How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Basil in Your Garden

Basil is a popular herb in many gardens due to its many different uses. They are also quite popular in the gardens of beginning gardeners, amateurs, and experts alike. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey walks through every step you'll need to follow in order to successfully plant, grow, and care for Basil in your garden.

Basil Growing Indoors

No summer meal is complete without the fragrant delight of basil. Pestos, pizzas, pastas, curries, soups, and caprese salads are brought to life by this ubiquitous herb used in cuisines all over the world. The aromatic leaves come in a wide variety of flavors and colors, and the flowers bring bounds of joy to pollinators throughout the garden.

Basil is a remarkably easy herb to grow in a windowsill or as a little bush in the garden. It is the gift that keeps on giving: you can plant it in the spring and harvest its fragrant leaves all season long. There are even ways to harvest basil that promote more growth for abundant pestos and flavorful meals for as long as the warm weather lasts.

This mint family herb has been cultivated since ancient times. It has often carried with it an air of magic and mystery through its spiritual and medicinal uses in a variety of cultures. All mysticism aside, modern science has proven that basil is amazing for human health as well as ecological resilience in the garden; it even repels pests and attracts beneficial insects.

Needless to say, basil is a staple herb for gardeners worldwide. Its short shelf life and perishability make grocery store basil pale in comparison to homegrown. Thankfully, with a few simple tips, you can easily grow an abundance of delicious basil in your garden. Let’s dig in! 

Basil Overview

Garden Basil
Plant Type Annual
Plant Family Lamiaceae (mint family)
Plant Genus Ocimum
Plant Species basilicum
Hardiness Zone USDA Zones 2-11
Planting Season Late Spring
Plant Maintenance Moderate
Plant Height 24-30”
Fertility Needs Low to moderate
Temperature 50 to 85°F
Companion Plants Asparagus, peppers, tomatoes
Soil Type Well-drained, rich in organic matter
Plant Spacing 4-6” apart
Watering Needs Consistent moisture needed
Sun Exposure Full Sun
Days to Maturity 60-90 days
Pests Japanese Beetles, Slugs
Diseases Downy Mildew, Fusarium Wilt

History and Cultivation

Plant Growing in Pot
Different varieties are used in cuisines and herbal remedies around the world.

Though it is most commonly known for its use in Italian culture, basil is actually native to India and eastern Asia, where archeological records have dated its use back to as early as 800 A.D. The earliest forms were likely domesticated from wild perennial basil (Clinopodium vulgare) in tropical regions of east Asia and northern Africa. 

Over the course of 5,000 years, this sweet herb has infused its way into just about every kitchen around the globe: from Thai curry to Italian pesto to Greek salads to stuffed Mexican chiles to agua frescas to traditional Ayurvedic medicinal preparations, it can be used in nearly any recipe. Its laid back care requirements and fast-growing nature make it easily adaptable to a range of warm climate gardens or even as a potted windowsill herb. 

What is Basil?

Multiple Varieties of Basil
The leaves, flowers and stems of this delicious herb are edible.

Basil is a member of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, along with peppermint, lavender, lemon balm, catnip, oregano, thyme, and other popular herbs. It is grown predominantly for its fragrant leaves, however the flowers and tender stems are also edible. Even the roots can be used for herbal preparations!

Basil is an annual herb that can be grown in USDA zones 2 through 11. In its native tropical climates or indoors with continuous warm temperatures, it can be grown as a tender short-lived perennial vegetable for reaping bountiful harvests year round.

Ocimum basilicium is the botanical name for this popular herb. The genus name Ocimum comes from the Greek word meaning “fragrant”, and the species basilicium dates back to a Roman legend that basil is an antidote to the basilisk snake venom. It may also be linked to the Greek word “basileus” that translates to “king”.

