Basil needs sun, moist soil to stay healthy

Q: I purchased a basil plant in a container. Should I keep this indoors, outdoors, sunlight, shade, water or dry? I would like to continue to grow and eat from it.

A: The only way you could grow it inside is under bright lights, not in a window or under ceiling lights. The container should be fairly large so it doesn’t overheat if it is to be grown outside. Try to keep the container as cool as possible. Planting in the ground in a double pot is one way you can do this.

The soil should be a good quality house-plant soil and modified so it drains well. Basil likes sun, but likes some protection from later afternoon sun and wind. Morning sun with filtered light in the afternoon would be best.

It needs to be trimmed frequently when it gets larger. If you are not using it, you still will need to trim it and remove flower heads. Keep containers moist, but not wet, and do not let them dry out.

I would use organic fertilizers, if you can, such as fish emulsions, kelp and compost tea. Bottom line — try to grow it outside in a protected area of the yard, and keep it moist and well fed.

Q: I had a Japanese privet tree planted with my new landscape in April this year. The leaves are turning yellow on one side of the tree. The tree is watered with the other plants in the landscape three times a day, for about 20 minutes.

Because this is a new plant, I was told by the landscape people to water for 35 minutes until roots set in. This is now July.

Could the plant be getting too much water now? What should I do?

A: Watering three times a day is excessive, even at the beginning. Once a day, thoroughly, is plenty right after they have been planted. It has been three months, so I would try to water no more than once a day right now since it is hot.

You might even be able to stretch it to every other day. Many nondesert plants do not root very well in the late spring and summer since most of the energy of the plant is going into new growth above ground. Root growth is best in the late summer and fall.

I am not sure what size the tree is, but if this was a 15-gallon plant, then you should be able to get by with about 8 to 10 gallons each time you water. I do not know how this translates to minutes for you. You will have to do that by determining the size of the drip emitters and how many there are and do the math.

The yellowing could be because of frequent watering, salts in the soil, poor drainage and drought, which are the most common reasons. I am not a big fan of putting plants on drip right away after planting. I really think watering by hand the first few times really helps them settle into the soil and flush salts.

Japanese privet is one of those trees that absolutely hates rock mulch and will not do well in it. In rock mulch, it will tend to drop leaves with twig and branch dieback. They do well in a lawn or with a solid groundcover planted beneath. This could be something like gazanias or the like.

They just do not do well with drip irrigation and rocks unless the area under the canopy is kept moist. Any slight drying at all triggers leaf and branch dieback.

Q: I have more than 40 varieties of daylilies that I have had as my hobby for about 20 years while living in eastern Texas and recently four years here. They don’t have much room to be shown in their small raised garden, but have still been a fun thing for me.

They have done very well here for the type climate we have, until this summer. The foliage has been gradually turning pale, then brown and dead.

Do you think the ones that are seemingly dead will come back in cooler weather? I have apparently lost seven of the nine new ones that are in the courtyard, as well as several more in the raised garden. When they started looking pale, I gave them liquid iron, and I have kept them well watered and fertilized.

I am thinking that the foliage has simply cooked and that they will not be coming back.

A: You know a lot more about daylilies than I do. It is your hobby and love, and I hope you will not be discouraged. I do not have answers for you, but let me cover some things that I think are really important for them here, and maybe it will give you some ideas.

Heat has been a real problem for a lot of plants this summer. Yours were not alone.

We got behind on irrigations at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Orchard in North Las Vegas following the same irrigation schedule as last year.

When I have seen daylilies doing poorly, they are in poorly amended soils with terrible drainage, in rock mulch and/or in full sun. I have seen them planted in some or all of these situations.

I know with your background you did not do any of this. I know you fully amended the soils prior to planting, made sure you had good drainage and covered them in wood or organic mulch.

They probably are going to require irrigations about every other day, perhaps every day if they have good drainage. A combination of frequent watering and heat can severely damage the root system.

Poorly amended soils will make them less tolerant of the heat. This could lead to the problems you are mentioning.

In other climates, they could be scattered through the landscape, but that could be very difficult to manage here. In our desert climate, they are going to be easier to manage in large numbers if they have their own bed.

If it were me, I would try to flood the area when irrigating and then let it drain. I would not put them on drip unless it was the type of drip that could keep the entire bed moist. I would want the entire soil around them wet after an irrigation and the wood mulch rotting into the soil.

They need lots of sun, but the late afternoon sun will be the wrong kind for them. The soils really are bad here, so if there is any way you can have soil prepared down to a depth of at least 12 inches, it would be best. I do not believe preparing soil down to 6 or 8 inches is enough.

Organic fertilizer is best, otherwise use a high-grade houseplant fertilizer. They can get iron chlorosis, so using an iron product in the spring is a good idea.

There are differences between varieties of daylilies for their tolerance to our weather and soils. I am sure you have your favorites that have done well here.

Bottom line — my gut tells me the problem is around your watering, drainage, soil preparation and exposure. How well they grow prior to hot weather will influence how they perform during the heat.

If they enter the heat in good health, they will have a much better chance of tolerating it. I hope this helps.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at His column is taking a short break while he is in Tajikistan working with drip irrigation for grape growers. This column originally ran Aug. 7, 2007.

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