Sow: your basil seeds indoors from March to June, 3 seeds per 5cm pot, and cover with a sprinkling of compost. For best results, cover the pot with a clear plastic bag until germination occurs. Transplant when the plant has developed at least 5 true leaves, but wait until all risk of frost has passed before moving outdoors. Apart from fertile, well drained soil, basil needs shelter and sun so carefully select the site for plants being grown in beds. Consider planting near a wall or fence for protection. Basil seeds can also be sown direct outdoors, in pots or soil, in June. The ideal solution is probably to grow your basil on in a container, which you can then move about, indoors and out, depending on the weather!
Aftercare: Water well, in the morning if possible.
Harvest: from the time the plant has adequate foliage (from around 10cm in height) by pinching off leaves, rather than cutting whole stems. Remove flower shoots as soon as they develop to ensure the plant puts all its energy into leaf production.
Basil is very versatile and is delicious in salads and when added to Italian dishes like pizza and pasta. Sweet basil is also the main ingredient in pesto and lime basil adds a refreshing garnish to summer drinks. Try scattering cinnamon basil flowers over ice cream or sorbet for an extra-special dessert.
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