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Basil Care: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Basil

Basil Facts

Basil, also known as Ocimum basilicum, is an aromatic herb that is popular in kitchens around the world. With its vibrant green leaves and distinctive fragrance, it adds a burst of flavor to a wide variety of dishes. But there is more to this herb than meets the eye – basil also boasts several health benefits. It contains essential oils like eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and linalool, which can help reduce anxiety and stress. Additionally, basil is rich in vitamin K and antioxidants that support cardiovascular health and have anticancer effects.

Originally native to India but now grown in many parts of the world, basil belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). There are over 60 different varieties of basil available, each with its unique taste profile. The most commonly used type is sweet basil or Genovese basil, which has a slightly sweet and peppery flavor. Thai basil offers a more licorice-like taste while lemon basil provides a citrusy twist. Growing your own basil garden allows you to explore these different flavors and experiment with various culinary creations. Plus, having fresh herbs readily available at home ensures that you always have access to their outstanding aroma and unparalleled freshness.

Planting

  • Basil is a warm-season herb, so it thrives when planted in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Planting too early can stunt growth and increase the risk of damage from cold temperatures. It’s important to wait until both the soil and air have warmed up before planting basil.
  • Basil loves sunlight, so it should be planted in an area that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Lack of adequate sunlight can lead to leggy plants with fewer leaves and reduced flavor. Consider placing your basil garden in a sunny spot near a window or on a sun-drenched patio for optimal growth.
  • To allow each basil plant enough room for its root system to spread out and grow, space them about 12 inches apart. This gives them sufficient access to water, nutrients, and reduces competition for resources between neighboring plants. Adequate spacing also helps prevent disease spread by increasing air circulation around the plants.
  • It’s best to avoid planting basil too late in the season when temperatures start dropping significantly as this can impair growth. Additionally, if your region experiences extremely hot summers or prolonged periods of drought, take precautions like providing shade during peak afternoon sun or using mulch to retain moisture levels within acceptable ranges.

Growing

  • Basil seedlings require consistent moisture for healthy growth. Water the plants regularly to keep the soil evenly moist, but not saturated. Be careful not to overwater as it can lead to root rot and other diseases.
  • Once your basil seedlings have reached around 6 inches in height, it is time to transplant them into larger pots or directly into your garden beds. Choose a sunny location with well-draining soil for optimal growth. Gently loosen the roots of the seedling and place it in a hole slightly deeper than its root ball. Firmly press down the soil around the plant to ensure good contact between roots and soil.
  • After transplanting, provide enough water to settle the soil and promote establishment. Monitor moisture levels consistently and adjust watering frequency accordingly. Remember that container-grown plants may require more frequent watering as they tend to dry out faster than those planted in garden beds.
  • As your basil seedlings grow, you may notice overcrowding among them, which can hinder proper air circulation and increase disease susceptibility. Thinning involves removing excess seedlings so that each plant has enough space to develop fully. Carefully pull out weaker or smaller looking seedlings, leaving behind only a few strong ones per pot or section of your garden bed.
  • Mature basil plants still need regular watering, especially during hot summer months when evaporation rates are high.

Remember: Download our Fact Sheet Below!

You’ll be able to refer to this reference whenever you need to look up the ideal growing conditions for this plant. 

Recommended Varieties

When choosing a basil variety there are several options that stand out. Genovese Basil is a popular choice, known for its strong flavor and large, dark green leaves. This variety is perfect for making delicious homemade pesto or adding a touch of freshness to pasta dishes. For those looking for something a little different, Thai Basil brings a unique twist to the table. With its purple stems and slightly spicier taste, this variety adds an exotic flair to any culinary creation. Thai Basil is excellent in stir-fries, curries, and even cocktails. Lemon Basil is another delightful option that provides a refreshing citrusy note to your dishes. Its bright green leaves give off a beautiful lemon fragrance that pairs well with fish or chicken dishes. Additionally, Lemon Basil can be used in teas or infused into oils for an extra burst of flavor.

