Name/Botanical Name: Basil, Ocimum Basilicum
Description: A highly flavored tender annual herb that is used in many dishes. Sweet basil can reach 2-3 feet tall. It attracts butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden.
There are many different varieties of Basil such as lemon basil, cinnamon basil, sweet basil and more. The best way to find variety is to shop for seeds. I have noticed a few lesser-known varieties of seeds in the stores, but you will find more variety through specialty seed catalogs.
Plant requirements: Basil likes well-drained soil that is rich in nutrients. It also likes full sun and lots of water. Basil also likes warm weather and will not do well if the weather turns cold.
Propagation: You can start seeds early indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost or take cuttings. Germination of seeds takes at least 2 weeks. Directly seeding outdoors after frost has passed and soil has warmed will also do well.
Planting: Plant basil in the garden after all danger of frost has passed and temperatures are consistently 60 degrees F or more. Space plants about 12 inches apart.
Care: Slugs and snails love basil, so you'll need to protect your plants from them. You can crush eggshells and put a ring of them around the base of each plant or put a ring of gravel. Pinch back often to encourage bushy growth.
Harvest just before flowering or while flowering. You can also pick leaves as needed anytime.
In the Garden: Basil can be grown in containers or in the garden as an ornamental plant. Grow purple leaved varieties next to the green leaved varieties for a beautiful contrast.
Companion Planting: Basil is said to improve the growth and flavor of asparagus, tomatoes and most vegetables except cabbage and snap beans and is said to repel whiteflies. It is also a great companion to roses by improving their growth and providing some protection from insects.
Culinary: There a many different ways to use basil in the kitchen. Here are just a few. The purple or red varieties make beautiful herb vinegars. Lemon basil is a great addition to fruit salads or to use when cooking poultry. Lemon or cinnamon basil can be used in jellies, honeys, vinegars and baked goods. Sweet basil is excellent with Italian dishes such as spaghetti.
Crafts: Use lemon or cinnamon basil in potpourri. Basil is symbolic for best wishes and warm friendship; this could be taken into account if you are making an arrangement for a special occasion. Basil can be dried and used in herb/dried flower wreaths.
Repel Insects: Rub the leaves on your skin or grow in a container near a troubled area to repel insects such as mosquitoes. You can also burn sprigs of it on the barbecue or fire to repel them. Place fresh sprigs of it over bowls of food to prevent flies from landing.
As you can see, basil is a very useful, decorative and valuable herb that is well worth the minimal effort to grow. I hope you'll try it if you haven't already.
Monica Resinger is a loving wife and doting mother of two who enjoys gardening, painting, dancing and homemaking.
You can check out some of her other articles at http://ezinearticles.com/?expert=Monica_Resinger
Take the Next Step: Decide where you'd like to grow your own basil, whether in a container or in a garden.
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