Guide to Growing Basil

“I’ve always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend”

~ C.Z. Guest

Basil is one of my favorite herbs to grow in the summer. There are so many reasons to grow basil: 1. It smells amazing! 2. It is super easy to grow and maintain – especially if you will be traveling for part of the summer growing season. 3. There are so many uses for fresh basil! Basil attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden that can help with pollination. It also helps to repel nasty mosquitos, making it a perfect addition to your patio garden. If planted with tomatoes, basil can help repel tomato hornworms. In this guide we will discuss when to plant basil, how to plant basil, where to plant basil, how to harvest basil and some great uses for your basil plants!

When to Plant Basil

Basil grows well in a warm climate. The earliest time to plant basil is 2 weeks after the last frost in your area. Typically that means basil should be planted in the Spring and Summer months! If the temperature drops below 40F, the basil plant leaves will turn black and fall off. That is not a good thing!!!

Where to Plant Basil

Basil is such an easy herb to grow. You can plant it in any type of garden: container, raised garden and in-ground gardens. You just want to make sure you have good drainage so that your plants don’t become water-logged.

Maintaining and Harvesting Basil Plants

Harvest basil regularly!!!! The key to growing healthy, bushy basil is regularly harvesting of the basil plant. It is important that you stop the plant from flowering and going to seed. Once the basil plant is at least 6in tall, you can begin to harvest it. The best way to do this is to pinch off the plant about 1/4 an inch above the node (the point at which the two new leaves start to grow).

Troubleshooting Common Basil Issues

One of the most important concerns when growing basil is over-watering. The basil plant is susceptible to various fungal diseases so you want to make sure they stay as dry as possible. Some ways to help prevent fungal disease include: planting basil in places where they will receive a lot of sunlight and air movement, avoiding overhead watering (irrigation systems are great for this!) and try to reduce leaf wetness. Certain varieties of basil including Thai and lemon basils are less susceptible to funguses and a bit easier to grow!

Uses for Basil Plants

I use fresh basil all the time in my cooking, especially my Italian dishes. There is nothing better than fresh basil straight out of the garden to increase the flavor of a dish. From pesto and capers salads, to homemade pizza, to my famous spaghetti dishes, basil will pump up the flavor in a big way!

Happy planting and eating!

~ The Gardening Dietitian

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