Basil plants produce aromatic and flavorful leaves. Some varieties reach 6 feet in height, but typical basil plants grow to be roughly 3 feet tall. A wonderful garnish for a fancy drink or to add to just about any dish, basil is rightfully one of the world's most popular herbs. Basil plants are rewarding to grow and fit for any gardening ability; all you'll need to do is supply your plant with a lot of sun, and water it regularly.
Basil can be planted directly into the garden or in a pot. If you're all about container herb gardens, choose a pot that is at least 6 inches wide. Potted basil plants can be grown outdoors or indoors, as long as they still receive ample sun exposure.
Soil that drains well and is rich in nutrients is best for basil plants. Mixing in some compost will benefit your basil's growth and overall health. Add an inch or two of mulch on the surrounding soil once the basil is planted to improve moisture retention and deter weeds.
Full sun exposure is best for basil. Unless the climate is extremely hot, the plants benefit from 6 to 8 hours of sunlight throughout the day. Herb gardeners can grow basil in hardiness zones 2 through 11. Most climates are suited to growing basil as an annual plant; however only zones 10 and 11 can handle perennial growth.
When watering your basil, make sure to do so deeply — your basil plant's soil should be kept moist. Morning, before the sun gets too hot, is the best watering time. Around one inch of water per week will be enough for basil plants that are planted directly in the garden. Basil that is growing in a container will need more frequent watering; check regularly to ensure the soil remains moist.
Pests tend to leave basil plants alone, and most that do attack are quite easy to get rid of. Aphids and beetles are the most common. To get rid of these bugs, coat your basil plant using a spray bottle containing a ratio of 1 gallon water to 2 teaspoons dish soap.
Enough sunlight throughout the day typically keeps basil plants disease-free, though they can contract powdery mildew and other fungal diseases. These can be remedied by applying an organic fungicide or spraying the plant with a mix of 1 gallon of water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. If your basil plant gets one of these diseases, this is often a sign that it is not getting enough sun, so move it to a sunnier area to reduce the risk of the issue returning.
Basil plants grow most abundantly when gardeners harvest the leaves frequently. If your plant sees regular harvests, keep up with its nutrient requirements using an all-purpose fertilizer. Make sure to pick one that is safe for edible plants and apply once every 2 weeks to potted plants, or once every 3 to 4 weeks for basil planted in the ground. Want to increase your produce output? Basil and tomato plants grow well side-by-side, and it has been said that they can even improve each other's flavors!
Basil is widely available in gardening stores, but it is also easy to grow from seed. Plant your seeds 1/4 inch deep in a tray full of starter soil. Cover them lightly, leaving a slight amount of sun exposure. In just over a week, they should have sprouted. Water your sprouts intermittently. Once your new basil plants have grown at least three sets of leaves, they are ready to be transplanted into a container or out into the garden.
To propagate another basil plant from an existing one, take a cutting about four inches long, severing the stem right below a leaf node. Remove most of the leaves from the cutting and place it in a glass of water in direct sunlight. Let the roots grow to about 2 inches (this can take up to a month), then transplant it to soil.
When harvesting basil, pinch the tops off your plants to keep the plant producing new leaves rather than flowering. Basil can be harvested throughout its growing season, and up to 1/2 of a basil plant's leaves can be removed at a time. As a general rule, harvesting roughly 1/3 of the leaves per month will keep your basil plant producing new leaves and will repress the plant's attempts to go to seed. Harvested basil can be consumed fresh, but it can also be dried or frozen for later consumption.