How to grow basil outdoors

Basil plants are native to Central Africa and Southeast Asia. The botanical name is Ocimum basilicum and the common name is sweet basil. This plant is actually one of the most popular herbs to grow and is also very easy to grow.  The plant is a member of the mint family. They can be grown in USDA hardiness zone 10 through 11.  The plant is a perennial or annual herb and the mature size is about 18–24 inches tall and wide. The flower color is Magenta. Sweet basil is closely identified with Italian cooking, though it is originally from India. Basil has aromatic leaves that have a delightful variety of flavors. All the types of basil plant can be grown easily in warm, sunny weather. Basil leaves are usually used in cooking.

Growing Sweet Basil

This plant is a warm-weather herb, most time it is often planted from nursery transplants that have been started in greenhouse conditions. If you want to actually grow basil from seeds you have to start them indoors about 6 weeks before your last spring frost. Basil is ready to start harvesting in about sixty to ninety days from planting.

You can easily prevent your basil from blooming for as long as possible by harvesting or pinching off the top sets of the leaves as soon as the basil plant reaches about six inches in height.

The size of your basil plant will depend on the variety of the plant, the growing conditions of the plant, and how much you harvest them. Basil plant can reach about six feet tall but typically grows to about eighteen to twenty-four inches or even shorter. This plant has 6-inch short dwarf varieties that work very well in pots.

How to Care For Sweet Basil

Light Requirement: Basil plant grows best with 6 to 8 hours of full sun every day. Sufficient sun also means fewer disease problems on the plant and sturdier plants. This is the case except in the hottest climates where the basil plant actually prefers part shade.

Soil Requirement: Basil plant actually does best in moist, rich, well-draining soil. It will really be a good idea to amend your soil with compost or other nutrient-rich mulch.

Water Requirement: Make sure you water your basil deeply on a regular basis, however be sure its soil is well-drained. You can easily use mulch to help keep the moisture in.

Temperature and Humidity Requirement: Sweet basil plant is a heat lover. You don’t need to bother planting them until the daytime temperatures remain in the 70s and the night temperatures are above fifty degrees Fahrenheit. This plant is very sensitive to frost and they are one of the first plants to die in the fall. You can extend the season slightly by covering the basil with row covers when frost is threatened. Make sure you don’t let the row cover touch the leaves, frost on the outside of the row cover is enough to damage the tender leaves of the plant, likely turning the leaves of the plant black.

Fertilizer Requirement: You need to fertilize the plant often. You can use all-purpose fertilizer, it works very well and it will help to ensure that the new leaves grow continuously.

Basil Varieties

Sweet basil has many cultivars as well as other related species with unique tastes. You can try these different kinds of basil:

Genovese basil: Genovese basil variety has larger leaves than the species sweet basil, with the entire flavor.

Cinnamon Basil: Cinnamon Basil has green foliage and purple flowers with cinnamon scent.

Lemon basil variety: The Lemon basil is a hybrid plant with a distinct odor and a taste of citrus.

Thai basil variety: The Thai basil variety has a sweeter taste with a hint of licorice. The Thai basil is very common in Asian cuisine, most especially Vietnamese dishes.

Harvesting Basil

The basil leaves can be harvested when the plants are about six to eight inches tall. You can pick the leaves regularly even if you are not using the leaves in cooking or drying or freezing, actually picking the leaves regularly will improve the plant’s vitality. The leaves can be easily dried or frozen for use after harvest. The dried basil is convenient but the flavor will reduce. Frozen basil really has a stronger flavor than the dried basil but at the cost of is texture.

Pests and Diseases Control

One of the biggest basil pests is Aphids, most especially with the plants that are grown indoors. Slugs and beetles also can be a nuisance on outdoor plants, by creating holes in the plant leaves. You can cover your entire basil plant with a soap solution of two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid to a full gallon of water to eradicate these pests.

Also this plant is susceptible to powdery mildew, this can be easily controlled by providing a lot of space between the plants to improve air circulation. Also avoid overhead watering, which can easily splash fungal spores onto the basil plants. Make sure you picked off and discard severely affected leaves.

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