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Ocimum basilicum
( Dark Opal Sweet Basil )

Bushy plant with ovate, glossy purple leaves often with a toothed edge to 2" long. Flowers grown on spikes should be removed as they take too much energy away from the plant. Used for cooking, espcecially Italian and Thai dishes. Seeds may be sown in early spring or transplants set out after last frost. . Full sun and regular waterings a must for full, healthy crop. 'Dark Opal' has red-purple leaves and pink flowers.
Important Info : Do not be disappointed if seeds seem to take a long time to germinate.


How to Grow this Plant:


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Characteristics
Cultivar:Dark Opal  
Family:Lamiaceae  
Size:Height: 0 ft. to 2 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 1 ft.  
Plant Category:annuals and biennials, edibles, herbs,  
Plant Characteristics:edible flowers, seed start,  
Foliage Characteristics:fragrant,  
Foliage Color:red to burgundy,  
Flower Characteristics:fragrant, long lasting,  
Flower Color:pinks,  
Tolerances:heat & humidity,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range:Mid Summer to Mid Summer  
USDA Hardiness Zone:9 to 11  
AHS Heat Zone:1 to 10  
Light Range:Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range:5.5 to 7  
Soil Range:Sandy Loam to Clay Loam  
Water Range:Normal to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Young Plants

Young plants need extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Look for a fertilizer that has phosphorus, P, in it(the second number on the bag.) Apply recommended amount for plant per label directions in the soil at time of planting or at least during the first growing season.

Light
Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained

Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.

Planting
How-to : Preparing Garden Beds

Use a soil testing kit to determine the acidity or alkalinity of the soil before beginning any garden bed preparation. This will help you determine which plants are best suited for your site. Check soil drainage and correct drainage where standing water remains. Clear weeds and debris from planting areas and continue to remove weeds as soon as they come up.

A week to 10 days before planting, add 2 to 4 inches of aged manure or compost and work into the planting site to improve fertility and increase water retention and drainage. If soil composition is weak, a layer of topsoil should be considered as well. No matter if your soil is sand or clay, it can be improved by adding the same thing: organic matter. The more, the better; work deep into the soil. Prepare beds to an 18 inch deep for perennials. This will seem like a tremendous amount of work now, but will greatly pay off later. Besides, this is not something that is easily done later, once plants have been established.

How-to : Planting and Removing Annuals

When planting annuals, begin by preparing the soil. Rototill rotted compost, soil conditioner, pulverized bark, or even builders sand into the existing soil and rake it smooth. Annuals grow quickly, so space them as recommended on plant tags. Remove plants from their containers or packs gently, being sure to keep as much soil as you can around the root ball. If the rootball is tight, loosen it a bit by gently separating white, matted roots with your fingers or a pocket knife. Plant at the same depth they were in the containers. Gently fill in around the plants, providing support but not cutting off air to the roots. Water the plants well.

Through the season, be sure to fertilize for optimal performance. Take special care to cut back or completely remove any diseased plants, as soon as you see there is a problem. At the end of the season, be sure to remove all plants and their root balls. Rake the bed well to prepare it for the next season's planting.

How-to : Pinching and Thinning Perennials

Once you plant a perennial, it does not mean that you will enjoy years of maintenance-free gardening. Perennials need to be cared for just like any other plant. One thing that distinguishes perennials is that they tend to be active growers that have to be thinned out occasionally or they will loose vigor.

As perennials establish, it is important to prune them back and thin them out occasionally. This will prevent them from completely taking over an area to the exclusion of other plants, and also will increase air circulation thereby reducing the incidence of diseases like botrytis and powdery mildew.

Many species also flower abundantly and produce ample seed. As blooms fade it is advisable to deadhead your plant; that is, to remove spent flowers before they form seed. This will prevent your plants from seeding all over the garden and will conserve the considerable energy it takes the plant to produce seed.

As perennials mature, they may form a dense root mass that eventually leads to a less vigorous plant. It is advisable to occasionally thin out a stand of such perennials. By dividing the root system, you can make new plants to plant in another area of the garden or give away. Also root pruning will stimulate new growth and rejuvenate the plant. Most perennials may be successfully divided in either spring or fall. Do a little homework; some perennials do have a preference.

How-to : Preparing Containers

Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.

Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.

Problems
Pest : Whiteflies

Whiteflies are small, winged insects that look like tiny moths, which attack many types of plants. The flying adult stage prefers the underside of leaves to feed and breed. Whiteflies can multiply quickly as a female can lay up to 500 eggs in a life span of 2 months. If a plant is infested with whiteflies, you will see a cloud of fleeing insects when the plant is disturbed. Whiteflies can weaken a plant, eventually leading to plant death if they are not checked. They can transmit many harmful plant viruses. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Possible controls: keep weeds down; use screening in windows to keep them out; remove infested plants away from non-infested plants; use a reflective mulch (aluminum foil) under plants (this repels whiteflies); trap with yellow sticky cards, apply labeled pesticides; encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden; and sometimes a good steady shower of water will wash them off the plant.

Pest : Aphids

Aphids are small, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. Aphids come in many colors, ranging from green to brown to black, and they may have wings. They attack a wide range of plant species causing stunting, deformed leaves and buds. They can transmit harmful plant viruses with their piercing/sucking mouthparts. Aphids, generally, are merely a nuisance, since it takes many of them to cause serious plant damage. However aphids do produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface growth called sooty mold.

Aphids can increase quickly in numbers and each female can produce up to 250 live nymphs in the course of a month without mating. Aphids often appear when the environment changes - spring & fall. They're often massed at the tips of branches feeding on succulent tissue. Aphids are attracted to the color yellow and will often hitchhike on yellow clothing.

Prevention and Control: Keep weeds to an absolute minimum, especially around desirable plants. On edibles, wash off infected area of plant. Lady bugs and lacewings will feed on aphids in the garden. There are various products - organic and inorganic - that can be used to control aphids. Seek the recommendation of a professional and follow all label procedures to a tee.

Miscellaneous
Edibles : Edible Flowers

Some flowers are edible or have edible portions that are not only beautiful, but nutritious and tasty. Buds, flowers, leaves, stems, and roots are selected from designated edible varieties. Plant as you would a regular flower, but use only organic practices. If you are not a total organic gardener, separate growing areas should be used for the growing of edible flowers.

When portions of edible flowers are desired, pull petals or edible portions from fresh flowers and snip off the petals from the base of the flower. Remember to always wash flowers thoroughly making certain any residue or dirt has been removed. Give them a gentle bath in water and then dip the petals in ice water to perk them up. Drain on paper towels. Petals and whole flowers may be stored for a short time in plastic bags in refrigeration. Freeze whole small flowers in ice rings or cubes. Make sure you know what the flower is before you eat it; have an accurate identification done.

Glossary : Container Plant

A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.

Edibles : Edible Landscape

An edible landscape is one in which all or most of the plants can be eaten or used for cooking in some way. If you are interested in edible gardening, it is highly recommended that you pratice organic methods in the garden. At the very least, do not use chemicals in the area of the garden where there are edibles. Be creative. Many edibles look great in containers, hanging baskets, or even as foundation plants.

Glossary : Annual

An annual is any plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season.

Glossary : pH

pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.

Glossary : Edibles

An edible is a plant that has a part or all of it that can be safely consumed in some way.

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