Planting Basil

For me, the middle of October is basil planting time. Although I have experimented with lots of different basils I still seem to prefer the annual sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Fresh Basil is a must in Thai beef salad, with fresh tomato on bruschetta, on pizza, in a Napolitano pasta sauce and ratatouille, when the late summer veg are abundant.
I love to have fresh basil in the kitchen, so after a winter of using preserved basil or pesto, to add the fabulous basil flavour to dishes, I am anxious to get some plants started so I can use fresh product again.

I preserve it in the form of pesto, to have with pasta or on chicken or as Basil butter which I use with steak or added to tomato soup in winter. If I have further surplus I also pack fresh leaves into jars and top with olive oil to use during the winter months. All these preserving methods are great but they do not compare to the fresh leaf. So I try to have plants growing as long as possible so I plant early and do successive plantings till late summer.

Basil loves full sun and hot weather, but dislikes drying out, so keep the water up to your plants for lots of lush green growth. If the plants become water stressed they will bolt into flower and that will be the end of your crop.

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The soil is still too cold in the highlands at this time of year to get seed to germinate in the garden, so I will get my first crop of the season going in a pot in a warm sunny spot.
I simply fill a 20cm pot with good quality potting mix; leave about a 5 cm gap at the top. Firm down and place 2cm of seed raising mix on top. Scatter about 10 to 15 seeds evenly over the seed raising mix, cover with a another thin layer of seed raising mix, firm down again and gently water in.

Once they have germinated and have two sets of true leaves I start to liquid feed them with ½ strength Powerfeed every week. The Powerfeed will keep them growing quickly and will promote the growth of lots of leaf for use in the kitchen.

I start to use the leaves as soon as the plants are 10 to 15 cm high, though I only pick 2 or 3 leaves off each plant when they are this small.
Once the soil is warmer I will direct sow seed into the garden. I usually sow a crop in early December another in mid-January and then my final planting in mid-February. I plant about 20 seeds each time and then thin them to about 20 cm apart leaving the best 10 plants.

Other than protecting young basil plants from snails and stopping the bower birds from eating it, Basil is fairly trouble free.
By doing successive planting I am assured of having fresh Basil leaves all through the warmer months with lots of surplus to then preserve for the cooler months. Why not have a go a growing this wonderfully fragrant herb, your taste buds will thank you.

Sharing is caring, and I would love to see your new basil plants – if you start growing some at your place, please post a photo on my Facebook page so I can check out your garden!

Happy gardening
Kathy

Posted on October 18, 2014 in HOW TO GROW, SUMMER

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Responses (8)

  1. rabidlittlehippy
    October 18, 2014 at 9:34 pm · Reply

    I’ve had some basil inpots onmy windowsill all winter. Not doing wonderfully well but enough for pasta with some basil and sun dreid tomatoes or pesto last week with some basil in it. Yum! I snapped off the side shoots last week and popped them in a glass of water, keeping the water fresha nd they put out roots! I will plant them out in the garden in the next week or so when I plant out my tomatoes. 🙂 I will also sow some seeds as you say above. 🙂 Here’s to a future full of lovely basil.

    • kmfinigan
      October 19, 2014 at 2:34 am · Reply

      Im so glad to hear that you are having some success with the pots! Its so lovely to be able to pick a few leaves off and add them to food as you go, its one of my favourite things. Id love to see a photo if you have one – pop it up on my Facebook page if you like!

      • rabidlittlehippy
        October 19, 2014 at 7:29 am · Reply

        I’m not on Facebook as it totally absorbed all my time when I was. I closed my account just before we moved up here to Ballan. My basil look pretty scraggly so I doubt I’ve photographed them for my blog (I don’t remember doing so) but might well put up a post soon. 🙂 The looks don’t matter though as fresh basil is heavenly. 😀

  2. fergie51
    October 20, 2014 at 9:12 am · Reply

    Thanks for the reminder! Best basil I’ve grown was when I grew it in plastic drink cups (saved from the rubbish) which I nestled into a polystyrene tray (looked a bit like those drink trays you get at drive through food places) and floated them in a tub with feeding solution in it. Grew like stink, had no problems with bugs and the cups proved to be good to bring indoors and use fresh or give to friends. Bit hard to explain I now realise as reading back! 🙂

    • kmfinigan
      October 21, 2014 at 12:27 am · Reply

      This is great to hear fergie! What do you use your basil for? Im so partial to Pesto that I get distracted trying to make sure I have enough basil to make it that I cook other things less.

  3. The Life & Meals of Leonie Smith
    October 22, 2014 at 12:55 am · Reply

    Do you have any tips on keeping basil snail and bird free? I tried to grow some earlier this year (I am fairly new to gardening!) and didn’t get anything out of the plants, as it was all eaten by snails when it was still a small plant! I was quite disappointed, as I, too, love home-made pesto. Any advice would be brilliant! Thanks in advance.

    • kmfinigan
      October 22, 2014 at 4:29 am · Reply

      I can imagine your disappointment! Ive got a bunch of different tips and tricks for pests, which I put all in one module on my website – you can check that out here: http://bit.ly/1tcu8rj

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