Tulsi grows best in the summer garden or in a greenhouse environment. Lacking these conditions, a solarium or very bright south facing window may be adequate. Growing Tulsi during the winter will require grow lights. You can purchase T-5 grow lights online that will work quite well. Keep the light 18 inches above the top leaf, and keep the light on the plants for at least 8 hours per day. Keep plants nipped back if they get leggy or go to flower very quickly. It works best to plant 1 plant per gallon pot. If the plants are potted up with organic compost, then they should have enough nutrients to stay healthy for some time. If they begin to yellow or look unhealthy, then fertilize once every 2 weeks with compost tea, comfrey leaf tea, dilute fish emulsion or other organic liquid fertilizer, or heap additional organic compost around the stems and water through the compost to feed the plants. This is a good way to keep some healthy individuals for worship or for ongoing harvest for fresh leaves or for tea.
One almost avoids giving instructions on growing tomatoes since there are so many tomato growing officianados out there—tomato culture is part of almost every gardener’s DNA. I see a lot of nice caged tomatoes when I drive around and snoop on other people’s gardens a bit. Yes, you can bury the stems horizontally at transplant, that’s a good one. Also, you can put a rock next to the biggest plant to keep it warm and pick off the axillary shoots, all good tricks! Here’s what I think is most important:
Start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Use pure compost for your starting soil–tomatoes are heavy feeders. Thin to one seedling per pot. Keep warm and in bright light. Run your hand over the top of the seedling from time to time, which will flex the stem, in order to strengthen the stem and keep the plant from getting leggy. Don’t start too early and have them make flowers before transplant—a common mistake!
Once the ground has truly warmed up, transplant outdoors at 4 foot centers (tomatoes need lots of light to develop fruits). Use organic compost under the plant at transplant and around the stem. Once the plant gets to a foot or more tall, put a cage around it to support growth and keep fruit off the ground. Clearly this is more important for the leggy, indeterminate types but even determinates do better with caging. Staking is almost always a waste of time, use cages. Water infrequently and deeply (watering too often makes for watery, tasteless tomatoes). Allow to ripen on the vine before harvest.
Peppers prefer a scanty, even water supply, good drainage, full sun, and a long, hot summer. Start indoors 40 to 50 days prior to the last frost. Plant seeds in pure organic compost in pots in the greenhouse. Thin to one best seedling per pot. Do not overcrowd peppers in a flat—they will get crinkly and stop growing. Transplant out to garden after the soil has really warmed up. The best compost for Peppers is higher in phosphorous than nitrogen. Kelp is well-tolerated and makes for outrageous yields. Water once or twice per week during the summer. Wait for fruit to completely ripen before harvest—harvesting green they have poor food value and never dry properly.
To plant (any) Aloe, first cover the hole in the bottom of the pot with a pot shard, put a layer of sand in the bottom of the pot (2 inches or so deep), then a 2 inch or so layer of compost or any kind of humusy potting soil will do, then finish off with more sand on top of the compost. Plant the roots of the aloe seedling down through these layers, and leave the succulent barely nestled down into the top layer of sand, tamping all around to hold the seedling firmly upright. Do not water after transplanting–leave the plants for a week or 2 without watering at all. The seedlings will send down roots at this time, roots that would be discouraged by the presence of too much moisture. Once the plants have rooted in, water once a week or so during the summer, but then more or less discontinue watering during the winter. Aloes do best in a shaded greenhouse or indoors on the windowsill with a northerly or easterly exposure. Aloes live on and on.
Arnica montana (Mountain Arnica), the endemic European species, is considered official. However, other species of Arnica (there are 28 in North America) are used by local herbalists, and appear to be medicinally interchangeable with the official species. Arnica chamissonis (Meadow Arnica) enjoys a wide distribution in North America and Europe, and is listed in the German Commission E Monograph as a viable substitute for A. montana in herbal medicine. Finding substitutes for the official species is a worthy goal, since populations of A. montana are declining over much of its range. Collection of flowers for medicinal purposes is illegal in France. The plant is classed as “vulnerable” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Germany, Lithuania and Slovenia. A. montana is variously protected in Czech Rupublic, France, Italy, and the Ukraine. The plant is listed as “critically endangered” in Luxembourg, “threatened” in Sweden, and “extinct” in Hungary. Collection of flowers and roots for medicinal purposes, combined with encroaching agriculture and urbanization has contributed to depopulation of the wild stands, creating shortages of the herb in commerce. Under the circumstances, it makes sense to grow Arnica. Those living at altitude will do well to concentrate on the A. montana, which makes large flowers that are easy to pick and make lots of medicine. Those living at lower altitudes might have better luck with A. chamissonis, which is a bit easier to grow. Given a suitable soil and sun exposure, this plant will thrive even at sea level. Arnica seeds respond well to standard flower seed propagation methods. Prepare a light seeding mix that is free of lime and contains sand, forest loam and peat moss (or coir). Press the seeds into the surface of the soil or barely cover and tamp, then keep the flat warm, in the light, and evenly moist until germination, which occurs in 1 to 3 weeks. The seedlings will be quite small and slow growing at first. Once they are large enough to handle, individuate into pots and tend them for up to a year before transplanting out to the garden. Once a good patch is established, it is fairly easy to produce more plants by means of division. Dig a rhizome, pot it up, and aerial parts will soon appear. Arnica enjoys a full sun exposure and loose, moist to mesic, acidic soils. The plant is intolerant of lime. Because it is rhizomatous (reproducing by way of underground creepers), it quickly populates a raised bed with a dense, monotypic stand. We have found that amending the native soil with compost, coir, peat, and sand, making a very loose mix that can easily be penetrated by the runners, helps promote the spread of Arnica and will result in a good yield of medicinal flowers in the fall of the first year, in the summer of the second year and for years thereafter. Harvest the flowers in early flowering stage and dry on screens in a warm, dark and well ventilated place. Dry until crispy. It is a good idea to use the flowers soon after drying, as they tend to get buggy in storage. Arnica is apomictic, meaning that seed formation is initiated asexually by spontaneous division of the gamete prior to the blossoming phase. The plant does not require pollination in order to make viable seed, and every seed will produce a plant identical to the mother plant. For the purpose of seed saving, this means that there is no need to collect seed from a minimum number of individuals, and there is no concern about hybridization with other species–the seeds you harvest will remain true and strong whether harvested from one seed head or a thousand. So feel free to grow your Arnica and save your own seed–nature needs your help! Richo