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.
Companion planting is great because of the mutual benefits enjoyed from the pairing, which include repelling insects and improving plant growth.
We’ve also included some not-so-great companions that can either hurt or hinder the growth of basil (Ocimum basilicum).
Good Companion Plants for Basil
- Asparagus: Ladybugs will flock to asparagus to eat the asparagus beetle eggs found on it. The ladybugs will also eat aphids and other pests that may affect basil. Basil, in turn, deters asparagus beetles.
- Beans: Basil increases the yield and repels Mexican bean 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 attract pollinators with their flowers.
- Marigold protects plants with its insect repellent properties.
- Peppers are excellent next to basil, as basil repels some pests that affect them as well as boosts their flavors.
- Root vegetables: Potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, and radish—the smell of basil keeps the insects off, so these can thrive.
- Tomato: Basil improves the yield of tomatoes while also deterring tomato hornworms. There’s some debate over whether or not they enhance each other’s flavors.
- Cauliflower benefits from basil, which fights against certain pests that affect it.
- The same goes for cabbage as for cauliflower. The strong scent of basil repels some cabbage pests.
What Not To Plant With Basil
Cucumbers tend to take on the flavor of the plants around them, so that’s a good reason to avoid planting them near basil. The two also compete for resources.
Herbs—fennel, rue, sage, rosemary, thyme, and mint—have 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. However, if you live in a very hot climate, the herb could get sunscald, so partial shading is recommended.
Plant right after the ground has fully warmed up in the spring. Also, start the seeds indoors about six weeks before the last frost.
You can also grow basil successfully indoors, provided you have plenty of light and warmth in your home or 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 plant companions without overcrowding.
The recommended spacing for basil plants is 12 to 16 inches apart. Also, plant out of windy areas to avoid damaging the plants, especially when they’re young.
2. Care and Maintenance
Avoid overhead watering in order to prevent damaging the plants; they’re not very strong or thick. Moreover, though basil likes a lot of water, it doesn’t like standing in it, so water only until damp.
Drainage is also very important. It grows best in well-drained soil. When growing in pots, ensure drainage holes are at the bottom.
Additionally, trim the leaves every two to three weeks. The flower buds should also be pinched off after the plant’s first flowers arrive to promote leaf production. This will encourage more vigorous growth.
3. Pests and Diseases
Like all plants, basil has its share of pests that like to feed on it. These pests include snails, slugs, whiteflies, and aphids.
Snails and slugs can be prevented using diatomaceous earth, which is natural and safe for organic gardening. Horticultural soap will also take care of whitefly and aphid infestations.
Common diseases affecting basil are fusarium wilt, leaf spot, downy mildew, and gray mold . Research various organic methods to treat these crop diseases.
Harvesting can begin once the plant is 6 to 8 inches tall. Some sources say more, but most agree that six inches is the minimum.
To harvest basil so it keeps growing, pinch or carefully snip off leaves from the top down with a small scissor. Branches can also be removed using pruning shears when they get too thick to remove with scissors or your fingers.
Regular harvesting of the leaves will encourage more branching and leaf growth. Six weeks into growth, pinch off the center stalk to prevent early flowering. Unless, of course, you want seeds for next year’s planting.
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.
The herb also creates layers of beauty in your landscaping, along with its companions that produce flowers. Beauty also comes from the bees and butterflies they all attract.