Basils are the essence of the summer herb garden and culinary icons with a large and devoted following. These beautiful herbs, which belong to the genus Ocimumdisplay surprising aromatic subtleties due to their ability to hybridize across species lines, resulting in an almost infinite variety of aromas and tastes.
How to Prune Basil for Larger Yields
The gene pool creates a plethora of clear, gemlike scents that range through lemon, camphor, cinnamon, clove, and anise. It is this diversity of aromas that both cooks and gardeners find so appealing.
Like other herbs, basils are little chemical factories, producing aromatic essential oils that are contained in microscopic sacs on the leaves and stems. When a plant is brushed or chewed, the sacs are ruptured and the fragrance released.
Basils are members of the mint family Lamiaceaea large amalgam of plants characterized by square stems and opposite leaves. Many are aromatic; thyme, oregano, rosemary, and lavender are other familiar herbs in the same family. A few basils are perennial in their native tropical habitats, but most are annuals, which die after flowering and setting fruits. The genus Ocimum is like a huge extended family, filled with doting parents, favorite aunts and uncles, even the occasional oddball cousin.
Your taste will determine what kind of basils you like to grow—spicy, minty, citrus, sweet, pungent, take your pick—and how much you use. Here are some general guidelines to help you get the most from your plants, preserve your harvest, and use it in the kitchen. The semitropical and tropical regions to which Ocimum species are native offer some obvious clues: warm, sunny weather and plenty of moisture.
In most areas of the United States, basils thus have a limited period of rapid growth. In the mid-Atlantic states, where we live, they grow well for about days, beginning in late May or early June and ending in October. Basils grow best in a site with daylong sun, but most varieties can subsist on as little as three to four hours of direct sunlight.
They will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions but will grow best in a well-drained, loamy, nearly neutral soil pH 6 to 6. Good air circulation discourages fungus diseases. Certain cultivars are so unstable that they must be grown from stem cuttings; purple-leaved types are notoriously difficult for breeders to tame.
Seeds may be sown directly into the garden after the frost-free date, or they may be started indoors four to six weeks earlier, which gives the gardener a head start and permits additional harvests.
Space transplants or thin seedlings to 12 to 18 inches apart. Water regularly—about 1 inch of water per week in the absence of rain—and give the plants a fortnightly draft of liquid fertilizer. Basils are fast-growing, heavy feeders; big yields are the result of steady growth and rich soil.
How much basil should you grow to meet your cooking needs? To determine plant yields, we experimented with ten varieties of culinary basil, growing them both in gardens and in containers, and we made some surprising discoveries. We also found virtually no difference between the yield of basils grown in the ground and those grown in containers.
Our test plants produced an average of 13 ounces, or about 7 cups of leaves per plant. During their summer growth, basil plants are desperate to flower and set seed. Start pruning when the plant has six to eight pairs of leaves. Within as little as three weeks, the pruned stem will have regrown two to four new, harvestable branches. Basil is best when used minutes after it is picked.
To keep basil fresh for a day or two, place the stems in a jar of water away from sunlight. To have it fresh for seven to ten days, cover the jar and stems loosely with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. Keeping basil for longer periods of time can be a problem. Freezing turns the leaves dark and flavorless.Dwarf basil in the first ZipGrow experimental greenhouse. Dwarf basil has smaller leaves and is bushier than most varieties.
The woody herb can be sweet, savory, or peppery, and it smells amazing. For a century or two, basil was thought to spawn scorpions. Basil belongs to the mint family Lamiaceaealong with rosemary, oregano, thyme, and several other popular herbs.
Our favorite basil varieties are the classic sweet basil Ocimum basilicumGenovese basil, Thai basil, and dwarf basil. Sweet basil is a favorite among the Upstart Farmers. Herbs are much more profitable than leafy greens, and can be a fantastic crop line for market growers.
The pricing you receive will vary depending on your market. Matt Marsh is a basil farmer in North Carolina. Basil has been bred to be a single-stemmed plant growing upward. For most growers, a bushier plant is better. Upward growth is called apical growth. This is called lateral growth. This means that if growers clip the stem right above those lateral buds a half inch or sothe buds will be triggered to grow out. By pruning basil this way, growers can increase the production of that branch and control the shape of the plant.
Matt explains why:. Any leaves above that split on the stem will be harvested. The next day, I got a call from him saying that the basil had gone bad! A few warm-weather crops respond to cold temperatures with rapid decay. At this temperature, it can attain a shelf life of 12 days. Instead of cooling the basil, keep it in a higher-temperature cooler, or on a counter in a cool room. If growers package basil in bags or cartons that reduce moisture loss plastic with little or no air exchangebe sure to keep storage temperatures steady to avoid condensation.
