Q&A: problems with growing basil

Horticultural advice from the experts at the RHS
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Question: I love basil but have found it difficult to grow in the past eg murdered by slugs etc. This year, however, I have had success as I have used seed compost (multipurpose did not work) and have kept it indoors on a sunny south facing window still. However, a few of the leaves are pale and yellow rather than a rich green. I have tried looking up some advice and it says to feed the basil plant. Feed it with what?

Answer: Growing basil outside from seed is not easy, but this year the lack of sun and an excess of slugs and snails has made it even less of a prospect. Coming from tropical Africa and Asia, the cool British summer this year has not matched basil’s expectations.

Sow every few weeks through spring and summer, covering the seed with a very thin layer of compost. Place the pots on the sunny windowsill you mentioned or in a greenhouse and you should be enjoying Mediterranean recipes with home-grown basil until early winter.

Yellowing leaves can be caused by overwatering, so ensure the plants are not sitting in saucers of water. There should be enough fertiliser in the multipurpose compost to see spring and summer sowings through to picking time. However, peat-free composts or later sowings may need feeding with a liquid fertiliser such as Miracle-Gro or Baby Bio to cover the longer time spent in the pot.

Send your questions for the RHS to: gardenproblems@standard.co.uk.

Only a few questions per month can be answered. For further advice on handling problems in your garden, visit www.rhs.org.uk/advice/index.asp.

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