Basil thrives in a Mediterranean climate. For the rest of us, it's important to give the herb full sun, rich soil, and heat. Read our growing tips:
Keep soil spongy
Thrives in containers
Before it flowers
Don't water at night
Sweet Basil: A Field Guide
In winter we dream of summertime basil, lightly torn over mozzarella and tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil, or crushed in a pesto so fresh and fragrant we can taste it as we type. It seems so easy in our dreams.
In reality, nurturing a healthy crop of basil—bountiful enough for pesto, at least—is tricky business. If you live in a Mediterranean climate, you’re poised for success. For the rest of us, it’s important to remember that sweet basil needs full sun and heat (but if you’re inland, give it a bit of shade). Plant in a 50/50 mix of potting soil and organic compost, and try to refresh the soil at least once, if possible. Don’t interplant basil with other herbs; basil’s water needs are too demanding. For a new twist of color and taste, check out Greek, Thai, or lemon basil cultivars, along with dramatic purple varieties.