Culinary Herbs on Demand--Part 1--Basil 

Purple Queen Basil
Many herbs can be effectively grown in containers, so that you can have a wide variety of fresh herbs for your kitchen on demand. Some herbs prefer the better soil drainage of containers versus growing in the ground, and you have the option of moving potted herbs as you need to or wish to re-design your garden.    

mixed basils
There are dozens of types of basil, most of which will grow well here in South Florida. Some of the slower-growing dark-leaf types like the gentler weather of our winters, whereas the more vigorous types like Lemon Basil will grow well in any weather except freezing cold. The large leaf 'Mammoth' basil needs a bit of shade from our hot subtropical sunlight, and some protection from dry winds. Overall, this group is easy to grow, and needs little in terms of specialized care. I find that these plants grow best and most conveniently in containers, the larger the better. A 17 inch nursery pot will allow almost any herb plant to grow to maximum dimensions, and allow better drainage than planting herbs in the ground.  
'Mammoth' basil
 If you choose to grow herbs in containers, there are a few steps you should take to insure success. The most important step of all is to use a well-drained potting soil, not black garden soil. There are numerous soil mixes available such as Pro-Mix, Fafard, and African Violet soil. These are usually peat-based mixes mixed with perlite and vermiculite, and are ideal for herbs and vegetables. Sand-based mixes often hold too much water in pots, in addition to separating from the other components of the soil mix.

Thai Basil

  If you choose to grow basil in the ground, it is wise to grow them in raised beds, preferably at least 12 inches above soil grade. Mixing compost with sand and soil makes a good mix for ground-based herb growing. In either containers or ground growing, mixing  slow-release fertilizer like Dynamite or Osmocote into the soil before planting provides the long duration of continuous fertilizing that basil and other herbs enjoy. Organic rose fertilizer is excellent for this purpose, as well as on other edible plants and vegetables.

One of the best parts about growing basil is that it often sets seed, which sprouts readily. The plants can also be propagated from tip cuttings. Keep in mind that basil is an annual, although it is fairly common that the plants will grow for 2 years. When basil plants get fairly woody, the leaves lose their ideal mild taste and become more bitter. The woody stems can be used to infuse basil flavor into grilled or roasted meats, or used as shish-kabob skewers. basil plants enjoy consistent moisture but not wet feet or soggy soil. Experiment with a few different types, and you may be surprised at how well your containerized gardens will grow for you.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens  

1 comment:

  1. I have been following your blog, and the culinary herb addition is amazing. We will be looking forward to more of your culinary suggestions and tutelage.