Related to mint, basil has a mildly spicy flavored prized in a variety of dishes. As an annual herb, basil must be replanted each year in the garden, but that's rarely an issue because it is simple enough to grow from seed. Basil is usually a full, vibrant green plant, but red- and purple-hued varieties are available that add an ornamental touch to your herb plantings. Start basil seeds outdoors in the garden two weeks after all danger of frost has passed in spring.
Prepare a garden bed in an area that is well-drained and receives full sunlight. Apply a 3-inch layer of mature compost over the bed and till it into the bed to a 10-inch depth, using a spade, hoe or power tiller.
Sow seeds directly on the surface of the garden bed. Cover with ¼ inch of soil. Sow two to three seeds in a single hole, spacing each planting 12 inches apart.
Mist the surface of the soil with water until the bed is evenly moist. Keep the garden moist but not soggy at all times until germination.
Thin the plants to one seedling every 12 inches once they produce their second set of leaves. Pinch off the weaker seedlings at soil level and leave the strongest seedling in place.
Water seedlings once a week, providing 1 inch of water per plant. Apply a 1- to 2-inch layer of bark or wood mulch over the soil once seedlings are 5 inches tall. Mulching preserves soil moisture and prevents weeds.
Pinch off the tips of each stem once basil plants are 6 to 8 inches tall. This encourages full, bushy growth. Continue to pinch off the tips every three to four weeks throughout the growing season.
Harvest basil as needed once plants are established. Cut off the outer leaves of the plant and use immediately or dry for later use. Leave some foliage in place after each harvesting so the plant can regrow.