Bugs eating my basil

I normally buy commercial plants for the garden, but this year I decided to start some herbs from seed. Most of these were for my indoors herb garden (most of which I lost when the neighbor feeding the cats while we were on vacation forgot to water the houseplants), but I put a little parsley and a little basil seedling in the outdorrs garden on Saturday.
The parsley looks fine, but something is eating my basil. I assume it's an insect -- the little leaves are starting to look decidedly lacy.
Is there something I can put on them? Obviously I want to use the basil for cooking, so most commercially available insecticides are counterindicated.
Should I put in commercially-grown basil? Or start more seedlings and wait until they are bigger before planting them outdoors?
A couple of points that may be important:
1. Last year I put in a lot of zinnias (commercially produced seedlings) that had much the same problem. I lost nearly all those plants.
2. I live outside Chicago. Our every-17-year cicada infestation is starting. Is it possible it's cicadas eating my basil? If so, I'll give up on basil until the end of the cicada infestation, the end of July or so.
Anny
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Basil grows pretty fast, so I would recommend re-seeding. I and, I believe Omelet (another poster), have found that our basil does better in pots. If nothing else, start in pots and then you can, at least bring them in at night to keep them from being chewed on.
- Bill Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
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wrote:

Thanks, Bill -- I'll try some in pots. It's odd -- I've grown basil in the garden many times -- this is the first time from seedlings I sprouted myself, and the first time it's gotten eaten.
Anny
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On Tue, 22 May 2007 14:38:48 -0500, "Anny Middon"

snip
I agree with Bill, Anny. Try putting the seeds directly into pots and place them in a sunny location. Herbs do quite well in pots and overwinter nicely in a sunny window. I do almost my entire kitchen garden in tubs and pots (tomatoes, cukes, bush beans, radishes, lettuces, limas, broccoli, herbs, etc, ) and they usually thrive.
One thing I have found after gardening like this for 25 years, is that some years there are infestations of something that in other years just don't seem to be a bother. I guess it just follows population growth and bust cycles. Add that to the happenstance of certain veggies doing better one year than the next to due whatever weather we have, making some types of produce happier than others and you get the usual confounding and fun that garden brings.
My vegetable garden is organic and I won't use sprays. Once in awhile a crop of something just doesn't do well, but in general, basil is pretty hearty. What you may also want to do it get a couple of other seed varieties of basil and experiment with those, too - in other words, your basic wide-leafed/Genoa basil may get "et" this year, but another variety or two may do much better. I usually plant several.
Boron
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Anny, The pots that I use are about 3 gallon in size (maybe a little larger). My basil is typically 18" to 2' tall and, that is with only 6 hours of full Sun. Pinch the flowering ends of the basil for pesto and fill in with as many leaves as you need to complete the recipe. A basil leaf wrapped around a fresh-from-the-garden tomato is an experience that everyone should have. Fresh basil and tomatoes gets you half-way to brochette which makes a healthy hot day meal, with a little lunch meat, cheese, pepperocini, and olives.
- Bill Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (Pavlov would be proud of me.)
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On Tue, 22 May 2007 13:36:54 -0500, "Anny Middon"

http://inside.msj.edu/academics/faculty/kritskg/cicada/faq.html#eating
Likely not cicadas. I have had problems with slugs eating basil, but they simply chomp out large areas, not leaving a lacy pattern.
Try inspecting your plants at night, with a flashlight. Many of the critters work undercover of darkness. Even a few nibblers can do major damage. If the infestation is not severe, a good handpickin' can work wonders.
Boron and Bill give good advice.
Charlie
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On May 23, 8:01�am, Charlie wrote:

Going out at night with a flashlight will give you your answer. I'm in California and pill bugs, slugs, and earwigs love to feed at night. I hand pick them off. Mine are in pots and that makes it simple. Regards - Jim
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