Square Foot Gardening Planting Numbers

Square Foot Gardening (SQF) is a method that makes planning and planting your garden way easier. Mel Bartholomew, who came up with the idea, has determined how many seeds or plants can be planted in one square foot of space.

Using rope, string, sticks, or by drawing lines in the dirt, and a measuring tape or ruler, divide the area you want to plant into a grid of square feet. In the image below, each square = one square foot.

Now, decide what you want to plant. Use the list, below, to determine how many seeds or plants per square. For example, if you want to plant bush beans, plant 9 bean seeds in one square. A tomato plant = one per square.

Scroll to the bottom to see an example of a completed SQF map. You can download a blank map here.

The Seed Planting “Rule”

Don’t forget the seed “rule”: only plant seeds as deep as they are big. Small seeds get sprinkled on the surface and covered lightly with soil; larger seeds like beans and squash are planted in a larger hole (about as deep as the first knuckle on your index finger).

Consider the height of your plants when planting

If possible, plant your tallest plants (e.g., tomatoes, pole beans, squash plants trained on a trellis) at the north side of your garden plot or bed. Shorter plants should be at the front, or south side. That way shadows from the taller plants won’t fall on the shorter plants.

Square Foot Gardening Numbers (Vegetables)

Arugula: 4 per SQF (or sprinkle seeds)
Asparagus: 1 per SQF
Beans (Bush): 9 per SQF
Beans (Pole): 8 per SQF
Beets: 9 per SQF
Broccoli: 1 per SQF
Cabbage: 1 per SQF
Carrots: 16 per SQF (or sprinkle seeds)
Cauliflower: 1 per SQF
Celery: 4 per SQF
Corn: 4 per SQF
Cucumbers: 2 per SQF
Eggplant: 1 per SQF
Garlic: 4-5 per SQF for large varieties/9 per SQF for small varieties
Greens: (e.g., collard, mustard greens, spicy mixes), 4 per SQF (or sprinkle seeds)
Kale: 4 per SQF (or sprinkle seeds)
Leeks: 4 per SQF for large varieties/9 per SQF for small varieties
Lettuce: 4 per SQF (or sprinkle seeds)
Melons: 2 SQF per plant
Okra: 1 per SQF
Onions: 16 per SQF (I have better success with 9 per SQF)
Peas: 8 per SQF
Peppers: 1 per SQF
Potatoes: 1 per SQF
Quinoa: 4 per SQF
Pumpkins: 2 SQF per plant
Radishes: 16 per SQF
Rutabaga: 4 per SQF
Scallions: 16 per SQF
Spinach: 9 per SQF
Strawberry: 4 per SQF (some people say only 1 per SQF; 2 seems to be a good number)
Summer Squash: 2 SQF per plant
Sweet Potatoes: 2 per SQF
Swiss Chard: 4 per SQF
Tomatoes: 1-2 per SQF (4 plants in one row can get a bit crowded–3 plants works better if you have enough space)
Turnips: 9 per SQF
Winter Squash: 2 SQF per plant
Zucchini: 2 SQF per plant

Herbs and Flowers

Basil: 4
Bachelor Buttons: 2 per SQF
Calendula: 1-4
Chives: 9 seeds or 1 plant
Cilantro: 9
Dill: 4 or sprinkle seeds
Fennel: 4
Marjoram: 4 per SQF
Mint: 1 per SQF
Oregano: 4
Parsley: 4
Rosemary: 1
Sage: 2-4
Savory: 1 per SQF
Sunflower: 1 per SQF
Tarragon: 2
Thyme: 4

If you can’t find your plant on this list, look on the seed packet for the plant spacing (ignore the row spacing!). If the spacing is:
3” apart (or something smaller), plant 16 per square foot
4” apart, plant 9 per square foot
6” apart, plant 4 per square foot
12” apart, plant 1 per square foot

Sample Map

Unbake the Cake

What is colonization?

To de-colonize, it’s important to first understand what colonialism is.

