Basil is a tender warm-season annual. Sow basil in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in the spring or start basil indoors as early as 6 weeks before the last frost for planting out after the weather has warmed. Basil is easily damaged by cold weather and will be killed by frost.
Description. Basil is a tender annual that can grow to 30 inches tall. Basil has square stems and opposite arranged leaves. Leaves are lightly toothed, pointed, and oval. Leaves can be bright green or purple-red. Spikes of small whitish or lavender flowers appear in mid to late summer.
Yield. Grow one basil plant per household. Succession planting will ensure a steady supply of basil.
Site. Plant basil in full sun. Basil will tolerate light shade. Grow basil in well-drained but moisture-retentive sandy loam. Soil too rich in organic matter will result in lush foliage but low oil content which can affect the strength of fragrance. Basil will grow in poor soil but well-drained soil. Basil prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Basil will grow easily in a sunny window.
Planting time. Sow basil in the garden 2 to 4 weeks after the last frost in spring or start basil indoors as early as 6 weeks before the last frost for planting out after the weather has warmed. Basil is easily damaged by cold weather and will be killed by frost. Bail can tolerate very warm weather.
Planting and spacing. Sow basil seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful plants to 8 inches apart or more depending on the variety. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
Water and feeding. Basil prefers moist but not wet soil. Keep the soil moist for quick growth. Leaves will wilt when basil need water. Mulch established plants to conserve soil moisture in summer. Basil does not require rich soil. Avoid overly acidic soil. Foliar feed plants with a spray of compost tea to liquid seaweed extract twice during the growing season.
Companion plants. Plant basil near tomatoes and peppers to enhance their growth.
Care. Keep basil pinched back for full growth. Pinch back plants every 2 or 3 weeks. Pinch back terminal shoots before they flower. Flowering will affect leaf growth and the oil content of leaves. Do not allow plants to get tall and leggy.
Propagation: Sow seed in late spring; germination is quick at temperatures greater than 60°F.
Container growing. Basil is a good container plant. Plant basil in a pot with at least 6 inches deep for best root growth. Basil will grow easily in a sunny window.
Pests. Basil has no serious pest problems. Snails and slugs may attack basil; handpick them and destroy.
Diseases. Basil has no serious disease problems. Basil grown in soil that is too wet can be affected by damping-off or fusarium wilt. Remove and destroy infected plants.
Harvest. Basil is ready for harvest 50 to 60 days after planting. Pinch out leaves as you need them; regular harvest will keep plants growing strong and prevent flowering. Harvest the entire plant before the first frost.
Use: kitchen flavoring, attract bees, insect repellent, medicine, perfume
• Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum): most commonly grown; 24 inches tall, leaves bright green, 2 to 3 inches long.
• Lemon basil (O. b. crispum): good indoor grower; crinkled bright green leaves.
• Purple basil (O. b. ‘Dark Opal’): reddish purple leaves.
• Miniature basil (O. b. ‘Minimum’)” short, compact sweet basil.
• Tree basil (O. gratissimum): grows to 6 feet tall; use as other basils.
• Camphor basil (O. kilimandscharicum): strong camphor fragrance.
• Tulsi or sacred basil (O. sanctum): strong clove aroma; use fresh not for cooking.
Storing and preserving. Wash and pat dry fresh basil leaves. Use fresh or dry leaves on a screen in a dry place. Store crushed dry leaves in an airtight container. Basil leaves can be frozen.
Common name. Basil
Botanical name. Ocimum basilicum, Ocimum crispum, Ocimum minimum
Origin. India, Central America