Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cultivation of Basil

Basil is propagated by seeds. Because these are very small, they are best sown in flats under glass, covered lightly with finely sifted soil and moistened by standing in a shallow pan of water until the surface shows a wet spot. When about an inch tall, the seedlings must be pricked out 2 inches apart each way in larger-sized flats. When 3 inches tall they will be large enough for the garden, where they should be set 1 foot asunder in rows 15 to 18 inches apart. Often the seed is sown in the mellow border as early in the spring as the ground can be worked. This method demands perhaps more attention than the former, because of weeds and because the rows cannot be easily seen. When transplanting, preference should be given to a sunny situation in a mellow, light, fertile, rather dry soil thoroughly well prepared and as free from weeds as possible. From the start the ground must be kept loose, open and clean. When the plants meet in the rows cultivation may stop.

First gatherings of foliage should begin by midsummer when the plants start to blossom. Then they may be cut to within a few inches of the ground. The stumps should develop a second and even a third crop if care is exercised to keep the surface clean and open. A little dressing of quickly available fertilizer applied at this time is helpful. For seed some of the best plants should be left uncut. The seed should ripen by mid-autumn.

For winter use plants may be transplanted from the garden, or seedlings may be started in September. The seeds should be sown two to the inch and the seedlings transplanted to pots or boxes. A handy pot is the 4-inch standard; this is large enough for one plant. In flats the plants should be 5 or 6 inches apart each way.

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