Basil is a herb with has many varieties. It is very easy to grow and is unsurpassed for turning ordinary meals into masterpieces! There is no substitute for fresh basil. It tastes much better than the dried spice. There is no comparison in flavor. Since it is such an easy plant to grown, there is no reason for not growing basil. If you are into vegetable gardening, it’s a great herb plant to add into your crops, too.
Even though basil is an annual in most zones, when frost is on the way, don’t despair. There are lots of ways to preserve fresh herbs to use during the winter months.
Tips for Growing basil
Basil has a lovely aroma and produces flowers that are quite pretty as well. The flowers on basil are edible but if the plants is allowed to produce flowers regularly, the flavor of the leaves declines, so it is best to trim the flowers when they do appear.
One of my favorite uses of basil is to just add the leaves to a salad. It gives the dish a special fresh taste that just can’t be beat.
This is a picture of my basil plant for this summer. I have two of them in one large patio container and they are about a month old now and doing well. The purple one seems to be faring better than the normal green variety which has some yellow leaves.
- You can start with either small plants or with seeds, but seeds take longer of course,, so starting them indoors before the last frost is a good idea.
- If you grow in pots, be sure to have good drainage. Basil likes well drained soil.
- Be sure the plants get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Mine are on my deck in large planters and they get direct sunlight most hours of the day and do very well.
- Water often when it is hot and dry. Here in NC, during the summers months, I water the planters every day. During the cooler months, I do it every few days. Just don’t let the soil really dry out or the plant will suffer.
- Prune often. Basil plants will get tall and very leggy if you don’t. But if you pinch out the growing tips, it will encourage side shoots to grow and your plant will be a lot fuller.
- Prune the flowers as they appear (they are edible). If you do not prune, you will end up with bitter basil. This is more likely to happen in extra sunshine. I have to prune mine often
When you prune, take a nice length of stem. Basil is very easily propagated from cuttings. Place them in seed starting soil, with a bit of hormone rooting powder, and you’ll have new plants to share in no time at all.
When it is possible that you may get frost in the fall, cut all of the basil on long stems and tie it. Hang it to dry. The herbs will be completely dry within a couple of days. then you can either keep them right where they are (just tape them to the inside of the fridge to save space) or break the herbs apart to fit into air-tight containers for storage in a cool and dark place.
Basil is an annual so it will need to be planted each year unless you live in the very warm zones. Our zone is 7b and I need to plant it each year. Basil varies in leaf style and color. The following photos are credit of American meadows.
Once you have your basil growing well, what do you do with it? My friend Stephanie from Garden Therapy has a great article on ways to use and preserve fresh basil. You can view her article at Garden Therapy.
For more gardening tips, be sure to visit my Gardening Cook page on Facebook.
Have you tried growing basil? What was your experience like?