Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Pinch of Basil



Several years ago I had a neighbor with an amazing basil bush. I've never known anyone who could grow such quality basil. When it was ready to be harvested she invited several friends, including myself, over for fresh pesto. It, too, was amazing.

Little did she know then how she cultivated within me the desire to emulate her basil growing prowess.

And so, when we began our own garden here in the Pacific Northwest, I eagerly sowed basil seeds. I could almost taste that fresh pesto again as they began to sprout. For a short while I enjoyed coming out to my garden to observe the bright green leaves. Gradually, though, the leaves began to pale, eventually looking more yellow-brown than green.

These looked nothing like my friend's basil bush. In fact, in addition to their sickly color, they were gangly-looking. Stick-like. Just not...pretty.

I started pruning. You're supposed to prune basil... right? 

Pluck. Pluck. Pluck.

Great. Now instead of 8-10 yellow-brown leaves on each plant, I had 4-5. 

It must be the seed, I thought, as I noticed some healthy looking starts in the local nursery. I'll try again. So I ripped out my miserable first attempt at basil, replacing each plant with the lovely nursery starts. 

There! See? For the first few days it looked like I really could grow basil. But within about a week the new basil started to look just like those I had started from seed. 

Maybe basil and I just weren't meant to be. I gave up. In fact, I made a resolution to never plant basil again. Ever.

This spring, however, I walked past the most beautiful starts in the nursery and somehow they made it home with me AGAIN. And guess what? Within two weeks they looked spindly and sickly. Arg! Why did I do this to myself again!?

Constant Moisture
I made a special trip to back to the nursery. In total frustration, I explained my issues with basil to the nice lady watering all the beautifully PERFECT basil starts.

"WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!"

"Well, are you certain you are giving them enough water?" she asked.

I'm sure my reply was much more cordial than what played out in my thoughts-

OF COURSE I'M GIVING THEM ENOUGH WATER! HELLO?! EVERYONE KNOWS HOW MUCH IT RAINS IN THE SEATTLE AREA. THE REST OF MY GARDEN LOOKS GREAT! ENOUGH WATER?! HA!

But heading home that day, I knew I had no choice but to try watering more. And so I did. Twice a day even. Turns out basil is pretty delicate. It requires CONSTANT moisture. Within a week, my basil cheered up, sending forth more and more bright green leaves.

Pinching Back
A little more research convinced me that I had been pruning my basil the wrong way. So thanks to Pinterest, I began following step-by-step photo tutorials on how to properly pinch back my basil. It was hard because I FINALLY had green leaves! But the more I paired a constant supply of water with rigorous pruning efforts, the greener and bushier my basil grew. 

Can you taste the pesto?!

Lessons Learned
The spiritual parallels here are well-worth some personal reflection, but as far as basil is concerned, I learned the absolute necessity of a constant supply of moisture and how to pair it with just the right sort of pruning. 

You just wait. Next summer there will be a mouth-watering post featuring fresh pesto recipes. 

Yum.

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I'm linking up again this week with the Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage. Go check it out!



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