The dictionary gets right to the point: 

colonialism (n): the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically

Succinct…and objective af. What the definition doesn’t mention is how bad colonialism is. And colonialism is very, very bad.

Here’s my edited version:

colonialism (n): the very awful policy or brutal practice of acquiring stealing/forcing full or partial political, physical, and/or mental control over another country or region or peoples, violently occupying it with their ideologies and settlers (themselves often colonized and/or forced from their lands) and exploiting it economically for the benefit of the colonizers and utter destruction of nature and people.

Colonization is forcing people from their land, taking away one’s language, customs, beliefs, choices, often to replace them with a dominant belief (Christianity; capitalism). It is rape and murder and abuse and resource extraction; it is McDonalds, Amazon, Wal-Mart, Facebook, and Disney. It is planet- and spirit- destroying; it is species extinction. It is the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. It is all around us, a part of every industrial system on this planet.

You can compare colonialism to coronavirus. It gets everywhere, moves fast, kills humans, ruins economies, and no one is immune.

Colonialism isn’t just a virus. Colonialism is trauma. For most of us, it is the original trauma. And it’s passed down, generation after generation, a wound that grows and festers and deepens.

But colonialism, unlike a virus, is man-made. Which means if we wanted to, we could stop it. Right now. End colonialism. But unfortunately, “the legacy of colonialism is baked into every facet of every culture on the planet” and we all know you can’t unbake a cake. Or can we?

Good news! We can un-bake this cake. 

All we need to do is decolonize.

Why decolonize?

The current system—the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy, the “interlocking systems of domination that define our reality” is unjust. Born into this system that our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were born into, we internalize the actions, thoughts, words, and mentality of colonialism and thus become colonizers (abusers) ourselves. 

We end this cycle of abuse by decolonizing, by rejecting and replacing this system with love.

We decolonize to heal ourselves, our homes, our communities, the land. We decolonize to understand that others are colonized, too. We decolonize to empathize, to reject individualism and become part of a global community. We decolonize to connect to each other, to stop hurting each other. We decolonize to replace hate with love.

But isn’t decolonizing an Indigenous thing?

Nope. Not at all. 

Everyone needs to decolonize. Even settlers. Especially settlers. After all, we were colonized, too.

If you don’t think so, ask yourself these questions: do you speak the same language as your grandma did as a child? Does she speak the same language as her great-grandmother?

Do you live in the same place your parents grew up? How about your great-grandparents?

Can you name the first people who lived on the land you now call home? What did they call that land? “Can you name the territory and nation your grandmothers were born on?”

How many bird species can you name that visit your neighbourhood? Zero? One? Ten? Now, how many Netflix shows can you name? How many sports teams? How many brands?

How many of those sports teams use misappropriated Indigenous names while playing their sport on stolen Indigenous land?

Anyway, hopefully you get it.

How do I decolonize?

All healing journeys are personal. How anyone decolonizes is ultimately up to them.

What I want to share is my healing journey in the hopes it may help or inform yours.

I decolonize by asking myself the great questions of life: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why am I here? Who am I?

I put my answers into positive actions. 

As I knit, I practice mindfulness. 

Knitting is healing in action. Each stitch is a step on my journey. 

A stitch, a step, a word, a seed. Each of these tiny things can become something bigger: the tool to decolonize.

A Knitter’s Guide to Decolonizing

We are all colonized

My healing journey began when I recognized that everyone and everything—all the people on this planet, the planet itself, and the systems we live and work within—are colonized. Once I knew that, I also realized that healing would happen by my working towards living a de-colonized life.

Core wound

The next step towards healing was truly seeing and understanding what I was healing from—what my core wound was. Though there have been several abusers and traumatic instances in my life, I wanted to know why particular personalities and events seemed to recur. To understand why “these bad things always happen to me” was to recognize that something bad had happened to me at some point and how I consciously and unconsciously sought both relief for the bad feelings and, thanks to the abuse, a repeat of the the bad actions and feelings themselves. 

