Basil is a great plant to grow in your own backyard. In fact, people around the whole world are doing it, and why wouldn’t they? It’s extremely healthy, it prevents many illnesses, and on top of it all, it adds great flavor and aroma to your food!
However, for those who do not have the luxury of a tropical climate, the winter months can be a particular challenge. Definitely, you want your basil plants to live through the winter months and longer, if possible. In general, basil requires direct sunlight of at least 6 hours per day. They should be watered regularly, every 3 – 6 days, depending on how well-drained the soil is. The more well-drained the soil, the drier it will become and more quickly. Therefore, watering needs to be done more frequently. Anyways, as winter conditions get harsher, the first thing to do in such conditions is to:
1. Get the plants inside your house: As mentioned already, basil plants love the tropical climate where temperatures are almost always above 25 degrees Celsius. So when you see that temperatures in your geographical region are way below that preferred environmental warmth, you should seriously consider bringing them inside! This should be done, by the way, before the first frost.
2. Cut off dead branches and leaves: This is called pruning. By carefully locating and removing the dead and unhealthy parts, precious nutrients are saved that can be utilized to serve the productive parts of the plant only. Also, it will allow for ventilation, which will prevent accumulation of fungus and attack from insects trying to inhabit the plant. As a rule of thumb, one-third to two-thirds of the plant can be pruned back.
3. Wash them off: This should be done to ensure that any swarm of insects, as small as they may be, along with their eggs and larvae are washed off. As an extra precaution, insecticides could be sprayed on the plants once every seven days for a few weeks, until they are actually brought in.
4. Put it in the warmest spot: Since basil requires sunlight of about 6 hours, the warmest part of your house should be used to recreate the natural scenario as closely as possible.
5. By the window may not be the best option: This is only applicable when the windows are not well-insulated. Although this area is likely to get the most amount of sunshine, it will also be the chilliest part of the house at night since the window is often the part of the house that is least insulated.
6. Too much water can be disastrous: Over-watering will occur when the basil is planted in soil or a pot that is not well-drained. Accumulation of water for a long time will prevent the roots from breathing and they will soon rot and eventually die.
7. Excessive food is not a good idea either: Unlike most herbs, basil is a little more nutirent-demanding. However, after summer, its growth slows down and so it becomes crucial to ensure it is not overfed.
8. Allow for air circulation: Obviously, air circulation inside the house will not be as good as in the outdoors. This makes the plant prone to fungal infestations more than ever. As mentioned earlier, this requires pruning and that too must be done properly. The leaves should get enough space from each other and so should one pot from another.
9. Leaves should be checked regularly: Because the stale conditions of the indoors make the plant susceptible to fungal disease, it is important to keep regular checks on the leaves as well as the stems. They should be removed upon any sign of being affected, before it spreads to the whole plant. However, this is very unlikely to happen if the above instructions are followed.
10. Always safe to keep a plan B – collect seeds: Although gardeners usually apply techniques to prevent the plants from flowering, it is a good idea to allow some of the plants to flower and produce seeds that can be used in the next year.
As a whole, cultivating basil leaves, besides being rewarding, often is a blissful experience as well.
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