What kitchen would be complete without basil? Cooks use it to enhance the flavor of chicken, ratatouille, spaghetti sauce and even vinegars, among other foods.
Gardeners easily grow this bushy annual that reaches one to two feet tall. It comes in a variety of cultivars, such as the popular sweet and lemon basils, exotic ‘Siam Queen’ and colorful purple ‘Dark Opal.’
There are three ways to grow basil: (1) From seed indoors about six weeks before the last frost; (2) from seed outdoors after danger of frost has passed; or (3) from bedding plants. When planting this herb outdoors, select a sunny location with adequate air circulation to discourage diseases. The plant fares best in evenly moist, well-drained soil that has been amended with organic matter.
To increase the plant’s bushiness and leaf production, pinch back the branches, removing half of each new stem of growth, every week from mid-June until the end of the growing season. Pinching back will also prevent the flowers from developing, which reduces leaf yield.
Begin harvesting basil as soon as the plant has leaves to spare. This prolific herb will provide an abundance of leaves from summer until first frost.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension publication(s).
- Herb Gardening
- Vegetable garden: Soil Management and Fertilization
- Average Frost Dates and Length of Growing Season
- Perennial gardening
- Powdery Mildews
- Nonchemical Disease Control