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How to grow Basil

Basil is easily one of the most well-known of the herbs. It’s super easy to grow, either indoors or outdoors and it can be harvested in as little as four weeks.

And whether your Basil is a fragrant addition to your cooking, or just for aesthetics, it’s great as a beginner gardener’s plant.

Basil is perhaps most commonly associated with Italian sauces, but it’s actually a member of the mint family and originated in India. Basil also comes in a range of varieties including sweet Basil, purple Basil and spicy globe. Naturally that means it delivers a range of flavours too. Read on for more information on how to grow basil.

Sowing

You can sow Basil from February through to July. When sowing make sure it’s protected early in the season if there are frosts around.  To help combat inclement weather VegTrug offers a cold cover to keep your plants warm in the colder months.

You can plant a pot-grown specimen from early June to July and in a well-drained sunny spot. Place each plant about 30cm apart and to a depth of about 0.5cm. Basil shouldn’t be overwatered as it won’t enjoy sitting in wet compost. Pinch out shoots to create a bushy plant.

Growing Basil

Whatever type of Basil you choose, it will grow happily in warm weather and thrives as well in the ground as it does in a good container, like a VegTrug. The flowers are edible too and bees love them. If you’re a bee fan you might even like to add the Bee Bar accessory which encourages non-stinging bees to lay eggs in its walls and promotes pollination of your plants.

In hot countries Basil will need some shade, but in more temperate climates Basil will happily grow with six to eight hours of full sun each day. The soil should be moist but not wet. Mulch helps to retain water. And if you’ve started your Basil indoors, you may need to help it acclimatise when you first put it outside.

Fertiliser will help your Basil grow healthily, particularly if you’re removing leaves to eat daily. And Basil is really too delicate to handle any frost.

Pests and Bugs

Basil is really easy to grow, but like any plant can have issues with pests and bugs. If you want to know how to grow basil you might come across any of the following.

Aphids, or greenfly, and whitefly are the biggest nuisances for Basil, and especially on plants grown indoors. Outside snails and slugs like Basil as much as you do, and will chomp on the leaves while you sleep. One way to stop pests is to spray the entire plant with a soap and water solution. Use two teaspoons of washing up liquid to a gallon or 4.5 litres of water. Or use a horticultural soap.

Basil leaves are also susceptible to powdery mildew, but the risks can be reduced by the proper spacing out of your Basil plants. Damaged leaves should be removed immediately.

Preparing and Using Your Fresh Basil

You don’t really need to Harvest Basil, mostly you’ll just grab a few leaves and add them to a dish. Just make sure the plant is around six to eight inches tall before you start to pick the leaves. Picking leaves actually helps Your Basil stay healthy, and as long as you leave three side shoots your plant will grow healthily. As a general rule, remove a third of the leaves each month, even if you don’t need them.

Dried Basil loses some of its flavour, while frozen Basil keeps more flavour but the texture isn’t to everyone’s liking. A good tip, if you like Olive Oil, is to freeze Basil in the oil. That way you have a source of fresh Basil over the winter months and can add it, frozen, when you’re cooking. Ice cube trays are ideal to portion out the oil and Basil.

How to grow basil is part of the VegTrug Grower’s Guide.

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