From the mint family (Lamiaceae) sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is the most popular variety and one of the easiest herbs to grow. Grown in the outdoor garden, basil is a tender annual that needs harvesting at season's end.
However, you can also grow basil in an indoor herb garden and have fresh basil year round.
Aromatic Herbs in Containers are a superb way to have them handy year around. Even your annual herbs are doing well in pots, but stick to one species per container. Growing Herbs is a great hobby that can have has nice gastronomical and health effects.
Basil and Thyme are the perfect couple, and are a great pair to grow together. More about the Basil - Thyme combination
transplanting basil seedlings
Basil seedlings are spindly and fragile, which makes transplanting difficult. The easiest way to add basil to your outdoor garden is from seed.
start basil early spring
Start in the spring once all danger of frost is past. Basil, like other mints, is a sun-loving plant that isn't too fussy about the soil it occupies as long as it is moisture retentive with good drainage.
Garden grown basil seldom needs fertilization. Once established, it is also quite drought resistant. However, if you do water, tepid water will promote faster growth than cold water.
In addition to sweet basil, choose your seeds from over 160 varieties in a range of fragrances that include lemon, licorice, and cinnamon as well as the minty-fresh fragrance of traditional sweet basil. Foliage colors range from the traditional green to deep purple and many cultivars also bloom with attractive flowers.
Cover seeds with about ΒΌ inch of soil, water, and you should see sprouts in about a week. Once seedlings develop a half-dozen leaves, thin your row so transplants are six to twelve inches apart.
Care for Basil Seedlings
When seedlings are about six inches tall, pinch off the tops to promote more leaf growth and keep your basil from becoming "leggy". You can also begin harvesting basil when it is young and sweet.
Cut single leaves just about anytime. If cutting whole stems, make the cut above a pair of leaves. New growth will continue and preserve the plant for future use. In fact regular use of your basil can substitute for pruning, which is necessary to keep stems moist and tender and keep plants from becoming woody. In addition, be sure to pinch off blossoms as they appear.
Because basil is a mint, it can be very invasive. While basil needs to be weed-free, it also needs to be kept under control or your herb garden may end up being your basil bed!
At the end of an outdoor growing season, harvest the remainder of your basil by cutting the stems and freezing or drying them for winter use.
Plant container grown basil in a similar way to how you sow seed in your garden. Growing basil indoors is packed with several advantages in addition to fresh flavor for culinary purposes.
Consider planting several different varieties in a strawberry pot. This keeps each variety in place, and if you choose cultivars with various fragrances, foliage, and flower attributes, you'll have fresh grown potpourri as well as eye-candy for your kitchen!
To plant basil in a strawberry pot, fill the pot with dirt to the first opening. Plant seeds in that opening and water. Continue the same method to the top of your pot, planting a few seeds for each cultivar in each opening. Plant sweet basil in the top of the pot since it is the one you probably most often will use in cooking.
Container grown basil does have some special needs over that grown in the garden.