Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Basil

Family: Lamiaceae

Seed Varieties:

There are many different varieties of basil besides the common Genovese basil. In the past, purple, sweet Thai, and Genovese basil have been grown.

Purple Dark Opal Basil - This is an Italian variety with beautiful lilac flowers and dark red stems. It tastes like a standard basil, but adds an excellent contrast in the garden and on salads.
Thai Basil - This variety has a different delicious taste and look than standard basil. With purple stems and blossoms, and medium-green, pointy leaves, the plants look distinct. The spicy anise- clove scent and flavor is distinctive in Thai or Vietnamese cooking, although can be used in other dishes.
Genovese Basil - This is the classic large-leaved Italian sweet basil found in the market and in most cooking. With large shiny leaves and its delightful aroma, it is distinctive and popular.

Indoor Start Date and Cell Size:

Start on 4/25 in open 200s

Greenhouse Transplant Date and Cell Size:

Transplant on 5/9 into 50s

Outdoor Transplant Date and Bed Specifications:

Transplant outside only after all danger of frost has passed. Space the basil seedlings every foot, with four rows per bed.

Plant Needs:

Basil thrives in warm weather, and does well growing throughout the summer. It does best in rich, moist, well-drained soil. It is very susceptible to cold and frost damage, so be sure to harvest all basil before the threat of frost in the fall. Pinch off flowers as they come to keep the plant bushy, producing leaves instead of flowers.

Harvest Techniques:

Cut basil with a sharp knife or scissors near the base of a branch, taking the whole branch. Choosing a shoot that is about to flower will encourage bushiness of the plant.

Pests and Disease:

Japanese beetles can be a problem, and must simply be picked off by hand. Also basil blight, which is a type of powdery mildew, has been a problem. If caught early, diseased plants should be pulled and disposed of, and the rest of the crop sprayed with a solution of neem oil and baking soda. If uncontrollable, it is best to harvest the entire crop before it is all lost. It can then be dried or made into pesto, instead of going to waste.


Basil does not keep well fresh, even when refrigerated, and so only harvest what is needed. If there is extra, making pesto, which can then be frozen, is the best thing to do. Basil can also be dried, although it should not be dried in bunches, as it may mold. In addition, dried basil loses a significant amount of its flavor.


Basil should be sold for $2.00 per bunch retail, and $1.25 per bunch for wholesale.

Companion Planting:

Basil can be planted in between rows of tomatoes, which can enhance the flavor of the tomatoes and save space. However, this can make the basil difficult to harvest and cause problems with disease, so unless space is extremely limited, it is not recommended.

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