Basil (Ocmum basilicum) is a lovely herb, the smell of basil is unmistakable. It is native to India and tropical Asia. It has over 5000 years of use throughout the world in many different types of food. Here’s some information on basil.
Basil comes in many varieties, sweet basil, Italian basil, lemon basil, and Thai basil are the most popular to cook with. Fresh basil leaves are a beautiful addition to enhance the aroma and flavors of food (as are most culinary herbs).
Sweet basil is by far the most common variety, but there are actually more than 60 different varieties of basil grown worldwide. There are five distinct groups. There is culinary basil (which includes sweet basil), the darker basil used for vinegar, fine-leaf basil, lettuce-leaf basil (a big leaf that can be used to wrap things), and scented basil.
If you want a wide selection of tastes, textures and smells, plant from seed.
How to plant Basil:
- Start with a flat with individual planting cells, which you can find in garden centers or order from catalogs
- Fill the cells with a nice, lightweight, potting mix.
- Lightly sprinkle the seeds with the same potting soil to cover. Basil seeds are tiny and shouldn’t be planted much deeper than 1/8-inch. Repeat the process until you’ve planted several different kinds of basil.
- Once the seeds have been planted, it’s time to water. Because the seeds are so tiny, water gently from the bottom, giving them just enough to moisten the soil. You want to make sure that they don’t get over-watered and that they get plenty of light, the secret to healthy basil is to let the soil dry out completely between watering.
- When the seedlings are established, fill transplant pots with a loose, light, potting soil. Use an organic mix containing peat and perlite with no additional fertilizers. Too much nitrogen can sap basil’s essential oils and affect the flavor of the leaves. To ensure a healthy crop, transplant only one to each container because that way it will grow faster and it doesn’t have to compete with its neighbors.
- Once the danger of frost has passed, plant the basil into the ground. The soil must be warm and the temperature must be above 50° Fahrenheit even at night for basil to survive. Originally from India, basil loves to bask in the sunshine, preferably next to a few basil counterparts, and it is a great companion plant for several veggies.
The best part about basil is the more you harvest, the more productive the plant. Pruning also helps inhibit the growth of seed heads. All annuals go to seed and once these do, all the essential oils start going to the seeds instead of the leaves, so it makes sense to keep them trimmed back. By pruning between two leaf nodes it redirects energy back into new leaf growth, which means more basil.
Plant your basil near the path and when you brush by it, you will smell the uplifting aroma. Plant In borders, in containers, herb or vegetable gardens.