Basil is a great choice to plant since it’s easy to grow and is useful in so many ways. It can be used in salads, makes a great pesto and seasons dishes like soups, casseroles and sauces. It is also a key ingredient in many home remedies (such as treating wasp stings, mosquito bites, relieving coughs, and more). This is a plant that gives and gives…and gives some more! Here are some tips for growing your own bounty…
Light Conditions: It loves as much sun as you can give it, plant in a full-sun location if possible but it will be ok with at least 4 hours of sun.
Soil Conditions: It can be affected by the disease Fusarium wilt (fungus), mixing compost in with the soil helps fight it. The plant does not like sitting in water so choose a well draining soil. Mulching isn’t necessary but it is appreciated.
Location: Select a location to grow that is sheltered from wind and cold and will provide adequate sun (see above). Space about 10″ apart to provide good air circulation, when it thrives it can grow quite bushy! Basil can be grown in your vegetable garden, flower beds and garden pots. Be clever with location choices when planting it and reap the rewards! Did you know: Basil is believed to naturally repel flies and mosquitoes? Arrange pots of them around windows and doorways. For outdoor gatherings, throwing leaves on the barbecue is another way to repel pests.
Watering Conditions: It doesn’t thrive in parched soil but it doesn’t like sitting in water either. Water well at least once a week. Make sure you water deeply and more frequently during hot weather, allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. If it begins to yellow, this is a sign of overwatering. Wilting is a sign of not enough water. Avoid watering the leaves and aim for the base of the plant.
Containers: It will grow well in pots and containers. Ensure the potting soil is well draining and mix in a bit of compost for best results. Also line the bottom of the container with a layer of gravel before adding soil, this will help with drainage (make sure you have at least one good sized hole for drainage). Remember that soil dries out faster in containers so watch that it doesn’t dry out. If you need directions for planting in a container, see this page.
Growing Indoors: Snip stem cuttings before the first frost of the season and stick them in a cup of water, they should start showing roots within about 7 days. You could also dig up the plant and pot it for indoors. Make sure to choose a location inside where it will receive plenty of light and will be protected from cold drafts. Basil can be planted alone but it grows well with other herbs too. See Herb Garden Ideas for tips. It’s also a great choice for a kitchen herb pot since it’s so useful in cooking.
From Seed: It can be grown from seed by home gardeners just fine. Sow seeds outdoors about 1/8 inch deep when danger of the last frost has passed and nights aren’t too cold (above 50°F/10°C). If you want to start seeds indoors, start about 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Keep seeds evenly moist until they germinate (about 7 days).
- Bushy Plant Growth Tip: Start pinching the plant when it reaches 6″ tall to promote bushy growth. When it produces a blossom, make sure to pinch the whole stem that produced it (not just pinching off the blossom itself) to promote growth and prevent a bitter-tasting herb (or at least 6 leaves deep from the blossom). If you want to harvest seeds for next year’s crop, let the blossoms go to seed toward the end of the season instead of pinching them off.
- Pick the top leaves first, this promotes neat growth.
- To promote flavor, trim back about once a week. The more the plant is harvested the better the flavor develops.
- Did you know: Some believe growing Basil and Tomatoes together enhances the flavor of both.
- Troubleshooting Tip: If it has pale green leaves or is yellowing, it’s because it isn’t getting enough nutrients. Feed at least once a month if this happens (especially watch when growing indoors). Do not fertilize unless necessary, too much feeding affects the taste of the herb. If you’re overwatering, it will also affect leaf color like this.
- There are a few options for preserving it: you can dry them, freeze them and make them into pesto. See 10 Easy Ways To Preserve Herbs for ideas and suggestions.