Basil is an herb that is most commonly used in Italian cooking. You probably have some in your kitchen, but did you know you can grow it yourself? Many people have gardens to gardens to grow their own tomatoes, squash and other vegetables but growing herbs seems to be less common. You can grow basil in your garden or keep a pot of it on a kitchen windowsill.
First you’ll need to decide which variety of basil to grow. Sweet basil is the most common. Other varieties include lemon basil and purple basil, which have slightly different flavors. If you are going to be growing your basil indoors, you’ll want to choose a dwarf variety. Normal varieties of basil can grow from three to six feet tall so they are not suitable for a kitchen herb garden.
Basil needs full sunlight so wherever you grow it, make sure it will receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight each day. If you are growing basil indoors, you will either need to place it in a sunny window or use grow lights to make sure it gets enough light.
The soil should be tilled before planting basil. For best results, work some compost into the soil before planting. This will help ensure that there are enough nutrients in the soil for the plant to thrive. If you are planting basil in a pot, you can use a good potting soil and mix a little compost in with it.
For indoor basil plants, you need to be vigilant to keep the plants from attracting fruit flies. If these pests become a problem, you may find that you need to move your basil plant outdoors. When planted outdoors, be on the lookout for slugs. The aroma of the basil plant seems to draw them out.
You can start harvesting basil from your plant when it reaches about six inches in height, which should only take about ten weeks from the time you plant the seeds. Harvest a few leaves at a time from the plant. If you pick too many leaves at once, the plant will have a difficult time growing more. However, as long as you don’t overdo it, basil plants actually last longer if you harvest them regularly. Once a basil plant starts to go to seed, you should stop harvesting from it. The leaves will love their flavor when the seed pods form.
You can use basil fresh or you can dry it in a dehydrator. It can also be dried by hanging the stems in a warm room for about a week. Either way, if you grow your own basil you will always have some on hand when you need it.