Bush basil (Ocimum), topping out at 6 inches, is a bushy, low-growing herb that is considerably smaller than its better-known cousin, the sweet basil. The tiny white blossoms that bloom on a basil bush in late summer are smaller as well. Despite the plant's diminutive size, bush basil is just as fragrant and just as delicious as sweet basil. Plant bush basil in an herb garden, as a border or edging plant, or in a container. Bush basil, also known as Greek basil, is an easy-to-grow herb, ideal for novice gardeners.
Purchase bush basil at a nursery or herb center. You can also start bush basil seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost in your area, or plant the seeds directly in the garden after the weather has warmed in spring. Container-grown basil should be planted in commercial potting soil, and in a container that has a drainage hole in the bottom.
Plant bush basil in full sunlight. Choose a site where the soil drains well and puddles don't remain for more than a few hours.
Water just enough to keep the soil around the bush basil moist, but not enough to be soggy. Mulched soil will require very little water.
Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw or chopped leaves around the bush basil plants when the plants reach about 4 inches tall. Replenish the mulch in midsummer if the mulch settles down. The mulch will enrich the soil and will retain moisture and control weeds. Bush basil requires no additional fertilizer.
Pinch off any blooms to encourage the bush basil to continue production through the summer. If you prefer, you can pinch off part of the blooms, leaving the remaining blooms for seeds or to use as decorations. Flowers left on the plant will produce seeds when the blooms dry up in autumn.
Begin harvesting sweet basil leaves when the plant begins to form buds, but before the buds bloom. The more you harvest, the more leaves the plant will produce. However, don't strip the plant of too much of its foliage, because it may not recover. Harvest the last of the basil before the first frost of the season, as the basil bush won't survive the cold.
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