|Cinnamon Basil: Step by Step|
Growing Basil Seeds
Basil is an herb often used in cooking. There are many kinds of basil. There are sweet basils, purple-leafed basils, lemon basils, and specialty basils. Cinnamon Basil falls into the specialty group. Cinnamon Basil has reddish stems, purple flowers, and small- to medium-sized dark green leaves. The plants can grow as much as 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The leaves have a cinnamon-like taste and odor.
Using Cinnamon Basil
You can use Cinnamon Basil in any recipe that calls for basil. The sweet flavor is very good when used with other fruity flavored herbs. Pick the leaves and use them in cooking or put them in bottles of olive oil to make cinnamon-flavored oil. The oil would be good to use for frying apples or bananas. You can add this herb to your apple pie fillings, and it tastes great added to an apple sauce or raisin sauce for pork or ham. You can also freeze the leaves in an ice cube tray with water. Then pop them out after they freeze and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. Drop these herb cubes into soups or sauces to add basil flavor. Cinnamon Basil can be used to make a refreshing tea.
Cinnamon Basil is good for uses other than cooking, too. Some garden pests don’t like the smell of it, so gardeners grow it just to keep bugs out of their gardens. On the other hand, most people like the smell of Cinnamon Basil. For that reason, it is sometimes used to make potpourri. Potpourri is a mixture of things that give off a pleasant smell, like cedar shavings, dried flowers, cinnamon bark, and dried herbs, such as Cinnamon Basil. Leave a basket of potpourri in a room, and soon the nice fragrance fills the room.
Testing Your Design
The best way to test your plant growth chamber design is to try growing plants in it. Your plant growth chamber is intended to work in outer space, so Park Seed Company will give you some Cinnamon Basil seeds that have actually been in outer space. The space-exposed seeds flew on a space shuttle and orbited the Earth for almost two weeks. You will also receive some Cinnamon Basil seeds that stayed on Earth. The seeds that stayed on Earth are called the "control group."
To test your plant growth chamber, grow the space-exposed Cinnamon Basil seeds next to the Cinnamon Basil seeds that stayed on Earth. Before you plant your seeds, make a list of all the questions you hope to answer. Think about how you will know if your plant growth chamber is working correctly. Think about what differences you might look for between the space-exposed seeds and the control seeds.
Plant and grow the space-exposed seeds and the control seeds exactly the same way. Make sure you carefully label your seeds and plants. Do not mix them up!
Sowing Basil Seeds
Start by gathering everything you need:
1. Soil-less potting mix. Special material to plant your seeds in. This mix contains no dirt and is lighter in weight and darker in color than the dirt from your yard, but is cleaner and healthier for your plants. You can buy soil-less potting mix at garden centers or from catalogs.
2. Pots. Small containers to hold potting mix and seed. You can use a variety of pots, vessels, containers, or chambers for growing seeds. Your plant growth chamber may be designed to hold seed and potting mix directly, like a pot or planter does. Or you may have designed a larger chamber (perhaps like a small greenhouse) that is meant to contain several smaller pots. If you need containers to use within your growth chamber, you have many options.
You can reuse small pots that came with flower or vegetable plants in them. The pots are 3½ inches wide by 3½ inches tall. You can also reuse trays of four or six little compartments connected together (called cell packs). Be sure to have an adult wash and sterilize any of the used pots or packs before you plant in the used pot or pack containers.
If you don’t have old plant containers to reuse, you can use foam cups. (Note: paper cups are not strong enough.) A 6-ounce foam cup is about the same size as a small pot (that is, 3½ inches wide by 3½ inches tall). Or you can make a nice seedling tray out of a foam mushroom container from the grocery story. A container about 7 inches long by 4½ inches tall is just right. Measure the container across the middle of the top for the width across. Measure up the side for the tall measurement.
Finally, you can purchase new plastic pots, packs, or trays made specifically to grow plants from seeds. In this website, we call all of these pots, packs, and cups just pots.
By the way, you may have heard of using eggshells as plant containers, but they are too small for basil seedlings. The roots would not have enough room to grow. Also, some stores sell pots made out of peat, a compressed plant material. Peat pots are difficult to handle and dry out quickly. We do not recommend using them.
3. Seeds. Packages of seeds. You should have a pack of space-exposed Cinnamon Basil and a pack of control group Cinnamon Basil.
4. Labels & pencil. Small, flat stake, usually plastic or wood, to write plant information on and stick in the ground near the plant. Labels made from plastic or vinyl are the best choice. Use a pencil to write on the labels. It lasts longer than a permanent marker. Believe it or not, the marker washes off in one year if it is outdoors.
5. Spray bottle. Bottle that sprays a gentle mist of water. Use a spray bottle to wet the potting mix after you plant the seeds.
6. Watering can. Container with a handle and a long spout. You use this watering can to keep water in the trays under the seed pot containers.
