Sweet Basil – Grow it for the Bees 1

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Years ago an old farmer told my young boys that when they started dating, a big bunch of sweet basil in the car would win a girl’s heart. Now, I don’t know about that, but it’s definitely a must-have in my garden.

Sweet basil is a must-have for my garden, creating a source of never ending leaves. But plant some for the bees, too!

Sweet basil is a culinary herb used frequently in Italian cooking and is the base for our favorite pesto.

But besides girls and pesto and Italian food, here’s another reason to grow it: Bees.

Bees love basil

While we humans love basil for its pungent leaves, the bees love it for the flowers. Trouble is, in order to maintain a continuous harvest of sweet basil leaves all summer long, the flower heads need to be removed. Allowed to flower, the plants will go to seed and stop producing those fresh lovely leaves.

Luckily, there’s an easy solution. Plant several extra basil plants. Once you’ve harvested the first batch of leaves, allow a few plants to go into flowering mode. The bees will appreciate it, and you can continue harvesting leaves from the plants you’ve designated as “yours.”Sweet basil is a must-have for my garden, creating a source of never ending leaves. But plant some for the bees, too!

Growing basil

Basil likes warm weather, heat, and well-drained soil. Direct sow seeds after frost, once the ground has warmed. Trust me; trying to get a jump on it by planting too soon will just waste seeds. If you opt to start seedlings for transplanting, a heat mat to increase the soil temperature will greatly improve your odds. Water deeply and regularly, and side dress with compost or well aged manure.

Harvesting sweet basil

Simply use scissors to trim off the upper leaf clusters, making your cut close to the set of leaves below. Often, you’ll need to cut more than one leaf cluster, and that’s okay. Just be sure to snip right above the set of leaves you’re planning to leave on the plant. New growth will sprout from that point so you can continue to harvest throughout the season. For more detail information on harvesting, go here.

Using basil

I use fresh basil all summer long snipped into in salads, wraps, sandwiches, and for flavoring soups and pasta. By far, though, our favorite way to use it is to make pesto. We spread pesto as a base for wraps, on egg salad sandwiches, and of course in pasta dishes. I freeze pesto in small glass jars for use all through the winter months. I love adding spoonfuls of it to soup! My pesto recipe is here.

20+ Ways to Use Basil (that are NOT pesto)


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One thought on “Sweet Basil – Grow it for the Bees

  • Susan B.

    Plant it as close to your kitchen door as possible for maximum benefit.