Posts Tagged ‘edible garden’

Plant Profile: Floriferous African Blue Basil

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

Most basil plants we try to discourage from blooming because we mainly grow it for for the leaves, (pesto!) not the flowers, but African Blue Basil is different. The blue-purple flowers are one of the best parts of this plant, and in my opinion it’s a must in the pollinator garden. The bees absolutely love the flowers.

African Blue is also edible, with a strong basil taste with a stronger hint of the camphor flavour that most basils contain. You can use it for pesto, or any other recipe that needs basil. Of course, like all basils, you can eat the flowers too. And what beautiful flowers these make: blue-purple spikes atop all the stems, sprout upward in all directions.

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Four-In-One Apple Tree Extends Apple Season

4-in-1 apple tree

For those with small gardens who want to grow fruit, a 4-in-1 apple tree solves many problems.

With so many wonderful apple varieties, how do you decide which apple tree to plant; especially in a small property, where garden space is precious? It has to be a variety that you absolutely love because if all goes well, you will be swimming in apples. The perfect solution is a grafted apple tree, with 4 or 5 varieties growing on one tree.  Four-in-One or Five-In-One fruit trees grow with different combinations of fruits, and having the variety on one tree makes the decision easier. You’ll get a Macintosh, and someone else in your family will get their favourite Golden Delicious, or Honeycrisp.

Because of the many varieties on one rootstock, the multi-grafted apple tree is self-pollinating. That’s another space-saving feature: you only need one apple tree.

The additional benefit—which is huge one—is that the varied apple varieties will ripen at different times, so you will have early, middle and late season apples. You won’t be inundated all at once. It’s a smart way to add a fruit tree to your small edible garden. Your Four-In-One apple tree basically functions like a mini orchard. One of these Four-In-Ones is definitely going in my garden.

Overwintering Fig Trees

Fig tree closeup showing fruit.

Mature fig tree showing figs developing.

You may be hesitating to buy a fig tree because you’re not sure if it will survive the winter. Fruit from your own tree is already a thrill, but semi tropical fruits like figs are especially wonderful and exotic.  You can’t expect a fig tree to survive a Canadian winter on its own, but it’s possible to keep them with a little preparation.

Figs are hardy to Zone 7 USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).  A zone 7 minimum temperature is -12 to -18C. Be careful when considering zones, as Canadian zones are a little different, especially when buying US-grown tropical plants. Toronto Gardens blog offers a little help in explaining the differences in zones.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture or USDA system is simple: it’s based solely on average annual minimum temperatures. Although Canada considers a larger range of factors than the USDA, we still talk about zones in terms of temperatures: the lower the number, the colder the climate. Both systems also subdivide zones with a letter (a or b). So, Zone 6a is little “colder” than Zone 6b.

In Canadian terms, Toronto is broadly Zone 6; in USDA terms, it’s Zone 5. Our closeness to the Great Lakes moderates temperature highs and lows and increases precipitation.

Within the GTA, the specifics of your landscape can push you higher or lower. Close to Lake Ontario, you’re more likely to be Zone 6b and might have a microclimate (a pocket that is a zone unto itself) that’s Zone 7. In a more exposed situation, or farther from the lake, you might be Canadian Zone 5a or 5b.

So what do fig lovers do to overwinter their trees? Turns out, lots of things. If you are growing the tree in the ground, you can wait till it goes dormant, then bend it down to the ground and bury it. This method is often used with standard rose trees. If you are growing in a pot, you can put it in an unheated porch or garage, once its dormant, or try the methods below for overwintering your fig.

Pick off any fruit remaining after leaves drop in the fall. They will not ripen. Bend down boughs of in-ground, multi-stemmed trees, then build an A- frame of wood and styrofoam over the top. For potted trees, lay pots on their side in wooden boxes forming (2- inch wide boards, a wall 12 to 18 inches high.) Cover the top with plywood, Styrofoam and a tarp. In partially heated area such as sunrooms, water only occasionally. Dormant figs don’t require light.

To get your fig into dormancy, use this method:

Taper off watering the week before your first expected frost and expose the tree to a few light frosts. This encourages sap to move down the stems and leaves to drop.

By the way, if you are growing any tropical tree in a pot, make sure its a big one. Man-made containers of dense foam are probably best, as they add another layer of insulation to the roots.

Thinking About Dinner?

Rodin's The Thinker sculpture in the vegetable garden

Hmm, sauteed spinach with a side of kale?

French sculptor Rodin, like his countrymen, most likely loved his food fresh from the garden. This little copy of Rodin’s The Thinker is plunked down in a vegetable garden, at a house with an almost completely edible front yard garden. This new growing trend takes edibles out of the back yard and puts them out front for all to see. And when edible plants are as pretty as these leafy greens, why not? At this sustainably built house, grape vines are trained up a porch, artichokes grow next to roses, berry bushes and strawberries scramble over the edging. The Thinker ponders while spinach, kale and potatoes grow all around him. It’s a little easier to imagine what’s for dinner when dinner is growing three feet away.