It has such a fresh, aromatic flavor that can be a great addition to pasta and salads or can be the main flavor of a dish. It also has uses outside of the culinary realm. Sweet basil is a culinary herb used frequently in Italian cooking and is the base for our favorite pesto, savory flavor to soups, stews, salads, roasts and more. There are dozens of different cultivars to choose from. Thai basil, on the other hand, has a sharper flavor with a hint of licorice and mint, working well with spicy-sweet Thai dishes. Since sweet basil is the more common of the two plants, this article will discuss how to plant, cultivate and use sweet basil. Sweet basil is an annual herb, meaning it will have to be planted every year. Sweet basil grows about 18 – 24 inches tall.
Basil has a long history and has many benefits and uses. It has many health benefits such as improving appetite, being an anti-inflammatory and containing anti-bacterial properties. It can also be used to help repel insects. When you’re in the garden, try rubbing some basil leaves on your skin, or plant basil throughout the garden to keep harmful insects away. For best results, wait to pick basil until you’re ready to use it. Place it in a glass of water on the counter for short-term storage rather than in the refrigerator.
Basil Short History
Native to India, Iran and other warmer regions of Asia as far east as China, basil has been cultivated for thousands of years. It was introduced to western Europe in the sixteenth century and shortly thereafter, became a key flavoring component in Mediterranean cuisine. A member of the Lamiaceae family, basil is closely related to mint, rosemary, lavender and thyme.
How To Grow Basil
Basil get bigger when you can keep an eye on them and it’s easier to make a quick harvest. That gets us eating more basil in salads and savory dishes. The kind of pot you use doesn’t really matter, basil just needs at least 8 inches of depth to grow and the container needs proper drainage. At planting time add organic fertilizer to the root. It’s important to remember that this flavorful herb doesn’t like to have waterlogged roots. When basil has too much water the plant will not produce the quantity of leaves that you want for that big, healthy harvest you’re after.
1. Soil For Basil
Unlike when you plant them in soil, growing basil in containers makes them more visible, especially if you also want to grow them for aesthetics purposes. You want to avoid using regular garden soil when starting seeds because it contains all sorts of large matter, bacteria and bugs which can hinder your new seedlings from sprouting or growing properly. Choose a soil that is loamy and full of nutrients. Commercial potting soil is fine for growing basil indoors. Lightly water it the day before planting so that the soil will pack nicely and stick together when working with it. A good seed starting mix has a fine texture and is sterile, a perfect combination for baby plants to thrive in.
2. Pot or Container
Choosing the right container is important thing to consider, if you want to know how to grow basil in a pot. Actually, you can plant basil almost everywhere just make sure it will receive a good amount of sunlight for photosynthesis. Every container will surely work out such as laundry basket, kiddie pool and much more. Avoid from drying it out completely through using big containers. Also, you may put them a little bit closer than the advised distance, 12 to 18 inches apart. Maintaining airflow between the herbs is essential since basil is vulnerable to fungus. Clay pots are also excellent choices but they are porous so you might have to water more often if you use these.
3. Place to Grow
Growing basil is easily done indoors if you have a window that gets full sun for most of the day. Basil liked to stay warm and needs a lot of sunshine to develop the flavors. If you have a nice sunny windowsill that does not get cold, it is fine to set the pot right on the sill. In the winter or cooler weather, it is best to set the plants on a table nearby, rather than in the window itself because it will get cold near the window at night. Also, make sure you don’t have air conditioning that blows directly on the basil plants. They do not like the cold, or cool breezes.
4. Starting With Seeds
If you choose to start with seeds, you can buy the packets at your local garden center. Fill the depressions of an egg carton two thirds of the way with soil and lightly pat down. Place two or three seeds on the top of the soil in the center of the cup. Cover with a thin layer of potting mixture, one quarter to one third of an inch deep. Sprinkle a few drops of water in the center of each cup a couple of times a day to keep the soil moist through the germination process. When plants reach two to three inches in height, they will become root-bound if you leave them in the carton. At this stage, you can transplant them to pots in your windowsill. Keep the top of the soil in the pot even with the top of the soil from the carton.
5. Starting With Cuttings
You can also use root cuttings from another garden by placing cuttings in the depressions of an egg carton with loose soil and a rooting hormone to encourage new growth. Water just a few drops daily at the base of the plant to keep the soil moist but not allowing it to become saturated. Rooting may take two or three weeks.
Watering from the base is best, as it encourages the roots to grow down deep into the soil to keep the plant moist. Never water your basil by sprinkler. Sun’s heat can burn the leaves or even kill the plants. Water every couple of days, checking in between to make sure soil is not drying out too much. It is best to water in the morning, and never during the sunniest part of the day, as water droplets on the leaves can magnify the sun’s rays and lead to damage.
7. Pruning is the Key
The biggest trick to growing a bumper crop of basil is pruning it. Always pinch it back to the next place where there are two leaves sprouting. This will cause the plant to grow into two more branches. Start pruning when the plant gets about 6 inches tall. That will cause it to grow bushy instead of tall. Bushy equals more leaves. Make sure the flower heads are pinched off regularly before they bloom so plants can put all of their energy into leaf production. If the basil flowers, it changes the taste of the leaves and makes it less potent.
You can harvest basil from a healthy, mature plant just about any time. Snip off the basil leaves you want to use in recipes as you need them. Once the plants reach a height of 12 inches, you can begin harvesting leaves as you wish. Take the small part of the stem below the leaf as well so that the plant will replace it. You should be able to get a fairly good amount of basil just from the pruning process as well.
When flower heads start to form on a mature plant, it’s time to really prune your basil. If the plant is allowed to flower, it will put energy into trying to regenerate itself by making seeds. You want to prevent that, so that you’ll have a basil harvest all summer long. The flowers are also edible, and they can make a subtle garnish for salads and appetizer plates. These aren’t showstoppers like chive flowers, but they do get white or pink blooms, sometimes with touches of purple as well.