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How to Grow Basil

Everything you need to know about growing basil.


By Arricca SanSone, Country Living
  • Exposure: Full sun with afternoon shade recommended in hot climates
  • When to plant: Late spring, about two weeks after the last expected frost date
  • Recommended varieties: Genovese, Thai, and Red Rubin
  • Pests and diseases to watch out for: Aphids, whitefly, fusarium wilt, leaf spot

How to Plant Basil

Most people have better luck with transplants, but you can start seeds indoors about eight weeks before the final frost date in your area if you want to try your hand at growing it yourself. Barely cover seeds with soil, and keep moist (not soggy) until germination, then transplant outdoors after risk of frost is past. You can sow directly into the garden, too. For transplants, set plants in the ground about a foot apart at the same depth as they are in the pot.


How to Care for Basil

Don't set basil out too early, as it has zero tolerance for cold spells. Basil is a light feeder, so you don't need to fertilize it in the garden. It doesn't need a lot of water, but if it hasn’t rained in a week or so, give it a drink in the morning, not late in the day because that encourages fungal diseases to develop.


Can you grow basil in containers?

Absolutely. But don't combine it with other herbs as it needs space for good air circulation to lessen the risk of disease development. Feed it once a month with a balanced liquid organic fertilizer. 


Can you grow basil indoors?

Yes, though it can be finicky and may not grow as vigorously as outdoors. Give it bright light, but don't set it too close to the window or it may get sunburned or too cold up against the glass. Feed it with a liquid organic fertilizer once a month.


Why is my basil plant wilting?

Fungal diseases are common, especially with humid weather. Basil infected with fusarium wilt, one of the most common diseases, has brown streaks, twisted stems, and sudden leaf drop. For plants that become infected with this disease which lives in the soil, toss them (Sorry, there's no cure!) and don't plant any basil or mint in that same spot for several years to make sure you don't infect new plants.


Can I still eat my basil if it starts flowering?

Yes, you can. But to prolong your plant's life, trim off tips of the plants (called "pinching"), which will help it become fuller and prevent flowering in the first place.

"Allowing basil to become tall and scraggly makes it more susceptible to diseases and pests," says Tammi Hartung, author of Homegrown Herbs and co-owner of Desert Canyon Farm. "Pinching off the tips regularly keeps your basil plants sturdy, bushy and strong so you can keep harvesting. The more you pinch, the more your plant produces."


See more at: Country Living

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