(See individual varieties for specific product information, but in general the growing information will be the same for all basil.)
Average Days To Maturity: 65-75 days
Distance Between Rows: 2-3 feet
Spacing Between Plants: 10-12 inches apart
When To Plant: Charley recommends planting basil in mid to late April, but experienced gardeners can plant earlier and protect the young plants with buckets and milk jugs or start them out in a cold frame or small greenhouse.
Planting Tip: When growing Basil in a pot or container, make sure there is good drainage. This can be achieved by putting a layer of gravel or small rocks in before the dirt. If planting in the ground, keep the soil free of weeds and water it a bit so that it is moist when you plant.
Preparation and Care: About a month before you plant in the ground, work some compost or manure into the soil.
You will need to hoe or VERY shallowly till or cultivate the soil around the plants to keep the weeds under control. Be sure to keep it shallow and not damage the roots.
Make sure there is plenty of air flow around the plants to prevent rot and disease.
Avoid growing Basil in the same soil consecutively in order to limit disease problems.
Watering: It is not recommended that you water Basil from above. Water on the leaves can damage them so it is best that you water the base of the plant or use drip irrigation. Basil likes moist, not wet, soil.
Water your garden (tomatoes and everything else) once a week with a 8-12 hour soaking. This will allow the soil to absorb an adequate amount of water and also limit the time you spend each week watering. If you use a sprinkler to water, do this during the day so that the plants will have some time in the evening to dry out before dark. This will limit the chances of disease. If you use a soaker hose, you can water at night. Watering with a soaker hose at night is best as it limits the amount of water lost to evaporation and keeps the plants dry which limits the chances of disease. During dry periods you may need to water more often (every 4-5 days), and watering at night is important in water conservation during droughts.
Fertilize: Basil does not require additional fertilization. Working organic matter into the soil about a month before planting should be sufficient.
Harvesting: You may begin harvesting Basil leaves when your plant is about 12” tall and there are at least 2 or more sets of leaves. Give the plant a week or more to recover before heavily harvesting again. If flowers appear simply pinch them to keep the plant producing tasty leaves. At the end of the season you can allow it to bloom and then harvest the seeds for next season.
When the growing season is coming to an end but you want to continue using Basil in your favorite recipes there are a couple of ways to preserve them. One way of preserving Basil is to freeze it. Fill an ice cube tray with water and place a leaf in each cube and freeze. Take one out and add it to your cooking. Another freezing method is to chop it in a food processor and add oil to make a paste. Place it in a freezer bag and freeze. When you need a little, break a chunk off. You can also place the leaves on a cookie sheet and freeze them completely then put them in a freezer bag and keep them frozen. Drying the leaves in a dehydrator or by hanging them in bunches in a warm room is another way to extend your basil usage. Once dry, remove from the stems and they will keep in an airtight container for about a year.
Common Insect Problems
- Aphids – http://extension.missouri.edu/p/g7274
- Japanese Beetles – http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/ipm.asp?code=67
- Leafhoppers – http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/ipm.asp?code=72
- Root-Knot Nematodes – http://www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-7529.pdf
- Slugs – http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2010.html
- Whitefly – http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G7275
Common Disease Problems
- Fusarium Wilt – http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/A/ANR-0872/ANR-0872.pdf
- Gray Mold (Botrytis) – http://urbanext.illinois.edu/focus/graymold.cfm
- Root Rot (Damping Off) – http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3061.html
- Leaf Spot – http://www.colostate.edu/Depts/CoopExt/4DMG/Pests/Diseases/leafspt2.htm