I saw my friend at a garden event the other day, and as she pointed to a raised bed full of pale-green flowering basil, she said, “My basil looks like this, too. Should I be doing something?” Yes! You should! In fact, what the basil needs right around now is what lots of plants in your mid-summer garden could use–a little dressing up (stop right now if you’re thinking about putting a dress on the basil), or, to be more clear, what’s called side-dressing.
Side-dressing is when you fertilize plants that are currently growing in your garden by adding either granular or liquid fertilizer to the side of them so that it permeates the soil and gets to the roots. Popular choices include the Farmer D Organics fertilizer (I use it all the time and it works), aged manures such as cow or chicken, compost from your compost pile (or Farmer D’s), worm castings from your worm bin (also available at Farmer D’s), or liquid applications such as the dreaded smelly fish emulsion or its much-less-stinky friend liquid kelp.
Put a handful of granular fertilizer, compost, or worm castings a few inches out from the base of each plant and then water it. If you use liquid fertilizer, dilute fish emulsion or liquid kelp in a filled watering can according to package instructions–it’s around two tablespoons per gallon, or, in my lazy gardener world, one glug per watering can–and water around the base of each plant. This will encourage a new surge of green growth and provide needed nutrients to heavy-feeding summer crops. Hit the tomato plants with the fish emulsion or a compost tea rather than a high-nitrogen fertilizer because now is not the time to be encouraging green growth in tomato plants but rather fruit production. (See Farmer D’s article in yesterday’s Patch about liquid fertilizers.)
Back to the basil a moment–trim off the flowers and tops of the stems regularly to encourage fuller plants and to keep that pesto coming. Make pesto regularly (fill a food processor with basil leaves, two cloves of garlic, some grated parmesan cheese, a handful of nuts, a bit of sea salt, and enough olive oil for the proper consistency) and freeze it in ice cube trays so you have it when the abundance of summer’s basil is long gone.