The basil plant is considered to be one of the very oldest herbs in existence, and throughout history it has been revered because of its properties. This herb has been used for food preparation, medical treatments, and in religious ceremonies as well. Growing basil is highly gratifying for individuals who are unfamiliar with gardening because it is relatively simple to grow. There are really just a few basic points that you will want to keep in mind to be successful at growing basil. Basil can be grown outdoors, preferably in a warm habitat, or in your own home in containers year round. If you want to use the basil for cooking, only a couple of plants could provide enough basil for months of use.
When growing basil in an outdoor environment, decide whether your climate is warm enough before you decide to plant or sow seed. Basil is regarded as a plant that loves warm, sunny weather. The afternoon temperature ought to get to a minimum of seventy degrees (F) while the nighttime temperature should go no lower than 50 degrees. A happy plant will expect to see six or more hours of sunshine just about every day. Additionally, it is important that the topsoil have really good water drainage.
To sow basil seed, just sprinkle the seeds onto the soil and carefully pat them down. Germination will occur more effectively if you ensure the seed has good contact with the soil. Cover the seeds by using a thin layer (less than a half inch) of good top soil or compost. Water the soil well. At this stage you will want to keep the soil moist, however not too wet, before the seeds sprout. Soil that is generally too wet will cause the seeds to fail. Germination should occur within a few days. The seedlings will emerge with a couple of D shaped leaves.
When the plants have two pairs of true leaves they may be thinned. It is recommended that basil plants be placed no closer than 6 12 inches apart. When growing basil indoors, seeds can be started 3 weeks in advance, right before the warm weather comes, and after that transplanted into the backyard. When transplanting the herb, first water the soil it s in as well as the soil you are transplanting it into. This will make it easier to keep the dirt around the base of the plant.
If you are planning on feeding the garden soil, do that before planting or in early spring when plant growth starts. Herbs do not need to be fertilized more often than once a season. When you go to do this, use a fertilizer that is well balanced. For instance, a fertilizer that is 5 nitrogen, 10 phosphorus and 5 potassium (5 10 5) would be appropriate. Follow the instructions on the bag for the amount that is apprpriate to use for your size of garden. When applying it, do so around the base of the plant but never make direct contact with the herb.
A basil plant needs to be watered once weekly. When you are watering, attempt to water to about an inch in depth. Watering much more causes roots to grow shallowly therefore the plants may become less robust. If you are having exceptionally hot weather you can water more often. The trick is to make sure the plant gets watered enough without sitting in standing water. When watering, apply water to the base of the plant and not onto the leaves directly.
Basil plants have to be pruned through the summer. Pruning leaves will promote the growth of new stems and new leaves. Prune it by pinching the stems just above a pair of leaves. This can be done anytime after the plant grows to 3 to 5 inches in height. When the plant gets older it will begin to form buds and flowers. These blooms can cause the basil to become bitter to the taste. Presence of the blooms will likewise cause the plant to quit growing leaves. To extend the life span of your plant, prune the blooms by pinching the flowers off at the stem just above a set of leaves.
Now you know the basic steps for growing basil. Follow the same guidelines to grow basil indoors, just know that you need place the plant in the window or use fluorescent lighting. Good luck and happy growing!
To learn more about growing basil, including growing basil indoors, please visit Steve at http://www.growing-basil.org. Steve Adams is an avid gardener with 10 years of experience growing basil and other herbs. He uses his success at gardening to support his love of cooking.