Basil care in winter – 10 golden rules

Basil is one of the most popular plants in horticulture around the world, and its tasty leaves make a wonderful addition to any home kitchen. However, for those who don’t live in a tropical climate where basil can thrive year-round and easily reseed, it could be challenging to keep your basil growing healthily during the winter months.

Basil is an annual plant. Unless it’s in tip-top condition, it won’t survive the next season. However, you can extend the life of your plants into the winter months (or even beyond) and enjoy the tastiest leaves by following these simple rules.

1. Collect seeds. Many seasoned herb gardeners know the secret of removing basil flowers so the plant can focus all of its energy on producing the healthiest, most vibrant leaves. However, if you plan to grow basil year after year, it may be wise to let a few basil plants flower and set seed, so you can collect and store them for the next year.

What you must do:

  • Let the flower bloom and then wither and dry up. Then if you look up from below you will see small black seeds attached to the dried flower pods.
  • Wait until the flower dries, then cut them, put them in a plastic bag and shake them. The seeds will collect nicely in the bag.
  • Note that you don’t need to shake it too hard; If some of the seeds refuse to detach from the flower, it could mean that they are not fully mature.

2. Transfer basil inside. Basil originates from Central Asia and Africa, where the temperature never drops below 40 degrees. If you live in an area where the temperature can drop below 45F (7C), you should seriously consider transferring your basil indoors.

3. Give him a good haircut. Before transferring your basil to pots, it is good gardening practice to prune your plant. There are many advantages: First, during the pruning process, dead or diseased leaves and branches are removed, so nutrients will not be wasted on this unproductive part of the plant. Second, proper pruning ensures good ventilation, which is very important in keeping the basil plant free of fungus and harmful insects. As a general rule, basil and most herbal plants can be pruned by one-third and no more than two-thirds.

4. Give him a good shower. This is another simple yet important step in basil care before winter sets in. A thorough showering of the plants can remove any insects, larvae, and eggs that may have attached themselves to the basil leaves. For best results, insecticidal soap can be sprayed on the plant, once a week for a few weeks, before the actual transfer to ensure your basil is completely free of these pesky little critters.

5 Pick a bright spot at home. Basil is a sun lover, so it’s only natural that you place your potted basil in a sunny spot. Basil will be happy if they can get 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. An ideal location would be the south and/or west corner, which is usually the warmest part of your home.

6. But not too close to the window. This applies if your windows are not well insulated. While this area is usually the best sunny spot, basil can be damaged during cold nights when the temperature drops to 40F or below, since the window is usually the least insulated part of your home.

7. Do not overwater. Although basil needs more water than Mediterranean herbs (eg, rosemary), the herb cannot survive overwatering, especially if the soil or pot does not drain well. In particular, don’t let the pots sit in saucers filled with water for a long time because when the roots can’t breathe, they will quickly rot and die.

8. Air circulation. Many garden professionals understand the importance of sun and water to basil. But most did not realize that keeping the place airy is very essential for the health of the plant, especially for growing basil in pots. Why? Air circulation is naturally poorer indoors, and your basil (as well as other herbs and plants) are more succumbing to fungal diseases. The solution includes proper pruning to create more space for each individual leaf, as mentioned in Rule #3. Pots should not be placed too close to each other for the same reason.

9. Don’t overfeed. Basil is not a typical herb in the way that it loves to be fed. That said, since its growth slows as summer ends, it’s important not to overfeed the plant as it enters its dormancy period.

10. Check sheets regularly. Because of its strong flavor, basil is resistant to most harmful insects, but fungal diseases can attack plants in a cold, stale environment. It is always good practice to check leaves regularly for signs of mold and other diseases, and all affected leaves and stems should be removed immediately to prevent them from spreading to the entire plant. By “all” the leaves, I mean it: if you mean 80% of the plant, so be it! Having said that, if you follow the above rules your leaves should stay healthy, vibrant and strong for the rest of the months in your home. Enjoy your herb harvest and best wishes for your basil care success!

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