Starting a Herb Garden? Try Basil

by Alesha Wilson
(Wilmington, NC)

If youíre a beginner gardener, basil should be at the top of your list as your starter plant. Like tomatoes, they grow fast and you can harvest all season long. Growing this plant also doesnít require a lot of gardening knowledge. Just get some fundamental principles right, and you can grow as many pots of this delightful herb as you want. Basil is also a practical herb because you can create the best pizza and pasta dishes just by adding it as a topping.

Here are some practical tips to growing basil as your first herb garden plant.

Choose your pots or planters wisely. The ideal container for basil seedlings has sufficient drainage. Beware that some of the high-end pots that look great in your garden have very few holes at the bottom, or have no holes at all. Get sturdy, serviceable pots with built-in holes so that you can drain the soil well before you can transplant your seedlings. Flooding the soil with water can be damaging to the development of the basil seedlings.

You can grow basil on potting soil and compost. The only thing you have to do is to make sure the soil has ample room for air circulation. Turn the soil properly if youíre planting the basil directly on the ground. Break up chunks of soil, and make sure the soil is hydrated but not waterlogged. Apply the manure or fertilizer on top of the soil, so that it can be mixed with the soil when you start turning.

Go for the most popular variety in the beginning and branch out later. Common basil is Ocimum basilicum, and this is the easiest to find. The more pungent varieties are used for specialty dishes, such as lemon basil and Thai basil. Ocimum basilicum is called sweet basil because any dish that has it becomes tasty, with a hint of sweetness. There may be other cultivated varieties, but choose one that you can harvest in two and a half months.

Watering your basil plants is probably the trickiest part of the whole thing, especially if you start from seed. The soil should be sufficiently moist to keep the plant growing, but you should never flood the pot and drown the plant. The rule of thumb is that bigger pots need more water but less frequent watering, while smaller pots need a small amount of water but more frequent watering. Wait three or four days to water again if the climate is mild and humid. Wilting in the basal leaves of the plant means it needs more water, which means you should water more frequently. Bring the pot outside when you water to ensure that the residual liquid drains out without a pan to obstruct the potís drainage holes.

Get ready to cook with basil as soon as the leaves are developed. The sooner you pluck the leaves at the top, the more the plant will develop. The principles of pruning apply in the case of basil. You need to continually take leaves off for more new leaves to grow.

Alesha Wilson is a staff writer at Get Rockwell Nutrition design for health detox programs by following the link.

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