When I used to give herb talks around Perth, I often used to say that basil has a man’s name, so I treated it like I treated my men! I fed it a lot, gave it a lot to drink and then cut it down to size!
One day, a gentleman in the audience put his hand up and said, “My name’s Basil!” His wife next door was laughing her head off. I just hope that she only took my gardening advice and not my relationship advice.
Then there was the time that I told this same line to a journalist from the state newspaper who was writing an article about my herb nursery. I never thought she would even think about printing it but indeed she did and in the first paragraph! Not so surprisingly, I was single then and stayed single for a long time after since all the men in WA thought that I would treat them badly! I have improved with men but still treat basil in the same way.
Basil is great once it gets going but it doesn’t like cold weather. Cold nights will turns its leaves black and mushy. The rule of thumb is to only plant it outdoors once the night time temperature is consistently above 10 degrees C. Some years this can be in late August and others, like this year, is almost into October. I always think that basil shouldn’t be grown in WA during the footy season and this year I’m almost spot on. The AFL Grand Finals are this weekend and next week is about the right time to start planting.
If you did plant your basil a bit early, cut the bottom off some plastic bottles and put over the top to give them some protection. If you lost them, it was only that you planted them outdoors a little too early and that you should give them another go.
Once they get going, they are fantastic to grow but remember my advice. Give them a lot to drink because they have soft green leaves and stems full of moisture that dry out quickly in hot or dry weather. Feed them a lot because they are very fast growing and the more you harvest them, the more you should feed them. It’s better to feed them through their roots with lots of compost and manure; you will get much better flavour this way.
And, pick on them! All this means is to harvest the leaves and the soft green stems often. They love it and it will encourage them to grow even more leaves. Of course, remove the flowers as well as no body wants a pretty basil and besides, the flowers will slow down the leaf growth.
Happy herb gardening.