There are dozens of types of basil, including Italian basil, Holy Tulsi (Indian) basil, Thai sweet basil, purple and red basils, Lemon basil, Lime basil, Cinnamon basil, African blue basil, Greek basil, Spicy basil, and more. All of these cultivars are grown in a similar fashion and can be mix-and-matched throughout the garden for some intriguing taste tests.

Where Does Basil Originate?

Chef Cooking with Vegetables and Herbs
Although best known for its use in Italian cooking, this herb is native to tropical regions of Asia.

Basil is native to tropical regions of Asia, including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Iran, and China, with some records dating back to 800 A.D. Globalization and spice traders quickly spread basil’s popularity throughout Europe. Basil arrived in Greece and Italy around 350 BC with Charlemagne armies and became a vital ingredient to both cuisines. Later, in the 16th century, it reached England and the Americas.

The ancestors of domesticated basil still grow wild in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Wild basil (Ocimum gratissimum) and other wild types are native to Africa, Madagascar, Southern Asia, Polynesia, Mexico, West Indies, Brazil, Bolivia, and other parts of Latin America. O. gratissimum is commonly called “clove basil” or “African basil” and has even settled into parts of Hawaii. North America’s native wild basil, Ocimum campechianum, is often called “forest basil” and grows annually throughout parts of the southern U.S.

Needless to say, it has come a long way from its Indian and Asian roots. The herb is highly coveted and even sacred in cultures all around the world. Its reputation for healing and delicious food has garnered an abundance of superstitions and folklore stories dating back 5000 years or more.

Basil as Pest Repellant

Essential Oil
Make an infused oil for help repelling mosquitos.

For thousands of years, humans have also been acutely aware of basil’s ability to repel pests with its fragrant aroma. Simply planting basil in the garden keeps flies, gnats, and other annoying flying bugs at bay. When sprayed and used on the skin as a diluted essential oil, basil can help protect against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne pathogens, as well as repelling ticks.

For your garden plants, it can be used as a companion plant or a biopesticide spray that repels pests like carrot fly, whitefly, beetles, and more. Regularly touching the leaves or crushing them in a spray preparation helps release more of their oils for a stronger effect. 

Where Ancient Traditions Meet Modern Uses

Dried and Fresh Basil
With antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties, this herb can do it all.

Medicinally, basil has been used to heal a variety of ailments, from snake bites to digestion and treating infections, and even healing from heartbreak. Modern science has proven many of basil’s ancient antimicrobial and pharmacological uses to be increasingly relevant in modern applications.

For example, the growing problems with antibiotic drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria has led to proposed use of the essential oil of basil for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiparasitic properties. Holy basil has been studied for use in preventing and treating cancer. Research has even confirmed basil’s positive benefits as an antidepressant, adaptogenic herb, and ability to help heal wounds. It turns out that ancient traditions around this infamous herb were rooted in true health.

Health Benefits

Knife on Cutting Board
To get the most out of basil, it is best to grow your own at home and harvest as needed.

Since the rise in popularity of the Mediterranean diet, many nutritionists have turned their focus to understanding how specific herbs like basil promote health with daily consumption. Basil is a great source of vitamins and minerals, rich in Vitamins A, C, and K, iron, manganese, calcium, and even omega-3 fatty acids.

These benefits are mostly available through consumption of fresh or frozen basil, which is why it is so important to grow your own garden-fresh basil every year! Dried basil retains some important nutrients, but lacks the flavor and antioxidant profile of freshly harvested leaves from your garden. As you’ll see below, there are many ways to preserve and extend your harvest for nutritious use in meals during the winter.

Research has shown that basil can reduce memory loss from stress and aging, help alleviate depression and chronic stress, reduce the risk of stroke, reduce blood pressure, increase mental alertness, prevent cancer, inhibit dental decay, and even improve food safety (through its antimicrobial properties). It also repels insects like mosquitoes and ticks, as well as warding off pests in the garden.

Propagation

Plant Growing in Cup
Propagating your plant by using cuttings is an easy way to multiply your harvest.

