Wednesday, July 22, 2015


My early plantings of basil were taken down by downy mildew. Every single one of them even though I scattered them around the yard. I'm a bit worried that the seed might be contaminated. But how would I know?

The current planting is big enough that I've started picking it slowly. It looks very healthy. No signs at all of the disease. Does that mean the seeds are fine, or that the conditions are just better for basil because it is so hot? I think in future years I might wait to plant basil until at last mid June. It will probably be happier.

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is trying to find ways to prevent it from spreading without the use of chemicals. Red light seems to help. Now they used actual red light which wouldn't work in the garden at all. But people use red mulch in tomatoes to increase the number of fruit on the plants. I wonder if a red mulch under basil would help. I really do hate plastic mulches, but if it meant that I got basil every year, I'd do it. I hate row covers, yet I use them on so many things. Though I suppose the first line of defense might be to find another seed source. I don't know if mine is contaminated, but two years in a row I've gotten the disease and the extension service said that basil downy mildew had no reported cases in Massachusetts at the time. So it seems likely.


  1. It's too bad I don't live near you. I just picked over 2 gallon bags of basil yesterday. I've got dried basil, pesto cubes frozen, and more basil than I know what to do with already. Probably I shouldn't have planted the entire seed packet. :) I hope you have good luck with your current planting of it.

  2. I hate plastic mulches too, but this year weeds overran half of our cantaloupe garden before I could get them under control. It is very tempting to use it, considering the labor shortage we have on this place. I'm going to hold out for now, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do. I remember my Grandfather telling me that he felt guilty using a tractor for anything a horse could do. He held out on transitioning to tractors until the late 60's. When I was a boy we'd still hitch up the horses in the morning and head out to the fields. But he made the switch eventually of course. Maybe we'll do that with plastic mulch too, but I'd rather not. I have a friend who is a conventional vegetable farmer and he uses it for watermelons and cantaloupes but told me (admitting it didn't make him feel good to say it) he would only use in on rented land because of the residue it leaves behind.
    Best wishes for a beautiful crop of basil. :)

  3. I wasn't sure if it was my seeds last year or not, so I sowed some basil late last year & was planning on growing it inside (I'm not sure if I wrote about that or not) and it started to show signs of the disease even indoors, so in my case, I do think it was the seed.

    Your basil looks amazing, by the way. I wouldn't have thought to wait until later in the summer to sow it again outside - I just assumed that if the spores were out and floating around, they would be there all season.

    1. Last year I grew it in two spots in the garden, both inside the garden fence, so they weren't that far apart. One died early. The other died a couple months later. If it is the seed, it could be that some of the seeds aren't contaminated (as I'm using the same seed). And sunny and hot is basil's favorite weather, so I figured they could fight something off better now than in May.

  4. My first batch this year, grown indoors, was completely destroyed by a disease of some sort (I know not which), but the second batch, grown in the same conditions in the same compost are doing well.

  5. I'm losing both of my tomato plants this year to disease. This is the first time it has happened. I only plant two a year, because my garden space is tiny, and the tomatoes from two plants plus what I get in my CSA share satisfies us. I'm going to pull out the plants next week and ferment the green tomatoes. I'm assuming they are safe to eat. I have some carrot seeds and kale seeds. I'll probably fill the space with one of those. I'm really going to miss the tomatoes though.

  6. I've never frown basil, but this year I bought a little basil plant at our town library sale. It was doing pretty well for awhile but now something has been chewing it up. I don't know if the plant will recover enough to provide any leaves to eat or freeze. Next time I'll plant more, and in a few different places. Live and learn!