Basil Care: Properly Watering, Fertilizing And Cutting
Basil cannot be missing in a herb garden. We have compiled all the important care tips for you here.
The warmth-loving basil ( Ocimum basilicum ) is a popular herb. It is often used to season soups, sauces, and vegetable dishes. But for lush growth and a rich harvest of aromatic leaves, you should take good care of your basil plant. Because, unlike many other herbs, the Mediterranean herb has a high need for water and nutrients. In addition, because of its sensitivity to cold, basil must be kept as a potted plant at least during the cold months or – depending on the variety – even overwintered.
Pour basil correctly: how much water does basil need?
Basil has a high water requirement, but – as with almost every herb – you should definitely avoid waterlogging. Otherwise, there is a greater risk that the plant will die due to root fungi. Unnecessary drought stress can also make basil more susceptible to disease. It is important to ensure that the herb does not wilt due to drought. That can mean that you have to water daily, especially when growing in a pot. The basil is happy when its leaves don’t get wet. Finally, the moisture on the leaves can quickly lead to infestation with the so-called leaf blotch disease.
This is caused by a fungus belonging to the genus Septoria. If the basil is grown in a pot, it is, therefore, advisable to water the plant using a trivet. Due to capillary forces, the water pulls up against the gravitational forces in the substrate and soaks it completely. A good supply of water is also guaranteed with this irrigation method, which is gentler on the basil.
You should keep these tips in mind when watering basil:
- Water daily if necessary in summer to avoid drought stress
- Avoid waterlogging
- Water close to the ground outdoors
- Avoid moistening the leaves to prevent diseases
- It is best to water in pots using a trivet
- Reduced water requirement during the resting phase in winter
Fertilizing basil: what fertilizer does basil need?
The basil needs sufficient nutrients to produce many aromatic leaves. You can optimally support your plant with needs-based fertilization. It is best to do basic fertilization in spring. The fertilizer granules are broken down from the soil with the help of microorganisms and slowly release the nutrients for the plant. A second dose of the slow-release fertilizer is recommended in early summer. The basil does not grow quite as fast over the winter, which is why you can also reduce your fertilization.
You can find more information here in our special article on the fertilization of basil.
Cut back the basil
As a rule, basil is very easy to cut. So you don’t need to be afraid of a cut. On the other hand, you should avoid plucking out individual leaves, as the shoots will become bald. Therefore, cut off individual shoots completely for harvest. In this way, you not only encourage branching but also suppress the formation of flowers. This is important because annual basil plants store bitter substances in their leaves during flowering and then die off completely. Shoots that start to flower should therefore be cut off specifically. Always cut basil shoots back to a maximum of five centimeters and make sure to cut off just above a pair of leaves.
As with other crops, you should use clean and sharp tools even when harvesting to reduce the risk of invading pathogens.
Perennial basil varieties should only be cut back over the winter for harvesting purposes, as their growth is reduced in winter.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when pruning basil:
- Use clean and sharp tools
- Do not pluck, but always cut the entire tip of the shoot
- Shorten shoots to a maximum of 5 cm
- Always cut above a pair of leaves
- Do not prune perennial varieties excessively in winter
Caring for basil in the pot: special features
In principle, the same applies to care in pots as in the field. However, you should keep in mind that basil has only a limited root system in the pot. Therefore it can access fewer nutrients and water than planted conspecifics. So water and fertilize your basil in the pot regularly.
However, basil that has already been bought in a pot should be given extra treatment. The individual basil plants are usually sown far too densely for sale. The leaves and roots of the individual plants do not have enough space and the leaves lack sufficient light. For this reason, it is helpful that you take the plants out of their pots and thin them out. To do this, carefully loosen the roots with your fingers and divide the tuft so that you get two pots of basil. Then pot both tufts of basil in a pot each with fresh soil.
It is better to keep perennial basil varieties in the pot, as this is the only way to overwinter them. At temperatures below 10 ° C, the plant no longer feels comfortable. That is why it is advisable to keep them bright and warm in the house. You can find more tips on wintering basil here.
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