Basil, amazing in pesto, pasta, pizza...anything beginning with a P! It is also great fun for kids to plant and watch it grow!
Basil is an extremely popular plant in our house. We use both Italian basil and miniature Greek basil. If we buy one of the plants you can get in the supermarket, it can be stripped by the time we get home as Bob eats it like a salad. When we buy the live ones in the supermarket they die within the week, no matter how well you care for them, so if you have not used them, they go in the bin. They even say on the packet 2+days…it is a living plant, what is going on?
Simple, the plant that you buy was forcibly grown with too many stems crammed into a tiny pot to make it look full. It is like keeping 10 babies in a cot. By the time they come home to you they are cramped and have no nutrition or water to help them grow well.
Basil can be grown from seeds; however, you can very quickly grow healthy plants from cuttings from the supermarket variety. We have found they do not even need to be in a great condition to be able to take cuttings from.
The first thing you need to do is work out where you are going to cut the plant. You need enough plant above the cut to have a stem to grow roots and leaves at the top, and below the cut there should be some leaves, or the remaining stem will die. However, if you can not save both halves, you are best saving the cutting and repotting it in a less cramped environments.
Once you have got your cuttings, you need to strip off any leaves in the bottom half of the stem or they will rot in the water. Then you need to put them into a suitable container full of water. We use a plastic cup for safety, however if you use a glass, you can see the roots grow. Have the leaves out of the water and the stem in the water to grow roots. Place the container in a west or south facing window so they can get the sun. You need to change the water every other day, so you can check the roots then.
When the roots are over 1 cm long, you can plant them. Get a container around 8cm with holes in the bottom and sat in a saucer. Fill the container with either compost or vermiculite, push a pen into the soil to make a hole to insert one of the cuttings and pat the soil around it to bed it in, repeat this two more times so you have 3 of the cuttings in the soil.
Place back in a west or south facing window and water the basil daily. After a couple of weeks, it is ready to harvest. You can either start again to make more plants or cut them off and put them into food. If you are not ready to eat them, basil will freeze.
You need to snip off the top of the basil as above on a regular basis to ensure it keeps nice and fat and does not grow long and leggy. If you leave it too long it will flower. The flowers are also edible; however, they do taste slightly different. They look very pretty as a garnish or as a pretty plant.
Basil can be planted outside in the summer; however, we do not have much luck this way, all the bugs love it.