In spite of its elegant appearance and high-end reputation, it is remarkably easy to grow. It is the perfect beginner plant thanks to its quick germination and easy multiplication with cuttings.

You can either start with seeding your own basil or buying a basil plant from a local nursery, then propagating it by cuttings. Seeding will allow you to experiment with more unique varieties, whereas buying transplants will get you started more quickly without having to invest in a seed-starting setup.

How to Propagate Basil by Cutting

Plant Cutting in Window
Enjoy watching the roots fill a glass or bottle in your window before planting your basil in soil.

For those intimidated by seed starting, it is the perfect beginner plant to buy from the store and propagate by cutting. Basil starts are widely available and eagerly grow in pots or containers indoors or outside during the warm season.

Cuttings are simply pieces of the stem that can be rooted in a glass of water by the windowsill. After 2 to 4 weeks, the stem cuttings will grow new roots and be ready to be planted in soil. This way, you can easily share basil with friends and family, or simply multiply it for your own abundant supply.

To take basil cuttings, start with a healthy medium-sized basil plant that is at least 6” tall. Find a robust side stem that is at least 4” long and use a clean knife or pruners to cut it right below a leaf node (the nub on the stem where leaves grow out on each side). Remove the lower leaves of the cutting, leaving at least 1-2 sets of leaves on the top.

Submerge the leafless portion of the cutting in a glass of water and place it near a brightly lit window. You will need to change the water every few days until roots start to grow, which can take a week or so. Once you start to see new root growth, leave the basil cutting to grow roots at least 2” long. Then, you’re ready to transplant the baby cutting into soil!

Prepare a pot or planter with well-drained potting mix and gently plant the cutting in a hole, watering it thoroughly. Place it near direct sunlight and watch it grow into a whole new plant! I like to propagate lots of basil cuttings at once for gifts and garden transplants.

How to Seed Basil

Seeding Basil in Cups
Give your plant a good start by growing it indoors before transplanting outside.

Basil is not usually direct-sown in the garden unless you live in a very warm climate. It’s best to start indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your last spring frost and transplant out in the garden once the weather has settled (about 2 weeks after the last frost). Either way, seeding basil is very straightforward and the same whether in a garden bed, pot, or seedling tray.

Begin with 6-pack or 72-cell seedling trays filled with a rich, well-drained soil mix. Heated germination pads beneath the trays are very helpful for quick, even germination of basil. After all, this is a tropical plant that really loves to be warm and cozy.

Create dibbles about ¼” deep and plant 1-3 seeds per cell. Keep them around 70°F and wait 5-10 days for germination. Once plants have true leaves, use needle nose pruners to gently thin to 1 plant per cell. They will be ready to transplant when the seedlings have 3-4 sets of true leaves and a robust root ball.

Planting

Planting Vegetables in Garden
Plants grown indoors or bought from the store will do great outdoors, as long as temperatures are moderate.

Whether you buy basil transplants from a garden store or grow your own, planting is a simple process. Just be sure to wait until the weather has thoroughly settled above 50°F at night, often at least 2 weeks after the last spring frost. 

Basil also companion plants well with several other plants. Bell peppers plant well with Basil, as do tomatoes, and asparagus. If you plan on planting multiple types of veggies in your garden, keep these peaceful co-habitants in mind.

How to Transplant Basil

Transplanting Plants in Pots
Acclimate your seedlings to cooler temperatures before transplanting them outside.

Be sure to harden off basil seedlings a week or so before transplanting by slowly acclimating them to cooler outdoor temperatures and slightly less water. Keep them semi-protected during this period to ensure that they don’t get shocked by the sudden changes.

Begin planting by preparing garden beds with a generous amendment of compost and loosening the soil with a broadfork or digging fork. Rake the surface flat and mark holes about 4-8” apart in rows 18” apart.

