What to do with an armload of basil?

First off, start off by making some basil vinegar. Here I used red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar and rice wine vinegar. Champagne vinegar is also a good choice. I’ve become a fan of the “not hot” vinegar method – the hot methods has you heating the vinegar prior to pouring it over the herbs. For delicate herbs like basil, I prefer to combine clean, dry herbs with the room temperature vinegar and letting it sit for two weeks or so in a cool place.

Making pesto is another good option – chopping basil leaves along with olive oil and garlic in your food processor then freezing. I usually add the Romano cheese and toasted pine nuts, traditional pesto ingredients, later.

You can also dry your basil – strip off leaves from the plant stem – wash and dry and then dry some more then place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag. Alternatively, cut whole stems and wash, dry and and hang in bunches upside down.  When dry, remove leaves from stem and place in sterilized jar or ziplock bag

And, be careful out there. When you look around, there will be a re-growth of the basil plant and many more possibilities for preserving  your delightful overabundance of Ocimum basilicum.

Basil         Basil vinegar and pesto




It was a great night to be out on a pontoon boat on the river with the Anacostia Watershed Society – the sun was going down, light breeze, cool temps, good river guide and lots of BIRDS.

We launched at Bladensburg Waterfront Park and then floated down the river for about five miles, past Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, past the Arboretum (there where is a back entrance if you come by boat), past the PEPCO power plant that will be imploded later this year, past RFK stadium.  And when we couldn’t go any further (railroad bridge that could only be passed during low tide) we turned around and went back.

Saw osprey heading home with their supper, lots of blue herons (some gulping their supper), snowy egrets nesting in trees, a kingfisher, cormorants, ducks, geese,  starlings, barn swallows (nesting under one of the bridges) two deer and….drum roll….a BALD EAGLE.

A good overview of the watershed which includes historic and recreational sites along the Anacostia River can be found right here.

And a view of the Anacostia can be seen right here⇒ 



Garden cooking classes, for one. Also Intro to Permaculture, Food Justice, Music in the Garden and more.

While summer is winding down (according to the calendar) there is plenty more gardening to be done in the fall.  Information on this and other gardening classes can be found on the DC Parks and Recreation website here.




Helios Cukes

A few years back, I brought beans to Newcastle. This year, it was cucumbers.

It’s been a bounty year for growing cucumbers – my community garden plot has been producing 4 or more per day. My RDA is usually two, and despite giving them to neighbors and friends I always seen to have plenty extra. I thought I’d take a few up to the farm for some summer salads.

Farm Cukes

But lo and behold, the farm also has a full cornucopia of Cucumis sativus (cucumbers).  Fortunately the local food bank accepts fresh vegetables since every day at the farm saw another 7-10 ripe cucumbers. It was a delightful overabundance of this delicious cucurbit.








HeliosMonroe turned eight this year – happy blog birthday!

Recent Helios highlights include good gardening, giant sunflowers, house renovations, and lots of walks around Mt Pleasant with Mazie.  Other endeavors include the beginnings of a hop yard, planting a patch of  Allium tricoccum (ramps) and letting the sun shine in.


Sand is generally not a good growing medium for plants, a closed bag of sand even less so.  But Ailanthus altissima (also known as Tree-of-Heaven) will grow just about anywhere including a closed bag of sand. A closed bag of sand exposed to direct sunlight and summer heat.

While unwanted and unwelcome, there is something to be said for the tenacity of a tree that not only grows in Brooklyn but anywhere else.

And although Alianthus hasn’t invaded my blog, I have written about it here and here.

Sumac        Sumac2


There are plenty of good looking tomatoes ripening on the vine in various plots in my community garden. There are also a number of very sad looking tomatoes with yellowing/brown leaves and withering stalks.

Are DC gardeners destined to eventually lose their tomatoes to wilts or blights or other diseases?  My answer is no, and here are some tips to help combat tomato collapse:

  1. Testing your soil. You can improve your chances of growing good crops if your soil has the right balance of nutrients. Right now UDC is offering free testing during July and August. Another  option is UMass Amherst’s soil testing lab.
  2. Watering slowly and deep – slowly so water doesn’t splash onto the leaves, deep so that roots grow down and pick up more nutrients. Best time to water is in the morning
  3. Cutting off leaves when there is a hint of yellow or brown – or proactively cutting off the bottom sets of leaves to mitigate splashing spores onto the leaves in the first place
  4. Practicing good sanitation – don’t touch the tomato leaves when they are wet, don’t inadvertently spread disease by touching unaffected plants after you’ve been handling diseased plants
  5. My alley neighbor, who was a knowledgeable gardener, swore by using a copper spray to combat these diseases. I’ve also read of an effective spray using baking soda or potassium bicarbonate called the Cornell spray. The Internets also shows gardeners using copper wire (inserted into plant stem just above soil line) or making a cut and inserting a copper penny. I think I’ll stick with the methods listed above.

In some cases, the tomatoes aren’t affected (although the plant looks stunted). But if the stalk is withered then the plant should be pulled up and put into your trash (not compost pile). Any tomatoes on the vine should be fine to eat. If they’re green, leave them on your counter top to see if they ripen. Or look up some good green tomato recipes (like this green tomato curry).

What are your tips for growing good tomatoes?




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