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Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean


Grow this Mediterranean herb in your garden!

Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum Common Name: Sweet Basil Family: Laminaceae Description: Basil is from the warm climates of Africa, Asia, Central and South Americas. There are over 150 varieties. Sweet Basil grows to about 2 feet in height with green oval leaves, but varieties have great diversity (i.e. O. basilicum, 'Purpurascens').

Cultivation: Basil is a warm season annual which grows best in the hottest part of the garden on the coast or in a movable container where it can get at least 6 hours of sun. It is a tender annual, thus sensitive to frost. The soil should be 75 to 85 degrees; cold soil/air causes basil to grow slowly. Basils tend to bolt and set seed, and then die. But you can prolong its season if the main stem is cut before it flowers (leave at least one node with 2 young shoots) and flowers thereafter are kept pinched back. Basil as a leafy crop needs good fertile soil. Start with well-rotted manure or compost mixed into the bed, then keep nutrients abundant with an organic fertilizer* once during the growing season. Space or thin 10 – 12 inches apart. Water deeply once a week at the base of the plant and mulch to retain moisture after soil has warmed. *NOTE: Too much nitrogen will lead to low oil content. Propagation: Cuttings from the garden do well in containers for the winter or seeds are easily started in mid-summer to mature in the fall. Usually, basils started from seeds are sown directly into the soil or in pots because they have long taproots and don't like to be transplanted. Common Problems: Cold water on leaves can cause black spots. Also be careful to monitor for snails in the mulch. Sources: Ogden, Ellen. Grow & Using Basil Loe, Theresa. Herbal Home Companion Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, Claire Kowalchik & William H. Hylton, editors Sunset Western Garden Book, Kathleen Norris Brenzel, editor UC Davis web site (

Submitted by Master Gardener Bobbie Knapp, 2007.