Grasp the basil seedlings gently at the base and wiggle out of their containers, being careful not to disturb the roots. Use your hands or a digging trowel to widen a hole just a bit larger than the rootball. Plant right at the soil line, not too deep nor too shallow. Lightly backfill with soil (don’t tamper it down) and thoroughly water it with a diluted fish solution to reduce transplant shock and boost early growth.

Basil needs consistent moisture all season long, but especially right after planting. Use soaker hoses or drip irrigation for the best results and monitor the plants closely for the first two weeks. I prefer to use row cover over the basil for added heat and protection in the spring. The fabric can “float” directly over the baby plants or you can secure it to low tunnel hoops for a mini greenhouse effect.

How to Grow Basil

Plant with Leaves and Flowers
This is a great plant for beginners.

Basil is by-far one of the easiest herbs to grow and is very forgiving to beginner gardeners. As long as it has sunlight, warmth, and consistent water, basil is easygoing. A loose, rich soil will help improve leaf production and proper harvest methods will promote bushier, more prolific growth.

Light

Green Plant in Full Sunlight
This herb grows best with full sun.

Basil is a heat-loving plant that needs full sunlight to thrive. Ideally, it should get 6-8 hours of direct sun every day. It can get sunburnt inside greenhouses during peak summer (when it may benefit from a light shade cloth), but this is not a problem in most gardens. Avoid planting in areas where it may get shaded out by buildings or trees.

If you are growing in containers, be sure that you put them by the brightest window in your home, preferably south-facing. Too little sunlight will result in leggy, weak, or stunted basil growth. Signs of low light in basil include small pale leaves, elongated skin, and a dull yellowing color on the foliage.

Water

Watering Plant in Garden
Keep your soil moist to avoid wilted, drooping leaves.

Consistent moisture is key to a happy basil plant. It never wants to be soggy or dry, but rather a moderate level of soil moisture all season long. Drought stress is the biggest threat to basil production because it can result in heat damage and leaf drop. Reliable irrigation and timers are helpful for maintaining soil moisture, however the best buffer against drought issues is a healthy, rich, water-holding soil.

Soil

Soil Potting With Plant
Mix soil and compost together before planting.

Like most of our favorite garden plants, basil loves a rich soil that has plenty of organic matter and drainage. A heaping addition of compost will improve the water-holding capacity of the soil and promote deep healthy root formation. A neutral pH between 6.0 and 7.5 is ideal.

If you have heavy clay soils, be sure to loosen up with a broadfork and add compost before planting. Compaction will slow growth and can result in weak establishment. If your soil is sandy, water may move through the soil profile very quickly and the plant will have trouble holding onto moisture. Compost makes a huge difference in this scenario as well as mulching.

Climate and Temperature

Green Plant Growing in Warm Climate
The hotter the better for this tropical herb.

Basil is a warm-weather crop that prefers temperatures between 50° and 85°F. It can tolerate down to 33°F, but will suffer from frost and cold damage that looks like blackening, wilting, or complete plant death.

On the other side of the spectrum, basil loves the heat and can tolerate up to triple digits as long as it has enough water. That being said, you should always try to harvest in the cool mornings or evenings rather than the heat of the day. Basil picked in peak warmth will wilt and blacken very quickly in your kitchen.

Basil can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 2 through 11. Anyone in a cold climate will definitely want to start basil indoors to enjoy the longest season of harvest. Basil is a tender perennial in subtropical and tropical climates. It can even be kept in a warm windowsill all year round if it gets enough sunlight, warmth, and water. If you have a miniature greenhouse or large south-facing window, it’s a perfect crop to take up some of that prime real estate thanks to its continuous ability to produce fragrant, healthy, delicious leaves.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing in Pot
For quicker growth and healthy leaves, use organic compost and an occasional dose of diluted fish fertilizer.

Ocimum basilicum is a light to moderate feeder that benefits from a nice regular nutrient boost, but doesn’t necessarily need much fertilizer. A few great options include diluted fish, kelp, feather meal, or an organic all-purpose fertilizer. Anything too strong can cause fertilizer burn (especially high-nitrogen fertilizers) on the basil leaves, so always feed in moderation.

