Basil

BasilA how-to guide for growing this classic culinary herb.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-90 days from seed
Height: 18 to 24 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

A member of the mint family, home gardeners are growing basil (Ocimum basilicum) for its luscious flavor and wonderful aroma. This extremely popular herb is available in many beautiful varieties, all of which make uniquely flavorful and aromatic additions to gardens and borders.

Colorful, compact plants grow well in containers — both inside and out — and add interest to herb and ornamental flower beds. Excellent fresh or dried, the classic large-leaved variety is a favorite in Asian and Italian cuisine and is best known for pesto. Fragrant plants grow 18-24 inches tall and are very productive. Tender annual.

Site Preparation:

Basil thrives in soil gardens or containers and prefers full sun, regular water and fast draining, rich soil. Work in plenty of aged animal manure or organic compost prior to planting. Learn how to start an herb garden here.

Planet Natural offers a large selection of heirloom herbs seeds. All are non-treated, non-GMO and NOT purchased from Monsanto-owned Seminis. Best of all, we ship them FREE!

How to Plant:

Sow seeds outdoors when the soil is warm and the temperature does not drop below 65˚F. May be started indoors under grow lights 4-6 weeks before planting out. Space plants 6-12 inches apart in all directions. Plant seeds just beneath the surface. Seeds germinate in 5-30 days, so keep moist. An application of natural and organic fertilizer once or twice during the gardening season will help promote sturdy plant growth.

Make successive sowings for continuous summer supplies and freeze any excess for later use in winter. At the end of summer, allow plants to go to seed to attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

Note: You must keep the flower spikes pinched back to promote bushiness and to prevent plants from becoming woody.

Harvesting:

Basil is ready to pick when it gets to be about 6 inches tall. Cut in the morning after the dew has dried just above a leaf node. Do not wash the leaves or aromatic oils will be lost. Basil is best used fresh but can be stored frozen in plastic bags. Dry basil by hanging it upside down in a dark, well ventilated room and store in air-tight containers. Learn more about Harvesting and Preserving Herbs here.

Tip: Harvest frequently to encourage plants to produce new growth (and more basil).

Insects and Disease:

Common insect pests found on basil include aphids, slugs and Japanese beetle. Watch closely and use natural controls when necessary.

To prevent many common garden diseases, choose a site with good air circulation and apply organic fungicides (copper, sulfur) early, when symptoms first appear.

Seed Saving Instructions:

Basil will cross-pollinate with other varieties and must be separated by 150 feet while flowering. Plants form seed capsules containing four seeds. Allow capsules to dry, then harvest and separate seeds by hand.

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