How to grow and propagate basil
Speedy had the entire garden pruned and cleaned. Most of the ornamental plants have been uprooted and discarded. A nightmare, perhaps, for those whose appreciation for plants is based on their monetary value because some of the plants that we had thrown away are rather expensive. We didn’t buy them, actually, they came with the house so I never personally considered them as our plants because they really don’t say anything about us. They were never an expression of our persons and personality. I can’t say I miss them; I can’t say I’m sorry they’re gone. In fact, I am glad they’re gone because now we have more space for the kind of plants that we really want — edible plants.
If you’re a long-time reader, you’re probably aware of how we’ve been growing herbs even back in the little garden of our old little house. When we moved to a larger house with a larger garden, we started planting fruit-bearing trees too. The fruit-bearing trees — tamarind, kaffir lime, lime, lemon, kalamansi and orange — are thriving but the herbs have been a come-and-go affair. See, every time a storm or a typhoon passes by, they take a lot of the herbs with them. If the herbs don’t get uprooted by the strong winds, they are drowned by strong rains. After a while, we just gave up and the spaces formerly occupied by herbs got overrun by the growing ornamental plants. Now that the ornamental plants are gone, we can start growing herbs again. I really miss them, especially the basil (we used to grow three kinds), mint (we had three kinds of that too), oregano, tarragon and thyme.
How did we grow herbs and how do we intend to do it this time?
We start with seedlings (see where to buy potted herbs). We let the seedlings grow (no picking until they have matured a bit) and those that can be propagated via stem-cutting, we propagate that way. Like basil.
Basil likes lots of sunshine and does not require too much watering. That’s why it’s so easy to grow them in a tropical climate. When the plant is mature enough that the lower stems turn woody, it is safe to start doing some stem-cutting. Choose a mature stem, snip diagonally and replant the cutting directly into the soil. For best results, trim all the leaves from the cutting so that the stem can get all the nutrients from the soil. It grows faster that way.
As for a mature basil plant, to make sure that it continues to grow leaves profusely, sunshine and water aren’t enough. You have to cut off the flowers. Oh, yes, when basil reaches a height of about two feet, they will start to grow flowers. The flowers will appear on top. They are beautiful, lavender and dainty, but it’s the leaves that you want, not the flowers. If the flowers are not cut off, the branches where they grow will stop growing leaves on top. No new stems will form on top of those branches either.
I used to be so darn lazy about cutting off the flowers. Not anymore.
So, again, get rid of the flowers. Where should the cut be made? Here’s a video that shows exactly where.