Jan 122017
 

Basil (Photograph by Bulleen Art & Garden)

Basil is one of the best known herbs in the world, and with good reason. It’s tasty, attractive and very easy to grow. With over 100 different species to choose from, Basil is never faulty!

The most common type of basil grown in the home patch is sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), a large fleshy leaved annual, but keep an eye out for these other varieties next time you’re at BAAG.

Thai Basil: A very attractive basil with fine, elongated leaves and a slight licorice / aniseed flavour. Fantastic in Asian inspired cooking.

Perennial Basil: As the name suggests, this basil can actually be grown over several seasons, unlike many of the other varieties. A pleasant, mild basil flavour, perennial basil can be used fresh or dried.

Lemon Basil: Not surprisingly, this basil has a distinct lemon flavour, and is a beauty in both marinades, vinegars and even sweet dishes like fruit salads.

Cinnamon Basil: A slightly fussy short-lived annual, Cinnamon Basil has a delicious cinnamon flavour, and is a real treat in salads, marinades and sweet dishes.

Greek Basil: A fast growing, compact basil with smaller leaves. Often foliage is dried and used in herb mixes.

Basil doesn’t really like the cold, which is good news for people in warmer areas, but can lead to problems in colder regions, especially those affected by frost. Sweet basil a summer growing annual, meaning that (in theory) basil will die back once the cold hits every year.

So, where to position your basil? The hot tip would be somewhere… well… hot! Basil loves full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, especially in the warmer months of the year. In the cooler months, increase your chances of success by ensuring your basil has at least four hours of sun each day.

Sweet Basil loves a rich soil full of organic matter, but is doesn’t like chicken manure. Try enriching your soil with compost… your basil will thank you for it! The more fertile your soil is, the better flavour and performance your basil will have. And, as with all our vegie patch favourites, mulch with pea straw or similar.

Basil likes food, and lots of it! Sweet basil is what we call a gross feeder and will eat anything it is given. Liquid seaweed, worm farm liquid or liquid manure is the best, and these should be applied fairly frequently through the growing season, for fragrant, healthy, tasty basil. And remember… the more you pick, the more you need to feed!

Basil likes it fairly damp (NOT soaking wet), but check soil moisture before watering. Water in the morning, and avoid watering the foliage, especially as weather cools. Basil should never be watered with greywater.

There is no set time to eat basil… essentially any time you feel like it is great. And remember, the more you eat, the better the plant will be, especially if you give it a feed after using. Pick often to prevent the Basil going leggy and setting seed too early, leaving you loving your basil for longer. The pretty purple/white flowers should be removed too if you want luscious leaves and fragrant flowers for longer.

Basil can have a few pest and disease issues, but one thing is guaranteed… if you plant it, they will come (they being snails and caterpillars). Try some beer traps for the snails, and treat any caterpillar action with Dipel or Success (available in the shop at the nursery).

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