A non-profit organization dedicated to education with regard to the culture and use of herbs
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 MHS 2012-2013 Herb of the Year   
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MHS Herb
of the Year
- Basil

Garden Companions of Basil
From the May 2012 MHS Newsletter
By Bonnie Kulke

It’s May but will it be the warm weather we need for planting our seeds and plant starts? After having June-like weather in March and March-like weather in April, its hard to predict. I guess time will tell. Nevertheless it’s really time to make your garden plans.

With our own Plant Exchange around the corner and plant sales every weekend at places like Olbrich, neighbor¬hood garden clubs, the Arboretum, Farmer’s Market and open garden centers, how can we ignore the idea of planting something!

Planning Your Basil Collection
Remember to be patient if you are planting basil. Nights need to be warm and soil needs to warm up as well. Hopefully everyone will be planting some basil, whether from seed or starts – common green or one of the new varieties – just do it. Basil will do well in containers or in the ground.

As you plan, don’t forget to plant basil as a decorative accent – not just the ones you want for regular harvest. With its lovely foliage, color and fragrance, it’s a natural in flowerbeds or pots. Or pair green and opal together in your herb bed. If you have room perhaps an entire area dedicated to as many types of basil as you can collect. Consider the fancy varieties of “Purple Ruffles” and “Green Ruffles” to add real pizzazz to your planting. Pair lemon basil with marigolds or calendula. How about large-leaved sweet basil with fine-leaved chervil surrounding your colorful petunias or gerani¬ums?

Allow some of your basils not for harvest to flower, especially Thai Basil or Cinnamon Basil with their distinctive purple flower spikes!

Basil isn’t just tasty with tomatoes, but did you know it is a great garden companion to repel tomato hornworm? Plant it near asparagus to repel asparagus beetle. Basil also enhances the natural growth of both tomatoes and beans.

As you plant, leave enough space between basil plants (according to type and label directions) to allow for its maxi¬mum growth. And harvest often and regularly!!

Watering and Fertilizing Basil
Tom DeBaggio, herb grower and propagator, found in his basil trials that there was “virtually no difference in amount of harvest between basil grown in the garden vs. plants in a container”.

The most important factor is well-drained soil and access to necessary nutrients. He suggests fertilizing pot grown specimens every two weeks during the grow¬ing season. And don’t be afraid to water in dry spells. Basil, unlike rosemary and thyme, does not like to dry out. Adequate water at regular intervals will help plants maintain their foliage and good flavor. Drought means smaller leaves, bitter taste and rapid seed produc¬tion! If you are forced to grow only in containers, plant many pots of one plant each rather than trying to grow many in one large pot.

Attract Romance With Basil
And if you are single and looking for romance, place a basil plant on your windowsill. Italians see it as a sign you are looking for love—and it can’t hurt to have this lovely fragrant plant where everyone can appreciate it!

Growing Basil from Seed

Garden Companions of Basil

Cooking with Basil



2011 - Mint
Labiatae (aka Lamiaceae)

2010 - Dill
Anethem graveolens

2009 - Bay Laurel
Laurus nobilus

2008 - Scented Geraniums and Edible Flowers
Scented Geraniums - Pelargonium

2007 - Herbs de Provence
Herbs de Provence
Lavender - In Your Kitchen and Throughout Your Home

2006 - Rosemary
For centuries, rosemary has been used as a symbol of friendship, love, loyalty, and remembrance.

2005 - Oregano/Marjoram
There are 36 different species of Origonum, which includes many fragrant and ornamental herbs.

2004 - Lemon Herbs
For the 2004 Madison Herb Society Herb of the Year, we’re revisiting Lemon Herbs. There are many and they come from a variety of herb families.

 2003 - The Alliums
The Alliums - an Introduction - learn the basics of edible alliums Onions, Onions, Onions - Culiinary uses for and growing onions.
Garlic - a culinary favorite, growing and harvesting garlic
Chives - an overview of this tastyherb

2002 Herb of the Year - Dill
Dill - Anethum graveolens
(a-ne thum gra ve o lenz) - is a member of the carrot (Umbellelliferae or Apiaceae) family that also includes parsley, fennel, and caraway.