Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is also referred to as great basil. An aromatic herb of the family Lamiaceae (mints). Basil is native to Southeast Asia and tropical regions of Central Africa.
Normally grown as an annual and popular in cuisines around the world. The most used variety is Genovese basil or sweet basil.
We will cover how to successfully grow your own Basil in this article.
Basil Herb Care
Use well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter. Fertile, loamy soils with a pH of 6.0 – 7.5 are optimal for growing basil. Mulching will help retain moisture and nutrients.
Watering requirements will depend on several factors. Such as the size of the plant, the type of soil, the climate, and the time of year. You want to thoroughly soak once or twice a week. Do not overwater as this could lead to fungal diseases and root rot. Allow soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
If growing indoors place the basil plant in a south or west-facing window. They need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. The more sunlight they receive the more flavorful and aromatic their leaves will be. With too little sunlight they can become less productive.
Humidity & Temperature
Basil is a tropical plant and grows best in temperatures of 72-90°F. If temperatures drop below 50°F or rise to 95 °F and above, growth will slow considerably. In terms of humidity, being tropical they prefer a level around 50-60%.
If planting in an outdoor garden, you can mix in organic matter or compost before planting. Or an organic fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. You can also apply used coffee grounds around the base of the plant.
Do not over-fertilize as quick growth dilutes the flavor of the basil leaves. Add fertilizer once every month or two. If the plant becomes a light green color, it’s time to fertilize again.
Diseases & Pests
Basil is prone to several diseases that can affect its growth and production. Some common diseases that can affect basil plants include:
Fungal diseases like Fusarium wilt and leaf spots. Bacterial diseases, such as bacterial leaf spots and bacterial wilt. As well as gray mold and downy mildew. Proper watering and plant spacing will help reduce diseases.
The most common pests of basil plants are slugs, Japanese beetles, spider mites, and aphids. You can use insecticidal soap to control most of these pests. Avoid chemical pesticides on edible herbs that you plan on consuming.
How to Grow Basil
Decide which variety of basil you want to grow. As there are many to choose from.
Fill a seed tray, pot, or container with the seed starting mix. Sow the basil seed 1/4″ deep into the soil. Then mist with water but do not over water.
Place the planted seeds where they will get the most bright but indirect sunlight. Check seeds daily to avoid soil from drying out completely and misting as needed. Wait until 2-3 true sets of leaves have emerged.
After 2-3 sets of leaves have emerged, you can transplant them into larger pots or containers. If the danger of frost has passed, you can transplant it directly into the garden outside. Plant spacing of 18-24″ between plants helps air circulation and reduces diseases.
Basil is a fast-growing herb and will be ready to start harvesting in a few weeks. Collect leaves as you need them. You can also propagate basil in a jar of water from a cutting, making sure to never run out.
Types of Basil
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum): the most common variety of basil and is widely used in Italian cooking. It has a sweet, fragrant aroma and a slightly spicy flavor.
Thai basil (Ocimum. basilicum var. thyrsiflora): is a popular variety used in Southeast Asian cooking. It has a slightly licorice-like flavor and a strong, aromatic aroma.
Lemon basil (Ocimum basilicum x citriodorum): This variety has a strong lemon scent and flavor. And is often used to add a citrusy twist to dishes.
Purple basil (Ocimum basilicum purpureum): has dark purple leaves and a slightly sweet and spicy flavor. It is often used for decorative purposes, as well as for adding flavor to dishes.
Cinnamon basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’): has a sweet, cinnamon-like flavor. Often used in sweet dishes, such as desserts and beverages.
Basil Companion Planting
Basil is commonly used in companion planting for its many benefits. Here are a few plants that basil is planted with.
Tomatoes: Basil and tomatoes are a classic pairing in the garden and kitchen. It is said to improve the flavor of tomatoes, and the aroma helps repel pests that might damage tomato plants.
Peppers: Help improve the health and flavor of peppers while deterring pests that can attack pepper plants.
Asparagus: Basil helps deter pests and improves the flavor of asparagus.
Rose’s: Improve overall health and pest management of roses.
In conclusion, growing basil can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for gardeners. It is a versatile and flavorful herb used in many dishes. And has several benefits when used in companion planting.