I thought my basil crop was going to be a near-failure this season.
I put the plants in during our cool spring weather that later turned cold, dipping into the upper 30s. They survived — only the tips of the leaves turned brown — but they hardly thrived.
Then some pest or another started making little holes in the leaves. One of the plants, a Basil perpetua in the window box, wasn't getting enough drainage to handle the downpours and started to look like a goner.
But just when I was starting to think it was time to start over with fresh plants, the old ones turned the corner. Whatever pest was munching on leaves moved on. A stretch of hot, sunny days brought on a flurry of growth and dried out the poor basil in the window box to the point where it perked up again.
And, more surprisingly, the basil multiplied.
I've always been a little lax late in the season about topping my basil, so some of it goes to flower. Usually there's plenty of basil to keep up with my household needs, so I have to keep reminding myself to harvest enough to make pesto to freeze. (I know, such a problem to have.)
So I'm sure my neglected plants have produced seeds before, but this is the first time I've ever been so lucky as to have basil volunteers.
I nearly pulled the first seedling, assuming it was a weed, but realized that it had the telltale basil shape and the leaves had that unmistakable smell. Then there was another one, and another. Some are the standard variety; others are the Thai basil kind.
I'm not sure what brought on this sudden burst of volunteerism, since we've been planting more or less the same varieties for years and in the same trough planter. But, hey, I'll take it.
Luckily, my tomatoes are just now coming ripe to pair with all that basil. That means lots of caprese salads, lots of pesto sauce and maybe even a basil hefeweizen in my near homebrewing future. □
Martha Buns is one of the Star Tribune's Greengirls garden bloggers. Join the growing conversation at www.startribune.com/greengirls.