Sponsored by Idaho Falls Community Hospital
light rain
humidity: 70%
wind: 3mph WSW
H 51 • L 47

Why you should be growing basil, and the best way to do it

In the Garden

Share This

There are certain plants that are common in all home gardens such as potatoes, corn, and peas. Less planted vegetables including Swiss chard, kohlrabi, and eggplant.

But there is one herb that should be planted more often for a variety of reasons. That herb is basil in all its different varieties, colors, and flavors.

Basil comes in multiple flavors including: licorice basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil, sweet basil, spicy basil, and others depending from what region they originate. If you are cooking with a specific regional cuisine in mind, sometimes there is a specific variety of basil from a region that truly makes a dish authentic, and can’t be replaced by using common sweet basil. Examples of some of these regional basils include Thai, East India, Puerto Rican, and Cuban basils.

Basil comes in light to dark green colors to dark many shades of purple. By nature this plant has few diseases and few insects that are attracted to it, so it is an excellent idea to plant it in the garden area amongst your vegetables. It can help to distract insects when planted amongst other plants that are targets for bug damage.

For a truly aromatic garden experience, plant basil throughout your rows of plants, and when weeding or watering you will be enveloped in a fresh aroma of basil fragrance. It truly improves the sometimes unpleasant experience of weeding your garden.

Basil is not a hard crop to grow, but there are a few essential steps to its success. Start your seedlings indoors several weeks prior to being planted outside, and allow them large enough pots to grow in from seedlings so they will not become root bound.

Harden the plants off by putting them in a location where the temperatures fluctuate from night to day, without damage from frost, while still having enough sunlight to grow well. The fluctuation in temperature prepares them for being outside, and prevents them from becoming leggy plants. Once the chance of frost is past, plant them outside, in a high organic matter soil with good fertility.

Lance Ellis,

Basil is a warm season plant, and like tomatoes, grows best in the warm dog days of summer. Most plants will develop several sets of leaves, but pinching the top sets of leaves while it is young is needed to force new growth. Pinching them will produce more leaves, and slow the plants propensity to flower.

Basils are used in pestos, many Italian dishes, and salads. There are large leaf varieties, such as most sweet basils, but there are smaller leaf basils, such as lemon basil, that are quite strong flavored for such a small leaf. I would recommend planting a variety of kinds of basil to enjoy multiple flavors and smells throughout your garden and in dishes this summer. Additionally basils can be used in a landscape as filler and accent plants, while also still be used for culinary purposes.

For questions on growing basil or other gardening topics you can reach Lance at 208-624-3102.