What Happened To My Basil?

Sick basil is trying to come back to health (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Normally, in the fall, I’m trying to determine what to do with my usual abundance of basil. Pesto jumps to the top of the list, as well as a huge salad of ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella sprinkled with basil leaves. Yet this year, my basil took a turn for the worst. What happened to my basil?

Last year, we dealt with the impatiens blight that killed impatiens plants overnight. Per our local garden centers’ repeated requests, I didn’t purchase and plant any impatiens this summer. Also, it’s interesting that this year’s annual impatiens “volunteers” from last year’s seed in my garden have done quite well — no impatiens blight so far this year — just gorgeous impatiens plants. Interesting.

Impatiens that self-seeded this year in my garden haven't yet been affected by the impatiens blight!  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Impatiens that self-seeded this year in my garden haven’t yet been affected by the impatiens blight! (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Usually my basil is prolific and bushy like the lemon basil below. Watch what you wish for — an overabundance of basil last year would have been welcomed this year.

Fragrant lemon basil from my garden
Fragrant lemon basil from my garden

This year my basil caught “the blight.” I”m not sure if it came from two purchased basil plants or from the purchased potting soil that I was using to grow my own plants from seed. The leaves started to turn brown and black and die off mid-summer. Usually that happens after the first freeze…but never in July!

Remains of basil plants due to a disease (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Remains of basil plants due to a disease (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

I used all new soil in my containers, and cleaned and sterilized the containers as I do every year. We had a whole lot of rain for about a solid week over the summer, which just might have encouraged the blight. The blight appears to spread through water droplets splashing around. So I’m stuck with “sticks” and a few sickly basil leaves.

Sick basil is trying to come back to health (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Sick basil is trying to come back to health (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

Now, it’s crucial that I remove the tainted soil and all of the leaves/stems of the sick basil plants. The disease can overwinter in plants, plant parts, and the soil.

Basil that was lush earlier in the summer.  (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Basil that was lush earlier in the summer. (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)

It’s a good thing that my local grocers carry fresh basil plants and store-made pesto…because it looks like I will be buying theirs for cooking this winter! A favorite salad is Insalata Caprese which includes ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves. Drizzle with some olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with a little salt. And enjoy!

Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Basil (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
Tomato Mozzarella Salad with Basil (Photo Credit: Adroit Ideals)
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