Annual basil grows well in the annual herb garden or interspersed amongst ornamental plants. Basil is also sometimes planted in the vegetable garden, particularly in the tomato bed since basil and tomato are often used together in the kitchen. The aromatic, flavorful leaves are used in a variety of dishes, especially in Italian cuisine. The leaves are harvested from late spring until the first fall frost kills the plant. Basil is usually started from seed. It is direct seeded into the garden after all frost danger is past in spring.
Lay a 1- to 2-inch layer of compost over a full sun garden bed. Work the compost into the top 6 inches of soil to add nutrients and aid drainage. Further fertilization at planting isn't required, as this inhibits the flavor-producing oils in basil.
Make a 1/4-inch deep indentation in the soil with your fingertip. Place two to three basil seeds in the hole and the cover them back over with soil. Space each planting 6 to 12 inches apart in rows.
Water the bed as necessary to keep it moist, both before and after germination. Basil seeds germinate within approximately one week.
Thin the basil after the seedlings produce their third set of leaves. Pinch off the weaker seedlings at the soil level in each planting hole so that there is only one basil plant per every 6 to 12 inches of garden row.
Lay a 2-inch layer of mulch around the basil plants once they are 4 to 5 inches tall. This preserves soil moisture between watering and prevents weeds.
Fertilize the basil at midsummer with 5-10-5 analysis fertilizer. Apply 3 oz. of fertilizer per 10-foot row of plants.
Harvest the outer leaves of the basil plant as needed throughout the gardening season. Trim back the top third of the plant at mid-season, using sharp shears, to help it remain bushy. Use the trimmed leaves fresh or dry them for later use.