Basil is a tender warm-season annual. Sow basil in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in the spring or start basil indoors as early as 6 weeks before the last frost for planting out after the weather has warmed. Basil is easily damaged by cold weather and will be killed by frost.
Description. Basil is a tender annual that can grow to 30 inches tall. Basil has square stems and opposite arranged leaves. Leaves are lightly toothed, pointed, and oval. Leaves can be bright green or purple-red. Spikes of small whitish or lavender flowers appear in mid to late summer.
Yield. Grow one basil plant per household. Succession planting will ensure a steady supply of basil.
Site. Plant basil in full sun. Basil will tolerate light shade. Grow basil in well-drained but moisture-retentive sandy loam. Soil too rich in organic matter will result in lush foliage but low oil content which can affect the strength of fragrance. Basil will grow in poor soil but well-drained soil. Basil prefers a soil pH of 5.5 to 7.5. Basil will grow easily in a sunny window.
Planting time. Sow basil in the garden 2 to 4 weeks after the last frost in spring or start basil indoors as early as 6 weeks before the last frost for planting out after the weather has warmed. Basil is easily damaged by cold weather and will be killed by frost. Bail can tolerate very warm weather.
Planting and spacing. Sow basil seed ¼ inch deep; thin successful plants to 8 inches apart or more depending on the variety. Space rows 18 to 24 inches apart.
Water and feeding. Basil prefers moist but not wet soil. Keep the soil moist for quick growth. Leaves will wilt when basil need water. Mulch established plants to conserve soil moisture in summer. Basil does not require rich soil. Avoid overly acidic soil. Foliar feed plants with a spray of compost tea to liquid seaweed extract twice during the growing season.
Companion plants. Plant basil near tomatoes and peppers to enhance their growth.
Care. Keep basil pinched back for full growth. Pinch back plants every 2 or 3 weeks. Pinch back terminal shoots before they flower. Flowering will affect leaf growth and the oil content of leaves. Do not allow plants to get tall and leggy.
Container growing. Basil is a good container plant. Plant basil in a pot with at least 6 inches deep for best root growth. Basil will grow easily in a sunny window.
Pests. Basil has no serious pest problems. Snails and slugs may attack basil; handpick them and destroy.
Diseases. Basil has no serious disease problems. Basil grown in soil that is too wet can be affected by damping-off or fusarium wilt. Remove and destroy infected plants.
Harvest. Basil is ready for harvest 50 to 60 days after planting. Pinch out leaves as you need them; regular harvest will keep plants growing strong and prevent flowering. Harvest the entire plant before the first frost.