If you want fresh herbs available throughout the year without spending much time growing them, consider growing basil.
Basil is a culinary herb native to tropical regions from Central Africa to Southeast Asia.
Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum
Propagating basil is simple. You can use seeds or cuttings.
Grow Basil Cuttings in Water
Take a four to 5 inch-long cutting from an already-growing herb. Cut just below the leaf node. Remove any leaves from the bottom of the cutting and leave only the top leaves. If there are flowers on the cutting, remove them too. Put the cuttings into water such that 2/3 rd of the cutting is immersed in water and keep them somewhere warm until they grow roots. The rooted cuttings will be ready within 2-4 weeks.
Growing Basil from Seeds
Fill the mini pots or trays with potting mix, then sprinkle the basil seeds onto them. Then, gently press them down so the potting mix covers them. Sow them 1/4 inch deep and sprinkle some water.
Basil can grow in any container with sufficient drainage holes. In the beginning, they can be planted in 6-8 inches-deep pots, and when they grow bigger, they can be transferred to a bigger pot.
Basil loves the sun and needs at least five to six hours of sunlight daily to thrive. Put the plant near a south- or west-facing window, and if you've got a balcony, keep it out there. Lack of sufficient sunlight causes lanky growth.
Basil needs loose, fertile soil with good water-draining capacity. Enrich the potting soil by adding well-aged organic manure before planting.
Outdoors, basil grows well in moist soil. But indoors, wet soil can kill the herb. Water only when the topsoil is dry. Do not wet the leaves while watering; reduce watering in winter and rainy seasons.
Every two weeks during the growing season, fertilize your basil plants with a half-strength balanced nutrient solution.
Browning of the tip of the leaves, wilted or yellowed lower leaves, and a white crust on the soil are some signs of over-fertilization. If you notice these signs, reduce the frequency of fertilizer application.
Clipping basil plants regularly promote bushier and fuller growth. Remove the flowers as and when they appear. Also, pinch off the top of the stem to encourage lateral growth.
Pests and Diseases
Basil is generally safe against most common pests. However, if you see any aphids, pick them off immediately.
Wilting and mildews are common diseases, and organic fungicides can control these diseases.
You can start harvesting when your plant has few leaves. First, remove the top leaves leaving the leaves below. Pinching off once every 10-14 days encourages bushy growth. This is the best way to harvest basil.
Dr. Vandana K.