Say hello to my little friend

Say hello to the newest addition of my humble abode, Ricky my basil plant.  He’s the closest thing I’m going to get to having a pet while living in my tiny apartment here in DC, so I’ve decided to have a little fun and name him and baby talk to him and even play fetch with him.  I have learned several things about caring for a potted, indoor herb plant.  First, Ricky hates playing fetch.  Okay in all seriousness caring for a herb plant is pretty simple and it is so rewarding.  I have picked up a few tips and tricks to keeping herb plants happy and healthy that I want to share with all of you.

I happened to buy my little herby friend at the grocery store but it was completely spontaneous.  I was racing through the grocery store after a long day at work looking for ingredients to make dinner.   I was ravenous, so imagine a hungry gal racing around with her head down and eye on the prize–eat dinner stat.  I was running, running, running but had to stop in the fresh herbs section because there were two options, either purchase fresh prepackaged basil leaves or a potted basil plant.  The plant happened to be cheaper so I grabbed it and continued through the grocery store like a mad woman.  It was a great purchasing decision, I just didn’t realize it at the time.  Growing your own herbs is economical because it provides a continuous supply of fresh herbs throughout the year and they are easy to care for.

Before you decide to purchase a Basil plant or any herb, make sure that you have a spot in your home that is going to get direct sunlight for the majority of the day.  If you can’t provide that for your plant, you might not have that much success–just keep that in mind.

Now you can buy a herb plant at a local farmers market, home improvement store (like Lowe’s, Ace Hardware or Home Depot) or even a grocery store like I did.  When you purchase the plant you are going to want to put your little friend in a new pot with fresh soil.  I just picked up a 8″ diameter pot with a built-in drainage piece at the bottom from Ace Hardware.  I also purchased some garden soil.  You want to make sure there is good water drainage for your potter.  Your plant will grow much better from a good drainage system because otherwise the plant could drown or become sick from the old, moldy water stuck in the soil.   To ensure excellent drainage, place pebbles at the bottom of your pot before you dump the soil into the pot.  The pebbles will help assist with the drainage of old water and keep your soil fresh.  Basil plants especially prefer less watering than more watering so every other day should be sufficient.  Basil plants are sun goddesses, they love the sunlight so make sure they are in a place that gets at least 5 hours of direct sunlight.  Also if your plant begins to grow flowers pluck them, the Basil plant will put all of its energy into growing the flowers and not the leaves.

Once you’ve done all of this you’ll probably be wondering “how do I know I’m doing everything right?”  There are several things to look for and see as the plant grows that can tell you if it is happy or not.  If you see any of the things I mention below, there are simple adjustments you can make to improve the conditions of your plant.  Most of the things you’ll be looking out for are the color and conditions of the leaves and the soil texture and moistness. 

Decoding Basil Leaves: Basil leaves should be a nice dark or bright green color.  They should not be pale, yellow or browning around the edges of the leaves.  As the Basil plant grows the stems should be strong and stand straight up, not flopping over or lack the strength to hold the leaves up.

If the leaves are discolored.. If they are yellowy or very pale it is possible that you are over-watering it.  Indoor plants especially don’t need to be watered as much as you would think.  Make sure that the soil not too wet.  If the leaves are browning around the edges then it might not be watered enough.  Be sure not to dump tons of water into the pot though; pour a little bit of water into the dried soil a few times in a day instead of all at once.  The water will be better absorbed from this method and it won’t drown your plant.

Other might notice tiny little bugs on your plant.  Aphids are very commonly found on indoor basil plants.  Just take a mixture of soapy water and, using a spray bottle, spray down the leaves.  Most of the time the insects are killed off by this and the soap water doesn’t injure the plant.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask, we can work through the answers together.  Enjoy plentiful amounts of basil! Make a pesto or add ribbons of it to your favorite salad or pasta dish.


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