When Simon and Garfunkel recorded the song “Scarborough Fair”, they sang about persil, sage, rosemary and thyme. The first thought that goes through my head when I hear this song on the radio is “but what about basil?”I love growing basil!
It may have been fifth place in Simon and Garfunkel’s lyrical choice, but it’s definitely number one in my book. One of the oldest known herbs, basil has an entertaining background and multiple uses in cooking and wellness.
Are you not convinced that basil should be part of your gardening life? Read on to find out what it is, why you should grow it and everything you need to know to grow basil successfully.
Basil is an aromatic herb from the mint family, sometimes called the “royal herb”. The name is derived from the Greek word for king, “basileios”. Scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum, it is also known as the word of St. Joseph.
It is native to Thailand and India and is often used as part of Ayurvedic medicine and for culinary purposes. People in Rome believed that it caused insanity in men. The ancient Greeks believed that basil was a plant associated with hatred and that it should be planted by cursing and shouting at the seeds to force them to grow.
And yet, not everyone saw basil as a bad thing.
In the island nation of Haiti, shop owners have been known to soak basil in water and then sprinkle the water around their shops as a way to ward off evil spirits. In the more rural areas of Mexico and in part of Italy, it has become known as a kind of love charm, with the power to attract a partner or keep an allegiance. And among people of the Christian faith it is believed that Basil jumped from the ground to the place of the crucifixion.
Basil has been used medicinally in the treatment and relief of conditions such as acne, colds and flu. It is ideal for relieving stress and strengthening the immune system, especially useful if you have a boring office job. Try chewing basil leaves the next time you need quick relief from a rotten cold!
Why Grow Basil?
The interesting history of basil could be a good reason to include it in your gardening repertoire. After all, who doesn’t love a little love (or, for that matter, a little madness from time to time)?
More seriously, basil has many uses in cooking and health benefits. It would be very convenient to have a window box in the kitchen or a place in the garden where you can cut what you need when you need it.
The most common use of basil is to flavor foods such as pesto and other sauces, although it can be used for a wide variety of culinary purposes. Health fanatics praise the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of basil. Nutritionally, it is full of vitamins K, A and flavonoids.
Best of all, it tastes great in salads, soups, sandwiches, many ethnic cuisines and on its own. And it is also quite easy to grow!
Recommended Varieties Of Basil
It is believed that there are more than a hundred varieties of basil. Some say that there can be up to 150 of them! That’s a lot of basil, and we can’t cover them all in one piece. If you can’t choose one, try an organic basil variety.
When to plant basil
Basil is a plant that loves warm weather, so be sure to wait until after the last frost before leaving. Two weeks after should be quite a long time. If you want to get off to a good start, try planting basil seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost. They will germinate faster if the soil is warm.
Where to plant basil
Basil loves the sun, so choose a place where it is six to eight hours a day, with a little shade in the afternoon. If you grow in pots indoors, a sunny window is a wonderful place. Or grow basil in a container outdoors. Try the Root Pouch grow bags, air pots or GreenStalk planters in layers that we stock in our online store.
How to plant basil
Leave at least 10 to 12 inches of space between each plant and put about a quarter of an inch deep in warm soil. You will get the best result if the soil is about 70 degrees and moist.
How To Care For Basil
Six to eight hours of full sun a day is optimal for basil growth. In warmer climates such as the south or southwest of the United States, a little shade in the afternoon is welcome. Keep in mind that the warmer the weather, the more likely your plants are to suffer from sunburn or wilting problems. At the height of summer, they can enjoy a shade sheet at the hottest time of the day!
Basil is not a cold-loving plant. The lowest temperature it will tolerate is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It much prefers temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees and will develop in this range.
Below 50 degrees, the leaves of most basil varieties begin to turn black, and the plant will hang down. If you’re heading into the colder months of fall or winter, it might be time to bring your basil indoors.
Your basil will want the soil to be rich and nutritious, but well draining. Before planting, it is a good idea to mix compost well in your soil, with a little blood meal or cotton flour.
However, it is essential that, although your soil can retain moisture well, it is also well drained. Basil loves moist soil, but not waterlogged soil. No mud pools for this grass!
The pH of the soil should be between 6 and 7.
If your soil is well prepared, you do not need to add additional fertilizer during the growing season. By adding blood meal or cotton flour to your soil before planting, you offer the plant a lot of slow nitrogen to produce leaf growth.
Be careful not to accidentally over-fertilize your plant, as this can significantly reduce the taste and aroma of your basil. Since it is usually grown as an annual, this preparation of your soil should be enough!
Even if you don’t need basil, you should prune your basil regularly. Regular pinching of the growth will encourage the plant to continue to make new leaves.
Ideally, you should prune from the most recent growth, leaving the older stem material in place. Pinch or cut on top of a larger set of leaves. This encourages the plant to grow more above this point.
Harvesting basil can begin when the plant has produced at least six leaves to avoid the legume. When the plant is at least six to eight centimeters long, you can start harvesting.
For a better taste, only take what you need when you need it, or when your scheduled regular pruning is supposed to happen. Just before the flowering of the plant is the tastiest time, but flowering will stop the growth process. If the flower buds begin to form early, pinch them.
Usually basil is easy to care for. But what happens if parasites invade or if a ailment persists? Let’s go over your options.
If there are no signs of damage from pests or ailments, but the leaves of your plant are starting to turn yellow and it is showing poor growth, this could be a sign of nitrogen deficiency. At this time, use a balanced or slightly nitrogen-rich organic liquid fertilizer to try to stimulate some growth. If it clears up in a few days, you know that you have done the right thing.
Leaf spot ailment is a bacterial infection that manifests itself as striped stems and black or brown spots that appear soaked in water. Not much can be done about it, except to remove and damage the affected leaves. Humidity and watering from above can make the problem worse, so leaving a little space around each of your plants will allow more air to circulate and keep the leaves dry.
The Cercospora leaf spot, on the other hand, is caused by a fungus. This causes brown and irregular spots on the leaves. Use drip irrigation and mulch around the plants to keep the leaves dry. Remove all leaves damaged by this fungus. You can use a mixture of baking soda and insecticidal soap to act as a fungicide against this ailment.