Herb Garden Essentials: How to Grow Basil

Basil, indigenous to Asia, is now a buckle staple in restaurants across the world. The familiar and aromatic sweet ginger (Ocimum basilicum) is grown as a summer annual that generally reaches roughly 2 feet tall.

Even if you’re already committed to sweet basil as your herb garden mainstay, it is well worth taking a peek at what else is out there. The smaller Greek basil (Ocimum minimum) and other compact varieties top out at 1 to 11/2 feet — excellent if you do not want it to consume quite as much distance — or you can try a larger assortment which could reach as high as 4 feet. There are basils with gaudy purple or dark reddish leaves or with leaves that are distinctly ruffled. Additionally, there are quite a few basils with distinctive tastes, including Siam Queen, ideal for Asian cuisine, and also those with flavors reminiscent of anise, clove, licorice, lemon and lime.

Basil’s bright color and quick growth also guarantee it can hold its own as a decorative addition to the scene. Use the smaller kinds as a minimal border edging and combine varieties for a choice of tastes and a vibrant garden patch.

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Light requirement: Full sun
Water requirement: Routine water; don’t let the soil dry out
Prime growing season: June through September
When to plant: Sow seeds or set out plants in spring and summer once the soil is warm, a minumum of one week following the last freeze date.


Favorites: Finissimo Verda a Palla, Genovese, Greek (Spicy Globe), Green Ruffles, Mammoth Sweet, Napolitano, Pesto Perpetua (can be grown as a perennial where there is no frost), Purple Ruffles, Purpureum (Dark Opal), Red Rubin, Siam Queen (Thai); flavored basils include cinnamon, clove, ginger, ginger and lime

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Planting: try to find a spot in full sun with well-drained soil. Basil wants heat to thrive. If your summers are cool and daylight temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) are infrequent, consider planting against a south- or west-facing wall.

Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and 2-3 inches apart; thin to 1 foot apart after seedlings appear. You might also start seeds indoors four to six weeks before intending to transplant. Set seedlings or nursery plants 10 to 12 inches apart.

Basil grows well in containers. Almost any size pot more than 8 inches wide may operate, but the larger the container, the larger the plant. Ensure drainage is sufficient. Grow several distinct basils in 1 pot or pair the plant with different herbs or vegetables like tomatoes.

For a successive crop, add fresh plants or sow seeds about a month to six weeks following your initial planting date.

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Care: Keep the dirt most but not soggy. Plan to nourish your java at least once during the growing season; every few weeks is great if your growing season is long. Pinch the plants back and pinch off the flower stocks to promote bushiness and leaf production.

Basil is relatively carefree, occasionally bothered by slugs, snails and beetles or succumbing to gray mold or black spot. Fusarium wilt may be a problem. If so, remove and destroy the plant and then rotate the planting area on a three- to – course cycle to avoid future problems. Additionally, there are varieties that are resistant to wilt.

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Harvest: You can start harvesting once the leaves reach a more sensible size. For continuing creation, do not remove more than a third of the leaves. Cut just above a node to promote leaf production.

Shannon Malone

How to use it : Your choices are essentially infinite. Use basil fresh in salads, soups, sandwiches, stews, appetizers and marinades. Turn the leaves into a classic pesto, put them into entrées and side dishes, or use them to flavor vinegars or lemonade or as a base for tea. You might also dry or freeze basil leaves.

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