As warm weather approaches, some gardeners begin to covet the fresh summer flavor of a caprese salad made with homegrown tomatoes and basil. Many savor the reward of plucking beautiful basil leaves right from the garden and have found that keeping basil plants (Ocimum basilicum) healthy is critical to both a good harvest and delicious salads. While basil is a natural repellent to many pests, such as flies, hornworms and mosquitoes, the pungent herb is susceptible to some pests, including aphids, fungus and Japanese Beetles, and you’ll want to control those tormentors.
Teeny, pesky aphids can cause yellowing leaves, curled leaves, stunted shoots, distorted leaves and eventual plant death. To get rid of them, try blasting them with cold water to dislodge them. If that fails, spray the basil plants with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. You can also purchase beneficial insects such as ladybugs or parasitic wasps. Some gardeners plant nasturtiums (Tropaeolum), a favorite snack of aphids, to lure the pests away from basil.
Basil is subject to fungal diseases such as Fusarium wilt, gray mold, and black spot, as well as damping-off in seedlings. Avoid fungal problems by waiting to plant outside until the soil has warmed and by not overcrowding plants, or plant resistant varieties such as “Nufar” (Ocimum basilicum “Nufar”). Other preventive measures include rotating plant locations, using a plastic covering to heat soil to a temperature that kills pathogens and pests and insuring proper sanitation, aeration and drainage. If your basil plant does succumb to fungus, pull and get rid of the infected plant before it infects other plants. Don’t throw it in the compost pile where fungi can survive and infect future plants.
Japanese beetles eat holes in the leaves, skeletonizing them. Control these pests by handpicking them. You can also prepare a soapy water solution and shake the basil plants, dropping the beetles into the soapy water. You might have considered using Japanese beetle traps, but researchers at the University of Kentucky demonstrated that these traps attract many more beetles than are caught, so this is not the most effective method of control.
Best Care for Basil
Providing proper care for your basil plants is another way to ensure their health. Basil needs lots of water — about 53 inches a year. Basil cannot tolerate poor drainage, so it’s equally important to ensure your basil garden has good drainage. Add plenty of mulch to the beds to prevent moisture loss. Basil likes nitrogen, so bloodmeal is a good fertilizer choice — apply 1/3 cup per 25 square feet of soil every two to three weeks. Prune developing flowers to prolong leaf production and inspect your plants regularly for pests.
--Ads-- Flying Insects Sticky Traps www.tagreat.com Highly Effective Dual-Sided Yellow Sticky Traps for Flying Plant Insect Like White Flies, Aphids, Fungus Gnats, Leaf Miners, Black Flies, Thrips. --Ads--