URBAN GARDENER: A splash of seaweed brings out the earthworm love

The tip to keeping basil going is to pinch off the leaves, says Campbell River gardening columnist

Could spaghetti be gourmet?

Well, it could be pretty close to gourmet if you take a fresh bowl of steaming pasta, a ladle of tomato sauce and top it off with a dollop of pesto. Definitely, the addition of pesto would upgrade your repast from good to outstanding.

Basil, the main ingredient in pesto that has such an impact on sauces and salads, is not easy to grow. But, there is a way around that impasse.

My solution is to buy a mature basil plant in the grocery store, find a spot in your kitchen with at least partial sun and your basil will produce a regular supply of deliciously pungent leaves for months on end.

The trick to keeping your basil reproducing is to regularly nip off the upper leaves. This means there will only be one or two sets of leaves left on each branch.

It is astounding to see how quickly the plant regrows. Now try mixing basil, pine nuts, a garlic clove, olive oil and Parmesan cheese in the blender.

Freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray and then transfer the squares into a freezer bag. Use these as a topping, not only on pasta but on baked fish or grilled chicken.

For those not partial to basil you can always replace the herb with cilantro or parsley and still have a great dish.

Sowing a winter harvest garden in August while the summer sun is still producing abundant food may seem a bit strange, but it captures the essence of sustainable gardening.

The 12 vegetable varieties that are suggested are cold-hardy and will grow slowly, or sit dormant, while awaiting the harvest. Some of those on this basic list will benefit from the protection of a cold frame, a cloche or mulch, but all of them can be enjoyed well into December and sometimes into the following spring.

On this list are arugula, cilantro, corn salad, lettuce, parsnips, brussel sprouts, carrots, collards, kale and turnips. Read the directions on the back of the packages to assure your selection is a winter seed.

You can create a very inexpensive cold frame by buying a large class window frame at the Habitat For Humanity Restore on Willow Street. Prop the frame on an angle against a south facing supporting wall. This would work for a yard, a patio or a balcony garden.

Just tuck your plants in under the cover, water when necessary and make sure they are mulched well with leaves or straw to protect them from  cold days. You could be munching on your own greens all winter long.

Did You Know That…seaweed, which is abundant on our shoreline, makes a fabulous liquid fertilizer. Half fill a drum or garbage container with seaweed, top it up with water and let stand for three months.

The beautiful rich liquid is very strong. You must dilute it in a solution of one cup of seaweed to four gallons of water.

Your plants will love you and so will the earthworms.