Protective self

After suffering a core wound, we create protective selves in order to not feel the pain of that wound. As Jackson MacKenzie explains in his book Whole Again

When our true selves are rejected, betrayed, or abused by a trusted loved one (usually parent or partner) and we don’t yet have the emotional tools to heal, it’s common for a protective self to form. The protective self sees itself as separate from others. It becomes more of an observer of the world, rather than an authentic participant. The protective self is usually seeking external validation for proof of its worthiness. To save or be saved. To fill a void it cannot express, to meet an old unmet need. It is largely based around control…Since the inner world is damaged, the protective self keeps itself alive through external measures of worth.

Recognizing the habits I’d formed as part of my protective self was actually easier to do than confronting my core wound. It was easier to see, for example, that I’m an avoidant who piles new projects on top of new projects in an effort to keep busy and feel good.

Letting go of my habits and masks started to reveal my core wound. Recognizing the protective selves I created and working, with mindfulness, to kick those habits kick-started my de-colonizing.

My authentic self

As I got deeper into my healing journey, I kept coming back to this question: Who am I?

All humans are born with the capacity to love, given, as the Mi’kmaq believe, unique gifts from The Creator. It is the job of parents to love and nurture their children in order to help them self-actualize and discover their truth.

According to Justice Murray Sinclair and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada,

…for any society to function properly and to its full capacity, it must raise and educate its children so that they can answer what philosophers and Elders call ‘the great questions of life.’ Those questions are: 
Where do I come from? 
Where am I going? 
Why am I here?
Who am I?

These four question guide me on my healing journey. Knitting helps me answer these questions.

Abuse erases our true selves; abuse stunts our growth. Though I’ve always had some sense of who I was, it wasn’t until I started my healing journey that I was able to separate my true self from my protective self. I am now working towards knowing who I am—my truth—and not what my abusers tried to make me become.

Active healing

Healing can be difficult without action. Particular actions—from gardening and growing food to raising livestock to cleaning my house to quitting jobs and projects to going no contact with abusers—have helped me actively heal.

Knitting is healing in action.

Healing is an awakening.


The Pandemic Sweater is starting to lean towards blue. Blue is my favourite colour so it’s no surprise I have a lot of blue yarn in my stash. Blue has never been a sad colour to me; instead, I find it soothing, calm, and hopeful.

Here’s what Hannah Gadsby says about blue.

Here’s an idea. I say we get rid of pink and give all the babies blue….[N]ot because blue is a masculine colour. ‘Cause that…is false. I love that people go, ‘Blue, yeah, a very masculine colour. Very reliable. Very rational colour, blue. Yeah, you can trust blue. It’s why we’ve got it on flags. Lot of blue on flags. Navy blue. Everyone trusts a boat.’

Blue, if anything, is a feminine colour. It really is full of contradictions…[B]lue is a cold colour. It’s on the cold end of the spectrum. But the hottest part of the flame? Blue. If you’re feeling blue…you’re sad. But optimism? Blue skies ahead!…A blueprint is a plan, but if something happens not on the plan, where does that come from? Out of the blue!

Blue’s a wonderful colour to start life with. There’s room for every kind of human in blue. There’s a whole spectrum, ’cause blue doesn’t demand…it doesn’t demand action like all the other colours. Think about this. You’re stuck in traffic…and the lights turn…blue. Less road rage, people. Less road rage. More accidents, ironically enough.

– Hannah Gadsby, Nanette

What I’m Knitting

What is the Diz Knits Pandemic Knit- & Heal-Along?

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us to self-isolate at home. With some time on my hands and a hankering to use it creatively, I’m embarking on what knitters call a knit-along (or KAL, a group or social, simultaneous knitting event), and what gamers call a let’s play (“recorded run-throughs of people playing games” that’s part review, part commentary). In my case, I’ll be writing about my knitting as we wait out this pandemic. So, thoughts and tips on knitting…and healing.

Ok, I get the Knit-Along, but what’s the Heal-Along?

I knit for lots of different reasons, but I originally started knitting to stop chewing my fingers, a protective habit I developed as a result of multiple traumatic experiences. With health very much on our minds, as I knit, I will share with you aspects of my personal healing journey (so, thoughts on healing, while knitting).

