A popular herb in both the kitchen and the garden, basil is one of the most well-known herbs grown in America. Technically known as Ocimum basilicum, basil can be found growing indoors and outdoors for use in a wide variety of dishes. One of the first herbs I plant in the spring, basil is easy to grow and perfect for tucking into herb, vegetable and container gardens.
Basil plants are a popular herb native to southern Asia and the islands of the South Pacific. This member of the mint family can be grown with little fuss. Considered a tender annual, the basil herb plant produces aromatic leaves that are commonly used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Basil seeds are also a popular Thai ingredient.
Because basil is an annual, it grows extremely quickly. In fact, it can go from seed to harvest in as little as 3 to 4 weeks. This quick and easy-growing herb is an excellent choice for beginner gardeners.
Basil Plant Care Tips
Growing basil isn’t a difficult task. With just a bit of care, you may even find you have extra basil to dry, freeze or gift to friends. Some of my favorite basil care tips for a bountiful harvest include:
Water regularly – basil likes to stay moist and requires approximately 1 inch of water every week. Water deeply at least once a week to keep roots growing deep and the soil moist. Basil growing in containers will need more frequent watering. Your goal when growing basil in a container is to keep the soil from drying out. The best time of day to water basil is early in the morning.
Fertilize lightly –basil is a vigorous grower requiring very little to no fertilization. In fact, too much fertilization will kill the basil’s flavor. If you choose to add fertilizer, a light application of a liquid fertilizer twice a season is all you really need for basil growing outdoors. If you’re planning to grow basil in a pot and want to add fertilizer, your plants will require only a very weak liquid solution every 3 to 4 weeks to compensate for nutrients washed away by frequent watering.
Pinch back leaves – pinch leaves from the tips of your basil as soon as the plant has two sets of true leaves. This encourages your basil to grow full and bushy.
Companion planting – using this technique gives basil an excellent advantage. It may be an old gardener’s tale, but many say, and I wholeheartedly believe, that planting basil with your tomatoes makes both taste better. Some of my favorite companion plants for basil include oregano, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers.
Avoid bolting – also known as “going to seed,” you can avoid bolting by keeping a close eye on your plant. Basil tends to bolt once summer days are consistently hot. You can prevent this by keeping the soil moist and providing light shade in the hottest hours of the day. You can also pinch off flowering stems 1 inch below the flower to keep the plant from producing seeds and becoming bitter.
Here are the most essential basil growing tips you might not know!
1. Pinch Basil’s Flowers
Harvesting the leaves of this plant before they produce flowers will cause it to redirect its energy into making more buds. Simply pinch off any that you see, and your green friend won’t be too sad about it!
2. Pinch Basil’s Tips
Harvesting herbs is a great way to add some flavor and vitality for your plants. Be sure not forget about pinching the tips of stems so they will branch out more, creating new sets on leaves!
3. Avoid Harvesting More than 30% of the Plant
Harvesting the entire plant will kill it. It’s more economical to take away 20-30% of its leaves at a time, so you can ensure your harvest.
If there are still plenty left for yourself after that, grow 3-4 plants together for even greater yield!
4. Always Use Scissors
It is always better to use scissors when trimming your plant, so you can avoid damaging the delicate stems. This also helps keep it safe for future growth and keeps potential problems at bay!