Plant Profile: Basil

Basil is a versatile herb that every home gardener should cultivate. And it’s easy to grow, so any gardener can enjoy basil’s fresh flavour all season long.

Description

Ocimum basilicum

Difficulty: Easy

Minigarden Basic Countertop Basil
 

Basil grows from a thick taproot, and sprouts silky green leaves that can be between 3-11 cm long and 1-6 cm wide. Basil plants can grow up to 30-130 cm tall, depending on the variety. When basil flowers, it produces small white blooms in a single spike at the top of the plant.

Basil is often grown as an annual, but a basil plant can survive for several seasons with the proper care.

Conditions

Temperature: Basil is a warm season crop. It grows best in areas where daytime temperatures remain above 21 degrees and nighttime temperatures remain above 10 degrees. Basil is very sensitive to frost, so make sure you cover it or pull it inside if frost is a possibility.

Soil: Use a moist, well-draining soil with a pH between 6 and 7.

Sun: Basil needs 6-8 hours of full sun every day. If you live in the south or southwest, your basil plants will enjoy a few hours of afternoon shade.

Propagation

Sow basil seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before you plant them outside. Seeds should start to germinate in about five days. Transplant your seedlings two weeks after the last frost date.

Care

Pruning BasilWater: Water the soil around your plants, being careful to avoid getting the leaves wet. If leaves get wet, you may see brown spots on your basil leaves. Keep the soil consistently moist throughout the growing season, and water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Pruning: Pinch (and use!) leaves off your basil regularly to keep your basil plant productive and to prevent it from bolting. If flower stalks develop, cut or pinch them immediately.

Pinch the center stalk of your plant about six weeks after you plant it outside in order to force side growth and prevent early flowering. Never cut the woody part of the stem or your plant won’t grow back.

Diseases

There are a few diseases to watch out for when growing basil. Minigarden’s unique drainage system and plant spacing prevent pests and funguses from affecting your plants, but you should always monitor your plants for common diseases.

Gray Mold

Gray Mold BasilSymptoms: Dense, brown-gray fuzzy growth on plant stems and leaves; leaves dying and dropping from the plant.

Perpetrator: Fungus.

Cause: Gray mold favors humidity and poor air circulation.

Treatment: Remove dead or infected leaves immediately and treat your plant with Minigarden Bug-Off Blue Fungus & Mold Protection.

Leaf Spot

Leaf Spot BasilSymptoms: Angular or irregular brown or black water-soaked spots on leaves; streaks on stems.

Perpetrator: Bacteria.

Cause: High humidity and overhead watering promote the spread of leaf spot, so be sure to avoid getting water on your plant’s leaves.

Treatment: Remove dead or infected leaves immediately and treat your plant with Minigarden Bug-Off Blue Fungus & Mold Protection.

Downy Mildew

Downy Mildew BasilSymptoms: Yellowing leaves, with discoloration usually starting around the middle vein of the leaf and spreading outwards; gray fuzzy or downy growth on the lower surface of the leaves; brown or black necrotic patches on the plants.

Perpetrator: Fungus.

Cause: The fungus is either seed-borne or wind-borne.

Treatment: Treat your plant with Minigarden Bug-Off Blue Fungus & Mold Protection, reduce humidity, and avoid leaf wetness.

Harvest

When: Harvest basil any time after your plant is 15-20 cm tall. You’ll get the best flavour if you harvest just before the plant goes to bud. Pinch leaves regularly to encourage production and prevent bolting. If you know frost is coming (even a very mild frost), harvest your whole plant or bring it indoors if possible.

How: Pinch leaves from the tip of the stem to encourage more branching. Never cut the woody part of the stem or else your basil won’t grow back. If you want to keep growing your plant, leave at least 6-8 inches of growth, with at least one node and two young shoots intact.

Uses

Basil is the most popular culinary herb, and for good reason. Its bright, fresh flavor complements nearly any dish, especially Italian and Asian flavor palettes. Use your basil fresh or preserve it for later use.

Using Fresh Basil: For the best flavor, add basil to your recipes in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Don’t store fresh leaves in the fridge or else they will turn brown.

Basil pairs well with parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage.

Fresh Basil
 

Preserving Basil: Because the leaves lose some flavor when dried, basil is best frozen.

To quick-freeze, dry whole sprigs with a towel and place them in plastic bags with the air pressed out.

To dry, pinch leaves off the stems and dry them in a shady, well-ventilated area. If the leaves aren’t fully dry after 3-4 days, dry then in the oven or else they may turn brown or black. Turn your oven to the lowest possible heat setting, leave the oven door slightly open, and turn the leaves frequently to reduce the risk of over-drying or burning.

Bountiful Basil

Basil is easy to grow, and it’s versatility makes it an easy choice for home gardeners.

Download a printable plant profile.

Basil Plant Profile Printable Thumbnail


Susan Austin is Sales Director for Minigarden North America. She can be reached at susan@minigardening.com.