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Basil

A how-to guide for growing this classic culinary herb.

Growing BasilSunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-90 days from seed
Height: 18 to 24 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

Whether they’re planning lasagne, stir-frys or a memorable chicken entree, home gardeners are growing basil (Ocimum basilicum) for its luscious flavor and wonderful aroma. This extremely popular herb is available in many tasty varieties, which all make uniquely flavorful and aromatic additions to gardens and borders.

Colorful, compact plants do well in containers — both inside and out — and add interest to herb and ornamental flower beds. Excellent fresh or dried, the classic large-leaved variety is a favorite in Asian and Italian cuisine and is best known as the main ingredient in pesto. Fragrant plants reach 18-24 inches tall and are very productive.

This tender annual loves warm weather, but can’t handle cold weather or frost.

Flavorful and exotic, heirloom herb seeds have passed through kitchens and tea rooms for generations. And they’re easy to cultivate… try raising them indoors! Planting instructions are included with each packet and shipping is FREE!

Quick Guide

  • Choose from classic, Italian, Thai and other varieties
  • Easy to start from seed indoors or out
  • Start seedlings 4-6 before all danger of last frost
  • Needs full sun and compost-amended soil
  • Use fresh or dried
  • Protect from cold temps and frost
  • Pests include aphids, slugs and Japanese beetle

Site Preparation

Basil thrives in soil gardens or containers and prefers full sun, regular water and fast-draining, rich soil. Work in plenty of aged animal manure or organic compost prior to planting. Read our article on how to start an herb garden to learn more.

How to Plant

Sow seeds outdoors when the soil is warm and the temperature does not drop below 65˚F. May be started indoors under grow lights 4-6 weeks before planting out. Space plants 6-12 inches apart in all directions. Plant seeds just beneath the soil surface. Seeds germinate in 5-30 days, so keep moist. An application of natural and organic fertilizer once or twice during the gardening season will help promote sturdy plant growth.

Make successive sowings for continuous summer supplies and freeze any excess for later use in winter. At the end of summer, allow plants to go to seed to attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

Note: You must keep the flower spikes pinched back to promote a full, bushy shape and to prevent plants from becoming woody.

Harvesting

Basil is ready to pick when it gets to be about 6 inches tall. Cut in the morning after the dew has dried just above a leaf node. Do not wash the leaves or aromatic oils will be lost. Basil is best used fresh but can be stored frozen in plastic bags.

Dry basil by hanging it upside down in a dark, well-ventilated room and store in airtight containers. Learn more about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs here.

Tip: Harvest frequently to encourage plants to produce new growth (and more basil).

Insects and Disease

Common insect pests found on basil include aphids, slugs and Japanese beetles. Watch closely and take the following common sense, least-toxic approach, if found:

  • Remove weeds and other garden debris to eliminate alternate hosts.
  • Discard severely infested plants by securely bagging and putting in the trash.
  • Release commercially available beneficial insects to attack and destroy insect pests.
  • Spot treat pest problem areas with diatomaceous earth and neem oil.
  • Scatter Sluggo®, an organic iron phosphate bait, around plants to kill slugs.
  • Apply Milky Spore (Bacillus popilliae) to kill Japanese beetle grubs in turf.

To prevent many common garden diseases, choose a site with good air circulation and apply organic fungicides like copper and sulfur solutions early, when symptoms first appear.

Seed Saving Instructions

Basil will cross-pollinate with other varieties and must be separated by 150 feet while flowering. Plants form seed capsules containing four seeds. Allow capsules to dry, then harvest and separate seeds by hand.

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One Response to “Basil”

  1. drum and health on May 19th, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    basil provides vit k and A

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