7. Plastic wrap. A roll of clear plastic wrap from the kitchen. Used to create a clear, protective cover for the seeds and seedlings.
8. A waterproof tray with sides and no holes in the bottom.
9. Sand. Any kind will do. Have an adult sterilize the sand.
10. Long apron to cover your clothes.
11. Fluorescent light. Use either a fluorescent "grow" light or a regular fluorescent light. The "grow" light with blue light is the best to use for seedlings.
12. Electric fan. Use a fan that moves back and forth if the seedlings are in a closed room.
13. Timer. Automatic device to turn lights on and off. Helps make sure seedlings get 10-12 hours of light each day.
14. Water-soluble fertilizer. Fertilizer that dissolves in water. Feeds the plants quickly as they take in water through their roots.
15. Potting soil. Different from soil-less mix. This is a mixture of sterilized soil and compost. It is used when you transplant the seedlings into larger pots.
16. Slow-release fertilizer. Dry fertilizer that feeds plants over a long time period.
17. Old newspapers.
18. Paper towels.
Note: Setting up a box that will hold the pots of seeds, fan, and light will be your Engineering challenge. You will need to be able to see your plants as they sprout and grow; be able to move the light source; and be able to add water almost daily to a container underneath the pots.
Get Ready to Plant
Planting is messy. Work outdoors, if possible, or indoors on old newspapers, laid out on a table or floor.
1. Fill your container with the soil-less potting mix to within ½ inch of the top. The 3½-inch pots need about one cup of potting mix in each pot. The four-packs need about two cups of potting mix to fill all four little sections. The six-packs need about six cups of potting mix to fill all six little sections. The mushroom containers need about 2½ cups of potting mix.
2. Very lightly sprinkle the basil seeds on top of the potting mix. Allow plenty of room between seeds. Try for two seeds in each small compartment of a four- or six-pack. Shake or drop four to six seeds on top of the potting mix in the 3½-inch pots. Put about ten seeds on top of the potting mix in a mushroom container. These seeds are very small. It will be hard to tell how many you are planting.
3. After you sow the seeds on top of the potting mix, carefully sprinkle a very fine layer of potting mix on top of the seeds. Barely cover them. Gently press the tops of the planted pots with your fingers to make sure the potting mix touches the seeds.
4. With a pencil, make a label for each pot. On each label, write the type of seed—in our case, Cinnamon Basil. Write whether this pot contains space-exposed or control group seeds. Write down the date that you planted the seeds. Start a notebook and enter this same information. Write down everything you see happening to your seeds and plants while you grow your seeds.
5. Put all of the planted pots into waterproof trays (that is, trays that do not have any holes), so that water will stay in the bottom of the tray. Use a fine mist from a spray bottle to water the pots of mix and seeds from the top. Be very careful and make sure that the water soaks down deep. Watering from the top removes air pockets from around the seeds. We call this watering in. This is the only time you water from the top until you move the little plants to larger pots.
Note: After this first watering, pour water only into the bottom of the waterproof tray that holds the pots. We do not water from the top again until we move the little plants, called seedlings, to bigger pots. We call moving to bigger pots transplanting.
Tips on watering: Add water to the waterproof tray so that it comes up about one inch on the sides of the tray. Give the water about 30 minutes to soak up into the pots, and then add water again. The water should come up about 1 inch on the side of the tray. If the water does not soak up the first time, spray the tops some more to wet the potting mix deep down. Dry potting mix, which has dried-out peat moss in it, does not readily soak up water. Watering from the top wets the potting mix so that it will more easily soak up water from the bottom.
Science vocabulary: Cohesion is the force that tends to keep like substances together. Adhesion is the force that allows one substance to attach to a different substance. So adhesion allows potting mix to attach or soak up the water. Adhesion and cohesion work together to create capillary action, which is the natural upward movement of water in confined areas, such as the narrow spaces between soil particles. Capillary action makes bottom-watering work.
6. After you have done steps 1 through 5, cover the whole waterproof tray and its pots with plastic wrap. You could also use a plastic dome that fits like a lid instead of plastic wrap. Put the trays of pots in a warm place that stays at least 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can put your trays into a warm closet or on top of a refrigerator, which is usually a warm spot.
7. Check the pots every day. Keep about an inch of water in the bottom of the tray. Keep the tray and pots covered with plastic. The seeds will sprout (or germinate) in about a week to ten days.
8. When the stems of most of the tiny plants, called seedlings, look like they have two big leaves and two very tiny leaves at the top, take off the plastic covers. (You do not need the plastic covers anymore.) Gently sift sterilized sand over the top of the potting mix and around the seedling stems. Add about a quarter of an inch to the top of the planting mix. This helps keep the stems dry at the soil level
Note: Using sterile materials is important. So is keeping the stems dry. Both things help prevent damping off, a fungal disease that kills seedlings. The damping-off disease is more likely to kill seedlings if they are growing in cool temperatures, growing in wet potting mix, or if there is no air moving around the seedlings. Seedlings with damping off disease just fall over. They look like the stems have rotted right at the soil line. Sometimes the stems turn black and shrivel up just above the soil. The fungus spores can be contained in the soil, in the peat moss, or even in the water. There is no cure.