Matt has had success with vented bags:. Our restaurants keep the bags in dry storage of some sort and most just hang the bags in the kitchen away from heat and certainly not in the cooler! Costs us more but they never have bad basil. Matt has solved this problem by providing a test bunch free of charge so that customers can see the results themselves.
Handle basil gently, as bruising can increase the rate of deterioration. Many Upstart Farmers have found that selling basil packaged in clamshells is helpful for preserving the herb. Evan, glad this was helpful — thanks for reading! Matt uses a local supplier for his harvesting supplies because he can try out new products quickly and saves himself time in researching each product.
He recommends this to new growers as well. He actually just switched to a draw-string plastic bag because he can fit it into a 5-gallon bucket, harvest directly into the bag, and save labor time. Hey Ryan, I believe so. Other farmers might have recommendations. Are the ones on the blog the best one or the one in the PDF? Hi Maxime, thanks for the heads up on that inconsistency!
These are a bit more conservative so stick with the ones here. I have a question on how to read the reference cards…harvesting for basil is done weeks from transplant or from seed? Not sure how the timeline should be read.Basil is a popular genus in the mint family Lamiaceae with more than 30 species currently identified Simon et al.
Basil species and cultivars vary widely in their characteristics, such as flavor, plant appearance, and architecture. There are several uses for basil, including essential oil production Wogiatzi et al. Among these different uses, basil is most commonly used as a culinary herb Simon et al. Sweet basil is the most commonly cultivated basil species for culinary use, though lemon basil and holy basil are also produced for consumption and use in cooking Juntachote et al.
Culinary basil can be grown outdoors or in controlled environments. Although the demand for fresh produce such as basil has increased Wolf et al.
Research has been conducted on field production of basil Sifola and Barbieri,but there are areas of hydroponic greenhouse basil production yet to be fully researched.
There are several hydroponic systems frequently employed in greenhouse production of various food crops including dutch buckets, slab and bag culture, NFT, and DFT Fenneman et al.
We have found no peer-reviewed research quantifying the growth of numerous basil species and cultivars produced in different hydroponic systems. The objectives of our research were to quantify and characterize growth of basil species and cultivars grown in NFT and DFT hydroponic systems. Seeds of 35 cultivars of basil, which represented several species, were obtained from several sources Table 1.
Although additional cultivars were available, we judged them impractical for commercial hydroponic use because of excessive compact growth, short stem length, small leaf size, and low productivity. Fresh and dry weight, nodes, height, internode length, leaf index LIbranch number, and source of 35 different cultivars of basil grown hydroponically.
Data were collected 3 weeks after transplanting seedlings into hydroponic systems.
Plants were placed in 3. Baskets were placed in 3. In both systems, plants were spaced 8 inches apart. Each system contained one plant of each of the 35 cultivars.
Hydroponic systems were in a glass-glazed greenhouse at Ames, IA lat. The PPF and air temperature were measured with a quantum sensor and temperature probe in a naturally aspirated radiation shield, respectively, connected to a datalogger Watchdog Plant Growth Station; Spectrum Technologies, Aurora, IL. Environmental data are reported in Table 2. Average light intensity and daily air temperature during hydroponic greenhouse production of basil. The nutrient solution consisted of deionized water and 16N—1.
The EC was maintained at 1. The nutrient solution was constantly aerated with one 6-inch-long air stone per 10 gal of nutrient solution Active Aqua air stone 6 inches, Hydrofarm attached to a L air pump Active Aqua; Hydrofarm.
The oxygen concentration in the nutrient solution was measured daily with a dissolved oxygen meter HIHanna Instruments and was 8. When the majority of plants were harvestable 4 and 3 weeks after planting for Runs 1 and 2, respectivelygrowth was assessed. Plants were severed at the surface of the foam cubes and fresh weight was immediately recorded. Each experimental run was organized in a randomized complete block design in a factorial arrangement with 10 hydroponic systems replicates per system type with one plant per cultivar in each replicate system.
Factors were hydroponic system 2 levels and cultivar 35 levels. The experiment was run twice. For both experimental runs, growth and development were affected by either cultivar or hydroponic production system, but not the interaction between production system and cultivar Tables 3 and 4.
