Growing basil is easy if you know how to meet its needs. Once you know its light, moisture, and soil requirements, you’ll be on your way to a bountiful harvest. Here are some great tips of how you can grow loads of basil, one of the most useful and beautiful herbs you can grow.
Tips for Growing Basil
Basil is different from most herbs and needs different conditions. Basil needs a sunny, warm spot to grow. If you live in a hot climate like I do, then it may need some afternoon shade. If you live in a colder climate, you will need to start your seeds indoors and wait for the weather to warm up before moving outside.
How to Start Growing Basil
To start growing basil, purchase sturdy plants, or start seeds several weeks before planning on planting outside in the garden. Seedlings will need a spot in a sunny window for sturdy growth. When growing from seeds, plant according to package directions, water, and place the container inside a plastic bag to conserve moisture. After the seedlings have appeared, gradually open the bag to expose plants to the air.
When looking at purchasing plants, look for ones that are a rich green. They should not have roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. Plants that have formed flowering stems are past their prime and should be avoided. Once established, basil grows rapidly, so save money by purchasing the smallest size you can find.
Even in subtropical climates, basil can fail if it’s planted outdoors too early. Wait until the ground and air are thoroughly warm – about two weeks after your last frost – before putting out your plants and don’t forget to acclimatise them by gradually exposing them to the elements.
Transplant carefully when the plants have 3 to 4 sets of leaves. Basil needs to be planted in a well-drained location in full sun or partial shade. The lean soil so many herbs prefer will not suit basil. Poor soil produces spindly, sickly plants. Add compost or manure, and improve the moisture-holding capacity of the soil with peat moss if necessary.
Forget what you know about drought-tolerant herbs like thyme and rosemary. Basil will wilt and die if it does not get regular moisture. Water every day that it doesn’t rain for the first week, and enough to keep plants from wilting thereafter. Mulch plants to help conserve moisture.
If you allow the flower stalks to remain on the plant, basil will go to seed and stop producing leaves. Keep harvesting those tops and use the trimmings for pizza and Italian sauces. You can harvest as much as a third of the plant at a time, but be sure to feed the plants after heavy harvests.
Basil grows well along side parsley, chamomile, lettuce, capsicum and oregano. It is amazing when grown alongside tomatoes, they grow so much better when next to each other.
Basil plants are usually pest-free, but if yours are being nibbled, regular spraying with mild soapy water or a natural pesticide made by mixing 1 teaspoon of natural dish soap with a quart of water and spraying on your plant. Some pests are better controlled by picking them off with your hands.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can experiment with flavoured varieties of basil like lemon, lime, and cinnamon varieties. You can also improve the beauty of your landscape with purple ruffles and green ruffles basil, both of which are pretty enough to plant in a flower garden. With a little practice, you’ll find that basil is one of the most rewarding herbs you can grow.