Growing Basil

August 25, 2012

Basil is one of those distinctive herbs. You know exactly what you are smelling the moment you catch a whiff. Whenever my husband walks by it, he tells me it smells like pizza! Most people associate basil with Italian cooking, however it's origins are most likely from India. Give basil a warm, sunny location with well drained soil and you'll be rolling in the basil all summer long.

Basil is very well suited for growing in hot climates. For cooler climates, reserve growing basil for the summer months. It grows very well in containers, so if you have a greenhouse, take your basil indoors when the nighttime temperatures dip below fifty. It will tolerate cooler, but growth is not optimal and freezing temperatures will kill it.

Wet climate gardeners should probably opt to grow basil in containers as well unless your soil is very well draining. Basil doesn't like to sit in water logged soil!

You can either direct sow basil or transplant it, it doesn't mind. For a bushier growth habit, pinch out the top growth after four sets of leaves have formed. When the plant gets bigger, pinch out the flower tips to encourage more leaf growth. More leaves means more tasty!

To harvest, snip a section of leaves from one the end of one of the stems. Give the harvested leaves a quick rinse, chop it up and you are ready to add the basil to your favorite dish. Heavy washing removes the oil from the leaves and therefore removes the flavor. Avoid using pesticides and sprays on your basil!

There are almost an obscene number of basil varieties out there. I love it! The most common are Sweet Basil and Broad Leaf Italian Basil. These are your classic flavors of basil and will not disappoint! Broad Leaf Italian Basil makes it into my herb garden every year.

If you love basil, don't limit yourself there. Try out some of the more unusual varieties like:

  • Lime or Lemon
    These two have a hint of citrus flavor and smell heavenly.
  • Cinnamon
    Not my favorite, but everyone's tastes are different.
  • Dark Opal Basil
    This one is gorgeous with its deep reddish purple (almost black) leaves.
  • Dwarf Greek
    A smaller growing plant with petite leaves.
  • Globe
    This basil is small, pretty and very delicate looking.
  • Siam Queen
    Smells like licorice and its flowers are maroon instead of white.

This is just a small sampling of the different varieties. Next time you are shopping your favorite seeds catalog, try something new and make a little space for basil!

  • USDA Hardiness Zones:
    9 to 10, Grown as Annual in Colder Zones
  • Germination:
    7 to 14 Days
  • Planting Method:
    Direct Sow or Transplant
  • Height:
    12-24 Inches
  • Sun:
    Full Sun, will tolerate Part Sun
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