High quality compost is one of the best sources of long-term fertility for basil. A biweekly or monthly addition of diluted fish fertilizer will also promote large, luscious leaves and quicker growth.

Maintenance

Trimming Basil Flowers
Get bushier plants by removing the flowers.

The most important maintenance begins in mid-summer when it starts to flower. While the flowers are edible, most growers prefer to pick them off to promote bushier leafier growth. When basil begins to bolt, start picking off those flowers to prolong leaf harvests, otherwise the plant will put its energy into flowering and seeding rather than big, fragrant leaves. As you’ll see below, pinching flowers can be a simple part of your harvesting practice. That way, you get delicious floral garnishes and bushier plants all-in-one step!

When it comes to weeding, established plants can compete with weeds quite well thanks to its bushy growth habit, but it’s important to keep those weeds at bay during the establishment phase.

Harvest and Storage

Harvesting Plants in Garden
For a longer shelf life, cut a bit lower on the stem and place in a glass of water.

Harvesting basil is simple and straightforward. You can cut it, pinch it, or snap the stems. But if you want to pick this herb like a pro, you will want to learn how to harvest basil to promote growth.

The principle behind this harvest method is simply removing the growing tip (botanically called the “apical meristem”) so that the plant grows bushier rather than taller. In the process, you get “pesto-ready” basil tips that are perfect for tossing into any meal without a lot of stems.

Use your fingers or garden shears to pinch or cut just below the top clusters of leaves, right at the leaf node. You can also pick down to the second node to promote the plant to bush out even more. This process works in tandem with the “flower plucking” maintenance described above and will keep your plants in tip-top shape. Toss those tips in a harvest basket and store in a bag in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

If you want to store basil longer in the fridge, you will need a bit more stem. Use pruners to cut just above a leaf node, with 3-4” of the stem remaining. Place the basil cuts in a jar of water and keep on the counter or in the fridge for continued use. The lower leaves will degrade first (because basil leaves really don’t like to get wet), so be sure

After harvesting, it’s best to avoid washing it unless you have a really good salad spinner to ring out all that water. A lot of moisture on the leaves will result in rapid blackening that is still edible but not pretty. If you prefer to wash your basil, do so just before using it.

Varieties

Green Herbs in Garden
Plant many varieties at one time without worrying about cross-pollination.

There is such an abundance of basil varieties that you could almost dedicate an entire garden to its exquisite herbal diversity! The great thing about basil is that, unlike squash or zucchini, you can plant as many types as you’d like in your garden without worrying about cross-pollination. I try at least 5 different varieties every year and love searching through more obscure seed catalogues for rare and unique heirloom cultivars.

Sweet Basil

Herbs in Window
It is easy to find this variety at local stores in both seed form and grown plants.

This is the basil most commonly found in grocery stores. It has medium-green leaves that are shaped like little cups. It has great fragrance and quick growth, and is also used as an essential oil for its mosquito repellent properties.

Try one of these sweet basil types:

  • ‘Dolce Fresca’: An All-American Selections seed winner, this compact 12-14” basil plant is perfect for containers and produces lots of large, beautiful leaves. 70 days to maturity.
  • ‘Everleaf’: A tall, slow-bolting, compact type that is also great for container or small-space gardens. This variety is very productive for regular harvests of long, glossy leaves. 74 days.
  • ‘Common Sweet Basil’: Tasty, sweet and fast-growing, this is the versatile classic that thrives in bright, sunny growing conditions, but requires a bit more space (about 10” between plants). 60-90 days to mature.

Genovese Basil

Genovese Basil
Beautiful long, green leaves are a great addition to pizza and pastas.

Technically a type of sweet basil, this Italian group of basils is best known for their classic flavor, floral aroma, and large deep green leaves. Many breeding projects have focused on Genovese types for their great disease resistance and vigor in the garden.

