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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Growing Basil

Part of our Culinary Herb Series


Basil is a warm-season tender herb with soft stems and leaves.  It's popular for many reasons.  It makes the perfect partner for tomatoes, not only in the garden where its strong scent may confuse predatory insect pests but also chopped and sprinkled on thick slices of juicy tomatoes, still warm from the sun.




Popular types of Basil



Christmas Basil Height: 16-20"

This basil will add a fruity flavor to salads and drinks.  It has glossy green leaves and purple flowers.


Cinnamon Basil Height 25-30"

This basil has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor.  It has dark purple stems and flowers and small glossy leaves.  It's used in fresh arrangements and in fruit salads and as garnishes.



Dark Opal Basil Height 14-20"

Spicy basil in salads, in pesto and as garnishes.  Purple stems, flowers, and leaves.



Holy Basil Height 12-14"

The leaves are used to make tea for boosting your immune system.  Mottled green and purple leaves.



Lemon Basil Height 20-24"

Lemon basil is used in fish dishes and iced tea.  Light green leaves with white flowers.



Lime Basil Height 12-16"

Lime basil is a compact basil with green leaves and white flowers.  It's used with fresh fish and chicken dishes, teas and margaritas.



Purple Ruffle Basil Height 16-20"

This basil has the same flavor as Opal basil and is used for floral arrangements and garnishes.



Sweet Basil Height 14-30"

Sweet Basil is used in Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto.  It's more prolific in hot sunny locations.



Sweet Tai Basil Height 12-16"

An Asian variety with a distinct spicy anise-clove flavor.  Purple stems and blooms with green leaves.



Starting Basil from Seed


Seed Longevity:                                      5 years. 
Seed Sowing Depth:                               Just cover.
Days to harvest:                                      60-90 days.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:             75-85 degrees.
Days to Germination:                               5-10 days.








Spring Sowing                                    

Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.  Plant out after all danger of frost has passed.



Direct Sowing

Direct sow seeds straight into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.  

                                  
  


Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.








Growing Basil


Plant size:                                          See list above.
Growing Soil Temperature:                75-85 degrees. 
Spacing:                                             4-8" apart.
Container Size:                                  16"-18" diameter.
Soil:                                                    Well-drained, moderately rich and loose.
Watering:                                            Light and even.
Light/Sun:                                           Full sun  6-8 hours.

Good Companions:                           Pepper, tomatoes.
Bad Companions:                             Beans, cabbage, cucumbers.
Fertilizer:                                         

If grown in rich soil, none.  Otherwise, light fertilizer one time during the growing season.



Basil Cuttings

Take a 4" long cutting from a stem that hasn't flowered yet.  Remove the leaves from the bottom 2" and place in water on a windowsill.  After the roots are 2" long, usually 2-4 weeks, pot in soil and continue to grow.  



Harvesting Basil

Harvest the flower buds before they open.  Harvest the leaves anytime they are large enough to use.

Harvest the whole plant before frost, preferably in the morning.



Harvesting Basil Seeds

Wait until the stem or seed pods turn brown.  When the seeds are viable, they will be black in color.



Storing Basil


Fresh
Bouquet Storage  
 

Clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Trim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  Place the Basil into a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers.  Leave at room temperature.


Freezing

For best results, use frozen Basil within one year.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.
Here are some suggestions for freezing:


Whole Leaf Freeze

Remove the stems.  Blanch the leaves for 2 seconds, then dunk in ice water bath.  Dry completely and store in freezer bags.


Ice Cube Trays

Remove the stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Puree one cup of basil with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Freeze the pureed basil in ice cube trays firmly packed 3/4 full.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.






Flat Freezer Bag

Remove stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Chop herb into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.








Drying

Basil does not dry well.






Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.

To view the other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.


Chives

Cilantro


Dill


Mint


Oregano


Parsley


Rosemary


Thyme


Sage



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Where to go next!











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All About Transplant Shock


Transplant shock is a natural occurrence whenever a plant is uprooted from its former home and moved to a foreign environment.


Moving a plant from one place to another is not as simple as digging it up, plopping it in the ground and hoping it will be fine. Plants that undergo too much transplant shock can be open to diseases, pests, and can weaken them to the point where they never fully recover. If they are food plants, you may notice a smaller harvest or no harvest at all.


