Basil, ocimum basilicum, is a sweet herb that is part of the mint family. It is wonderfully aromatic and flavorful. Basil is probably one of the most commonly grown herbs in home gardens because it is fairly easy to grow successfully and is used so frequently in recipes, especially in Italian food. It is even great added raw to a salad.There are many varieties of basil, but the most popular is the type that is most often used for cooking – sweet basil. Other types of basil include purple basil and lemon basil, which has a mild lemony flavor. There are some varieties of basil that only reach about 6 inches tall and are great grown in pots. Sweet basil can grow as high as 6 feet tall, but for most home gardeners, 18 to 36 inches is a typical height.

The great thing about basil is that when it reaches maturity and is ready to be used in your favorite recipe, the leaves can be picked and more will continue to grow in their place.

Growing Basil in Your Garden
Here are some easy to follow instructions for growing basil outside in your garden.

1. You can either grow basil from seed or start with small plants purchased at a home and garden center or nursery. Either way, ensure that the soil has been loosened well and there are no weeds. You should water the soil the day before sowing the seeds or planting the seedlings to be sure that the soil has plenty of moisture when you plant.

Basil loves heat and sun so small starter plants should not be planted until daytime temperatures are 70 degrees or above. Seeds should not be planted until the last chance of a frost or over. They should be planted in a spot where they can get six to eight hours of sun each day.

2. Be sure your pots or beds are well drained and no puddles can build up and waterlog the plants.

3. If sowing seeds for multiple plants, add a thin layer of compost on top. Basil seeds usually take about two weeks two germinate. Once these seedlings have two full pairs of leaves, you should thin out the planting by transplanting the plants so they are about 10 inches apart. When planting small plants from the nursery, plant them 10 inches apart as well.

4. Add mulch to the garden in which you basil is planted in order to hold the moisture in. If the weather is particularly hot and sunny, the basil plants should be watered several times a week. Basil does not like dry soil.

5. As the basil grows, pinch off any flowers that appear. The flowers can slow and even stop leaf production.

Growing Basil Inside
Basil can be grown indoors in pots from seeds or seedlings. They should be placed where they will receive warmth and direct sunlight and should be fed once a month. You can also use fluorescent lamps as growing lights for the basil. Indoor plants should be watered once a week.

Harvesting
Once the plants are at least 12 inches high you can begin to harvest leaves for use. The more you pinch off leaves and flowers, the more you will encourage the plant to grow.

Additional Information:

The following website contains some useful information for growing basil for home use for sale:

Herb Gardening: Growing Basil

This link contains and a useful video that explains how to successfully grow basil from seed:

eHow: Grow Basil Video

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