Why are sharing your healing journey?

Because we all have some healing to do.

The Challenge

I need an adaptable, time-consuming, slightly challenging, stash-busting knit to while away my days in self-isolation.

The Yarn & Needles

The biggest challenge is working with what I have. I’d like to use up my Briggs & Little and Lismore Sheep Farm odds and ends—the mix of colours will look great in a fair isle pattern. The yarn gauges aren’t all the same and my needle size will be a bit off—it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out, and hopefully blocking the sweater will alleviate some wonkiness.

The Pattern

After a little digging, I found this sweater pattern, “Cartography,” at Tin Can Knits. Imagine this with all kinds of crazy colours!

The Diz Knits Pandemic Knit- & Heal-Along: Intro Post

Stay home

Like a lot of homesteaders, we’ve been waiting for this. Except we thought it’d be climate change or oilmaggedon—a hurricane, a flood, a major ice storm, some inability to get at our oil.

Instead, it’s a really contagious, really dangerous virus.

I keep thinking how in all the post-apocalyptic content out there, the movies and stories we’ve watched and read, the citizens always have to leave. A mad rush out of the city. Traffic jams. Helicopters. Evacuations. Abandonment. People jumping out of cars and running. 

Instead, we have to stay home.

It’s a rather passive-aggressive apocalypse. 

Dakota Fanning flees invading aliens while wearing some really nice knits.


I recently learned about preppers. They’re the people camped out in their underground bunkers right now, laughing over their cases of canned food. Preppers live their lives prepping for the worst. I don’t think we’re as extreme as peppers but a big reason we started growing our own food (and teaching others to do the same) was to prepare for things like interruptions in our food supply chain and the possibility of food being too expensive to buy. Food security, especially living on an island on the edge of the continent, weighs on our minds a lot. A bad hurricane—or flu pandemic—and we could be cut off from our food supply for days or weeks or longer.

Because I wanted access to healthy, inexpensive food every day of the year, I started to produce my own. I grow vegetables and fruit. I raise chickens. I keep bees.

It’s strange comfort that this pandemic hit just as my hens started laying more eggs. Yesterday we dug out the cold frame and harvested fresh kale. When I planted the cold frame in the fall, I thought, it will be nice to enjoy fresh greens during the spring hunger gap! Eating kale and eggs and garlic from my backyard last night for supper, my thoughts centred on gratitude: having food at home means not having to go the grocery store which means less risk of exposure to the virus.

Not only is my homegrown food keeping me healthy, it’s literally keeping me alive.

Home is where the health is

Home has been saving me for a while now.  

It started a few months ago and it also started 5 years ago. 

Five years ago I quit a job that was toxic and abusive. The process of filing a complaint, seeing it go nowhere, seeking and finding no support, then finally quitting left me suffering from acute PTSD. I became very depressed and started really looking at the chain of abuse I’d suffered from childhood on. I realized I had a lot of trauma I’d never acknowledged or processed and I began a long, healing journey that continues to this day.

Healing means giving things up and letting things go

A few months ago, I realized my next step on my healing journey was to let go of socializing. With Christmas looming, I started turning down offers to hang out. In the new year, it continued. I told people I was on a “socialization sabbatical.” I told them I needed to stay home and heal.

A few months later, and we’re all being told to do the same.

And here I am, still at home, preparing to…stay at home even more.

So I decided to knit.

Let’s knit!

I always knit. Since I started knitting, I’ve rarely been without my needles. I knit everywhere, any time I can. I love knitting. A few years ago I even started a little business, Diz Knits. It’s slogan, “bright knits for dark times,” turned out to be quite prescient.

I learned how to knit just before a trip to Europe in 2008. I wanted something to do with my hands while sitting for long hours on planes and trains. 

I relentlessly chew at and pick the cuticles and skin on my fingers. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break for decades. My fingers are often raw and bleeding or covered in bandages.

