Have you ever wanted to grow your own basil?
Basil plants are easy to grow and produce a lot of leaves, which can be used fresh in many dishes. The best times for planting basil seeds are in the early spring or late summer when the air temperature is warm.
That said, there are ways to grow basil all year round!
Basil adapts very well to being grown in containers, which makes it an easy addition to a kitchen or window herb garden. A kitchen herb garden makes fresh herbs available and convenient for all of your favorite recipes.
If you have an outdoor garden space, it’s worth considering growing basil near your tomatoes and peppers where it can ward off pests. Many gardeners also believe basil improves the flavor of their nightshade fruits.
Follow these tips for growing your own fresh basil from seed.
Decide Which Basil to Grow
Many people are surprised to learn there are a variety of basil varieties you can grow. They have different uses and flavors, so don't assume all basils are the same.
Here are some of the more popular varieties to consider:
Sweet basil is the most common variety of basil used in cooking. It’s popular in pestos, salads, and marinades. The leaves are rounded and cup-shaped, with a medium green color and a mild flavor.
Sweet basil is the type most commonly sold in grocery stores.
Genovese basil has dark green leaves that are larger than the average variety. This is another fantastic basil for pestos and Italian recipes. Genovese leaves are flatter and more pointed than Sweet basil.
Sweet and Genovese basils are commonly confused, with "Sweet Genovese Basil" being used to describe some cultivars. True Genovese has a more powerful, aromatic flavor than sweet basil.
Thai Sweet Basil
The leaves of Thai basil are darker and more pointed than those of other basil varieties. The dark purple flower heads and stems of Thai basil stand out against the deep green foliage, making it a show-stopper in the herb garden.
Thai basil has a licorice-like flavor with a hint of clove. It pairs well with fish curries, stir-fried vegetables, and meats.
Thai basil is commonly used in Asian cuisines. Thai basil maintains its flavor at higher cooking temperatures better than other types of basil.
The attractive dark crimson color of purple basil stands out in the herb garden, making for great contrast. The flavor is not as sweet as some basil varieties, owing to a stronger clove presence.
Purple basil may be infused in vinegar or oil to bring vibrant color to your meals. It works well in salads and pasta.
Lemon Basil is a variety of basil with a tart, citrusy flavor. It has a strong lemony scent and pairs well with poultry, seafood, and even chocolate!
It is also heat tolerant and loved by bees when allowed to flower.
Lettuce leaf basil is a type of mild-tasting Italian basil. When mature, the plant is compact with large leaves.
It is a low-growing basil that reaches only about a foot in height. It also matures more slowly in the heat of summer and persists longer before going to seed.
Tulsi is the Sanskrit name for holy basil, which means "the incomparable one" in South Asia. It is a sacred plant in Hinduism. It is regarded as an early manifestation of the goddess Tulsi.
Holy Basil has a long history of use as a medicinal and religious plant. It's commonly used to produce a tea that's taken to treat stomach ailments, the kidneys, and enhance blood flow.
Another lovely herb in the garden is the cinnamon basil plant. It's a spicy, fragrant type of basil. The stems are crimson with pink flowers at maturity.
Cinnamon Basil has a milder basil taste and works well with fruit, adding a little zing with a cinnamon flavor. It's also used in Asian cuisine. Toss grilled veggies with Cinnamon Basil or use it in Asian marinades, fried rice, noodle salads, or as a garnish.
The strong, spicy scent of the Cardinal Basil makes it a great choice for infusing in vinegar and oils.
The Cardinal Basil, with its brilliant red flowers and rich green leaves, is certainly one of the most eye-catching among the basil cultivars.
The tight clusters of cardinal red flowers make them easy to spot. They are a wonderful choice as a backdrop for the herb garden, growing two and a half feet tall on sturdy stems.
Choosing Where to Plant Basil
When choosing where to plant fresh herbs, you want to consider an area that will be convenient to your kitchen. Fresh herbs make a world of difference to your cooking, and you'll want easy access to them.
Here are some additional factors to consider while picking the perfect location for your basil plants:
Well Drained Soil
Basil grows best in sunny, well-drained areas. It does not like to stay wet, so ensure good drainage to avoid excess moisture. Avoid overly rich soil, as this will hold moisture and make it more susceptible to diseases.
