Well Being

Green Thumb Guide: How To Keep Your Basil Plants Alive

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Last week, I brought you basil recipes to help you take advantage of abundant summer crops. But many of our Facebook fans balked; basil is a tricky herb to grow. Unlike some herbs (I'm looking at you, rosemary), it's easy to start from seed. But keeping it alive? Oof. Not so simple. I bought a tall, lovely basil plant about two weeks ago—you were right: this week, it's dropping leaves faster than the temperature is rising, and what's left is quickly becoming flecked with holes and brown spots. So what gives? I asked gardening guru Kimberly Sevilla (co-owner of Brooklyn's Rose Red & Lavender floral and garden shop) for advice.

The secret to maintaining healthy basil plants, indoor or out, is water, heat and a nitrogen-rich fertilizer, says Sevilla.

If you're growing basil indoors you need to make sure it gets enough light (basil loves sun; five or more hours of direct sunlight a day is best). And you may want to use fans to keep the air around the basil moving. That will help prevent fungus and gnats, which can be a big problem with basil. “Make sure you clean up any leaves that fall on the soil, because these will grow fungus and mildew very quickly,” Sevilla notes.