Through healing I’ve learned how this habit is a physical manifestation of my trauma. Whenever I feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, frightened, ashamed…basically any time I feel “bad,” I pick at my fingers. I harm myself to not feel bad. It’s twisted, but that’s what abuse will do to a person.

When a friend once noticed my fingers, I explained this all to her. I said, “when I finally stop chewing my fingers, I know I will be truly healed.”

Well, 12 years of knitting, and I’m still chewing my fingers. Shit, I’m chewing them right now.

I used to feel a lot of hatred towards myself for this habit. I am learning, with the help of mindfulness, to unconditionally love myself. To express love towards myself instead of shame or disgust when I fall into this habit. 

And it was slowly working! My fingers were starting to heal.

But then…this pandemic. I’m sure there’s a lot of people chewing their fingers right now.

I needed a project. Something to keep my fingers busy. Some big, bright thing to keep my mind off dark things.

Welcome to the Diz Knits Pandemic Knit- and Heal-Along. You can follow along as I knit and heal. Because knitting helps, maybe it will help you, too. After all, we all have some healing to do.

P.S. Stay home!

All Tucked In

Applying mindful laziness to your fall garden clean-up

I’m a lazy gardener. I don’t pull weeds. I don’t harvest the kale and lettuce that’s going to seed. I don’t till the plot where I’m planning on planting fall vegetables. That’s too much work, it’s way too hot, and, besides, the bees enjoy the weeds and kale flowers, and my chickens will gladly do the tilling for me. 

Despite being lazy in some respects, I put a lot of thought and planning into my garden. I’m not doing nothing, I’m working towards doing nothing. Do-nothing farming is an idea put into practice by Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, who grew rice by scattering seeds in straw mulch, and filled his mandarin orchard with perennial and self-seeding vegetables. He never tilled or used chemical fertilizers, and instead let nature guide his farming practices. Transitioning from gardening to farming, reading every book on the topic I could get from my library, I found that Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution spoke to me the most. Why sweat in the hot fields pruning tomatoes, or pushing a heavy, stinky, polluting rototiller, when I can sit in the shade under my cherry trees drinking homemade dandelion beer? 

I apply lazy gardening techniques to my fall garden. Starting in early August, after the garlic is harvested, I move my chickens onto those now-empty plots, where they quickly get to work weeding, fertilizing, tilling, and eating up ants and slugs. (Since I got backyard chickens three years ago, my garden has never had fewer pests). Then, two or three weeks later, I move the birds somewhere else. (We use hardware cloth and broken hockey sticks for a simple – and truly Canadian – portable fence system). Then I start prepping the beds for fall crops. 

Depending on how compacted the soil is, I may broadfork the plot, then I’ll layer composted chicken manure and municipal compost. Like Fukuoka, I’ll scatter seeds, gently rake them in, add straw and seaweed mulch, then water. In amongst the emerging seeds, I transplant fall and winter crops like kale, collards, and beets, which I have seeded in soil blocks around the time I harvested the garlic. Soil blocks are the lazy gardener’s friend – no plastic, no garbage, just a square of soil ready to be popped into the ground. Just before freeze-up in December, I put hoops in the ground, cover it all in plastic, and – voilà – instant greenhouse for four-season growing!  

Perpetual Kale

In some parts of the 6,000-square-foot yard around my company house in New Waterford, N.S., the food grows by itself. By fall, the kale and lettuce I’ve let go to seed (which fed my honeybees throughout July) have started to dry and fall over. Though I collect and save seeds, I prefer to let the seeds plant themselves. I’ll throw manure and compost on top of my “perpetual kale yard,” and just let the kale grow back on its own. The kale tends to move around, in part thanks to the chickens. Carol Deppe, in The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, advises that the only plants that really need to be rotated each year are tomatoes and other nightshades, so I don’t worry too much about rotating my other crops. 

