Monday, October 10, 2011

Growing basil

Someone on our facebook page asked if we could show them how to grow basil and dandelion so I thought I would tell you everything I know growing about basil today. I have not grown dandelions yet so I cannot answer that question.

Basil is a fun, tasty and easy plant to grow. It's considered an annual which means it dies off and needs to be replanted every year. In San Diego, your basil plants can live for a long time provided they have warmth and full sun.

A selection of various basil including Italian, a French small leaf variety called Pistou, and purple basil.
We are growing basil in an EarthBox, in smaller containers and right in the ground in our front garden. Most of our current basil was purchased as starter plants from City Farmers Nursery in the early spring. We planted it with all purpose organic fertilizer and add compost to the soil around it about once a month. It does not need a lot of water after it is established but it should stay somewhat moist.

One of the most important things to keep in mind if you want to keep your basil going is that you must pick it regularly and you have to make sure it you don't allow it to flower.

Our Pistou basil is starting to flower.
Whenever I see blooms on my basil I pinch them off a couple inches below the bloom. You want the energy from the plant to go to making more yummy leaves, rather than to producing flowers and then seeds (unless you're trying to save your basil seeds). We harvest basil several times a week for our own use and then they get harvested for the market on a weekly basis . We have about 8 basil plants which is plenty for our needs and to have about 4 bunches each week for market.

There are a number of different varieties of basil and each has it's own distinct flavor so that is another thing to consider when growing basil.

This is a speckled variety that adds a beautiful touch when left whole in salads. 

This is a variety that has a licorice flavor that people either seem to love or hate.

The purple variety is one of my favorites.
I am going to start some seeds very soon on our rooftop because we will lose much of our sun in the front garden before long but the roof should be warm and sunny enough to keep basil going here year round, we rarely have overnight lows that dip below 50 degrees at night. In most places around the country you will need to wait until spring before planting your basil and then preserve it at the end of the growing season by either drying it or freezing it to use for the rest of the year.

When starting from seed, I plant a cluster of 4 seeds every 6 inches right in the pot or ground that I am planning to use and then thin them to 6" apart when they are 2' tall. They don't require a lot of food but they benefit from a side dressing of compost regularly.

Gidget is more interested in trying to catch a butterfly than she is in growing basil.

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