No one doubts that sweet basil is almost everyone’s favorite culinary herb – year after year it wins the prize among herb favorites and herbs sold. Its flavor, color, and ease of growth in our climate make it a hands-down favorite of nearly everyone from cooks to gardeners to pizza-and spaghetti-lovers and beyond.
Because basil is easy to grown, choosing which ones to grow can be a challenge. Consider the specific cultivar’s eventual size, shape and color, in addition to its flavor. Many variations are seen in the basil family because of cross-pollination. In fact, if you grow several basils that self-seed (Not all do), they may not be the same next season, though they well certainly be usable.
When transplanting basil, wait until the soil and air are very warm – 65 degrees Fahrenheit for soil and air. Pinch off the lower set of leaves and plant one to three inches deeper than the soil level in the pot you purchased. New roots will form along the stem, just as with tomato plants. Fertilize periodically throughout the growing season with an organic, slow-release fertilizer, and make sure to provide plenty of sun and water.
Basils are gorgeous wherever they are planted in the garden or in containers. Their fragrance perfumes the air; the bright green or purple of the leaves add great color; and the number of leaf sizes and shapes is not to be believed! In addition, neighborhood butterflies and bees will swarm to the blooms.
Because their rampant growth wears the basils out rather quickly, mature plants will become woody and produce fewer leaves. So don’t forget to plant successive crops to keep those great basil leaves coming until frost.