9. Move the trays with their pots to a location that is under lights or near a very bright window. The seedlings need 10 to 12 hours of light each day. Along with light, the seedlings also need lots of moving air around them. Air circulation helps keep the seedlings healthy and builds strong stems. Set up a fan five feet or more from the seedlings and keep it running on low. It should be on a stand or table the same height or higher than the seedlings.
Note: If you are growing your seeds using artificial lights, be sure to keep the lights on for ten to twelve hours a day. Use a timer to control the lights. If the lights are directly above the seedlings, move the lights up as the seedlings grow. Since lights vary in intensity, follow the directions that come with the lights.
If the seedlings do not get uniform light from all directions, they will stretch toward the light. If they lean toward a light, turn the pot each day to face the opposite direction. This will help to keep them growing straight.
Science vocabulary: Positive phototropism is the phrase used to describe a plant’s movement toward light. If a plant grows away from light, it is negative phototropism (or skototropism).
NOTE: Keep all of the above steps in mind when building your Plant Growth Chamber.
10. Check the seedlings every day to see when their first sets of true leaves appear. Move the seedlings into individual pots when the first true leaves are about a quarter of an inch long. Moving the seedlings is called transplanting.
Note: The very first leaves you see on the seedlings are seed leaves or cotyledons. Cotyledons are actually part of the seed itself and help feed the tiny seedlings until the true leaves sprout. The first true leaves come from the very center of the top of the basil seedling. They start out very tiny.
11. Prepare fresh pots for transplanting. Use pots that are 3½ to 4 inches across and 3½ to 4 inches tall. You can use new pots or old ones that have been sterilized. Fill the pots with fresh potting soil to within ½ inch of the top. Sprinkle one teaspoon of slow-release fertilizer on top of the potting soil in each pot.
12. In each new pot, make a hole in the middle of the potting mix. (A pencil is a good tool for making the hole.) The hole should be 2½ inches deep.
13. Take the old pot that contains seedlings and carefully turn it upside-down. Take out the seedlings and potting mix, and lay them on an old newspaper. Lay a damp paper towel over the seedlings so that they do not dry out.
Note: Handle the basil seedlings only by their seed leaves (cotyledons). The stems break easily. If the stem breaks on a seedling, it will die.
14. Transplant one seedling at a time. Uncover the seedlings, slowly and gently, pull each little seedling from the group, then cover the group back up with the damp paper towel. Slip one basil seedling into the hole you have made in the new potting mix. Plant the basil seedling as deep as the seedlings were growing or, if it has stretched and gotten floppy, you can plant it up to half of the stem deeper. Gently move the potting mix around the stems.
15. Mix water-soluble fertilizer into a watering can full of water. Measure and add only half of what the fertilizer instructions say to use on potted plants. Water the seedlings from the top with the water and fertilizer mixture.
Note: This is only the second time you should water from the top. You are watering in, to remove air pockets from around the seeds. From now on, put water in the tray to water from the bottom.
16. Gently sift sterilized sand over the top of the potting mix and around the seedling stems. Add about a quarter of an inch to the top of the planting mix. Put the new pots into waterproof trays. Put the trays of seedlings back under the lights.
17. Once a Cinnamon Basil seedling has six true leaves, you should pinch or cut off, at the very top, a very tiny bit of stem and the very topmost leaves from the tip of the basil plant. We call this pinching back. It helps to make the plant grow more branches. More branches means more (a bigger crop) of basil leaves.
18. When the Cinnamon Basil plant is about six or seven inches tall and has a sturdy stem, transplant the basil plant again, this time into a gallon pot. It will take about ten cups of potting soil to fill the gallon pot. Add six cups of potting soil to the gallon pot and then carefully remove the basil plant, with the potting soil around the roots, from the old 3½-inch pot. Set the basil plant into the new pot and add the rest of the potting soil to fill the pot up to a quarter of an inch of the top. Gently press the potting soil around the basil plant. Pay extra special attention to the sides of the pot. Make sure to press the potting soil down all along the edges and fill the pot until it is level with where the basil seedling was growing before. If your Cinnamon Basil has gotten too tall, you can plant the basil seedling up to half of the stem length deeper than it was growing in the small pot.
19. Continue to pinch back the Cinnamon Basil on all of its branches. The more you pinch back growing tips, the more branches and leaves you will have for harvest.
NASA Seeds in Space
A garden, if it is to mirror your soul, needs to enrich your life on a daily basis. It should be a good friend you want to visit often and to know intimately."