Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Window sill allotment - Bountiful Bargain Basil

How much Basil? A lot! This is the 3rd harvest this year and not even mid May (132g fresh basil leaves).
I can't grow anything, I'd don't have a garden. Well thats what I thought. And. I truly sympathise with folk like me, for whatever reason, they don't have space outside to grow things in. My restriction is our climate, I can grow out there but not without shelter, and so far, I don't have any! Many folk don't have the space, or not much time. Anyway there is a bit of a simple solution. Introducing my windowsill allotment! If I can grow stuff up here in the frozen north on a window sill, I'm sure anyone can have a go!

But, I've been experimenting with windowsill growing. And, so far so good its working well. Meet my Basil - don't think he has a name, isn't that bad of me? The poor brute was captive in Lild, but he's come home to live with us and is thriving. Anyway Bargain Basement Basil cost 75p in Lidls on March 9th this year. I've cropped it 3 times. Once when he arrived - then I split (well gently teased him) him into four chunks and planted him into a windowbox. But, a bigger pot would have done. The first time I cut all the largest leaves off, making sure to leave the stem alone, I put a large tub in the freezer and popped the leaves in straight away. Basil freezes beautifully - once frozen it keeps forever and you can use it straight from the freezer or cooking. There it is frozen - doesn't look very different does it? I just use a handful when needed.
They do still have their two for one herbs - I bought this basil for the house and a pot of chives to keep it company. After planting up its had a hair cut (50g leaves) and  one in between (120g leaves) and finally last week - I decided it needed another hair cut! Look at it - it couldn't apply for a job in the army with that floppy mopp!
It doesn't look like it minds growing on a windowsill does it? Its very happy - planted in a bit of an old grow bag from last year - its not too hungry a plant - happy thriving away. Maybe its thappy with he view over to Hoy? Or oggling the cushions which match a bit of the rug! Either way it grows brilliantly on a windowsill.
Time for your cut sir, going anywhere nice on your holidays? Do you want the usual, short, back and sides? I'll just trim off the biggest leaves and take the flowers off to keep it focussed on growing, rather than sex - let an annual herb have flowers, set seed (after a bit of rumpy pumpy) its not going to be interested in the slightest in your plans for pesto. It will want a long nice snooze! Keep the flowers off it and it will keep trying to grow for you. More action with less sex!
Is that to sirs liking? Nice and short, airy and good to let the plant grow more leaves for me, hopefully again and again. It happily filled the tray, which is a normal tea tray size. Infact it was a bit much for the tray. Kept spilling over!
You can't really get an idea of scale - but these are large kitchen scissors and a proper tea tray - the basil stack was enormous! Well 132g to be absolutely precise. I have weighed each harvest to see how much my 75p pot of basil will get for me and work out how much I've saved over its life. Its 100g basil for 79p bag of fresh leaves in Tesco. Therefore already I've got over 300g basil from my little pot (75p) savings so far ((79px3)-75p)=£1.62, its actually saved quite a bit and I've got a free plant into the bargain if I think about it like that. Not too bad if we don't charge him any rent eh? Window sill growing does seem to be worth the effort. And fresh basil, inbetween haircuts is amazing!
I've only pinched out the largest leaves and left all the little ones to grow more on each stalk. OK, its a  bit skinny mini looking after its hair but - but he's got form for being great a growing quickly!!! Happy back with his view out there. The evidence in the good life lab - 132g basil from one hair cut.
And, now sir time for your winter accomodation in the freezer time to get into a big freezer box - and just popped straight in. I let them freeze in a large tub and either keep it in there until I've no room and then pop it into a bag. When frozen, and popped into a bag - they will crush up easily (if wanted) or left in the box I can grab a handful whole.
Well thats my allotment basil for you - means I get early basil, its made its own money and more - I'll sow some soon - but for those of us with NO greenhouse and NO shelter - until the weather warms up - the windowsill allotment will have to provide. I've got lettuce (1 window box), spring onions (5), tomatoes (20), cucumber (10) and chives (1) on my windowsill. I'm an allotmenteer of sorts. Just more of an arm chair one at the moment!

Once the thesis is ready then I can crack on with getting a bit of my 'outdoor' garden going for food production! One day at a time eh?


  1. what a delightful tale of your Basil. how enterprising of you to grow stuff on your window sill ... i am really impressed. and it grows so profusely ... wonderful! i smiled when you said "short back and sides" ... i remember my dad saying that when he got a hair cut.

