Sweet Basil, Basil, Genovese Basil, Kiss-Me-Nicholas, Common Basil, Great Basil, Saint Joseph's Wort
Sweet Basil, considered by many to be the “King of Herbs”, is the most popular and widely-used culinary herb in the world. In fact, the botanical name of this plant, ‘Ocimum basilicum,’ is derived from the Greek terms “okimom,” meaning “aromatic herb” and “basilicum,” or “king.” Featuring wonderfully-fragrant, glossy green foliage and vivid white or pink blooms, this versatile plant typically grows into an attractive bushy, mounded form reaching two to three feet in height. However, more than sixty varieties of basil exist, ranging from petite, miniature-leafed Greek basil, to pink-flowering, purple-hued plants, such as Opal Basil. Basils are frost-tender and are mostly considered to be annuals within USDA hardiness zones 2-11. ‘Sweet Basil’ makes a lovely addition to kitchen gardens, pollinator gardens, window boxes, or decorative containers, and blends perfectly into sunny landscapes among other summer annuals and vegetables. Native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, this basil variety is not only a classic of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, but attracts a variety of beneficial pollinators to the garden. Additionally, basils have recently been discovered to possess effective nutritious, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties.
‘Sweet Basil’ thrives in moist, organically-rich, well-drained soil and requires a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight daily. It is beneficial to amend the soil with compost at the time of planting, and a layer of mulch can help retain moisture. Basil plants are widely-available from any reputable nursery, but this herb is easily-grown from seed. Seeds should be planted after spring temperatures have warmed to seventy degrees Fahrenheit and can be lightly-pressed or sprinkled onto the surface of moist, well-prepared soil. Once seedlings emerge, the young plants need a growing space of one or two feet apart. Stem cuttings of established basil plants typically root in water within a week when placed on a warm, sunny windowsill.
‘Sweet Basil’ prefers evenly-moist, well-drained soil and should be watered when the surrounding soil is dry to the touch.
‘Sweet Basil’ does not require fertilizer if planted into organically-rich soil. If desired, a slow-release 10-10-10 granular fertilizer may be applied in spring, and once again in mid-summer, to promote lush, green foliage. It is important to carefully read and follow the directions on the product label before the use of any fertilizer products.
‘Sweet Basil’ may be affected by leaf-eating insects, such as Japanese Beetles, aphids, thrips, slugs, or caterpillars. These insects can be effectively treated, if necessary, with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Slugs can be trapped and removed or treated with diatomaceous earth. All insecticides should be used only after carefully reading the product label directions.