As a four-season grower, I don’t really put my garden to bed for winter, but rather tuck it in. Instead of ripping up spent plants, I leave them in the soil to break down naturally; that way, as Fukuoka suggests, the nutrients those plants took from the soil go right back into the soil. The plants also add extra protection from winter erosion. The only time I ripped up plants was the year my beans got blight. It broke my heart to put something biodegradable into the trash, but thanks to better soil management, it never happened again. My summer and winter squash almost always turn grey from powdery mildew, which in our Maritime climate is unavoidable. I compost my squash vines and tomato plants only because, by fall, I’m tired of tripping over them. I snip the plants at the base of the stem, and leave the roots in the soil to rot – again, to add back nutrients. Everything else, I leave in the garden.  

Much Mulch

Fall is all about mulch – the blanket I use to tuck in my crops. The cheaper the mulch, the better. On Nov. 1, I place an ad on Kijiji looking for straw and hay bales used as Hallowe’en decorations. People text me their address and the location of said bales, then off I go to pick them up. The hay bales insulate my vegetables; the straw bales I use around the chicken coop and on top of my garlic beds. (A word of caution: don’t let your chickens get at the hay, as they could develop crop impaction problems.) No worries about introducing new seeds to my garden; the chickens take care of those. This past spring I planted zucchini and cucumbers in the leftover, rotting bales, and so far the squash seem to love it. 

Fall leaves are another favourite mulch. On my bale collection rounds I also pick up bagged leaves. How nice of my neighbours to do all that raking for me! Last fall I dragged home two giant bags of leaves from a Sydney cemetery, and they contained bonus apples that the chickens enjoyed. 

My favourite mulch has got to be seaweed – something coastal gardeners have used to build and amend their soil for centuries. Irish farmers with rocky land planted their potatoes directly in seaweed. Seaweed is full of nutrients that plants love. Late last November, after I’d planted my garlic, I mulched the beds with a layer of seaweed, then a layer of straw. The mulch was so thick that, once the ground froze, the chickens could free-range over the beds without damaging the garlic underneath. I had to loosen the seaweed come spring – it was a bit too much for the garlic to poke through – but the bulbs I harvested this year were huge! 

When a rogue pattypan sprouted in my garden last year, producing pounds and pounds of squash, my search for an easy, lazy method of preserving led to my newest passion: fermenting. No boiling, no hot-water baths; just chop, salt, toss in a crock, weigh it down, and wait. A week or so later, I’d produced almost five gallons of a unique fermented spread that tasted great on pizza. This year, with all the heat we’ve gotten, I have a bumper crop of basil and hot peppers, so I’m looking forward to making fermented hot sauces and pesto – which I’ll get to, eventually. The fall sunshine has got me feeling lazy, and I’ve got another glass of dandelion beer to finish.  

This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Rural Delivery (Volume 43.4).


Banish blandness by planting a wide selection of herbs

The first food I ever attempted to grow was herbs. One winter while living in Toronto, I bought some small clay pots, soil, and chive seeds. I planted the seeds, watered them, placed them on my south-facing windowsill, and waited. My mouth watered at the thought of adding fresh chives to my soups, rice, eggs, and salad.  

One week passed. And then another. A month later, still no chives. Eventually, I gave up, replaced the unsprouted seeds with spider plants, and didn’t attempt to grow food again for several years. Now chives grow in quite a few corners of my garden. I’m happy I didn’t give up on my chive dreams (I wonder if this is the real meaning behind “Keep calm and chive on”?), because chives, one of many perennial herbs, are an extremely welcome sight in spring, often popping out of the ground when it’s still cold and snowy in April. Turns out, chives can be rather tricky to grow from seed; it’s much better to plant transplants.  

By persevering, I also learned that herbs are extremely rewarding to grow. They don’t take up too much space, they grow well in pots, they complement other vegetables in your garden, they offer health benefits, and they can even keep pests away. In fact, despite my early, failed attempts, herbs are the first thing I recommend new gardeners grow. After all, a few fresh leaves of basil, snips of chives, or pinches of thyme can really add some zing to staples like eggs, meat, soup, and grains. Even a small, simple salad of fresh, cold-hardy parsley – with a basic vinaigrette – is incredibly energizing when the temperature drops and the days grow short.  

