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Basil is among the most popular culinary herbs. Basil Dark Red Opal is an annual plant with dark red / purple leaves, that if allow will later show pink flowers.
A great addition to the vegetable garden or grown in pots on the kitchen windowsill, makes an excellent seasoning.
Outside: May - July
Indoors: Virtually all Year Round
Sow the seeds indoors during March and April for planting out from the end of May onwards, or when all danger of frost has passed. Sow lightly into trays or pots of damp compost and lightly cover with fine sifted compost. Place on a warm windowsill or greenhouse bench ensuring the compost does not dry out. The seeds will germinate in around 7-10 days. Seeds can be sown directly outdoors from June onwards.
Growing in pots
Basil plants need warmth and plenty of sunlight so the advantage of growing in pots means you can move the plants to suitable positions throughout the day. Ensure the plants do not dry out and keep them sheltered from drying winds. Apply a liquid feed every 2-3 weeks to keep the plants growing freely.
Growing in beds
If growing in outdoor beds or a designated herb garden, ensure the soil is free draining. Plant out the seedlings 30cm apart and keep well watered. The addition of a mulch applied to the base of growing pants will help to keep the soil from drying out. A liquid feed fertiliser can be applied every 2-3 weeks to keep the plants strong and healthy.
When watering basil plants take care not to splash the delicate leaves. Remove any weeds from around the base as soon as they appear. Don’t use insecticides or fungicides as these will taint the leaves and make them unusable.
Pests and diseases
Slugs can be a problem, especially during the late spring and early summer. It is advisable to use natural slug control remedies such as beer traps and crushed egg shells as opposed to slug pellets. Aphids can also be a problem so best be vigilant and remove them with a jet of water or introduce a biological control method, such as ladybird larvae.
Harvesting and storage
Basil will keep growing throughout the summer if kept watered and if the leaves are harvested regularly. Remove any flower buds as they appear to encourage more leaf growth. Fresh leaves can be frozen for later use. It is very difficult to grow basil during the winter so you might want to dry some leaves at the end of summer and store for later use. Do this by cutting the whole plants at the base of the stem and hanging them upside down in a dry warm place. When the leaves have fully dried, simply crumble them and store in a dry, airtight jar.
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