One of the biggest considerations when learning how to grow basil is knowing when to plant the seedlings outdoors.
The time to plant depends on the soil temperature. So in general you are looking at a soil temperature of around 18 C plus.
Basil is a warm season plant, it likes warmth, moist soil and good sun, although it grows best when it is protected from very hot afternoon sun.
At the end of the season basil will commence to flower and growing outdoors is no longer possible. It is also a plant than will not survive frosts.
The growing period can be extended by growing it in a warm sunny position indoors, or in a greenhouse.
In the Northern Hemisphere summer commences on the 1st of June. In the Southern Hemisphere on the first of December. The actual planting time varies depending on climate zone.
In Melbourne this may not be until November, in Sydney maybe October. Even then it will depend on the year and the area you live in. In the hills and highland areas it will be later than in lower and warmer areas.
If you have never grown your own Basil, and only used the stuff from shops, try growing it at least once, you will be amazed at the difference in taste between ‘fresh basil’ and ‘not so fresh’. Basil grows well in a humus rich moist soil, we suggest some shade in afternoon, seems to keep it a little ‘sweeter’, and tends to stop it from going to seed (bolting).
You can plant seedlings in late spring to summer. To get a head start you can start growing seeds a little earlier in a cold frame or greenhouse. You can even grow plants in a greenhouse during cooler months.
When to Plant Basil seeds and Seedlings
If you divided Australia up into zones then approximate planting time, in a normal year, would be
- Hobart, Canberra – Germinate Seeds October to September. Seedlings in the garden November to January
- Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide – Germinate Seeds October to September. Seedlings in the garden from November to February
- Brisbane Sydney – Germinate Seeds July to September. Seedlings in the garden from September to February
- Darwin – Germinate and Plant at just about any time of the year.
Growing Basil in the Kitchen Garden, Pots and Containers.
Basil Plants love a humus or compost rich moist soil, they does not like to dry out. Plant once the risk of frost or cold spells is over. The WET POT watering system is ideal for basil as it provides the roots with the moisture it requires.
Choose a sunny position in the garden however protection from the hot afternoon sun in hot periods is advisable, and remember it does not like to dry out.
If you are growing basil plants in pots or containers make sure that you use a good quality potting mix and fertilize with a liquid seaweed fertilizer. This is a plant that is at its best when continuously picked as this helps prevent flowering and will increase yield.
The easiest way to grow basil is from seedlings.
- Choose a position in part shade.
- A humus rich moist soil is essential.
- Prepare the soil by digging in well rotted compost, some cow manure and some blood and bone.
- Seedlings should not be planted out until after the last frosts, and even then wait for the soil to warm a little.
- Seedlings need to be planted on a cool day.
- Water in well with a liquid seaweed fertiliser.
- Basil needs to be kept moist through the growing season.
- You can plant basil around tomato plants, they will get a little shade and these plants grow well together.
- Harvest basil before the leaves become to large, they taste best at this stage.
- You can cut back to a pair of leaves and the plants will reshoot.
As a companion plant for tomatoes basil is excellent, the tomato plant will provide a little shade.
One of the most widely used culinary herbs the main two types or varieties found growing in most vegetable gardens being Ocimum basilicum known as ‘Sweet’ or ‘Italian’ Basil and Ocimum obovatum or Greek Basil.
The purple variety or Ocimum basilicum ‘Purpureum’ is readily available and Perennial Basil (Ocimum americanum) can also be found.
From India we have ‘Sacred Basil’ or Ocimum tenuifolim.
Varieties include : Cinnamon, Fino verde, Genovese giant, Greek (yiotis) Lemon, Lime, Mammoth, Napolitano, Opal and Purple ruffles all have their special uses.
Other Basil herb species are also available including Lettuce Leaf , Dark Opal, Thai Queen , Spicy Globe and Lemon. Plants and Seeds are available for sale from Mail Order Nurseries
We use fino verde, genovese or napolitano for making pesto. (see recipe below). Pick regularly to prevent flowering.
Basil Pesto Recipe and Ingredients
3 – 6 cloves of garlic (we roast our garlic in oil first to give a sweet nutty flavor)
100g pine nuts (for variety try macadamia nuts)
50g of freshly grated parmesan cheese
100g basil leaves cleaned (with stems removed)
100ml Olive oil
Majoram leaves (tsp)
Freshly ground black pepper (tsp)
Pesto Making Procedure
Blend all of the dry ingredients in a food processor adding olive oil until you get a creamy mixture.
Cook pasta (fettuccine) in a large pot of boiling water until tender. Drain well
Add Pesto and ‘hey presto’ a magic meal.
We use fettuccine, and stir the pesto mixture through the fettuccine (sometimes tagliatelle) until the strands are coated and then serve. Finely diced tomato makes a great addition as does avocado and maybe some extra freshly ground black pepper.
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You can buy Basil Plants and seeds online from the following suppliers
412 James Lane, Fern Hill VIC. 3458 - Phone 0419002651
Large range of Rare plants, Climbers, Bulbs, Perennials Fruit Trees, Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. Available both Retail and by Mail Order
Online and Retail Melbourne and Geelong based garden centres. Check out their large range of indoor and outdoor plants, Australian Natives, Fruit Trees and Edibles, Succulents, Gardenias, Camellias, Hydrangeas plus a full range garden products for delivery in Melbourne.
FOUR SEASONS HERBS – or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Huge range of rare & unusual herbs, edible perennial plants, wasabi, saffron corms & organic garlic. Specialised Mail order nursery.