transition period between summer and fall/autumn. It's a strange time actually, the gardens are still to pretty to turn under or otherwise destroy, and yet one knows they are letting go...dying.

In a few short weeks they will be nothing but compost food, not a bad thing, just not as fun and beautiful as the green plants, ripe fruit, and plump and healthy vegetables.

Am I sad and will I linger in this state too way, no how.

Fall and winter are my favorite seasons.
Earthy colors, the crispness of the air coming down from the ridges, thoughts of change in our choice of foods, knowing we are prepared for the longer time of's a warm and comforting thought.

I'm geared up and ready for the muted season. Exciting and charming, though not as lively as summer.

Corn-stalks drying in the field, many of the Marigolds are still in full bloom and will last until the first frost.

Leaves are beginning to turn and some are falling.

Thoughts of pumpkins and hayrides, hiking and horse-back riding, watching the sky gradually change into another season of awesome displays.

And what is your autumn looking like ?


Bea Kunz

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer's Ending in the Herb Garden.

Fall is in the air, the gardens are winding down ....although not as quickly as one might think. Here in middle Tennessee, the season has been a near perfect one.

Herb gardens are usually the last to falter. So, we have choices, we can either leave them alone and they will continue to produce at a slower rate right up until Jack Frost nips them a little too hard.

Basil will produce as long as the heat is available. It will however turn to a mass of dark and mushy gunk with the first frost.

I enjoy the basil during this time of the season for the lovely flower spikes it shoots up, those are the first signs of "life is over"'s been good, but I'm out of here. The flowers are a pretty and tasty addition to salads, drinks and desserts.

When you are ready to let go of the Chives, just cut the entire clump back to the ground level, or just let it die slowly. They will come back with a punch in the spring.

Rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage are all winter hardy and with a small amount of protection ( depending on where you are )they will survive and produce all winter.

Don't tidy up your herb garden too much right now, with many plants, the spring blooms, etc., are already in the making, if you prune the plants, you will destroy next years blooms. So wait until spring to do any major pruning or basic cleaning up of dead stems, etc.

Looking to grow herbs inside during the winter?

Some people have great success, most don't. I'm not an avid inside gardener.
Many herbs develop fungus and are prime targets for aphids and or spider mites when grown inside.

So my advice would be to invest in one of those inside mini greenhouses.
They are pretty, clean, and from all I know very successful.

Happy Gardening~

Bea Kunz

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Planning and Planting the Winter Garden~

For many of us especially in the SE growing section of the country, gardens are winding down and we are making plans for the winter garden. Depending on what the choices are, some things should already be planted.

We are simple in the winter garden at Sage Hill...greens, greens, greens.
Turnip greens, collars, mustard, Swiss chard, a few lettuces, maybe some carrots and beets.

The greens all serve as a cover crop for tilling back into the soil in early spring.
Feeds us well and the soil also.

The chart below is a sample of what you can start your compost pile with for the spring gardens.

Have fun, much success, and let me know what "you" are planting in your winter garden.


Bea Kunz
Layers of (1) Green—Nitrogen and (2) Rich Brown-Carbon as follows.

1-Green leaves Dry leaves
2-Weeds, without seeds Dried brown grass

1-Vegetable/fruit peels and scraps Bark chips/straw/hay
2-Green grass clippings Dried prunings

1-Coffee grounds including the filter Cornstalks
2-Teabags Dryer or vacuum lint

1-Crushed egg shells Hair and feathers
2-Sawdust/shredded newspaper/

A sprinkling of garden lime and water to moisten if the pile gets too dry.

Cover with a plastic tarp if you aren't using a composter, remove the tarp and allow it to breathe while you are turning the ingredients about every two weeks.

There really is no hard and fast rule about composting, just common sense and attention. ( no cooked foods such as meat, meat by-products, etc.)

Happy gardening!