Harvesting

  • Harvesting basil should typically be done when the plant has reached a height of about 6 to 8 inches. This is usually around 60 days after planting, but it can vary depending on the specific variety and growing conditions. It’s important not to wait too long to harvest, as the leaves can become bitter once the plant starts flowering.
  • When harvesting basil, it’s recommended to use a pair of sharp gardening scissors or pruning shears rather than plucking the leaves by hand. This helps to prevent damage to the stem and encourages new growth. Start by cutting off individual leaves or small sprigs from the top of the plant, leaving at least two sets of leaves on each stem so that it can continue to grow.
  • To promote continued growth throughout the growing season, it’s best to harvest basil regularly rather than all at once. By removing a few stems or sprigs every few weeks, you encourage branching and bushier growth. Remember that fresh basil is always better than dried basil, so try not to let your harvested basil sit for too long before using it in your favorite recipes!
  • To store fresh basil, place the stems in a jar with water, similar to how you would do with cut flowers. Keep it at room temperature and change the water every day or two to maintain freshness.
  • To air dry Basil gather a bunch of basil stems and tie them together using twine or an elastic band. Hang the bunch upside down in a warm and well-ventilated area until the leaves are dry and crumbly.
  • To dry basil in the oven. Preheat your oven to its lowest setting, spread the basil leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer, and place it in the oven for about 1 hour or until completely dry.
  • To dry in a food dehydrator, lay out the basil leaves on trays according to manufacturer’s instructions and let them dry until crispy.
  • If drying using a microwave, place the leaves between paper towels and heat them in short intervals until they become brittle.
  • When storing dried basil alway store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.
  • If you prefer a pesto rather than dried leaves, simply blend fresh leaves with olive oil, garlic cloves, pine nuts (or other nuts), Parmesan cheese (or alternative), salt, and pepper.

Gardening Products

Interesting Facts

Basil, with its enchanting aroma and distinctive flavor, is a herb that adds a unique touch to any dish. But have you ever wondered what taste really is? Taste, like basil, can be both subjective and objective. While the basic taste sensations of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami are universally recognized and experienced by everyone, the perception of taste varies among individuals. Some people might find basil’s taste simply refreshing and slightly minty while others might describe it as slightly spicy with hints of pepper and cloves. This interplay between personal perception and objective flavors is what makes exploring different tastes so fascinating.

Beyond its tantalizing taste profile lies a hidden mystery behind basil’s illustrious history. Known as the king of herbs in ancient Greece, basil was believed to bring luck and ward off evil spirits. Ancient Egyptians used the leaves for embalming practices due to their strong aroma that symbolized eternal life. Even today, different cultures attribute various meanings to this versatile herb – from love and fidelity in Italian folklore to protection against negativity in Indian culture. Whether it’s purely symbolism or rooted in ancient beliefs, these cultural associations only heighten our fascination with this beloved plant.

Pest and Diseases:

  • Aphids: These tiny insects can quickly infest basil plants, sucking the sap from leaves and causing them to curl. They reproduce rapidly, so it’s crucial to stay vigilant and address any aphid infestations as soon as they appear.
  • Fusarium wilt: This fungal disease is a common problem in basil plants. It attacks the roots of the plant, inhibiting its ability to absorb water and nutrients. As a result, the leaves may turn yellow or brown, and the entire plant may wilt.
  • Downy mildew: This disease is caused by a water mold that thrives in cool and humid conditions. Symptoms include grayish-white fuzz on the undersides of basil leaves, which can eventually lead to leaf drop and stunted growth.
  • Whiteflies: These tiny white insects are notorious for feeding on basil plants’ sap. They can transmit diseases like bacterial spot or transmit viruses that lead to discoloration and distortion of leaves.
  • Pythium root rot: Commonly occurring in damp soil conditions, this fungal disease attacks basil roots, causing them to rot. Plants affected by pythium root rot often exhibit wilting or yellowing foliage due to nutrient deficiency.
  • Spider mites: These minuscule arachnids are known for their ability to spin webs on basil plants’ foliage while they feast on sap. Infested leaves typically turn yellow or bronzed before drying out completely.
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Download Our Fact Sheet

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, it’s important to understand the basic needs of coriander plants to ensure successful growth and bountiful harvests. That’s why we’ve created a downloadable Fact Sheet for your journal or garden planner, so you have all the key information at your fingertips.

Our fact sheet provides a quick overview of details on plant care. You’ll be able to refer to this reference whenever you need to look up the ideal growing conditions for this plant, including soil type and temperature requirements. With this quick reference guide in hand, you can easily consult it whenever you need reminders about caring for your plants.



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