Basil is one of the most popular and rewarding herbs for the home gardener. Fresh basil is an essential ingredient in many recipes, from Caprese salad to pesto. Two to three plants can usually provide enough for one household. Pesto lovers may want four or five. Gardeners with long warm growing seasons should consider planting basil successively to ensure several plants are always at maximum production.
Watering.Water regularly, but do not over-water. Soak soil thoroughly, and then allow soil to dry down but not completely between waterings. Basil is not as drought tolerant as other Mediterranean herbs, such as rosemary, sage and thyme.
Soil amendments. Basil performs best in rich, living soil with sufficient organic matter. GardenZeus recommends adding nitrogen once during the growing season in the form of a cup of chicken manure diluted in 4 gallons of water (half cup if fresh manure) and mixed thoroughly, applied as a soil drench. GardenZeus also recommends mulching basil. Use a quarter to half-inch fine mulch for small starts under four inches in height; increase to an inch or more of fine to medium mulch after plants are 1 to 2 feet tall.
Pruning. GardenZeus recommends frequent harvesting of the outer leaves to prolong the life of the plant. Once plants are at least 6 inches tall, begin regularly pinching the end of each stem every three weeks to prevent flowering and encourage new growth. Once basil flowers, the leaves tend to become bitter in taste.
Pinch the end of each stem to remove the flower.
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