This week’s Flora Friday is taking a deeper dive into the herb planter I bought at Lowe’s for my balcony garden. It has a few different herbs in it, including curly parsley. This definitely isn’t a herb I would have purchased on my own, so it hasn’t been getting the most use.
Parsley aka Petroselinum crispum
Curly parsley is more commonly used as a garnish while flat parsley is more commonly used in cooking for its robust flavour. Comparatively, curly parsley has a more bitter flavour and less flavour. While it’s not commonly used in dishes, it can be a substitute for flat parsley but it’s important to note that the flavour won’t be the same.
How to grow it
Parsley is a very common garden herb that’s very low-maintenance. Needing sunlight and regular watering, this herb works well in a bed with other herbs and vegetables. To promote growth, it’s important to harvest parsley regularly. If you can’t find enough uses for your harvest, parsley freezes well and extends its life expectancy.
I missed Flora Friday last week because we spent the weekend in nature, camping. It was an absolutely fabulous weekend, but I’m excited to get back to featuring the herbs and vegetables in my balcony garden. This week, I’ll be featuring the herb rosemary.
Rosemary aka Salvia rosmarinus
Rosemary is a perennial herb with a woody, evergreen fragrance. This resilient herb can survive even the toughest of climates like droughts and can live for up to 30 years! This tasty herb is frequently used in cooking but it is also traditionally used for medicinal purposed.
How to grow it
While it can survive droughts or a severe lack of water, it requires full sun exposure. Since it doesn’t require lots of water, this herb requires good drainage so it doesn’t sit in moist soil. For that reason, be careful not to over water this herb! This herb will survive indoors during the winter, but be sure it gets the maximum amount of sun exposure possible.
Harvesting the herb…
When harvesting rosemary, cut the stem and use the youngest stems for the freshest taste. Don’t harvest more than a 1/3 of the plant at a time so the plant has time to regrow.
This weeks featured herb of my balcony garden is mint. The herb is a fantastically aromatic option to have in the garden, that pairs well with fruit, desserts and drinks. It is also a very calming herb that has been used for thousands of years to help with indigestion or soothe an upset stomach. This resilient plant comes in many different species and hybrids and tolerates a wide range of conditions. It’s a fast growing plant, so you won’t need to plant too many to meet the needs of your household.
There are many different species and hybrids of mint, but the most common ones are:
Peppermint is a hybrid of watermint and spearmint. The leaves are generally used peppermint tea and is used as flavouring.
Native spearmint also used in flavouring food and herbal teas.
Scotch spearmint a hybrid mint cultivated for essential oils and used to flavour chewing gum.
Some mint species are more invasive than others, but due to their speedy growth, it’s a good idea to separate this plant from others. Planting it in a separate pot on it’s own ensures that it won’t steal nutrients from neighbouring plants.
How to grow it
This resilient perennial can survive in a variety of conditions. Most will tolerate some shade, but ideally they thrive in full sun exposure. It grows the best in confined areas with moist, well-drained soil. From there, minimal care is needed other than keeping the soil evenly moist.
How to use it
I love using mint leaves in the summer by adding them to naturally flavoured fruit water. The fragrant herb adds another level of freshness that pairs wonderfully with cucumber and lemon.
I also love making mojitos with my fresh mint for a delicious summer cocktail.
After introducing my balcony garden last week, I am now going to feature a different herb or vegetable that I’m growing every Flora Friday. This week I’d like to introduce, Basil a culinary herb from the Lamiaceae family. It is a fragrant herb used worldwide in different cuisines and comes in many different varieties. This versatile herb is an excellent source of vitamin K, A and C, but it is also has medicinal properties. This annual herb is easy to grow in full sun exposure, but can also thrive in partial sun.
There are many different varieties of basil, the most commonly used types are:
Sweet basil (or Genovese ) is the most common type you’ll find used in North America. It makes the base for a classic pesto and is used most commonly in Italian cuisines.
Thai basil, commonly used in a variety of Asian cuisines has a distinctly different flavour from sweet basil. With a hint of licorice flavour, it is most commonly added to soups and curries.
Holy basil, is not used in cooking but rather for it’s medicinal properties. In Indian medicine, the different parts of the plant are used to treat different conditions such as eye disease or ringworms.
Lemon basil is a hybrid plant that is used in cooking. It’s mild but crisp flavour compliments seafood and sauces very well.
In my balcony garden, I am currently growing sweet basil as I most commonly add it to my Italian themed dishes.
How to grow Basil
The basil plant is a fast growing herb that should be pruned pretty regularly to encourage new growth. The ideal condition is a full sun for 6-8 hours a day, but it will also flourish in partial sun. It grows in warm climates so it will thrive in the ground and in a pot. Cold temperatures can kill your plant so bring it inside during cold temperatures or harvest it beforehand. The herb requires well-drained and moist soil, so daily watering is important to keep your plant nice and healthy.
Regular pruning of your plant will encourage your it to branch and produce more leaves throughout the summer. If you don’t have an immediate use for your harvest, you can:
a) roll the leaves in a paper towel for about a week in the fridge
This being our second summer living here, I’m happy to say that I’m finally able to start a balcony garden in the little space I have to work with. We’re fortunate enough to have some outdoor space even though we live in a condo. A small balcony that faces southwest provides the perfect amount of sunlight for a few vegetables and herbs. I wish I could utilize even more of the space available but we enjoy sitting out there too much to dedicate it only to plants.
What am I growing?
For my first attempt at a balcony garden, I started small and easy. I’ve grown herbs in the past, so I knew that it was an easy and mandatory addition to the garden. My favourite part of summer is using fresh herbs to create deliciously fresh and flavourful dishes, so if I’m going to add anything to my already full balcony garden it’s going to be a few extra herbs. At this point, on my balcony garden you will find: mint, basil, curled parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Really though, I’m just missing some coriander and dill and I would be 100% happy with balcony garden’s selection of herbs.
In addition to herbs, I also wanted to give it a go at growing some vegetables this year. I knew I wanted to grow tomatoes so I started my tomatoes off from seedlings. My first ever attempt, but looks like I’ll have some tomatoes in the weeks to come! I have one planter going from the seedlings I grew myself and also have some patio tomatoes growing in the large herb planter I purchased. I also planted some Kale because it grows like a weed and figured it’s one where I can’t really go wrong. So far, both vegetables are doing splendidly and I’m excited to watch them grow over time.
I’m some not so good news; I bought some packs of strawberry bulbs and asparagus bulbs but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. They have now turned into experiments.
The packaging said that there were multiple plants, 5 of the strawberry and about 10 of the asparagus. Well, when I opened the packages they were both 2 giant clumps of I don’t even know what. They didn’t resemble bulbs to me so I decided to throw both large clumps into the dirt and just see what happens. There is some teeny tiny, scattered growth starting to appear but I don’t hold much hope to anything coming out of this particular planter. It’s fun to just see what happens and see how resilient some seedlings may be so we’ll have to see if there are any exciting updates in the future.
Next week and for the weeks to come, I’m going to take a deeper dive into a one specific plant growing in my balcony garden. Can you guess which one will be featured first?