If I had a car, I would read the owner’s manual to determine how to keep it in good shape. If I had a pet, I’d buy books that teach how to keep it happy and healthy. So why shouldn’t I learn about each plant in my garden in order to help it thrive? First on the list: purple basil.
The first thing I realized was that I have no idea which kind of purple basil plant I own. The website for Bonnie Plants doesn’t distinguish between African Blue, Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles, or other basil varieties. It does note that my plant needs 6 to 8 hours of sun (check) and moist but well-drained soil (check). The Old Farmer’s Almanac instructs that I should “water plants freely,” so that solves my dilemma about how often to hose them down and whether I might kill them if I water them too often.
Many sources encourage pinching off the center shoot six weeks after planting,well before flowers start to bud. It’s only been two weeks since I planted my basil, but I’ll make a note on my calendar to prune it in a few weeks. The Almanac notes that every time a branch “has six to eight leaves, repeat pruning the branches back to their first set of leaves.” I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I guess I’ll go stare at my basil plant later and figure it out … or ask my dad to explain.
Harvesting some of the leaves will encourage the growth of more delicious basil for me to nosh on or cook with. I’ve already talked with my mom about making a margherita pizza with her signature tomato sauce (like a true Italian, she calls it “gravy”), fresh mozzarella, and purple basil leaves. I’ve also come across some other good ideas, like making a pesto or a basil vinegar. Depending upon the taste of my purple basil, I’m also thinking about turning it into a dressing for salads, since I’ve been looking for a good, healthy option.
Hopefully learning about my plants will help to grow my green thumb. But I know there’s nothing like practice when it comes to becoming a better gardener, so I’m going to do a ton of observing, watering, and tending for my purple basil as well.