Planting, Growing, and Harvesting Wonderful Basil!
Common Names: Basil, Sweet
Latin Name: Ocimum basilicum L.
Basil is a wonderful spring herb that is delightful in the kitchen. It is super easy to grow and is easily dried to keep all year round in the kitchen. Basil also produces a profusion of dainty purple flowers that can also be used in the same manner as the leaves with a very similar flavor. They are beautiful on a salad and basil is refreshing in a smoothie. Basil is great for medicinal, culinary, household, and metaphysical purposes.
Basil is best planted in the early spring, right after the last frost date for your area. Seeds can be started indoors six weeks before the last frost date. Sow basil seeds about 1/4” deep and 12” apart. Once the soil has reached 70 degrees seeds will germinate, making basil a summer herb. Never use chemical fertilizers and only used manure that has been well composted, this keeps your family healthy. Because basil likes water the addition of some sphagnum peat to the soil will help it retain water.
Basil is an annual which means that it must be sown each year. Saving seeds from basil is simple and the best way to grow more each year. It is not uncommon for seeds to drop and basil to come back the follow season, but saving seeds is better for the grower.
Basil likes water so be sure to water often keeping the soil damp. Be certain to pick leaves often as this encourages growth. When the plant starts to send up a flower stock this can be pinched off and will delay early flowering. If you have multiple plants, it is nice to let one flower and use those flowers in salads as they are edible and beautiful. In addition to that, allowing one or two of your plants to go to seed allows you to save seed for the following season.
It is a good idea to release ladybugs into your garden to help control pests such as aphids.
Harvesting basil is as simple as plucking leaves all season and just before the last frost pull the entire plant, cutting off the roots, then tie in bundles of 2 or 3 plant and hang them in a warm dry area for drying. Drying may take a week or more. Alternatively, you can dry basil in a warm 250 degree oven in just 3 to 4 hours. Break the plant apart and lay it out on a cookie sheet before drying. Crumble and store in glass containers.