  2. You can never have too much basil - I bet your house smells like the Med!!!! xxxxx

  3. What a fabulous harvest and a great idea to freeze it like that. I'm going to try that this year- thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Jts my dad did too! Thanks for popping by!

    Diane the living room is overpowered by the smell of tomatoes, the basils trying to old it's own ;)

    Byddi my freezing experiments could compare with a cryogenic lab. Mainly because I'm lazy, if I can't grow it a lob it straight in the freezer when there is extra, chances are it won't happen. Lifes too short. Glad you've been inspired. The leaves go great in sauces etc but they are a bit darker if not used cooked. Good luck!

    My poor physalis is cross with me I left it out of the windowsill allotment - so hand on heart I'm now telling you all, I've also got a physalis (cape gooseberry) growing in their too!

  5. I planted a load of basil seeds in the greenhouse,I need to space them out a bit now - I have some of those troughs spare so you have inpsired me to put my basil in them and put some on the kitchen window sill :)

  6. I love the way you've taken photos at each stage, its really clear what *level* of haircut you've given them :)

    Lucky little basils :)

  7. Jan I'm not good at remembering to take photo in the right order - but I'm trying!

    Dreamer - good idea it needs to be a sunny windowsill but I'm sure you'd figure that - monty don did plant it with his tomatoes on gardeners world last night - never seen that before in a row right in front of them - but a good idea.

  8. I have only just discovered why I keep failing with basil - I water it too much. Which should make it the perfect plant for me to grow indoors, as unless it is early Spring and growing in Seedling Central, I never remember to water indoor stuff. Impressive harvest - shorn, it reminds me of P just after I have taken the clippers to him...

  9. An incredibly boring post about a bit of basil. You WEIGH it? Get a life!

  10. Dear Anonymous
    Thanks for the comment. However, I have to take a slightly different stance to the one you’ve posted. This isn’t just any basil, this is a basil that’s been rescued from factory farmed herbs produced to help folk who’ve no time/experience/greenhouse to grow their own. For every one of these that gets into a loving environment there’s a chance it will provide fresh food at home and perhaps the inspiration to try growing something else. It’s a superstar.

    This tiny little pot of basil is also contributing saving the planet by cutting down green house gases. It’s grown by passive solar energy in my living room, so I’m lowering my own carbon foot print when I grow at home. I don’t hop into a car buy more basil every time I want some, with even more packaging and plastic bag and a drive home again. By popping a bit of basil into home cooked pasta sauces it’s providing nutrition to my family. Trying novel ways of freezing crops also helps to encourage others to have a go too and means the energy it’s harnessed in the summer months will be of benefit in the winter when we are still eating it.

    It’s a clever little basil as its also teaching us all more about how to grow it, what it looks like, how to crop it to keep it happy and its also helping to teach my children how to cook from scratch and helping inform their future carbon foot print and their future children’s nutrition. It’s teaching about resource uses, growing cycles and organic practises. It’s a bit of a good life experience this basil, growing and cooking your own at home, Tom and Barbara would be proud of me I hope. Weighing, novel growing hair-brained schemes to see if they are working is my way of keeping track of my own progress and making sure I’m saving money.

    This little basil is also growing on a windowsill in a location where gardening outdoors with 60 mph winds this weekend is just a little bit tricky. Laterally thinking and recycling old window boxes to grow food indoors on a windowsill for people with limited space, the wrong climate or just very little time is a bit cheery. Green plants indoors also contribute to positive energy and clean the air and if you can eat them, all the better!

    So, whilst perhaps for some it is a boring basil post, its heart is in sustainable living. The one thing I certainly don’t need is to get a life I’m already living a very, very good one.

    But, thanks for popping past!

  11. LOVE this post!

    vl2588 from MSE

  12. Oh Orkneyflowers - you are just priceless. Just from the amount of proper comments after this blog post can be observed that lots of people have found it extremely intresting. Enough to stop and post themselves.

  13. You are indeed priceless girl! I pity the folk who don't have the soul to see artful beauty in everyday things xx

  14. And no doubt you felt so much better for telling them!
    Personally I wouldn't have wasted the effort.

  15. to the 'anonymous' who posted about it being boring - STFU!
    I tell mi kidz (tm) that if you can't say something nice about something or someone then you should keep quiet.

    You're just jealous. Ner!