All about Basil and How to Grow It
If you are thinking of having an addition in your herb garden, then you must consider growing basil in it. This particular herb is a must have in a kitchen garden. It can make your cooking smell and taste delicious. Growing this plant is pretty easy if you know how to plant basil. Once you grow this herb, you will not need to buy any basil at the grocers.
Learn more about how to plant blueberry bushes.
What You Must Know about Basil
Before we talk about how to plant basil, it is a must for you to know more about this herb. Knowing more about it will give you some basic knowledge on what to do in growing it and how to care for it. These are some facts that will help you to understand more about basil.
1. Origin and History of Basil
Basil, or sometimes called sweet basil, is originally from Asia. Some experts believed that it is from India. But, others believed that it is from China, based on ancient records. Meanwhile, some others even believe that this herb is a native of Southeast Asia and Central Africa.
The origin of basil is a bit difficult to trace because this plant had spread to various countries for a thousand years. People from different countries use this herb differently.
People in ancient Egypt used basil for embalming mummies. In addition, people in Crete used it to ward off the devil. People in India planted basil around a temple for protection.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) was introduced to Britain in the 16th century. Later on, it was introduced to North America when the British came to this region. These days, basil was widely cultivated for cooking.
2. General Characteristics of Basil
There are several types of basil that grow all around the world. The most common one is sweet basil. Different types of basil usually have different characteristics. However, there are some general characteristics that you must know before performing the steps of how to plant basil. These are some of them.
Sweet basil is an annual plant. It produces glossy leaves that cup slightly. Its size can reach 11 cm long. They have anise flavor and scent that can make certain cooking have better flavor. In addition, the color of those leaves is mostly green. But, you can also find some varieties with purple leaves.
This herb is in the same family of mint. It can grow up to 24 inches high. Due to its smaller size, this particular plant can be planted both in pots and directly to the ground. However, certain varieties can grow taller than 24 inches.
If you want to have thriving basil plants, you need to grow them in the right soil condition. It must be loamy and rich of nutrients. Moreover, the soil must be well-drained but stay moist. In addition, the pH level of the soil must be between 5.5 and 6.5.
Basil is not cold hardy. It is because this plant is originally from tropical areas. Therefore, it is very sensitive to cold. This plant can grow well in warmer climate. When the temperature drop, basil leaves usually will reacted to these condition.
This herb will even die in winter. But, in warmer areas, this plant will keep living year by year and treated as perennial plant.
Generally, basil plants are suitable to hardiness zones 5 to 10. But, different varieties have different hardiness. Therefore, it is important for you to consider your hardiness zone before doing the steps of how to plant basil.
Since basil loves warm weather, the best time to plant it is in the summer. You need to make sure that the soil is warm enough for the seed to germinate successfully.
Basil seeds will have better germination rate if the daylight temperature is between 10o C and 21o C and the night temperature must not lower than 10o C.
However, if you plan to grow basil indoor, you can start the process of how to plant basil ahead of time. It is recommended for you to germinate basil seeds 42 days before the last spring frost. Basil seeds may need 5 days to 14 days to sprout roots.
To have healthy and thriving basil plants, you need to plant them in a sunny spot. They need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day.
However, these plants are pretty tolerant to shade. But, basil plants that are planted on a sunny spot usually have stronger aroma than those planted on shaded area.
If want to plant them indoor, you need to place the pots on a windowsill. It is important to be sure that it is a sunny window which will allow the plants to get enough sunlight. Therefore, your basil plants will give you a nice crop.
A full grown basil plant eventually will start flowering. Different varieties have different color of flowers. Some has small white flowers.
Meanwhile, others have pink or purple flowers. When a basil plant is flowering, the plant will be in the stage of setting seed. After that, this basil plant will die.
When a basil plant is flowering, it uses its energy to develop the seeds. Therefore, it will not have as much as foliage as before.
In addition, flowering will also change the flavor and aroma of the leaves. As a result, they are not good for cooking.
If you grow basil for its leaves, you must prevent your basil plants to bloom. One of the things you can do is harvesting or pruning the basil leaves periodically. Pruning will force them sprouting new shoots.
Another thing you must do is pinching the flowers as soon as you see them. Doing it before the flowers bloom will prevent the plants to go seeding. Therefore, you will still be able to have a nice crop with pleasant taste and fragrance.
However, if you want to have basil seeds to plant next year, you can allow one or two plants to start flowering and setting seed. Basil flowers usually will attract bees or butterflies to come.
Those insect will help the pollination process of those flowers. In consequence, you’ll have a chance of cross pollination and have different varieties of basil.
If you don’t want it too happens, you had better plant only one variety of basil. However, for you who want to grow several varieties of basil, you must plant them separately. It is important for you to at least plant them 50 feet apart.
Once the pollination occurs, the seed will develop. It may take several days for the seed to mature. One of the sign that the seeds have matured is that the little ‘pods’ of the flowers turn brown. Snip the flower stalks and place them in a dry place for a couple of days until they are truly dry.
After that, you must separate the seeds from the chaff and store the seed in a clean zip-top plastic bag. If you have seeds from different varieties of basil, you must remember to put a label on the plastic bag.
If you grow many basil plants, you will surely have a big crop in every harvest or pruning. As a result, you will get extra basil leaves after cooking. Therefore, you need to store them properly so that you can use them next time you make pesto.
