Grow your own Basil
Bbaah-sil or Bay-zil
How do you pronounce basil?
The soft “ah” is English and the hard “A” is American. The word basil comes from the Greek basileus (with a soft “ah” sound) meaning “king,” it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantin and Helen discovered the Holy Cross.
Plant Type: Annual
Scientific Name: Ocimum basilicum
Mature Plant Size: 45cm high x 30cm wide
Light: Full Sun
Flowering Period: July to August
Soil Type: rich, moist, well-drained soil
pH Range: 6.0
Known Pests: Aphids, cutworms
Growing basil is relatively easy as long as the growing environments has suitable light and temperature levels. Basil is grown for its fragrant, tasty leaves that can be added raw to salads, sandwiches or used in cooked dishes such as the ever-popular pasta with tomato and basil sauce.
If growing basil in a container make sure you have good drainage, never let your basil sit in water (that includes water collecting in the saucer, fill it with gravel if necessary). If you are growing your basil in the garden then make sure you have a rich, weed free spot. Consider adding an organic mulch around the plants to help retain soil moisture and prevent weeds. Basil likes fertile, well-drained, light textured soil. So, incorporate compost or well-rotted manure into your soil in the spring for perfect garden conditions. If growing your basil in a container then use a quality, general purpose planter mix.
Basil plants can be planted out when the weather is warm enough (usually sometime in late May or early June) or can be directly sown from seed in late May. Before sowing make sure that the compost or soil is moist.
Basil should be grown in a bright, sunny spot that gets a minimum of 6-8 hours a day. Basil can Also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill, just try to find a warm, sunny spot that is sheltered from drafts.
If growing Basil in containers or indoor pots then add a small amount of fertilizer every month or so. Water every week (more often if growing in outdoor containers). When watering your basil make sure to water at the base of the plant avoiding showering the leaves and stems. Be sure to pinch out any flowers that appear, as this will help preserve the plants flavour and also channel the plants energies into more leaf growth.
Basil is a pick and come again crop. It is best to pick a few leaves off a number of plants than picking all the leaves off one plant. Harvest the top most leaves first. Basil will grow all year round indoors but outdoor plants should be dug up and brought indoors before the first fall frosts if you want to extend the plants growing season into the winter. Once harvested basil can either be frozen or dried for later use. To dry Basil cut the stems at soil level and dry them in a dehydrator or hang bunches up to air dry in a warm room, this should take about a week. Once the leaves are dried you can remove them from the stems and store them in a dry airtight container for up to 12 months.
Popular Basil Cultivars
Common name: sweet basil
Species and cultivars: Ocimum basilicum
Description: the best known, with a strong clove scent when fresh.
Common name: Thai basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum 'Siam Queen'
Description: it has an exotic scent of liquorice.
Common name: Genovese basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Genovese Gigante'
Description: almost as popular as sweet basil, with similar taste.
Common name: cinnamon basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Cinnamon'
Description: also called Mexican spice basil, with a strong smell of cinnamon.
Common name: spicy globe basil
Speices and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Spicy Globe'
Description: grows in a compact bush form with very small leaves.
Common name: purple ruffles basil
Speices and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Purple Ruffles'
Description: solid purple colour with a rich and spicy anise-like flavour.
Common name: fino verde basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum ‘Piccolo’
Description: small, narrow leaves with a sweeter, less pungent smell.
Common name: nufar basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Nufar F1'
Description: a cultivar of Genovese that is resistant to wilt.
Common name: lettuce leaf basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Lettuce Leaf'
Description: has leaves so large they are sometimes used in salad.
Common name: red rubin basil
Species and cultivars: O. basilicum 'Red Rubin'
Description: leaves are a strong magenta colour with a similar flavour to sweet basil.