Every gardener knows basil, the “royal herb.” In recent years more people have been reporting difficulty getting basil to grow in Brussels (myself included). Unfortunately, this sun loving plant is particularly sensitive to the disruptive and un-seasonal weather now common in Belgium.
Basil is started from seed indoors usually around March. The difficult part is hardening the plant off for moving outside. Basil is very sensitive to cold and damp conditions resulting in stunted plants that refuse to grow. My friend Molly’s seedlings, started on a window sill in the city centre did much better. Thank you Molly..
There are many varieties of Basil but the two basic varieties are Genovese and Greek. The large leaf Genovese is ideal for salads and decoration while the Greek is mildly stronger in flavour and good in cooking. Both work well in making pesto. Both require a sunny situation and good watering.
There was a time when Basil would grow like a weed in soil beds. The recent heavy rains and damp conditions now make the soil often too cold for this. In many ways the best method is single pots as large as possible. By pruning the plants they can be made to bush. Flowers are picked out when they appear to continue growth.
Basil can also be grown in the “cut and come again” system, similar in a way to the densely packed Basil plants in supermarkets (except on a bigger scale). Here the leaves are picked every other day, taking the older leaves first. This may be the future for growing Basil in Brussels.