In the second run, production system had no effect on node number, LI, or branch number Table 3 ; however, fresh weight, dry weight, and height of basil grown in DFT systems was 2. Analyses of variance for fresh and dry weight, node number, height, leaf index, internode length, and branch number for 35 basil cultivars grown in either a nutrient film technique or deep flow technique hydroponic system in a greenhouse. Data were collected 4 weeks after transplanting seedlings into hydroponic systems.
For both runs, cultivar affected each parameter of growth and development measured Tables 3 and 4.It turns out that cultivation of rosemary and basil provides great opportunities for profit, and if it takes place organically — the profit is twofold. Using the new development law, which will be "open" to new applications until the end of October, producer groups can work together and set up companies in order to establish processing units for the processing of aromatic and medicinal plants for the production of essential oils.
Rosemary and basil are two cultures without specific requirements and adapted to the Mediterranean climate, and poor areas can be used for their cultivation. The soil and climatic conditions in Greece are particularly suitable for these herbs that provide excellent quality products.
Revenues in accordance with the yields of an organic plantation with these two herbs can reach up to 2, euro per acre.
Cultivation of herbs in Greece is not unknown, but in recent years, it has been growing as an alternative in agriculture as well as in processing. The annual yield in the cultivation of basil reaches kg of dried leaves and the revenue per acre could reach up to euro annually, while in organic farming - up to 1, - 2, euro. The variety, which is grown in Greece, is citriodora, with large leaves and strong aroma.
Therefore, it is grown for the production of dry substance and essential oils. Basil is an annual plant which reaches cm in height according to the variety. There are also perennial varieties. It is grown in various areas, which may be warmer or colder. A temperate climate is the most suitable. Basil requires a lot of water and irrigation at regular intervals.
The frequency depends on the type of soil. During hot days, it should be watered every second day. Drying is carried out in ventilated rooms or in special drying chambers. The production of essential oils is carried out in distilleries similar to those used for peppermint and other plants.
About kg of dry matter is produced from 2, kg of leaf mass per acre. It is used as infusion fresh and dryin salads, as well as an essential oil in perfumery, alcohol production, preservation, manufacturing medicines and soaps. For the organic production of rosemary, the profit is almost triple and revenue per acre can reach 1, annually.
The investment before the start of cultivation of rosemary amounts to euro per acre, and cultivation is perennial and continues years. With an average production of kg per acre dry substance, growing rosemary can give revenues in organic farming to the amount of more than 1, - 1, euro per acre, while if it is conventionally grown - up to euro per acre.There is almost nothing more appealing than the smell of freshly picked basil.
The aroma of a freshly cut small bunch can fill a room. Some of the great eating experiences of summer include the taste of fresh basil. It can be combined with fresh mozzarella on a sliced tomato just picked from the garden. Fresh basil can also be used to make a delicious pesto sauce. Fortunately, thanks to greenhouses and controlled environment agriculture CEAbasil can be grown year round.
Basil is appealing to growers because of its consistent demand from consumers. Growers who produce basil during colder months are usually able to fetch higher prices when local outdoor crops are unavailable.
Just as easily as you might make a lot of money from producing basil, you could end up breaking even or losing money. Here are some issues growers might face and options they might consider before starting to produce basil. What variety of basil should you grow? Basil comes in all sizes and colors. There are Italian basils, Thai basils and Indian basils. Some have small leaves, some have large leaves. Some are more aromatic, while others have a stronger flavor. You first need to determine what market you are going to target and what potential customers will need from you as the grower.
After choosing the varieties, run some production trials to see how the plants grow and what changes may be required. Do you plan to grow year round? Typically during the summer, many markets are flooded with local, field-produced basil. Consequently the price drops accordingly.
You have the option to grow year round in order to maintain a brand presence. Another important consideration during the summer is that energy costs are usually at their highest during this time of year. If you have a big energy bill dedicated towards supplemental lighting, climate management equipment cooling as well as other energy hungry tools and technology it might not make financial sense to operate during the summer.
How long should basil be harvested before the plants are replaced? Although basil is treated as an annual in the United States, it is actually a warm weather perennial plant. This means in a constant environment, such as in CEA, basil continues to produce indefinitely.
As plants age, often the visual quality of the leaves remains very high, but the flavor can change and is less than desirable. Careful attention should be placed on this aspect of production since there are no visual indicators that will indicate when to replace the plants.Basil is a popular culinary herb, and producers are always looking to increase yields to boost their bottom line.
