Late this afternoon I planted seven kinds of basil: Genovese basil aka basil, large leaf Italian basil, mammoth basil, Siam Queen (Thai) basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil and lime basil. What? I like basil. And it is particularly scrumptious with heirloom tomatoes.
I remember the first time I saw herb plants could come in so many variations was on a class trip from my high school to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. They had a shop with basils and mints in several flavors and somehow that electrified me. In my senior year — 1971 — I begged my father to take me and a friend to the Flower Mart in Baltimore. I saw more varieties of basils and mints there, which interested me more than the flowers, although I would not get to grow them myself until 37 years later.
Another memory I have of Baltimore’s Flower Mart is a distinctive treat they sold — lemons with one end cut off and a thick, porous peppermint stick inserted so you could suck out the lemon juice through its vertical holes. I had to try one to see what the fuss was all about and found that peppermint sticks, however porous, are frustrating straws and don’t really sweeten the lemon juice that much.
BTW, the friend who went with me to the Flower Mart was Joan Ellis, who beat me for the role of Aldonza in our senior musical, Man of La Mancha, after I told her, like an idiot, to lose the Spanish accent for her second audition. In 1978 Joan created the role of Shy in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for which she was nominated for a Tony.
I also planted parsley and coriander this afternoon. A few days ago I planted six patty pans squashes, which are my father’s favorite squash. I’ve gotten my 15-gallon tomato containers lined up on the lawn and labeled, with a corresponding map of what is going where on an 11 x 17 pad of graph paper. The next step is to test the soil, add the necessary amendments — which will be a combination of calcium, Miracle Gro potting mix, pine bark mulch and Perlite (the latter two are to ensure the tomato plant roots get enough air) — and then I will put up my deer fence.
The deer fence is black plastic ribbon about 5/8-inch wide that I wrap around stakes that are about six-to-eight feet apart at a height of about 30 inches. I put two sturdy stakes a few feet apart to act as a door — the ribbon there can be tied and untied. It works pretty well because I can spray the tape with anti-deer spray so they tend to move on to better-smelling plants and if the smell doesn’t work, they can’t see it very well in the dark so it freaks them out when they walk into it. The most delicate time for my tomato garden, deer-wise, is when I first put the plants in the containers because if they eat the growing tip of the plant, it can’t grow or won’t recover very fast, depending on how much it was chomped, so I’ve learned to replace it immediately with one of my back-up plants.
When the soil in the containers is ready and the deer fence is up, then I will plant all the tomato plants. The planting goes quickly — it’s the preparation that takes time.
I’ll take photos tomorrow and post some of them to show my progress. After I finished planting the basil and parsley, it was so breezy and cool just before sunset that I had Dad come out and sit on the porch for awhile just to enjoy seeing the wind in the trees and how everything looked crisp and sparkling after the rain this afternoon. Beauregard and Remington also came out to inspect their catnip patch near the front porch. I grew the plants from seed last year and this year they are flourishing, much to the satisfaction of the puss population.
Note: I started writing this post late on Sunday, June 6, so “today” means June 6, even though I didn’t publish the post until almost 1 am on June 7.