While plants that have already established a good size root system have a better chance of recovering from the transplant process than young plants or home-grown seedlings, there are certain steps you can take to ensure success.




Timing

Although you can transplant plants any time of the year that the soil is workable, the best time to do this is generally the beginning of Spring and the Fall.


It's possible to transplant in the summer, but more watering and care will be needed as the plant will respond much more slowly as it battles both the transplant and the heat.



As a general rule, perennials that bloom in the spring are best moved in late summer or fall. These include plants like Bleeding Hearts, Astilbe, and Peonies.


 

Fall bloomers, like sedum, asters, and coneflowers, are best transplanted in early spring.

Since it takes six weeks for perennials to become established in their new home, if you transplant in the fall, do so at least six weeks before the first hard frost.

The best time of the day to transplant a plant is in the afternoon when the sun is not as direct or bright. A cloudy or rainy day is ideal.



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Gardener's Tip

If it's a sunny day, a tented piece of cardboard draped over the plants will give them some respite from the sun.

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Placement

Choose a location that fits the plant's needs. The amount of sun versus shade is always the most important consideration.



The Soil

The soil in your new spot should be ready before the plant is dug up. Remove any perennials weeds that will rob the transplant of space and moisture.


New plant growth can be stimulated by an application of macronutrients including phosphorus, calcium, potassium, and nitrogen which are important in the formation of new tissue. It is best to supply these nutrients at the time of transplanting.


A detailed article about soil amendments can be found by clicking here.



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Gardener's Tip

If the soil has not completely warmed in early spring, you can place some black plastic over the top of the area and let the sunshine warm it before planting.

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Water

One of the biggest causes of a shock to transplanted plants is lack of water. Good, steady watering over the first few weeks after transplanting will help the plants to settle in and allow the roots to grow down and spread out. 


And since you will be watering more often, this is a great chance to make sure that your soil is draining well. Stagnant non-draining water will do more harm than good.


If drainage is a problem, add Perlite or Vermiculite to the new planting hole.


A topping of 2-3” of mulch will help to protect the plant roots from temperature variations.


To read an article about organic mulch choices for your garden, click here.


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Gardener's Tip

A good practice is to soak the root ball before planting it in the new spot and water regularly for the next few weeks.

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Digging up the Plant

As you dig, take care to disturb the roots as little as possible. Dig up a generous amount of soil around the plant roots to keep the root ball intact.

A bit about roots

While the thickest roots are closest to the root ball, the most important roots are the furthest from the plant. These smaller roots are the roots that take up nutrients. If too much of the root system is taken off, the plant may suffer a nutrient deficiency shortly after transplant and no amount of nutrients added after that may be able to counteract that damage.


If damaged or diseased roots need to be removed before replanting, it's a good idea to remove some of the plant's top growth also which will give the roots fewer leaves to support as it recovers.


A good rule of thumb is to cut back the perennial by one third. For most plants, you can generally cut back as much as half of the leaves without causing damage.


Since plants with dense foliage or large leaves are more likely to suffer from transplant shock, it is advisable to cut these back. This is a good time, too, to remove any dead branches, stems or dried leaves.



Planting

  • Plant at the same depth as it was growing at.
  • Space the plant appropriately to allow for good airflow. Consider the size of the plant's mature width and add 4-6”.
  • After being transplanted, a plant's growth will naturally slow down temporarily and the leaves may wilt until the plant recovers. The plants at this stage are not only struggling to repair any damage caused by being transplanted but are also trying to put on new growth.
  • After your transplant is in the ground, don't forget about it. It still needs four to six weeks of care until the plant visibly bounces back. When they do, you can then treat it as you would a mature plant.




Transplanting Seedlings Into the Garden


When it comes to transplanting seedlings into the garden, the method is a bit more time-consuming. You are moving seedlings or young plants that have been babied and coddled indoors under controlled conditions and now they're going out to the unsheltered world.

Because it is the most stressful time for the plants, it is imperative that you harden off the seedlings, meaning acclimate them to the outdoors slowly. 

This process is explained in detail in our hardening off article. To read it, click here.


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Whether you're transplanting to grow your supply or adding newcomers to the garden, a little extra effort will ensure your best chance for transplant success.






















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