Basil is called the “King of Herbs” and is the most popular herb to grow, mainly because it is so easy. There are 160 varieties of basil, from the most popular sweet basil, to lemon, licorice, even cinnamon basil. Basil ranges in color from green to deep purple. Basically, all basil needs to grow is sun, water, and good drainage.

When planting basil, location is very important. Basil needs good, full sun, at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day. Basil is also very sensitive to cold, so make sure that the basil is planted after the chance for any night time frost has passed. Even a light frost will harm basil plants.

How to Plant

When planting outdoors, start with seeds or basil plants. Make sure the planting area has good drainage.
Seeds- scatter seeds in good soil, and cover lightly with soil up to approximately ¼ inch. Water the basil seeds, and the seeds will begin to germinate in about one week.

Plants – dig small holes and plant the basil, and water frequently the first week of planting.
Once the seeds begin to grow, separate the plants so they are approximately 6 inches apart. As the basil plants grow, water them 2 to 3 times a week. Make sure the roots of the basil are being watered, as the stems and leaves can develop fungi if they are over-watered. When watering, always use tepid, not cold, water.

Managing Basil

Basil is a mint, so it can become invasive in the garden. Keep the basil plants under control. As the plants grow to 6 inches in height, pinch the tips off just above where the leaves meet the stem to encourage more growth. One pinch will result in 2 basil leaf stems growing. Harvest the basil often, as more harvesting results in more growth.

Remove any flowers that grow on the basil. Once the basil has flowered it loses it flavor. To bring flavor back, remove the flowers, and in a couple of weeks the basil will again have full potency.

Growing Basil Indoors

Basil is an easy plant to grow indoors if outside gardens are not available. Plant the basil in good soil and manage the same way as if planting outdoors. Use a large container with good drainage. If planting from seeds, once the plants start growing, separate those 6 inches apart. Place the plants in good sunlight, but if sunlight is not available, place under artificial light. Whether growing indoors or outdoors, basil will maintain its good flavor and aroma.

Keeping Green

Though basil does not need a lot of fertilization, after pinching back leaves is always a good time to add a bit of fertilization. Basil can grow very quickly, and to keep it from getting overwhelming, pinch back the leaves every so often. Basil can be kept fresh for several days. After pinching the leaves, place the basil stems in a jar of water, and set it on the kitchen counter out of sunlight. The basil will last for several days.

Basil will also freeze well. As the season is winding down, pinch off basil leaves and place them whole in a plastic bag in the freezer. Now the basil is available for winter use. Just take what is needed out of the bag. Enjoy!

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Additional Resources:

Gardening Patch: Herbs
Garden Guides: Herbs


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