We discussed in the November issue of Greenhouse Grower how cultivar selection and hydroponic systems affect the growth and yield of basil, and how proper cultivar selection is an easy way to increase yield without having to drastically change your production practices or increase input costs.
In a later article, we will discuss how to manage nutrient solution and temperature during production. However, in this second article of a four-part series highlighting hydroponic basil production, we focus on how increasing planting density under different daily light integrals DLIs affects yield of hydroponically grown basil. The photo was taken three weeks after transplanting seedlings into hydroponic systems and treatments.
The nutrient solution EC and pH were adjusted to 1. Supplemental lighting was provided by HPS high-pressure sodium lamps to increase the light intensity during the day for the plants grown under a high DLI, and provide a hour day length for plants grown under both low and high DLIs.
Aluminized shade cloth was also utilized to decrease daytime light intensity for plants grown under a low DLI. Three weeks after transplanting, we measured height, node and branch number and the fresh and dry mass of shoots. In the November article, we mentioned that purple basil tends to be the lowest yielding basil type. While unaffected by planting density, the fresh weight of individual plants was 0.
Alternatively, neither planting density nor DLI affected height, node or branch number. A 4-inch spacing resulted in the highest fresh and dry mass per square foot for plants grown under both low and high DLIs. We saw similar results in purple basil. Both increasing DLI and the density of the growing cubes increased yield. For example, plants grown under a high DLI, increasing plant density from 4.
What It Means As expected, increasing the density of sweet and purple basil in hydroponic systems increased the yield per square foot under both low and high light. However, there was no impact on the weight of individual plants. What does this mean? Whether you are producing live and sleeved plants or fresh-cut and packaged basil, growing plants on 4-inch centers can increase the yield — both the number of plants and the weight per square foot.
Additionally, the increased yield with closer spacing and higher densities was even greater under high DLIs. For producers who may be considering using supplemental lighting to increase yields, look at what your current planting density is. If plants are currently spaced 6- or 8-inches apart, reduce the spacing to 4-inches for production under lights. The increased yield from the higher density will increase the return on investment. One important point is that this research was performed on plants that were harvested once i.
With our experience and observations, we believe that harvesting basil only one time as opposed to several times is one of the best means to diminish pest and disease pressure. If you are harvesting basil plants more than once, we suspect that a 4-inch spacing would be too close, given the fact that between each harvest plants get larger and require more room for adequate air movement and light penetration. Take-Home Messages For Basil Production Increasing densities of basil planting clearly increases the yield per square foot with no effect on the weight of individual plants.
Furthermore, the magnitude of the effect of increasing planting densities was greater under the higher daily light intervals. These results apply to single harvest basil only. Different planting densities may be optimal for growers using a multiple harvest method.
Results may also vary across different locations, greenhouse environments and cultural practices. We encourage producers to conduct on-site trials to determine cultivar performance under their production practices.
Walters is a graduate research assistant at Iowa State University. See all author stories here. Christopher J.
By Kellie J. Walters Christopher J.Log in or Sign up. Welcome to the Homesteading Today Forum and Community! Mar 15, 1. Messages: 3, I was asked once again to grow 75 pounds of basil a week.
Just how much does a basil plant produce in weight. I would like to have enough plants that I can always be cutting new plants every week. Any ideas? Linda ps the guy said it has to be cheap. Mar 17, 2. Wow, that's a lot of basil. It will be interesting to see how this turns out! HilltopDaisyMar 17, Mar 18, 3. What does he use that much basil for?
Plant alot of it in your garden, and it will keeps the bus away. We usually plant every other row of basil in between everything else. Mar 24, 4. Messages: 1, You're going to need a lot of space and plants, each plant prolly only produces 4 ounces over it's lifespan my best guess trying to remember from last year ; it is bulky rather than heavy, and planting, growing on, and harvesting 75 pounds worth each week is an incredible amount of labor, so be careful how cheap you price yourself.
He may be unreasonable in his demands, and no one else will fill his order. Basil is a premium crop, not a bargain one. I was good friends with a truck farmer in CA who grew basil in his greenhouse on raised benches, and he always got a premium for it.
He would have chilled bags of the fresh leaves at the Farmer's Market in Napa Valley, aka Wine Country, where the fancy restaurant chefs go buy their gourmet provisions each week.
I grow basil every year in 18 square feet of raised hydroponic tray space, and get enough pesto in a year to make a generous meal for 2, about 30 times. All I do is feed them and harvest them. Hydroponic growing is, imho, a great way to grow big basil harvests, very clean and damage-free leaves, like a buyer would want, and no weeds to deal with.