When you're watering your plants, it's best to let basil dry out slightly between waterings. Place your finger in the soil and water when the top inch of soil is dry.
Basil can become large and bushy, so it is important to space basil seedlings for plenty of airflow. Basil plants that are too close together will compete for the sun, water, and nutrients. It can stunt plants and increase risk of disease.
Plant and row spacing will depend on your choice of cultivars. Follow your seed packet for spacing information.
Basil prefers to be grown in full to partial sun with 6-8 hours of daylight. Keep plants in a warm, sunny place to ensure optimal growth. Basil that does not receive enough light could become stunted with discolored leaves.
Growing Basil in Indoors
It's possible to grow basil indoors in containers, which makes it a simple addition to a kitchen or window herb garden.
This is a great way to ensure fresh basil for cooking.
Follow these tips:
- Plant your basil in a large enough container so that the roots of the plant have plenty of space to grow. A container at least 8-10" deep is ideal.
- Make sure your container has proper drainage so excess water can drain from the soil.
- Water your basil only when the top of the soil feels dry. They do not require as much watering as other herbs, so keep an eye on them!
- Water your basil plant at least once every other day. You don't want the soil to become too dry or too soggy.
- Place your basil where it will receive at least six hours of sunlight a day and keep an eye out for patchy leaves on your plant.
- Add a grow light to supplement your plant's light if necessary.
- Harvest your basil often. Pick leaves as needed to maintain a healthy plant that will continue to produce.
Basil does well grown indoors if the proper conditions are met. You may even find you prefer growing it inside instead of having it out in the garden. It's a great way to grow fresh basil year-round.
Starting Basil from Seed
When planting basil seeds, the ideal conditions include early spring or late summer when the air temperature is warm, but they can be started any time of the year.
Basil seeds prefer a soil temperature of 70-80 degrees F. If you live in a cold region, you may want to use a heating mat under your seed starting trays to improve germination.
Basil is not frost tolerant, so it needs to be planted outdoors after all risk of frost has passed. Seeds can be started indoors four weeks before moving outdoors.
Use a soil mix with a fine texture and is best suited for seed germination. Plant 2-3 seeds per cell 1/4" deep, and keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate in 7-10 days.
Basil seedlings are very tender when they sprout. This is when they are most vulnerable. Be careful not to damage or overwater them at this stage.
Once the basil seedlings have their first set of true leaves, they can be thinned to one plant per cell.
Thinned basil seedlings are delicious on a salad or sandwich. You can also start seeds specifically for basil microgreens.
How to Harvest Basil
You can begin to harvest basil leaves when your plants have at least six sets of true leaves. Pinch out the tops of young seedlings to encourage branching, which increases the yield of harvestable leaves. Harvest your basil frequently to encourage additional production and growth.
Never harvest more than 1/3 of each basil plant to ensure it remains healthy.
Is your basil producing faster than you can use it? There are many ways you can preserve your herbs to use them at a later time. Basil can easily be preserved through freezing, drying, and infusing in oils or vinegar.
Handling Flowering Basil
There are many reasons why your basil may start to produce flowers.
Your basil plant may need to be pruned back. Basil plants will start to flowers if they think they are done producing, but they can be convinced to continue producing if you trim off the flowers and begin harvesting leaves again.
Basil plants will begin flowering if they are stress. High temperatures, lack of water, and overcrowding can all cause stress to your plants.
If your basil is planted in the ground, you can try to provide shade to give your plant some relief from the heat and sun. Mulch and regular watering can help to retain water and reduce stress. Removing extra plants will help to relieve overcrowding.
Basil flowers are edible, so don't let them go to waste. You can sprinkle them on a salad, add them to pesto, or use them to make tea.
Growing basil from seed doesn't need to feel intimidating. All you need are good conditions for germination, proper lighting, and regular harvesting to grow basil successfully.
Basil leaves can be used fresh in many dishes and are easy to grow. Having fresh basil growing conveniently in your kitchen is just one step away.
What is your favorite basil variety to use and grow? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it.