Best Genovese Types:

  • ‘Genovese’: The namesake variety of Italian types, this classic Genovese dates back to the authentic early Italian basils. The dark verdant green leaves average 3” long and produce gorgeous flowers with intense basil flavor. 68 days to mature.
  • ‘Prospera’: One of the fastest-growing, high-yielding Italian basils with leaves up to 4” long! This variety is exceptionally disease resistant to Fusarium wilt and Downy mildew. It has a very sweet aroma and consistent leaf production. 74 days.
  • ‘Elidia’: A compact, disease-resistant Italian basil that is slow to bolt and has dark, richly colored leaves. Bred specifically for container production, this basil gives you the classic aroma and flavor you crave right in your kitchen or on your patio garden. 74 days.
  • ‘Nufar’: This large-leaf Italian type is resistant to Fusarium wilt and grows 24-30” tall. The leaves are up to 4” long with a sweet scent and flavor reminiscent of anise. 74 days to maturity.
  • ‘Dolly’: This variety produces gorgeous cupped 4” leaves on a compact, but densely bushy plant. It is high-yielding and a bit lighter in color than the classic Genovese, but with similar flavor. 70 days.

Tulsi (Holy) Basil

Holy Basil
This spicy, floral variety makes a delicious healthy tea.

Holy or Tulsi Basil has been used in India for many centuries in both culinary and medicinal healing traditions. This is the basil that has been linked so closely to many physical health benefits and even as an aid in improving mental health conditions. The terms “holy basil” and “tulsi basil” are often used interchangeably to describe a whole group of seed varieties with spicier aromas, deliciously floral flavor in teas, and ornamental flowers loved by bees.

Best Genovese Types:

  • ‘Kapoor Tulsi’: Technically of the spcies Ocimum africanum, these plants are compact but full basils that produce a uniquely mild spice aroma that may remind you of coffee or chocolate. Most commonly used in teas and tinctures (or cocktails) in the modern day, this basil is also great for Asian cooking. The green leaves and purple flowers are gorgeous in the garden and attract lots of beneficial insects. 60 days.
  • ‘Holy’: This is the sacred Hindu basil with smaller elongated green leaves and purple stems. Used in Ayurvedic healing and Hindu religious practices, Holy Basil is a common ingredient in Indian and Thai food as well as in teas. Known to support immunity and digestion. Stout and slower growing. 90-100 days to mature.

Thai Basil

Thai Basil
Add this variety to soups, noodles and curries for an added boost of flavor and nutrition.

Sweet Thai basils are called “Horapha” in their mother country and “Hun Que” in Vietnam. They are used widely in Southeast Asian cuisine and have a spicy, clove-like flavor that compliments noodles, soups, curries, and stir fries. They are most known for the anise or licorice-like flavor and texture that tolerates longer cooking times than sweet basil types.

Best Thai Basil Cultivars:

  • ‘Sweet Thai’: Smooth 2” green leaves with deeply purple stems and flowers make this type a stunner in the garden. The entire plant is edible and quick-growing. 64 days.
  • ‘Red Thai Basil’: This more delicately flavored Thai basil can be used generously in stir-fried dishes. It has a gorgeous deep reddish purple color on the entire plant that make for an attractive garnish. About 60-70 days.
  • ‘Thai Basil’: A strongly licorice-flavored classic Thai basil that is open-pollinated and produces finer leaves than other types. Grows 12-18” tall and grows great in containers or small spaces. 60 days.

Unique Varieties of Basil

Purple Genovese Basil
This stunning purple Genovese variety adds both bold flavor and presentation to dishes.

If you want to try something far beyond what we usually consider basil, the possibilities are nearly endless. Breeders have crossed together all sorts of unique basil types to yield flavors with the zest of citrus, aroma of cinnamon, and even the purplish-black color of amethyst.

