Basil is perfect for a sunny patio

How to grow
You can start sowing basil towards the end of March in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill. It’s very sensitive to cold and will blacken at the slightest hint of frost, so make sure your early sowings are protected.

Once the young plants reach about 15cm tall, remove the shoot tip to encourage more leafy growth and a bushier plant. When the warmth of June arrives, you can sow another batch outside and move any indoor plants outside to the patio. Make a final sowing in August to give you fresh basil into autumn.

Buying basil in pots
You can also buy basil in pots from the supermarket or garden centre. Look for bushy plants with lots of side-shoots and no sign of flowering. You can then make more plants by taking cuttings.

Cut off a piece of stem about 8cm-10cm long, just below a leaf joint. Remove the lower leaves, then pop the cuttings in a jar of water and wait for them to form roots. Once they’ve rooted, pot them in free-draining compost.

How to care for basil
Keep your basil in the sunniest spot you can find – preferably a south-facing windowsill or patio (once there’s no risk of frost). Water sparingly and remove flower spikes – if these are allowed to mature, your plants will stop growing new leaves.

How to harvest 
Pick individual leaves from the top of the plant and feed with a liquid fertiliser afterwards. Then leave it to grow again.
If you find that you have a bumper crop at the end of summer, pick the lot and make it into pesto. It freezes really well if you leave out the parmesan, which can be added before use.

Recommended varieties
Sweet basil, often sold as ‘Sweet Genovese’ has the classic basil taste. Greek basil is compact and bushy with tiny leaves, so there’s no need to chop them before cooking. ‘Green Ruffles’ has the classic basil flavour with a crinkly leaf texture, while ‘Thai’ is a spicy hot basil.

‘Cinnamon’ has a flavour rather like aniseed sweets, or for a fresh lemony tang try ‘Mrs Burns’ Lemon’. For ornamental use in window boxes or edging beds, try ‘Purple Ruffles’ for its crinkly purple leaves.