Though it is an herb, basil thrives best in the company of some vegetables or a select few herbs. Below are some great companions to grow with it.
They’re great because of the benefits they both enjoy from the pairing, which includes repelling insects like mosquitoes.
I’ve also included some not-so-great companions that either hurt or can hinder the growth of basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Good Companion Plants for Basil
- Asparagus – helps attract ladybugs to eat aphids and other small insects like mites and whiteflies while repelling nematodes. Basil, in turn, deters asparagus beetles.
- Beans – increases the yield and repels Mexican beetles while beans fix nitrogen in the soil.
- Eggplant – basil increases the yield of this plant.
- Herbs – borage, chives, oregano, marjoram, and chamomile – all help with flavor and growth as well as with attracting pollinators with their flowers.
- Marigold – beefs up the insect repellant qualities of plants with its own.
- Peppers – chili and bell – all are excellent at repelling insects, and they also provide ground cover to preserve moisture in the soil.
- Root Vegetables – potato, beets, carrots, parsnips, and radish – the smell of basil keeps the insects off so these can thrive, including potato beetles.
- Tomato – basil improves the yield of these plants while also deterring tomato hornworms. There’s some debate over whether or not they enhance each other’s flavor.
What Not To Plant With Basil?
- Cucumber – it has no taste of its own and will take on the flavor of the plants around it. It also fights for water resources.
- Cabbage – it fights for space and resources, increases chances for your crop to get downy mold and root rot as it suffers from it too.
- Cauliflower – this plant acts just like cabbage does, fighting for resources, and it also suffers from the same diseases.
- Herbs – fennel, rue, sage, rosemary, thyme, and mint – this is mainly because of different watering needs and invasive roots. Rue, sage, and rosemary, especially like dry soil which would kill basil.
How to Grow
Now that we know what plants help and hinder the growth of basil, let’s talk about the plant itself, namely how to grow and take care of it.
This herb loves warm weather and lots of sunshine — 6 to 8 hours of full sun to be exact. If you live in a very hot climate though, the herb could get sunscald, so partial shading/dappled sun is recommended for your area.
Planting should be done right after the ground has fully warmed up in the spring. They can also be started indoors about 6 weeks before planting in the ground.
Basil can be grown indoors provided you have plenty of sunlight and warmth in your home or the greenhouse. Grow-lights will help with this requirement.
Spacing is also important as it ensures proper root development and overall growth. You also need space for its companions without overcrowding.
The recommended spacing is between 18 and 24 inches.
It’s also advised to plant out of windy areas to avoid damaging the plants, especially when they’re young.
2. Care and Maintenance
Watering overhead should be avoided in order to prevent damaging the plants; they’re not very strong or thick.
Though basil likes a lot of water as do many root plants do, they don’t like standing in it, so watering, only until damp is best.
Drainage is also very important, which is why a great many gardeners are using raised beds, to prevent “wet feet” in many plants, including this one.
Trimming the leaves should begin after you have more than two layers of leaves, and they should be trimmed until only the lower two sets are left. This will encourage further branching creating more leaves.
The center stalk should be pinched off after the plant’s first flowers arrive to promote leaf production.
3. Pests and Diseases
Like all plants, basil has its share of pests that like to feed on it. These pests include snails, slugs, whitefly, and red spider mite.
Snails and slugs can be prevented using diatomaceous earth, which contains powdered silica. Horticultural soap will take care of whitefly and red spider mite infestation.
Common diseases affecting basil are Fusarium Fungus, Bacterial Leaf Spot aka Shoot Blight, Downy Mildew, and Root Rot.
There is no cure for the first two, and they will end up killing the plants, so pulling up infected plants is your best bet.
They present with brown spots and/or streaks on leaves and stems. However, the last two are symptoms of overwatering. By scaling back your watering, the plant will recover.
Harvesting can begin once the plant has six on it. Some sources say more, but most agree six is the minimum.
You can pinch off the leaves or carefully snip them with small scissors. Branches can be removed using pruning shears when they get too thick to remove with scissors or fingers.
Leaves and branches should be removed until only two sets of leaves remain. This will encourage more branching and leaf growth.
Six weeks into growth, pinch off the center stalk to prevent early flowering. Unless you want seeds for the next year’s planting, of course.
Early morning harvesting is highly recommended because this is when the leaves are at their juiciest, making them quite aromatic and tasty.
Basil is not only a fantastic edible herb, it’s so much more! It loves to be around other plants, especially vegetables, creating symbiotic relationships with them that benefit all involved.
It creates layers of beauty in your landscaping, along with its companions that produce flowers, not only with its own flowers but with the bees and butterflies they all attract.
Besides, with the help of some of its companions, it keeps thrips, flies, tomato hornworms, and mosquitoes away.