Basil is an annual herb plant that provides a favorite flavor in many dishes. It’s an herb that is easy to grow and does well when grown indoor or outdoors, as long as its modest needs are met. If you’re considering growing basil, follow these tips for success and an abundant harvest. Follow the steps below to learn how to grow basil.
How to Grow Basil
Basil likes a slightly tropical environment, so select a planting location that will provide the herb plants with at least six hours of direct sun per day.
Although basil will grow in most soils it prefers, rich, moist, well-draining soil. To prepare the location, remove some earth and create a mixture that is 50 percent soil and 50 percent compost. Back-fill the in-ground location or container, water the soil mixture well, then let set overnight before planting basil seeds or plants. This overnight set will allow all the soil components to blend together, nutrients to leach throughout the soil and the soil become thoroughly moistened.
When to Plant Basil
Basil can be started from seeds and planted in the late spring, or early summer depending on your location. Whichever you choose, wait until all danger of frost has past and the daytime temperatures remain above 21 C (70 degrees Fahrenheit) and nighttime temperatures do not dip below 10 C (50 degrees Fahrenheit) for three consecutive days prior to planting.
How to Grow Basil Indoors and Outdoors
Starting Indoors: Seeds can be started a few weeks before the last frost date. Fill pots with sterilized potting soil. Pre-soak the soil and sow seeds no more than a 1/4 inch deep. Place the pots in a sunny, warm location inside.
Starting Outdoors: Choose a sunny location and amend the plant bed with a couple inches of compost. Water the ground well prior to sowing the seeds. Basil seeds only need to be sown a 1/4 inch deep. The seeds are small and light helps to stimulate the germination process.
Keep the soil moist at all times. Allowing the soil to dry out will kill the seeds or seedlings. Germination will occur in approx. 5-7 days. Seedlings can be transplanted into their permanent home after they have developed at least two sets of leaves.
To transplant the seedlings, prepare the soil as described above. Gently remove seedling from the container, being careful to keep as much soil intact around the root system as possible. This can be done by using a large spoon to scoop out the soil and seedling from its starting home and gently resetting it into its permanent home. Space seedlings approximately 12-18 inches apart.
Maintenance and Harvesting
Once established, basil is a hardy plant and doesn’t require too much maintenance.
Watering: Add a two inch layer of organic mulch around the plants to prevent weed growth and help retain soil moisture. As the mulch decomposes, it will also add nutrients to the soil to feed the plants.
Harvesting: Harvest basil after the stems reach 4-6 inches. Snip off a sprig near the base, just above a pair of leaves.
Pruning the plants will promote new growth. Be sure to snip off flower stalks as soon as they appear or the basil will develop a bitter flavor.
Seed Harvesting: If seeds are desired at the end of the growing season, allow some flower stalks to remain on the plant and reach maturity. Place harvested flower stalks on a paper towel and allow to dry out. Once they have dried, shake the dried flower stalks and the basil seeds will fall out. The seeds can be stored in an envelop and planted the following season.
There are many different varieties of basil seeds to choose from, all with their own flavor and aroma. Some of the best garden choices include:
Sweet basil: One of the most common and boasts medium sized, aromatic leaves.
Genovese basil: Produces 3 inch leaves that are strong and spicy in flavor.
Thai basil: Commonly used in Vietnamese and Thai cooking. The tasty leaves are uniquely anise flavoured. It also holds it’s flavour well when cooked.
Cinnamon Basil: Cinnamon basil has a wonderful ‘cinnamon’ flavour and aroma. The leaves still retain the spicy-sweet flavour.
Italian Large Leaf Basil: The leaves can grow up to 4″ long. Although it is similar to Genovese basil the flavour is sweeter and milder.
Lime Basil: Has a delicious rich lime and citrus flavour. Makes a wonderful tea, and adds a zesty flavour to salads.
Purple basil: Dark opal basil is a beautiful plant with purple leaves and sweet flavor.
Growing basil as a companion plant in the garden is also a good choice. All varieties of basil repel flies and mosquitoes, and will enhance the flavor of tomatoes when planted nearby. We hope this has helped you learn how to grow basil!