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GARDEN TIPS – written by Marianne C. Ophardt
WSU Extension Faculty
for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA Written August 30, 2015


Having been at this job for over 30 years, I have seen gardening trends come and go. Way back in the 1980s there were numerous local gardeners interested in food gardening, growing both vegetables and tree fruit in their backyards. You could always find a large variety of vegetable transplants available at big box stores, as well as at local nurseries.

In the 1990s things started to change, fewer and fewer gardeners were interested in growing their own produceThe big box stores changed to offering fewer vegetable transplants, instead focusing primarily on colorful annual flowersI am not sure if this happened because gardeners realized that gardens and fruit tree were a lot of work, they had easy access to fresh produce from local farmers markets, their busy lives did not allow much time for gardening, or a combination of all these.

I am happy to say we have now come full circle and gardeners, especially younger gardeners under the age of 50, are interested in food gardening againThe focus is on veggies and herbsA survey taken by Today’s Garden Center indicates that these “youngsters” say gardening gives them a sense of accomplishment, allows them to become more self sufficient and have more control over the safety of their food, and provides a way to get children outside and teach them about nature. Wonderful!

Another thing to know about younger gardeners is their interest in food and cookingThere is a proliferation of television cooking shows that are enjoyed by both young adults and older folks like meBecause the All-America Selections (AAS) organization has noticed that cooking fresh foods is “trending,” they plan to market their 2016 winning herb and vegetable selections with five videos that demonstrate cooking techniques.

With the home garden focus back on vegetables, many of the big seed companies are strongly marketing their new vegetable varieties, especially ones with more compact growth habits that are easier to fit into the smaller gardens of today’s gardeners. These are a few that have already hit the market or will be arriving next year:

Basil ‘Docle Fresca’( is an AAS 2015 winner that is a “new and better” compact Genovese basil plant with sweet tender leaves and growing only 10 to 14 inches tallIt is drought tolerant and a good container plant

Pea ‘Masterpiece’ ( a pea that Burpee calls a “triple treat” with edible tendrils, pods, and peasGrowing up to 30 inches tall and 32 inches wide, these pretty peas plants work well in containers and limited-space gardens

Kale ‘Simply Salad Kale Storm’ (, is a mix of salad kales that are slow to boltThe seed combined into single pellets is a mix of different leaf textures and colorsNot only will this work well as fall cool-season crop for container growing, it will also serve as an attractive ornamental during the fall months

Tomato Heirloom Marriage Series (PanAmerican Seed) is a series of tomato hybrids that are the results of crosses between two heirloom varieties to create an F1 hybrid variety, “marrying” the best characteristics of each parent for improved performance in the gardenOne already available (along with others) is ‘Big Brandy’ whose parents are ‘Big Dwarf’ and ‘Brandywine’ Coming in 2016 is ‘Marzinera’, a cross between ‘San Marzano’(my new favorite tomato) and ‘Cream Sausage.’

Zucchini ‘Brice’ (no retail seller available ) is a zucchini that produces 3 to 4 inch light green round fruit on compact plants with attractive mottled leavesIt is more manageable than many zucchini and is great for container or limited-space gardeningThe fruit can be hollowed out for stuffingYummy!

This season isn’t even over yet and I am thinking about next year. Whoa!


written by

Marianne C. Ophardt

WSU Extension Faculty

for the Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, WA

Last year was the first time I was able to grow basil successfully. Even though it’s supposed to be easy to grow, something always happened to my basil crop. With my first attempt, my transplants were immediately decimated by earwigs who ate the leaves right down to the stem. The next year, I got started a bit too early and frost killed my baby basils. The third year, I planted my basil in wine barrel planters and they grew quite well until a soil fungal disease killed them in mid-summer. That’s when I decided to satisfy my need for this tasty herb by buying it at the farmer’s market.

Well, last year I decided to try one more time. I devoted an entire gigantic plastic planter to growing a plant of basil. I kept the soil moist (but not too wet) and the basil was situated where it would get morning sun and afternoon shade. The plant flourished until half of it was blown down in one of our summer winds. The remaining part of the plant took over the space , and still provided me with plenty of fresh basil leaves until frost threatened.

This year there’s a new variety of basil I want to try. It’s called ‘Boxwood’ because it resembles a boxwood shrub. It’s a compact bushy plant with small leaves, growing from 12 to 16 inches tall. While very ornamental in form it’s also great for use in pesto or other dishes, if you don’t mind the trouble of picking the very small leaves.

‘Boxwood’ basil should be a boon for gardeners who are growing their veggies and herbs in space limited areas or containers. It will also be perfect for edible landscaping or formal herb gardens.

According to Burpee, who is the exclusive distributor of this new basil, ‘Boxwood’ was discovered in someone’s garden on “one of the hottest days of August where the plants remained in perfect form.” They note it was “bred in France for a highly flavorful pesto ingredient.” Burpee, located in Pennsylvania, sells both the seed and plants of this new variety. You can reach W. Atlee Burpee & Co at or by calling1-800-333-5808.

This newcomer is just one variety of basil. According to the National Garden Bureau there are four basic types of garden basil. Gardeners and cooks are probably most familiar with sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) with its strong, clove-like flavor. It’s often used to make pesto. The species grows from two to two and a half feet tall. The leaves tender and two to three inches in length.

The other basic types are dwarf green basil, purple-leaved basil, and scented leaf basil.

Dwarf or bush basil (O. basilicum var. minimum) grows to a height of 10 to 12 inches high and has small leaves and a compact form. Purple-leaved basils (O. basilicum purpurescens) have ornamental purple leaves and purple flowers. The purple basils tend to have a very pungent flavor. Scented-leaf basils, have flavors that differ from the sweet clove-like taste of sweet basil. Lemon basil (O. americanum) has a lemony flavor, cinnamon basil (O. basilicum


)has a flavor reminiscent of cinnamon; and anise basil (O. basilicum


)has a licorice-like taste.

Another savory form of sweet basil, Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflorum), has a somewhat different spicy flavor. It’s used in Thai cooking along with Thai lemon and Thai holy basil. The tastiest sweet basil is supposedly Genovese basil (O. basilicum

Genovese Gigante

), an Italian cultivar used in making authentic Italian Genoese sauce and pesto.

Basil is a tender annual that is killed by frost in the fall. You can either grow your basil from transplants or you can sow seed directly in the garden. Since it’s such a tender plant I prefer to use transplants. They need at least six to eight hours of direct sun a day, but will benefit from some shade during the hottest part of the day in our region.

Like so many other plants, basil prefers a well-drained, slightly acid soil. It’s best not to fertilize it excessively, but some fertilizer will help encourage growth. The basil should be harvested regularly by snipping the stem just above a pair of leaves. This will encourage new, tender growth. When flower buds appear, they should be pinched out as soon as they are detected to prevent the stems from becoming woody and the leaves from turning bitter.

All this talk of basil, makes me long for its delicious fresh leaves served with fresh mozzarella cheese and vine-ripe tomatoes splashed with a little olive oil and some golden balsamic vinegar. Hurry up spring!

Published: 1/24/2009 10:57 AM



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