Basil is a very fragrant aromatic plant that makes a happy marriage with mozzarella and tomato, but it is also, among other things, the main ingredient of the unmistakable Pesto so much appreciated. These are not its only uses. It is therefore interesting to cultivate it in the garden, on the terrace or the balcony since it does well in the ground as well as in pots. This allows you to always have plenty of them at hand. Let’s take stock of the best conditions for growing basil, a somewhat demanding plant, and the care to be given to it and see how to harvest it.
Cultivation of basil
Basil must be installed sheltered from the wind But well exposed to the sun because he likes heat. In the southernmost regions, it can nevertheless be reserved a small place in partial shade so that it can benefit from a little shade during the hottest hours. He also needs a fresh soil, this one must never be dry, but perfectly drained so that the aromatic herb does not bathe in water. Finally, the soil or the substrate of the pot must be rich in nutrients.
It is between the end of February and April that we sow the basil. The ideal is to seed with a seed drill. The seeds are placed in small pots, egg trays or even in a box or seedling terrine.
Care is taken to separate the future plants from each other. Once the seeds are in place in a substrate of lightweight potting soil, sieved and well moistened, the containers are placed behind a window, warm and in bright light.
When the shoots reach 3 cm, it is necessary lighten in order to keep only the most vigorous.
Transplant the basil
About 6 weeks after sowing, the basil is ready to be transplanted either in a pot if the risk of frost has not yet been ruled out (before the Ice Saints therefore), or in the ground or in a planter as soon as May 15 has passed.
Care is taken to space the planes sufficiently, approximately 25 cm in all directions. Subsequently, in order to obtain very bushy basil plants, it is necessary to pinch the end young stems with regularity.
Maintain your basil
It is fundamental that watering be regular and numerous, especially in summer, because the slightest failure prevents the basil from thriving. To limit evaporation, you can keep the soil cool with mulch. Cultivation in pots is demanding in terms of irrigation because the substrate dries up very quickly. Vigilance is therefore essential. But in all cases, we water preferably in the late evening or in the very early morning and avoiding wetting the leaves so as not to favor the occurrence of fungal diseases to which this aromatic plant is particularly sensitive.
The hoeing is important for the successful cultivation of basil. It keeps the soil cool and slows down the growth of weeds. It must be carried out at the start of the culture and then regularly thereafter. A mulch avoids having to hoe so often.
Finally, the basil size is essential. It consists of removing flower buds that should not be allowed to thrive because if the basil blooms it no longer produces leaves.
Harvest the basil
Basil leaves are collected as and when needed. We avoid picking them too much in advance because the ideal is to consume them fresh, quickly after picking, in order to benefit from all their aroma, especially as they do not keep well as they are.
The basil harvest should be done carefully to give it every chance to grow back. We especially do not tear the leaves! The stems should be cut with scissors at least 10 cm above the ground and between two nodes.
Gardeners who are fortunate enough to produce a large quantity of basil of various varieties can save their harvest at freezer after having dried the leaves well in absorbent paper or inolive oil, even in the old fashioned way with salt in an earthenware pot. They can also prepare homemade Pesto to keep in jars so that they can later transform a dish of dough, flavor a pizza or enhance slices of eggplant that are gently left to confine in the oven …