Even if you do not know the first thing about Italian cooking you should learn how to grow basil. This plant is often referred to as the royal queen of herbs and it is one of the easiest edibles for anyone to grow at home.
There are a wonderful array of different varieties of basil that you can select from including Spicy Globe, Genovese basil, Thai basil, Lemon basil, Sweet Basil, Mexican Spice, Lettuce Leaf, Magical Michael and many others. Italian cooks are well aware that the sweet, savory flavors of Genovese Basil are the perfect accompaniment for any Italian cuisine.
Thai and other Asian dishes are enhanced by the spicy, aromatic Thai Basil. Although most varieties of basil have culinary uses there are a few that are highly prized for their ornamental value.
This wonderful aromatic and hardy herb can be successfully grown in almost any setting. If you live in a very cool climate it might be best to cultivate basil varieties in a greenhouse environment or inside your home. Basil performs admirably when the temperatures are above 60 degrees both during the day and night. Plant your basil plants into 2 to 3 litre containers and place them in your sunniest spot. Water them only through a saucer, never from the top. Pinch out the flowers as they develop.
Warm, dry weather will never daunt the perky green foliage and mature plants are able to withstand drought with minimal watering. Basil is a sun loving plants that should never be set out in shadier areas.
Gardeners add these as companion plants in a vegetable or flower bed but basil is equally at home in a visually appealing herb garden. Some people even plant these herbs in rock gardens or use them as specimen plants. This resilient little herb can be grown indoors or outside and you can even set them out in containers of almost any size and basil will happily produce fresh, fragrant leaves throughout the growing season.
Start off basil seeds indoors or in a glasshouse in the spring. Cover them only lightly with fine seed compost as basil seeds are very small. The seeds need minimum 10 degrees for germination.
Transplant the basil seedlings when they start to produce their second set of leaves. If you grow basil in pots you can plant 5-10 basil plants into a container.
The water requirements for growing basil are relatively slight and once a week watering is more than adequate for the needs of these plants.
Never overwater your basil plant and allow the soil to dry out completely in between watering. If you always let the soil remain a bit on the dry side it will help you prevent any root or plant rot. Misting or sprinkling the outdoor garden basil with a little water is one way many gardeners choose to handle the watering chores. If you have basil growing in a container watering the plants from the top should be avoided, although you may want to add some water to the bottom overflow saucer and allow the plant to absorb the water that is needed.
Aphids and whiteflies can attack your basil but both of these pests can be handled without resorting to harsh chemical pesticides. A little soapy water and a cloth or sprayer is all that should be required to eliminate these tiny insects from your bountiful basil garden.
Remember that lacewings, lady bugs, walking sticks and the praying mantis are all beneficial insects that can be an asset when you want to keep harmful bugs away from your herbs, flowers or vegetable gardens.
The leaves from a basil plant are packed with savory, rich flavor when you use them immediately after harvesting. Always use basil that is freshly picked and only add it the meat, sauce, stew or vegetable dish after the food has been cooked.
The fresh taste of basil should not be subjected to the high heats needed for cooking and should only be incorporated into the cooked dishes shortly before they are served at the table.