How To Grow Sweet Basil
You can grow sweet basil in a vegetable garden, where it is handy for a big harvest to make pesto. This is sweet basil. Basil needs 6 to 8 hours of sun; in the South and Southwest, it benefits from afternoon shade. Set out plants at least 2 weeks after the last frost in spring.
Basil likes rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Because it is harvested continually for lots of leaves. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil.
If planting in a container, use a large pot to keep the plants from drying out quickly in hot weather. Fill the pot with a moisture control potting mix, which absorbs water well and helps protect against over- and under-watering. You may also want to add mulch around the plants to provide even more help keeping the soil moist and extend the time between waterings.
Adding basil to your garden does more than provide a fresh supply of the tasty herb, it is also a great companion plant for a number of vegetables and other herbs.
Sweet Basil Companion Plants
Basil companion planting will help asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, chili and bell peppers, eggplant, marigolds, oregano, potatoes and tomatoes.
Tomatoes benefit from basil companion planting. Growing tomatoes and basil near each other is said to make each crop taste better. One expert did suggest that the only benefit of planting basil and tomatoes together was the ability to harvest them at the same time but I read numerous gardeners reporting that their tomatoes, basil or both plants seemed to benefit from the pairing.
Companion planting basil with chamomile will be beneficial to the growth of your basil plants. Common rue and sage are poor companion plants for basil and should not be grown near basil.
Harvesting and Storage
Harvest leaves by pinching them from the stems anytime after the young plants have reached a height of 6 to 8 inches. Pinch the leaves from the tips of the stems to encourage the plant to branch and make more leaves. Try to keep the stems pinched even if you don’t use the leaves; otherwise, the plant will begin to flower and make seeds, and will stop producing leaves.
At the first prediction of even the lightest frost, go ahead and harvest all your basil because it will quickly turn black in cold weather. Make easy work of this by cutting the entire plants off at ground level, then pick off the best leaves.You can dry them, but freezing them or using them in vinegar best preserves the herb’s flavor. You can also use the leaves to flavor oils and pesto, which should be kept refrigerated or frozen. (Don’t keep fresh leaves in the refrigerator, though, as they will turn brown.)
You can also keep cut stems fresh for a few days by putting the cut ends in water just like a cut flower. They will add a fresh fragrance to the air.