It's summer and that means herb garden time. Whether you have an actual patch of dirt to till or you use small pots in your windowsill, growing herbs is the easiest way to dip your feet into the world of growing your own food. And if you pick just one herb to grow, let it be beautiful, fragrant, easy-care, delicious-raw-or-cooked basil. Here are our top do's and don'ts of growing this favorite herb.
For thriving basil plants, DO:
- Do place your plant in six to eight hours of full sun.
- Do give seedlings adequate space, about 10 to 12 inches apart.
- Do water plants frequently, especially in dry summer climates.
- Do plant near tomatoes if you have them in your garden as well.
- Do try to provide afternoon shade in the South or Southwest.
- Do make sure your basil is in a well-draining location to avoid root rot.
- Do pinch back leaves to encourage branching and a lush, full bush. Remove stems right above where a pair of leaves is growing.
- Do mulch outdoor basil plants to discourage weeds and retain moisture.
- Do make sure that you harvest all of your basil before the first frost hits or you will lose your well-grown plant.
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To ensure the best success with your basil plant, DON'T:
- Don't plant it too early outside. Wait until mid- to late spring, when all danger of frost has passed and it's at least 50 degrees, but preferably 70 degrees.
- Don't plant basil outdoors in any spot where a previous basil plant has been infected with the fungal disease fusarium wilt.
- Don't plant basil that you will eat near driveways or busy streets; you don't want exhaust to settle on the plants.
- Don't use a small container for potted basil plants; larger pots keep the plants from drying out too fast.
- Don't let your basil plant bloom. Pinch off any flowers that start to form.
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