If you’re just starting out, you can get herb transplants from a garden centre or a farmers’ market vendor, or you can grow them from seed. Common transplants include savoury herbs like thyme, rosemary, basil, chives, and parsley. Perennial seeds, as I said, can be a bit tricky to start yourself – but once they’re established, you essentially have a lifetime supply of chives or thyme. For annual herbs – plants that live and die in one season – it’s much more cost-effective to start the plants from seed. Besides, a seed catalogue offers a far greater selection than you will find in most nurseries.  


Basil is my favourite herb to grow from seed, but because it is native to tropical regions, it takes a few tricks to get big, healthy plants in our cooler Maritime climate. Jo Ann Gardner, in her book Living with Herbs, suggests buying seeds that boast large leaf sizes, such as Genovese, or Mammoth, or a crinkly-leaved variety I grew this past year called Napoletano. Basil hates the cold; even cold soil and cold wind will stunt or burn this sensitive plant. So I start my seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost, then gradually harden them off in my cold frame or under plastic.  

Basil is considered an excellent companion plant for tomatoes, but when I tried this I found the tomatoes would eventually engulf the basil, keeping the tiny plants in perpetual shadow, which they do not like. Now I grow my basil exclusively in pots on my hot, sunny deck. This keeps the soil much warmer (especially if you use black pots), allows for more consistent watering, and makes it easy to move the basil under cover or even bring it inside if the temperature suddenly drops.  

I also make sure to pinch my basil – meaning I snip the leader stem when it looks to be setting flowers, which encourages the side stems to develop leaves, ensuring a bushier plant and a longer harvest. My basil loved the hot, dry summer this past year, and in September I harvested my biggest crop ever, filling a large garbage bag with the pungent green leaves. 

Most herbs dry quite well if hung upside-down in a relatively dry room out of direct sunlight, but dried or frozen basil can get brown and ugly. The best way to preserve basil is to use it as an ingredient. In the fall I make large batches of pesto and zucchini-basil soup, which I freeze, to be enjoyed throughout the winter.  

This past year I adapted Pascal Baudar’s salted herb recipe (from his book The New Wildcrafted Cuisine) by combining one part salt to four parts chopped basil, which resulted in a very flavourful bouillon-type mixture; I add a spoonful or two to soup, or as a salt substitute in other recipes. The salted herbs keep well in the fridge, and as they very slowly ferment, the saltiness diminishes. You can use any herb in place of basil. 

A couple of years ago I noticed how much the local bumblebees loved the few basil flowers I neglected to pinch, so I now make sure to let some of my basil plants go to flower, to share with the bees. My honeybees are indifferent to my savoury basil, but they love my tulsi (Sacred basil) flowers. With its potent smell, a unique flavour resembling bubble gum, and prolific growth, tulsi has become one of my favourite tea herbs. Plus, like a lot of herbs, it’s loaded with health benefits; it relieves stress, alleviates cold and flu symptoms, and is even good for oral and dental health. I harvest my tea herbs in the summer and fall, dry them until they’re crispy, store them in Mason jars in a dark, cool place, and make healthful teas or use them to flavour kombucha all winter.   

Tea Time

Other tea herbs I enjoy growing include chamomile, lemon balm, and chocolate mint. Another bee favourite, anise hyssop (aka liquorice mint), is a tall-growing perennial that I plant at the northern end of my garden beds. I love growing as many perennials as I can; unlike fussy annuals, my chives, oregano, lavender, mint, and lemon balm come up year after year once established, with little or no work.  

A lot of herbs will also self-seed, so you may find chamomile, cilantro, or dill popping up in unusual places all over your garden. Be careful, though, because a few, such as mint and lemon balm, may threaten to take over. Not that I mind, however. My lemon balm has become a lovely ground cover, and in the summer it’s delightful to roam through and enjoy its bright, citrusy scent. 

And that’s just the tip of the basil flower when it comes to herbs. There’s a vast number of varieties and flavours to grow and experiment with. If at first you don’t succeed – well, keep trying and chive on! 

This article first appeared in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of Rural Delivery (Volume 43.7).