About basil: Basil is an annual -- meaning it will last one season. It needs a lot of sunlight, so make sure to plant it where it will get a ton (apartment dwellers: Near a window or on your fire escape should work!). It also needs to be well-drained, so make sure that your pot drains easily. You can grow it from a seed, but for ease -- and especially for herb newbies -- buying a baby plant is your best bet (they usually come in packs of four or six). To start growing:
Transplant the baby plant(s) to one six-inch (diameter) clay pot. (Plastic pots don’t breathe.) Plant it in a mixture of half potting soil, half cactus sand to make sure it gets good drainage. Important: Do not water it until the top half inch of the soil is dry (herbs like to be on the dry side). Don’t let water sit in a saucer underneath the pot either, and there’s no need to fertilize.
To use: Once plants have at least six leaves, it’s safe to clip the top two. As the plants grow more, you can clip more. Clip basil from the top, positioning your scissors close to the next-to-last leaves. This will help the plant create more branches when growing. Use basil to make pesto, add flavor to pasta sauce and pizza, give soup some flavor and more.
Photo: Thinkstock / The Nest