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Growing basil.

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I'm growing about 14 different basils this year.

Basil botany is convoluted at best, so I'll just say that seed houses have no clue what they're selling. (Not that my plant name database is up to date on basils, either ... (Update: it is now.))

I've Ocimum basilicum, Ocimum minimum (Ocimum basilicum subsp. minimum), Ocimum americanum, and Ocimum tenuiflorum (Ocimum sanctum).

Photo: Ocimum basilicum 8. That's Cinnamon basil 1, 'Purple ruffles' 2, Genovese basil 3, Thai basil 4, 5 (2 different seed suppliers), mammoth basil 6, purple basil 7, 'Red Rubin' 8, 'Spicy globe' 9, Greek basil 10, lemon basil 11, 12 (2 seed suppliers), lime basil 13, and holy basil 14.

I planted these indoors in tiny potlets at the beginning of April. And watered them regularly and watched them thrive, more or less. And repotted them into larger pots with a dash of dung pellets a month later. And waited for the weather to warm up enough to plant them outside ... basils die if they get even a hint of frost, and they also die if temperatures dive below, say, 4 degrees C or so.

In early to mid-June our days got warmer, so I carried the trays out for the afternoons, carrying them back in again for the nights.

About 10 days ago our nights finally warmed up as well, so we dug up a bit of the lawn and I got pressure to get rid of the plant trays on the kitchen table already.

I planted them out a week ago. Including their white little sticks. (About those white naming sticks: write with pencil, that won't fade, nor blur in rain.)

As we have a baby brown hare and baby jackdaws in our garden, I thought it prudent to add white gardening cloth on top. I also thought it prudent to sprinkle all the rest of the seeds in the seed packets on top of the three planted pots each.

The jackdaws thought that was a blast - especially the white name sticks. Within two days they had pulled almost all of them up, making lots of holes in the gardening cloth.

So I removed the white sticks, making a map of the plants on paper instead. I also removed the white cloth.

The baby hare and his mom have ignored the basils completely.

The carefully nurtured plantlets look anemic, and most of them have fallen over - except for the genovese, which, at about 5 cm tall (yes, you read that right) is the biggest of the lot, and looks like it'll be getting enormous leaves. Think "mammoth!" and you're right - the mammoth basil is dwarfed by this one, which again makes me wonder about seed houses and their seed packagers.

All the seeds have sprouted, and they look extremely vigorous, especially when compared to the mostly fallen-over and mostly way-too-leggy plantlets.

Next year I might ditch the "let's plant things in pots indoors before we plant them out" exercise altogether - but I'll know more about it in a month, when both the planted and the straight-sown basils have grown a bit.

Related entry: Bird-proof basil cage


Holy Basil, Herb Gal! That's a lot of basil!

Sorry, Hetta. Couldn't resist.

They'd have perked up by now, but birds kept picking at them. They're in a bird-proof cage now and are doing much better.

What about Holy Basil ( Tulsi ), can I grow it?

wikipedia quotes: "Just by touching Tulsidevi one's body becomes pure. By praying to her, all diseases practically become removed. If one waters her or makes her wet, the fear of Yamaraja (death personified) is destroyed." - From the Skanda Purana
Is it a real plant?

Dunno about you, but I can grow it just fine. Check number 14 in my list.
The plant is real, the effect described is from a parallel reality.

Hiya Henriette -

I grew 3 varieties of Holy Basil in the garden this year and am getting ready to harvest them... do you recommend drying or alcohol tincture for Holy Basil leaves? What about the roots?

(oh, I also wanted to know if you could suggest any good herbs to use as a cover crop for our garden in fall/winter... I was thinking of fava beans or buckwheat but would prefer something with more medicinal uses. Any thoughts? And, as always, thanks for your wonderful blog)

I don't have enough to dry, so I tincture. Roots, dunno.
Winter crop, over here that's called snow ... ask locally.

Hi Hetta,

I found you website today because I am looking to grow my own Basil, and wowee, I didn't know that there were over 14 different types of Basil. That's amazing! Are they all distinctive in colour/taste/appearance?

Anyhow, do you have any tips for me to grow my own. I think I will go to the farmers market today and buy a pre-grown plant. However, my plants keep dying. Any tips?!


There are many more than 14 different basils.
As go growing them, find your local library and read a few of their gardening (or even herb gardening) books. Winter isn't the usual time to start growing things ...