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Baskets of Beauty

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gardening on Top of the World

...with Penn Parmenter!

Baskets of Beauty

Food is beautiful.  I love growing hanging baskets of beautifully colored lettuces and greens. They make a wonderful winter gift and I promise you – if you show up to your next dinner party with a full-blown basket of edible beauty – you will win the night.  It won’t be ‘re-gifted’ the way that bottle of wine that travels around your circles does. Use a pretty bowlful of living greens as the centerpiece on the table and just pick and eat them with your dinner!
I always find myself admiring the basketfuls of color - dangerous because if you don’t keep cutting them they can slow down and age out right before your eyes!  So cut them an inch above the crown regularly to keep vigorous growth happening.
When spring comes – I simply take them outside and hang them in the trees where they are protected from hail, hot sun and wind.
As for types – I often make my own mesclun (salad mixture) – starting with colorful lettuce favorites, herbs, brassicas and other greens like claytonia, nasturtium, mache, arugula and cilantro.  Use your artistic eye to pair stunning colors and textures.
Or I’ll try some ready-made BBB Mesclun Mix and at this time of year they will grow so quickly I’ll be back in just a minute to write about how good it was. And take pictures of it too – because food is so beautiful.

Simple Instructions on How To Direct Sow a Container.

1. Find the container of your choice – I use the old hanging Petunia baskets from the super-market rolling around my backyard.
2.  Choose a filler like Pine needle mulch, leaf mold or potting soil and fill the container ¾ full.
3.  Moisten your soil-less seed starting mix – I use Coir, perlite and wet it with a liquid kelp solution – a wonder fertilizer – and fill the remaining ¼ of the container.
4.  Sow seeds like BBB’s Gourmet Salad Blend, Speckles Bibb, Freckles Romaine, radish, basil, cilantro, seedling pea, claytonia, mustards, etc.
5. Cover the fine seed with a fine amount of seed starting mix and the larger seed with more. 
6.  Use your hand to gently press down the soil-less mix for good seed-to-soil contact.  This is crucial for good germination. 
7.  Gently sprinkle kelp solution on the surface – don’t wash away seeds.
8.  Cover with plastic, newspaper or glass to keep steady moisture – I use a produce bag, which floats on top of the plants as they germinate.  For newspaper – keep it wet, and remove as soon as germination begins, for plastic, I leave it on a little longer to keep everybody germinating.
9.  Lettuces like it cool, basil likes it warm, so place the basket accordingly. Under lights is helpful too but not necessary. Skylights work well with a direct-sown basket.
10. Remove the plastic whenever you like.
11. Enjoy – cut often.
12. Plant another container to keep it coming!

Written by Penn Parmenter
Copyright © 2013

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