Growing a garden is one of my favorite things to do and my garden would not be complete without my herbs. An herb garden would not be complete without some Basil. Here is how to grow Basil!
There is nothing better then walking out the backdoor and harvesting some fresh herbs to season your food.
Basil is one of my favorite herbs to grow in my backyard garden. Basil can be extremely rewarding and will provide you with a flavorful addition to a variety of dishes. Sweet basil is a bushy annual, 1 to 2 feet high, with glossy opposite leaves and spikes of white flowers. Basil leaves are used in cooking, imparting their anise (licorice) flavor to dishes. Many different varieties are available with different nuances of taste, size, and appearance, including cultivars with cinnamon, clove, lemon, and lime overtones, as well as purple-leaved types such as Dark Opal and Rubin. The endless possibilities make basil one of the most popular herbs in the garden.
How to Grow Basil
Plant seed outdoors when frosts are over and the ground is warm, start indoors in individual pots, or buy bedding plants. If you choose to start seeds indoors, heating mats can be helpful, since basil likes warm temperatures. Plant in full sun, in well-drained soil enriched with compost, aged manure, or other organic materials. Recommended spacing of large-leaved cultivars, such as ‘Lettuce Leaf’1 foot apart and small-leaved types such as ‘Spicy Globe’ a little closer. I have found that you can space them a lot closer if you have nutrient dense soil amended with plenty of compost. Basil needs ample water. Mulch to retain moisture after the soil has warmed. Pinch plants frequently to encourage bushy growth, and pinch off flower heads regularly so plants put their energy into foliage production. Doing so, will ensure an abundant harvest of delicious leaves.
Grow a few basil plants in containers so you can bring them indoors before fall frost. Or make a second sowing outdoors in June in order to have small plants to pot up and bring indoors for winter. Propagating basil is very easy by taking cuttings; allowing them to root in water and then putting them into a pot of good potting soil.
Basil can be subject to various fungal diseases, including Fusarium wilt, gray mold, and black spot, as well as damping-off in seedlings. However, if you catch these problems soon enough you can either remove the infected area or treat it with an organic fungicide. You can lower your risk of having these problems by waiting to plant outside until the soil has warmed and by planting in the method of poly-culture. Poly-culture beds are where many different plants are grown instead of growing one type of crop. Insects can be treated with an organic insecticide solution by spraying the leaves down every few weeks or as needed.
Begin using the leaves as soon as the plant is large enough to spare some. Collect from the tops of the branches, cutting off several inches. This will promote side growth and a prolonged harvest period. I have found that even when the plant starts to send a flower up, that can be cut back as well in order to make the plant more bushy. Handle delicately so as not to bruise and blacken the leaves.
You can air-dry the leaves in small, loose bunches, but it keeps the best flavor when frozen. To freeze for later, puree washed leaves in a blender or food processor, adding water as needed to make a thick but pourable puree. Pour the puree into ice-cube trays and freeze, then pop them out and store them in labeled freezer bags to use as needed in sauces, soups, and pesto. Pesto (a sauce made of pureed basil, garlic, grated cheese, and olive oil) will keep for a long time in the refrigerator with a layer of olive oil on top.
This widely used herb enhances the flavor of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. It is great in spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and ratatouille. It’s also excellent for fish or meat dishes, combining well with lemon thyme, parsley, chives, or garlic. Try it in stir-fries or in vegetable casserole dishes. Fresh leaves are delicious in salads. Try the lemon-and lime-scented cultivars in fresh fruit salads and compotes. It is also a staple ingredient in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine; cultivars such as ‘Siam Queen’ give the most authentic flavor to these dishes. Basil vinegar is a good alternative for salad dressings; those made with purple basil are colorful as well as tasty.
I hope this has inspired to grow some basil in your garden, no matter if you want just a few leaves for tasty garnish or you want to preserve some for the winter months; Basil is sure to please. Grow multiple varieties and experiment with recipes.
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