Monday, August 16, 2010

Growing Basil



One of the benefits of gardening in central Florida (zone 9) is no time is a bad time to start basil from seed . . . and a benefit of growing basil after not doing any serious gardening for several years is the instant gratification. It is one of the most foolproof herbs in this area.



Growing basil from seed

Sow the seeds in spring in seed trays and keep indoors or in a heated greenhouse until the seedlings reach the four-leaf stage. Keep well watered at all times whilst the seedlings are growing.

The seedlings can then be easily handled and transplanted out into pots or containers or directly into the garden in a well drained soil, where they can continue growing with the benefits of all the nutrients from the soil.

Plant the seedlings 50cm apart and keep shaded for the first few days and water regularly throughout to ensure healthy growth.


Conditions for growing basil

Although basil likes sun, it must be planted in a sunny, sheltered spot away from wind and draughts.

Don't plant basil until all risk of frost has disappeared. During midsummer basil likes semi-shaded growing conditions.


Growing basil in the garden

Growing basil between tomatoes and other vegetables in the greenhouse or garden will benefit both the basil and the other vegetables.

Basil will enhance the flavors of the other vegetables growing around it and will also deter insects.

Growing basil in your garden will attract bees and butterflies if planted outside.

Growing basil under glass in a cool summer is a good way to ensure a lush and healthy plant and supply of leaves. Remember though, if you are growing basil in your garden, you should not plant it next to rue.


Growing basil in the kitchen or greenhouse

Basil can quite easily be grown inside as long as it has a light and sunny spot on the windowsill or shelf in the greenhouse. If you keep the plants indoors you should be able to keep your basil growing well into the cooler months.


Harvesting Basil

Once the basil has grown to a height of about 15cm, you can start to take off the top sets of leaves. Pinch them out to the next set of leaves growing below. This will ensure a continual growth and should encourage a healthy, bushy basil plant.

Prune your basil every 2 or 3 weeks to ensure a healthy bushy plant.

Basil will continue growing throughout the summer and can ultimately reach up to 60cm in height. If the basil is left to flower, it will produce long spires of small, white tube shaped flowers.

To encourage a supply of leaves throughout the summer and autumn, pinch out the buds as soon as they appear.


Basil Foliage

Depending on the variety of basil you are growing, the juicy, oval leaves will grow up to10cm in length and will be a glossy rich green. Basil is highly aromatic with a strong scent reminiscent of cloves.

Basil plants will cross pollinate very easily so if you are collecting and planting your own seeds year after year, you should notice some slight variations which makes growing basil an interesting hobby and pastime.





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