Try one of these rare basil types:

  • ‘Amethyst Improved’: A deep purple Genovese basil type that is nearly black in color and beautiful on dishes. Leaves average 2-3” long and are cupped downard. Grows about 16-20” tall and takes 74 days to mature.
  • ‘Cinnamon’: These fast-growing, tall basil have beautiful violet colored stems and veins. The sweet cinnamon-like aroma is unique in a variety of dishes. Averages 26-30” tall. 65 days.
  • ‘Lime’: Lime basil has been bred for a zesty aroma reminiscent of citrus. This type is very popular in cocktails or with fish and in salads. The compact plants average 16-20” tall and yield small 2” leaves that are bright green in color. 60 days.
  • ‘Tuscany’: Uniquely ruffled bright-green leaves set this basil apart from the rest. It has a mild basil flavor with hints of anise and grows in an upright habit. 75 days.

Pests and Diseases

Pest Eaten Plant
Most pests are repelled by the intense aroma of this herb.

Basil’s aromatic smell repels many pests, but a few insects will still brave the intense herbal aroma and eat the leaves. However, I’ve never seen them cause major harm in my garden. The real bummers for basil plants are pathogens and diseases. Fortunately, most of them are easily preventable.

Japanese Beetles

Japanese Beetle on Plant
Keep an eye out for these beetles in early summer.

Metallic green or copper colored beetles flying around your garden in early summer can be a pretty bad sign for basil plants. These Japanese Beetles will eat small holes through the leaves and can severely damage the plant if they grow to infestation levels. However, Japanese Beetle damage is usually just aesthetic.

Getting rid of them is simple. You can hand-pick the beetles from your basil plants and place them in a container of water with dish soap to kill them. You can also knock them off the plant into a bucket. This method works best in evening when they aren’t as active and flying around.

Preventatively, you can use a thin row cover to simply exclude beetles from your plants. This is also helpful for increasing the ambient temperature of the basil during cool nights.

Worst case scenario, you can use an organic insecticidal soap or diluted neem spray directly on your basil plants in areas where they are concentrated. This will help to kill the beetles and repel future infestations.

Slugs

Snail in Plants
While they will not do damage to your plants, slugs will eat their fair share of the leaves.

Slugs are primarily an issue in areas with high moisture, high clay content, or thick mulches. They like to climb up the plant and take ragged bites out of the foliage, leaving behind nasty slime trails.

To keep slugs from eating basil, avoid mulches or use diatomaceous earth sprinkled on top of mulch to dehydrate the slugs when they try to crawl across it. You can also use beer traps of Tupperware placed at the soil level for slugs to fall into. However, I’ve mostly found that picking a few slugs here and there is fairly easy and their damage is never anything to worry about.

Downy Mildew

Downy Mildew on Plant
If you live in a high humidity environment, be sure to purchase Downy Mildew resistant seeds.

Many modern varieties of basil are bred to be downy mildew resistant (labeled DMR in seed catalogues). This is good news because it is difficult to get rid of downy mildew once it takes hold of basil plants. This fungal pathogen thrives in high humidity environments with low airflow. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, fuzzy grey-purple splotches on leaf undersides, and brown lesions as it spreads.

The spores of the pathogen can easily contaminate other plants, so it’s important to identify and remove infected parts very quickly. To prevent downy mildew, space basil plants farther apart, ensure proper airflow, avoid overhead irrigation, and choose resistant seed varieties.

Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium Wilt on Plant
Sweet Basil is the most susceptible to Fusarium wilt.

If you notice stunted or wilted plants (even when they have plenty of water), you may be dealing with Fusarium wilt. This is one of the most common diseases that causes brown streaks and twisted stems, later leading to sudden leaf drop. Sweet basil is the most susceptible.

Once established, the pathogen lives in the soil and can affect a variety of mint-family crops. There are no known treatments for Fusarium wilt. It’s best to choose resistant varieties, maintain healthy soil biology (with high quality compost), remove plant debris at the end of the season, provide good circulation, and practice crop rotation.

