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Basil is the favorite summertime herb by far. It can be grouped by its many different flavors — sweet, citrus, spicy — or by color — green, purple, or a combinations — but all the flavors bear a hint of anise or licorice. Common are citrus overtones as well as spicy ones in which hints of clove and cinnamon abound.

The basics of growing this super-favorite herb are simple and apply to all the various flavors, sizes, and shapes. The main point to remember is that as a sub-tropical plant, basils thrive on hot weather. Many basil-lovers rush into planting their favorites each year before the soil has warmed up to the 65 degrees needed. Patience is rewarded with downright thunderous growth!

Basils are well-adapted to container culture. A very pretty arrangement can be made, using three very different-looking basils, plus a pretty spiller to soften the pots edges. Check each day for water needs, especially in the heat of the summer. The leaves may wilt in the noon sun, but wait until later to water, as wilting is just the plants way of saving moisture and over-watering is an invitation to fungal diseases like root-rot and moldy leaves.

Provide good garden soil with adequate drainage, plenty of sunshine, and good air circulation. Water when dry, and fertilize monthly with a balanced fertilizer like Arbor Gate Blend to keep those wonderful basil leaves coming. Harvest leaves often and freeze a puree of leaves and oil in plastic bags.

Only one cultivar, Bell Pepper Basil, performs well in the shade. Winter brings on dormancy, but in the spring warmth this basil returns from the roots and from seeds self-sown during the previous fall.

Few fungus or insect problems beset healthy basil, but if the worst happens choose a non-toxic or organic treatment so that you can continue to harvest. If your basils are worn out by mid- August, pull them up and re-plant for fall production. Basil is happy and productive until the weather really cools down, which may not occur until mid-November or even later. Experience tells me that Aussie Sweetie lasts longest, tolerating the earliest of the fall’s cool winds.

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