Friday, July 10, 2009

Basil cloning made easy

We have grown basil for years, mostly for its ornamental qualities. I particularly love the purple basils, and the butterflies and bees attracted to their flowers. This year, I decided to plant Genovese basil hoping to supply our restaurant with a constant supply of fresh, organic basil. We go through about three pounds of basil per week at the restaurant; most of it is used to make pesto, with the rest going into the soups we make from scratch each day. I bought eight plants at Buchanan's in March, and planted them in a sunny, fertile section of the garden. It quickly became apparent that I needed more plants, so I bought and planted 3 additional Genovese basil. These, too, are thriving, but I couldn't keep up with the restaurant's needs, so I purchased packets of basil seeds hoping to increase production without investing a bundle in additional plant purchases.

I have started Dark Opal Purple, Purple and Genovese (all organic seeds from Ferry Morse purchased at Home Depot) and Finissimo Verde A Palla from Territorial Seed. The basil seeds germinated well, but after a month they're still tiny seedlings. So I have also started propogating basil from cuttings. This couldn't be easier to do. Just cut off a young, healthy tip -- about 3" should do, making sure there are some leaves in the middle AND top of the cutting. Pull off all the leaves on the stem except for the smallest leaves on the tip (I usually keep 2 to 4 leaves), and just stick the stem in some soil. I use recycled 4" grower pots. Press firmly, and water well. No rooting hormones, no fertilizer required. Keep moist and shaded, and very quickly you'll have a new basil plant. These cloned plants grow quickly once their roots are established, and they are extremely vigorous and healthy.

You'll never need to buy more than one basil plant once you've mastered propogating. If you want to have more than one type of basil, purchase a starter plant for each variety. Let it get established, then start propogating. Monday I pinched off over three pounds of basil for our restaurant (the photo was taken soon after), and there is still plenty of basil for future harvests. I've read that pesto freezes well, so we may try to stretch the supply at the end of the season by freezing all our basil as pesto. In the mean time, we're using any extra basil for dinners at home. The seedlings started from seed are still quite small, but I'll post updates as they grow throughout the summer.

1 comment:

  1. If you don't mind me asking, how much were you selling your basil per pound? I'm considering doing something similar to you this year. Great post!


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