Planting Basil

Sun

Full sun, protect from hot afternoon summer sun.


Water

Keep evenly moist. Water in morning as water drops on leaves in hot sun may burn. Mulch to retain moisture.


Soil

Ph of 5.5-7.0, rich, loose loam. A richer soil will give a second flush of growth.


Fertilizer

Lite applications of nitrogen like kelp or cottonseed meal. Compost to keep leaves green. Too much nitrogen will cause lush growth and dilute the basil flavor in the leaves.


Hardiness

Tender annual, grown in warm season. Will die out with too much heat.

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Planting & Care

Plants are easily available for Common Sweet Basil to give a jump on the season.

Basil is easy to grow from seed, started 6-8 weeks indoors. Use a sterile lite soil mix, peat and sand or vermiculite is good. Lay seeds on top of mix & cover with 1/8 inch more of mix.

Water lightly & cover with plastic. Seeds germinate in 5-9 days in 70-85 deg. Uncover & expose to sunlight as soon as they germinate.

Seedlings are fragile, water with compost or kelp solution.

Transplant when 4-6 inched tall, spaced 12 inches apart. Clip tips to force branching.

May also direct sow outside after soil temp above 70 deg.

Most varieties grow 18-24 inches tall.

Basil may also be started by cuttings placed in jar of water and kept at room temp. They will form roots in 2-3 weeks & can be planted.

Flavor is better if clipped regularly to keep from flowering. Fertilize after clipping with manure or compost to promote new growth.

Let at least one plant go to seed to attract beneficial insects to the garden and to supply seeds for next years’ crop.

Will not survive frost at all, pull & dry all plants when threatened. To grow over the winter, pot up new plants from the garden in midsummer & bring inside to keep on windowsill for fresh basil most of the winter.

Basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes & peppers.

Doesn’t grow well with cukes, snap beans or cabbage. Don’t plant near mint as both attract the same pests.


Enemies, Pests & Diseases

Pests

Aphids

Tiny little bugs that are carried onto the plant by ants. Generally not a big problem but may spray with tobacco tea or insecticidal soap.

Beneficials like ladybugs are a big help but only come around if you don’t use pesticides and if plenty of bugs to eat.

Spider Mites

Tiny, tiny spider like creatures usually to small to see but leave white webbing as a visible sign. Usually hit in hot weather. They suck on the leaves making them droopy and curled no matter how much water.

Beneficials that will help control are lacewings and ladybugs.

A good control for Spider Mites is from Jerry Baker’s Backyard Problem Solver, a concoction called “Clean-up Tonic.”

  • ½ oz baby shampoo
  • ½ oz tobacco tea (made from chewing tobacco)
  • ½ oz antiseptic mouthwash
  • Mix with 1 gal of water and spray plants liberally, especially the undersides of leaves.

Caterpillars

Since worms are large enough, generally can be controlled by handpicking for a small infestation. For bad cases, insecticidal soap or Bt (Bacillus thurgiensis) spray will work.

Beneficials such as Braconid wasps, Tachinid flies, and beneficial nematodes are helpful without use of sprays.

Diseases

Leafspot

Caused by various fungi and bacteria causing spots on the leaves. Usually spread from wind or splashing water.

Control by destroying infected leaves, water only in the morning and space plants far enough apart for good air circulation. One may also use mushroom compost which helps introduce beneficial fungi to combat the bad. A diluted solution of baking soda spray will protect healthy foliage but not already infected.


Harvest & Storage

Harvest after at least 12 inches. Cut tips only, as they are the sweetest. Cut back to a leaf node so as not to leave stem ends.

Keep fresh by placing stems of leaves in glass or jar with water at room temperature. They will remain fresh this way for weeks or even months if water changed regular.

May also preserve fresh by packing leaves only in a jar add some salt and cover with oil.

Basil can be dried by placing tips or leaves on cookie sheet lined with paper or cloth towel. Keep only one layer and spaced for good air flow. Keep out of sunlight in a dry place & they should dry within 2-3 days. Do not allow to get brittle.

At end of season, cut long stems and tie in bundles, hang upside down to dry in cool, dry place. Dry till pliable, not brittle. Remove leaves from stems & store in glass jars out of sunlight.


In the Kitchen

Basil, depending on the variety, can be minty, spicy , or taste like cinnamon or lemon.

Use leaves, fresh or dried- small leaves at the tips are sweeter. Fresh leaves are better torn than cut as they are very easily bruised. If you cut, stack a few leaves together, roll them up, and cut into thin strips, called “chiffonade”.

If dried use less as flavor more concentrated.

Basil complements tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, soups, salads, chicken, eggs & rice.

Add to finish sauces & dishes just before serving or cook in dishes no more than 30 minutes.

If canning tomatoes, place a leaf in each jar.

Use leaves in water to boil shellfish for a spicy flavor.

Pack fresh leaves into a glass jar and cover with oil to preserve & refrigerate, remove leaves as needed.

Or you can make the following recipes to preserve fresh basil long after the season ends:

Basil Oil
  • ½ cup Basil leaves
  • 2 cups olive oil
  1. Blanch basil in boiling water for 20 seconds.
  2. Shock in cold water & drain & dry on towels.
  3. Combine basil with ½ oil in a blender & puree.
  4. Add remaining oil.
  5. Strain thru cheesecloth, transfer to sterilized bottle, & refrigerate.
Pesto
  • Basil leaves
  • Parsley leaves
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Place herbs & pine nuts in blender with olive oil to cover.
  2. Add more olive oil slowly while blending till smooth & thinned out.
  3. May freeze at this point in zipper bags, or add cheese and blend again to use right away.

Pesto may be stored in the freezer with a layer of olive oil on top, otherwise it will turn black exposed to air.


Nutritional Facts

Although used in small quantities, 2 tbsp of basil will have:

  • 1 calorie
  • .1 gm protein
  • .1 gm carbs
  • .1 gm fiber
  • 3.9 mg. calcium
  • 11.6 mg potassium


Resources

egardenseed.com – most basil varieties
Cooks Garden – ‘Piccolo Verde Fino’, ‘Thai’ & many more Basils
Garden Medicinals – ‘Mayo/Yoeme’, & many unique varieties
Hometown Seeds – ‘Purpurascens’ (purple ruffles)
Local Harvest – ‘Crisptum’, ‘Mammoth’, ‘Sanctum” (Holy),’Cinnamon’, ‘Dark Opal’, Green Ruffles’ & many more
Organic Pantry Garden Herbs – ‘Greek Columnar” & many more
Park Seed – ‘Citriodorum’ (lemon), ‘Minette’, ‘Siam Queen’ (Thai), ‘Sweet Dani’
Seed Savers Exchange – ‘Dark Opal’, ‘Genovese’ (sweet)