Plant Uses

Pizza with Herbs
This incredible herb adds flavor and nutritional value to your favorite meals.

Basil has been used as a garnish, cooking herb, herbal tea, and medicinal plant for thousands of years. Recipes range from pestos to curries, pizzas to pastas, stir fries to salads, and everywhere in between.

The entire plant is edible, however the leaves are most coveted for use in the kitchen. Flowers are excellent for teas and even sometimes used ornamentally in floral bouquets. Basil is also a popular pest repellant. People use basil essential oil to repel mosquitoes and ticks. It’s also used as a companion plant in the garden to keep garden pests at bay.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you maintain a basil plant?

Basil is easy to care for as long as you give it consistent water and keep it well-weeded. The most important maintenance is pinching the leaf tips to prevent them from bolting (flowering) too soon. Cut back flowers regularly as part of your harvest practice to make basil plants bushier and keep yielding large fragrant leaves.

How do you trim basil so it keeps growing?

If you prune basil at harvest down to the first or second leaf node, you can promote bushier growth and more abundant foliage for harvests. Use scissors or your fingers to pinch the top set of leaves or the top two sets just below a node (right where the two sets of leaves intersect with the stem). This process encourages the plant to grow out rather than up, also preventing bolting and encouraging tender new growth.

Does it grow in sun or shade?

Basil is a warm-weather crop that needs full sunlight to thrive. Ideally, basil should receive 6-8 hours of direct sun all summer long.

Does it grow back every year?

Basil is a warm-weather annual in most temperate climates and needs to be replanted every year. However, it can be grown as a tender perennial in subtropical and tropical climates as long as it is not exposed to frost.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been craving fresh summer pestos and caprese salads, there is no better time to prepare for your basil garden than now. You can even start basil indoors in the dead of winter if you so choose (as long as you have enough light and heat in your home or greenhouse!)

This herb is an absolute staple for any gardener. It provides continuous harvests and far higher quality leaves than any grocery store basil could dream of. Plus, it’s so easy to grow that even the most “black thumb” gardeners often have success with it.

There is nothing better than the sweet pleasant aroma of freshly picked homegrown basil in a summer meal. Happy growing!

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Vegetables

Swiss Chard Varieties: 12 Types of Chard Cultivars You’ll Love

Swiss chard is often a favorite crop amongst amateur gardeners. But finding the perfect Swiss chard variety for your garden can be a challenge, due to each of them being slightly different! In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines 12 different types of Swiss chard, and what you can expect from each of them.

Grow Beets

Vegetables

How To Plant, Grow, and Care For Beets in Your Garden

Beets are becoming a popular and especially nutritious vegetable to have around your garden. But they can also be a bit picky with their growing conditions. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines the best ways to plant, grow, and care for beets. You'll learn all you need to know about growing this vegetable, as well as some tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else.

Cucumber Varieties

Vegetables

Cucumber Varieties: 35 Different Types of Cucumber Cultivars

Are you considering planting some cucumbers in your garden, but can't decide which type to pick? There are many different types of cucumber to choose from, so finding the right cucumber variety can be tough to pick from! In this article, gardening expert Logan Hailey looks at 35 different cucumber varieties that you can plant in your home garden!

Radicchio on Farm Table

Vegetables

How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Radicchio in Your Garden

Thinking of trying something different in your vegetable garden this season? Radicchio is a vegetable that you won't see in every vegetable garden you visit. But it's great taste and variety of uses has its popularity rising over the last several years. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey takes you through each step of how to plant, grow, and care for Radicchio.

Grow Kale

Vegetables

How to Plant, Grow and Care For Kale in Your Garden

Kale has become immensely popular over the last decade as a super-vegetable that's packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and nutrients. Kale is also fairly easy to grow, making it a perfect crop to add for many novice gardeners. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey takes you through all the steps you need to stick to in order to plant, grow, and care for Kale in your garden.