Basil: Planting, Growing and Harvesting Tips
By Linda Chan & Marion Yas
James Bay Neighbourhood Association, Garden Committee
The most common question local herb aficionado Luke Borisenko hears is what's the trick to growing basil. Simple! Live somewhere hot and humid; failing that, here are some simple ways to make the most of your basil plants.
Unlike many other herbs, basil doesn't mind living indoors. It won't necessarily reach 1 or 2 feet tall as it could outside, and will usually grow slower, but you will still be able to enjoy its unique flavour and scent. The best place to grow basil, however, is outdoors, directly in the ground or in medium to large pots. Your basil plants will need a spot that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun and is protected from the wind by trees, smaller plants, or a clear windbreak.
Wherever you choose to grow basil, be sure to do so in rich, fresh soil. The plants are heavy feeders and do well with a fertile mulch of manure or compost. Regular watering in the morning is best, less water on cool days or when growing indoors. Fungal diseases commonly affect basil plants, so let the soil dry out between watering. Some good companion plants with similar needs could include tomato, parsley, oregano, and lettuce.
As with all herbs, basil should be harvested gently and often. Remove no more than 1/3 of its height at a time, with continual snipping of flower buds to maintain healthy leaf growth. But you might want to let some of your plants blossom: basil flowers are edible, they make great tea, and your neighbourhood butterflies and honey bees will thank you for the nectar!
Basil is cultivated around the world, popular for medicinal as well as culinary uses. There are more than 60 varieties native to Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and the Americas. Luke Borisenko presently grows 8 of them—Genovese, Dolly, Amethyst Purple, Holy, Globe, Lime, Peruvian, and Lettuce Leaf—in his back-yard James Bay garden. According to Luke, “Basil’s impossible to capture essence is certainly worth all your efforts; there is nothing like fresh basil leaves in a salad, with eggs, or in a stir-fry.”
If you would like your garden or favourite plant featured in the James Bay Beacon, please contact the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, Garden Committee. Happy gardening!
Basil plants for you to colour: