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If you asked me what are my favorite plants for growing, basil is always one that comes to mind in the top 10. Basil is delicious, healthy, and very easy to care for. Today we’ll share some tips for how to grow basil so you too can enjoy this delicious herb in the kitchen.
Why Grow Sweet Basil? Benefits of Learning to Grow Basil
The most popular variety of basil is sweet basil. Sweet basil has the scientific name of ocimum basilicum. Other varieties of basil include lemon basil, which has more of a citrus scent, purple basil, and Thai basil. Of all of these, naturally sweet basil is the sweetest variety of them all!
Basil can be enjoyed in a number of dishes and as a flavoring for many recipes.
Common recipes include pesto sauce, tomato sauce, and other sauces. