Photo by Stephanie Staton
"Basil is super-easy to grow,” my friend says. "Just look at the one on my back porch—it has gone crazy.” This conversation and many similar ones since have convinced me that basil and I are not on the friendliest terms.
This past summer was my fourth—you heard right, fourth—attempt at growing basil. I’ll readily take the blame for the first-year failure: poor location on a shady front porch. I think I’ll pass the buck on the second-year failure to my dogs; after all, a plant can only withstand so much "relocating” and "trimming” from my canine garden assistants. The third failure actually took place indoors this past winter. In January, while shopping at the local health-foods store, I came across potted basil. Excited to see something green growing, I couldn’t pass up the urge to take the potted plant home with me. Well, I like to think that had I followed Tovah Martin’s advice in "Growing Panes,” I might have resisted the desire to cultivate basil in lieu of an herb more suitable to our indoor environs—though I doubt any plants could survive near the sliding glass door with two dogs inadvertently crashing into them and intentionally nuzzling them. By the time the weather outside was somewhat less than frightful, I had a plant that was no more than two twigs with a tiny leaf lingering on top.
I’m happy to report that despite the indoor challenges, as well as a few surprise frosts after moving the plant to the sunny back patio, the little guy pulled through and came back (shown). It took most of the summer for it to rebound to this size, but the two companion basil plants I purchased to cheer it on grew by leaps and bounds—albeit with a few touch-and-go moments brought on by an ambush from Japanese beetles and sizzling summer temps—to produce several batches of pesto and accent multiple dishes for our dinner table.
Toward the end of the season, I let the basil plants go to seed in the hopes that a few strong-willed souls will reemerge in spring. Either way, I plan to try, try again next season … outdoors. Now, oregano on the other hand … that’s a story I’ll save for another time.