Basil is one of our best selling herbs
because it tastes so good. Easy to grow either in the ground or in
a container, it’s a great herb for the summer as it grows quickly in warm
weather to yield big harvests. For an assortment of flavors, you can grow
various types of basil together in flower beds or containers. Popular
varieties include cinnamon basil and Thai basil for Asian dishes.Purple basil
because it’s so pretty. Spicy globe basil for small leaves that are
easy to sprinkle atop your favorite dishes and sweet basil for Italian
dishes and terrific pesto. Basil does best with at least six hours of sunlight.
Set out plants at least two weeks after the last spring frost or plant during the
summer. Check the label to learn how much space
to leave between plants, usually 12 to 18 inches. If planting in a container, use a
large pot so there is enough soil to support growth and so it won’t dry out
too quickly in hot weather. In the ground, pick a spot that doesn’t collect
water, but drains well to avoid causing root rot. Basil is very frost sensitive
so protect it, in case of a late cold spell, by bringing it indoors or
insulating it with a frost blanket or other covering. It really doesn’t like
temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit so you may find it sulking and yellowing if the
weather is unseasonably cool. Because it is so leafy basil will wilt quickly
in hot weather. Water as often as you need to keep the soil moist but not
soggy. For best growth, fertilize with liquid plant food every couple of weeks.
Keeping the basal stems pinched encourages the continual production of
tender new leaves and prevents the plant from flowering and producing seeds. To harvest a big bunch for pesto or just to
keep the plant productive, shear off the top third of the stems regularly once
the plant has reached 12 to 18 inches tall. Also, never cut the woody part of
the plant near the base or the basil won’t grow back. Harvest basil leaves anytime after the
young plants have reached a height of six to eight inches. Keep in mind two or three plants will
yield plenty of basil unless you’re making lots of pesto. When the night
begins to cool down plants will slow their growth dramatically. At the first
prediction of even the lightest frost, go ahead and harvest all your basil
because it will quickly turn black in cold weather. Make easy work of this by
cutting off the entire plant at ground level then picking off the best leaves for
use. Cutting the ends of the basal stems and placing them in water will keep them
fresh for days and fill your home with a wonderful fragrance.