Basil is an annual Mediterranean herb that has a slight licorice flavor and is commonly used in Italian cooking. It is an important ingredient in tomato sauce and in Italy it signifies love. Basil originated in India where oaths were taken in courts of law on a sprig of basil. There are many different varieties of basil with different flavors such as lemon and cinnamon and some varieties are purple in color while another has tiny leaves and grows in a globe-like shape.
Purchase basil plants and plan to plant them in the garden after all danger of frost is over. Basil will not do well in temperatures lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
Choose a sunny location where basil will be exposed to at least six hours of sun per day. Basil grows best when it has eight hours of sun each day.
Prepare garden soil or containers for planting. Soil in a garden should be well drained and have no standing water after a rain. Pots should have drain holes with 1 inch of gravel at the bottom of the pot.
Plant basil plants in the garden 8 to 10 inches apart. Good air circulation will prevent disease such fusarium, which will ruin the whole crop. Plant four plants equally spaced in a 10- to 12-inch container.
Water plants well after planting and then water everyday unless it rains until the plants produce new growth. This should take eight to 10 days. After that, water when the soil feels dry. Pots will need more frequent watering as the moisture evaporates more quickly.
Pinch off the stem right above where the top two leaves grow. Do this about five to six weeks after planting. This will encourage two stems to grow instead of just one, causing the plant to branch out and produce more leaves. Always pinch off any flowers that appear on spikes above the plant. The flavor of the plant suffers when flowers bloom.
Harvest as needed. In mid-July pinch back half the plant. The leaves can be dried in an oven at the lowest temperature possible or microwaved between two paper towels at 1-minute intervals until dry. This will keep the leaves green. Store dried basil in air-tight containers.