Tag Archives: Plants

Propagating herbs, or, How to turn one plant into ten

I, probably like most of you, love a good pesto. The tastes of fresh basil, pine nuts and garlic come together in a smooth , green paste that coats each piece of pasta in a rich cloak of flavor – ah, what a glorious meal.

But who has that much basil lying around? You could buy it. But store bought basil is usually wilted, covered with pesticides, and expensive. Or you could grow it yourself. But giving one plant a haircut might give you enough pesto to feed your baby. Or your goldfish.

What if I have five or six plants, you might ask me. And I’d tell you that’s a great idea. Herbs can be hard to grow from seed, though. Plants can be expensive to buy. And ultimately, nothing will give you the satisfaction of growing your own plants, we all know that.

Propagating herbs like basil is easy – a piece of cake, really. It’s as simple as cutting a stem, putting it in water and then planting it.

Last year we had multiple basil plants – Thai basil and genovese. Over the winter, we took some cuttings and tried to keep them alive. Sometime during January, we lost most of them – but one little sweet basil survived in my neighbor’s house. Now it’s overgrowing its pot so S took a couple of cuttings and sat them in a glass of water in the windowsill. As expected, they grew lovely roots. Now we’ve got two nice little potted basil plants that look thrilled to be alive.

We also bought basil plants this year, a cinnamon basil and a Thai basil. A mistake I made last year was to not pinch off the stems early enough or often enough. Pinching off encourages more side shoots, leading to bushy growth and ultimately, more herbs for your cooking. As I was pinching off, I found myself with a bunch of basil stems and nowhere to put them. It wasn’t enough to cook with, but composting them seemed like a big waste. I popped them in a glass of water, and lo and behold – roots!

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They are now happily potted up, sitting in my kitchen window. The parent plants are sending out plenty of new growth, I have 4 new plants, and they smell fantastic.

Propagating your herbs is an inexpensive, quick way to multiply your plants. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Make sure you pinch or cut neatly without crushing the stem. Also make sure that you cut right above a leaf node, where one stem meets two leaves. This ensures that the plant sends out two shoots in the place of one. And be patient – roots can take a week or two to grow.

What plants do you propagate?

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Looking in the cracks

It’s so easy to let life pass you by – to let small things weigh you down, to miss life as it’s happening. There’s a story I read in 9th grade English called ‘The Falling Girl’, a parable by Dino Buzzati warning heavyhandedly against the mistake that we all make.

“‘You have your entire life ahead of you,’ they told her, ‘why are you in such a hurry?’
…She made an attempt to answer but the force of gravity had already quickly carried her to the floor below, then two, three, four floors below….”

Life has been like that lately. Working long hours has me in the doldrums, often making me forget that there is life outside the hospital. I spend time in my little gardening space, often daydreaming about a big flat yard in the South where I could grow to my heart’s content. But really, I know I miss so much of my life by doing that. It’s the little things: the one new budding leaf on a tomato seedling, a tiny dandelion bud, a bird perched on the feeder, readying herself for warmth and new life. THAT is life. THAT is why life is worth it.

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Life seeps through broken concrete and under rocks. It happens in spite of us, in spite of itself. Celebrate it, love it, live it.

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Happy Easter!

What’s on your windowsill?

I have a vase of lemongrass and spring onions that I’m growing from kitchen scraps (quite successfully, might I add), a lucky bamboo plant that S and I eyed for a good 2 months at the Chinese supermarket before we bought it 2 years ago (it was a baby then) and some unnamed plant of which a coworker gave me a cutting on my birthday in 2012.

Don’t they look lovely in this rare winter morning sun?

A basil plantling will come soon. And who knows what the spring will bring?

What’s on your windowsill?