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A herb garden is one of the best ways to practice your gardening skills. Basil is one of those great ingredients to have on hand that can freshen up a salad, add richness to a sauce, or even be muddled in a cocktail (hello summer).
Basil is a low growing herb that is happy in a large, deep pot. It's the star of many Italian dishes and is also very prominent in Vietnamese and Thai cooking.
The most commonly used varietal of basil is sweet basil. Southeast Asian dishes often use Thai Basil, which has notes of aniseed. You may also come across lemon, cinnamon, or purple basil!
In a temperate climate (like Sydney) basil can be grown between September and December. If you're starting in September then plant undercover in seed trays and transplant to a pot or your garden from October onwards.
Plant in rich, well-drained soil:
Prepare your garden bed or container with plenty of compost.
Sow seeds at depth of about a ¼ of an inch.
Basil will thrive if you plant it at soil temperatures between 18°C and 35°C.
When you transplant the basil make sure that the plants are 10-12 inches apart (or in their own container if you're planting in pots).
Ensure that basil plants get 6 to 8 hours of sun a day and are regularly watered.
If you live in a very hot climate then I'd advise mulching around the base of your plant to prevent your soil from drying out.
Getting the most from your harvest:
Ready to harvest in 10-12 weeks.
Pinch out the fragrant flower buds that grow at the top of the plant as soon as they sprout! This will promote more growth of the edible leaves.
Basil will happily live side by side with tomato (sounds like a perfect meal). You can also companion plant with asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, chilli and bell peppers, eggplant, marigolds, oregano and potatoes.
Pick basil leaves regularly to promote plant growth!
If you have more basil than you know what to do with you can dry it, make pesto, or even freeze (dry out first then keep in the freezer).
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