Every herb garden should have a basil plant or two. The good news is that this traditionally annual herb is now also available in perennial forms, such as perennial pink basil, sacred basil and columnar basil, so you won’t need to sow new seeds each year. However, if you prefer the annual form of basil, there is a wide range of varieties available, from lemon basil and cinnamon basil to mint basil and purple varieties like Dark Opal and Purple Ruffles.
Planting tips :
- Choose an area of your garden which receives morning sun and where the soil drains well. Remove any sticks and stones from the soil and add a generous amount of compost.
- Sow seeds at a depth of 3mm and keep the soil moist until germination has taken place (usually the first 7 days).
- Once the seedlings are well established, thin them out until the final bushes are 30cm apart. Pinch off the growing flower tips to encourage the production of more leaves.
- Too much water or poor drainage can lead to a condition known as boytris which will manifest as black patches on the leaves. Improve the drainage of your soil by adding bark or coarse compost to the soil.
- Basil leaves should be harvested as you need them as they do not store well in the fridge. You can pick whole stems and place them in a jar of water inside your home – they’ll last for a few days this way.
- Basil is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes as it repels aphids, fruit fly and beetles, and is said to improve the flavour of tomatoes grown nearby.
- Basil is an essential herb for both Italian and Thai cooking – make sure you add the leaves at the end of the cooking process to preserve their delicate flavour.
- Blend basil leaves with olive oil, parmesan and pine nuts to make your own pesto.
- Rub fresh basil leaves on insect bites and stings to relieve the itching.
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