Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet Basil

Ocimum basilicum Our strain of Sweet Basil is a great culinary extravaganza, allowing several harvests over the season from 18 inch tall plants. Use leaves of all sizes in salads or to make pesto. Germination code: (1) Organic.

Herbs feed the palate and the soul! They add color and contrast to the landscape, perfume our homes, heal our wounds, and tantalize our taste buds. They are easy to grow. Whether in the garden or on the windowsill, learn their likes and dislikes, and you'll be rewarded with flavor and beauty.

CULTURE: Herbs grow best in well-drained fertile soils, so a garden bed that is well prepared with plenty of organic matter will increase your chances of success. Maintain a soil pH of 6.5. After seeding or transplanting, keep the soil moist and well weeded. Monthly feedings of a complete fertilizer will produce abundant foliage with maximum flavor.
HARVESTING: For fresh use, harvest as needed. For preserving, harvest at peak maturity. For distilling, harvest when blooms are just beginning to appear. At this point, the leaves contain the highest level of essential oils.
PRESERVING: Drying is the most common way to preserve herbs. Hang small bunches from the ceiling in a dry, dark location with good ventilation. Drying usually takes between 1-2 weeks.
STARTING HERBS FROM SEED: Start seed indoors 6-8 weeks prior to transplanting into the garden. Hardy seedlings can be transplanted after the last frost and tender types after June 1. Follow the guidelines below for the most success.
1. Good sanitation practices are the key to good germination and growth. Always use a sterilized growing medium and clean containers.
2. After you have sown the seeds, water them and cover the container with plastic or a clear dome lid. Remove the covering once germination is complete.
3. You must provide the proper warmth for germination. Never let the soil temperature go above 80°F or below 60°F.
4. Optimum seedling growth can be attained with indoor lighting fixtures in your home or greenhouse.
5. Seedlings transplant more successfully at a younger age. When the second set of true leaves appears, it's time to transplant. Don't allow them to become leggy or root bound. Small seedlings such as thyme, savory, and sweet marjoram may be transplanted successfully in small clumps.
6. Harden off seedlings before transplanting into the garden by gradually exposing them to fluctuating light and temperature.
GERMINATION CODES: Check the code at the end of the description for specific germination requirements.
(1): Germinates at temperatures between 60-75°F.
(2): Larger seeds need to be covered with soil at least as thick as the seed itself. May be slow and erratic to germinate.
(3): These seeds need a period of cold stratification for successful germination. Best results are obtained when the seeds are kept warm and moist for 2 weeks followed by temperatures of 33-35°F for 4-6 weeks or until germination starts.
(4): No special requirements, but germination may be slow and erratic.

BASIL: Ocimum basilicum: Growing basil can easily become an obsession. Once you have tasted basil, you are hungry for more, and soon discover the many varieties and different flavors. The word basil comes from basileus, the Greek word for king.
CULTURE: Do not be in a hurry to plant basil. Treat as a tender annual. Start seeds inside, 3-4 weeks before your last spring frost. Sow in sterile seedling mix and lightly cover seed with fine vermiculite. Inadequate light could result in seedlings becoming leggy. Optimum germination temperature: 70-75°F. Days to germination: 5-14. Fertilize lightly and grow at 62-65°F until planting outside. Plant 12-18 inches apart, in full sun, in rows 24-36 inches apart. Sowing outdoors is not recommended until nighttime temperatures are consistently above 50°F. The flowers range from white to shades of pink and purple and begin to appear from late July into August.
SEED SPECS: Minimum germination standard: 75%. Usual seed life: 3 years. Our basil is tested and found to be free of Fusarium, a potentially devastating disease for the basil grower.

PURCHASED: 1/2g from Territorial Seed Co. Feb '09. $2.50
STARTED SEED: Planted seeds on 3/26. Sprouted 4/1/09. Six days.

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