In my herb garden, I have four kinds of basil: sweet basil, purple, Thai and lemon basil. All of these varieties thrive well in our hot humid condition here in the Philippines. Basil can be grown successfully in pots, which makes them very ideal for urban gardening. While they can grow from seeds, this herb is easier to propagate from cuttings, because the cutting stems grow roots easily. I have tried to propagate it from seeds and it took me a lot longer to grow them. Still, I find basil as the easiest and most gardener-friendly herb to grow in tropical weather conditions.
Here are 5 basic tips that I found very useful in growing basil:
FIRST. Prune the top leaves every week. This will allow the plant to grow new buds from the leaf nodes, which will eventually grow into more stems. Snip off the flower buds (don’t allow them to bloom), or else the leaves will lose their strong aroma and flavor.
SECOND. Expose the plants to a lot of sunlight. While they can thrive in partial shade, the herbs benefit from more sunlight. The plants that are exposed to at least 6 hours of sunlight tend to grow larger leaves and bushy foliage.
THIRD. When grown in containers, use well-draining soil. For my herbs, I use a potting soil mix that I have prepared myself. It is a combination of compost, coco peat, and perlite. If perlite is not available, I use coarse sand instead. These materials are usually available in most gardening stores. Pre-mixed potting soil is also commercially available.
FOURTH. Fertilize with compost once a month. The nutrients in the soil will get depleted over time, especially for potted plants. Every month, I make sure I replenish the nutrients by adding fresh compost to the soil, focusing along the edges of the pots where the root tips tend to concentrate.
FIFTH. Water them when the soil gets dry. Basil thrives well in rich moist soil. In the Philippines, we have the dry and wet seasons. During the hot dry months, the potted soil dries up easily. In this case, daily watering may be necessary. During wet seasons however, water them only as needed.
Most herb varieties, including basil, are not prone to pest attack. In fact, the strong aroma of basil tends to repel most of the common garden pests. I would recommend basil as a starter herb for beginners. It is a very sturdy herb plant, and it generally needs only a little attention, thus making it ideal for busy moms like me.