Basil is an annual herb commonly used in pasta sauces and to flavor Mediterranean dishes. Reaching 12 to 30 inches tall, the green-leafed sweet basil variety is the most flavorful and fragrant. Pinch a leaf to smell the fragrance. Smaller, less flavorful varieties, such as Red Rubin, reach 6 to 12 inches in height and do well in planters or as a border where its purple leaves will contrast with colorful flowers. Plant basil outdoors from seed or seedling after the last frost.
Select a sunny, well-drained location to plant basil from seeds or seedlings in late spring.
Till the soil to at least 8 inches to allow for root penetration.
Drop 2 or 3 seeds every 12 inches and pat them into the soil. Only a small layer of soil, about 1/8 inch, needs to cover the seed. If planting a seedling, use a hand trowel or your fingers to create an opening in the soil the same size as the seedling. The soil level of the seedling should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch below ground level. Gently push the soil around the stem of the seedling.
Keep the soil moist. Water seeds lightly each day until they have two leaves, then decrease watering for the seedlings to an as-needed basis, which may be once or twice a week when the soil is dry more than 1 inch down.
Apply 1 to 2 inches of mulch, such as pine chips, to cover the disturbed soil. Mulch retains moisture and deters weed growth. Keep the mulch 2 inches away from the stems of the plants.