Beautiful deep purple glossy leaves, with the same culinary uses as Sweet Basil, but also wonderfully ornamental in the flower bed or in a container.The pale pink flowers are a beautiful contrast to the dark foliage and the bees just love it.Use as a garnish, in salads, and to flavour vinegar. Also good for drying.
If growing outdoors, Basil likes a fertile soil that has been well dug to allow good soil air circulation. Introducing well rotted organic compost or manure into the soil a month or so before sowing will help this. Before sowing ensure that the compost or soil is weed free and moist.
If growing in pots then a general purpose compost is a suitable soil solution. Ensure that adequate drainage is allowed from the base of the pot.
It is vital that Basil is not exposed to the last spring frosts so if sowing outside be patient and sow in late March. Sow at any time if the plant is to be kept indoors. If sowing inside and planting outside, you can sow in late February.
Sow the seed thinly and if growing in pots sow enough for a few plants in each pot. Cover with 6mm of compost and firm gently. Basil seeds usually germinates in 7 to 14 days at temperatures around 22°C (70°F). Once the seedlings have developed two pairs of true leaves, thin out the weakest seedlings, leaving each pots strongest.
Once established, basil needs very little care. If growing indoors in pots then weeds shouldn’t be a problem. If growing outdoors then you can add an organic mulch around the plants to help aid soil moisture retention and prevent weed establishment. Add a small amount of fertiliser every month or so to any pot plants. Water at the base of the plant avoiding showering the leaves and stems.
Basil once it flowers tends to produce a more bitter taste in the leaves. Pinching off the flowers is recommended unless you are specifically looking to harvest the seeds.
Basil takes about 80 days to flower. In summer remove about 2/3rds of the plant leaving just enough for regeneration, this gives an abundance of basil leaves and elongates the growing period. Dry or freeze any excess leaves for later use. It is also a good time to sow another batch of seeds, this will see you through the season.
Basil will grow all year round indoors but outdoor plants should be dug up and brought indoors before the first fall frosts if you want to extend the plants growing season.