One of the easiest ways of storing basil leaves is in the freezer. First of all, you need to place basil leaves in airtight zip-top bags. After that, put them in the freezer.
Another way to store these leaves is by drying them. However, dried basil leaves usually have weaker aroma and flavor than the fresh ones.
3. Nutritional Value and Uses
Raw basil leaves are a very excellent source of vitamin K. Eating 100 g of those leaves will give you 4 times of your daily vitamin K need.
Moreover, they are also high in manganese, vitamin A, iron, vitamin C, folate, copper, calcium, and magnesium.
Moreover, these leaves also contain phytochemistry that can help us fight oxidation, bacteria, and inflammation.
These leaves are used for various cooking in all around the world. One of the most popular one is pesto. Moreover, it is also used for salads and soups.
In certain countries, such as India and China, basil leaves are used as traditional medicine. In addition, certain basil seeds are used in Asian drinks.
4. Basil Variety
Basil plants are available in several varieties. Different basil varieties usually have different flavor and aroma. Moreover, they also have other different characteristics.
Therefore, before you perform the steps of how to plant basil, you must choose the right variety to plant. Aside from the popular sweet basil, these are basil varieties that you can plant.
This particular variety offers you smaller leaves. They are dark and pointed. These spicy leaves have a touch of licorice aroma and taste. Thai basil is great to make Thai sesame noodles and other Asian cuisine.
This variety of basil is often used in Italian cooking. It has large size leaves with dark green color. Its shape is more pointed and flatter than the common sweet basil.
The leaves of this variety have a unique flavor and taste. They have a touch of lemony fragrance. Moreover, they are light green and a bit small. Lemon basil is getting more popular these days. Its leaves usually are used in Southeast Asian cooking. They can also be used to marinate fish.
This variety is one of the popular Italian basil leaves. It doesn’t look like a basil plant at first glance. The leaves are larger, about 6 to10 inches long and 4 inches wide.
However, their aroma and flavor is milder than sweet basil. Lettuce basil is shorter and has a slower growth rate. Therefore, you can harvest its foliage for a longer period before it starts flowering.
This basil is also called Tulsi. Its leaves have a strong fragrance. It is sweet, spicy, and musky. In India, it is planted around temples.
Moreover, it is also used for medication, such as relieving kidney problems and stomach ailments. In addition, it is said that this particular basil promotes blood circulation.
This variety of basil is not only good for cooking. But, it can make your garden looks attractive due to its burgundy color. Purple basil offers strong clove taste and strong aroma.
Learn more about how to grow asparagus.
How to Plant Basil
Growing this herb can be done in two ways. You can grow it from seeds or from stem cuttings. However, the latter requires you to have access to basil plant.
Therefore, if you don’t have access of a basil stem cut, it is better for you to grow it from seeds. In order to do it, you need to know the steps of how to plant basil from seeds.
Planting those seeds is easy. Therefore, beginners in gardening will not find much difficulty in doing the steps of how to plant basil. These are the steps you can follow.
1. Preparing The Planting Site
There are two ways of how to plant basil. You can plant it in pots or directly to the ground. Both of them require you to do some preparation.
Growing basil in pots will give you some advantages. It will allow you to bring the plant indoor when the temperature in your area starts to drop. Therefore, you can harvest the crop in winter.
To grow basil plants in pots, you need well-drained pots with 2 L capacity and 25 cm deep. In addition, you also need potting mix and compost. Mix the potting mix and compost. After that, fill your pots with this mix.
- Planting Site Preparation
To plant basil directly on the ground, you need to make a raised bed for it. This raised bed offers better drainage for the plant. Moreover, you also need to mix the soil with compost or aged manure.
2. Planting The Seeds
Once the pots or planting site is ready, you can plant the basil seeds. To plant them, you must make some small holes first. They are a quarter of inch deep. If you want to plant them in pots, you must plant one seed per pot.
But, if you want to plant the seeds directly to the ground, you need to give enough spacing between the seeds.
If you plant smaller basil varieties, you need to plant the seeds 10 inches apart. But, if you plant larger basil varieties, you need to plant the seeds 20 inches apart.
3. How to Care for Basil Plants
In taking care of your basil plants, you can follow these tips.
It is essential to keep the soil moist. Therefore, you need to water your basil plants properly. If you live in a hot area, you need to mulch the soil around the plants. Moreover, you need to give more water to your basil plants in dry summer.
Pruning is essential for basil. It will keep your plants produce vigorous leaves. It is important for you to prune the plants when they have their first six leaves. Prune the stem above the second set of leaves.
In addition, you must prune the branches of your basil every time they grow their first six leaves. Moreover, in the 6th week, you need to snip the center shoot.
Doing it will prevent the plants to sprouting flowers. When you see that the plants start flowering, you must snip the flower stalks.
You can harvest your basil leaves when the stem is about 6 inches tall. In the case of basil, pruning can also be mean as harvesting.
It is because you can use the leaves of the snipped branches for cooking. If you do not use them for cooking, you can store them in the freezer.
When the temperature reaches 27o C, basil plants will produce a big crop. From 12 plants, you will get at least 4 cups of leaves in a week.
Therefore, it is important to consider the number of basil plants that you will grow. If you need lots of basil leaves, then you must grow more plants.
Learn more about how to plant sunflowers.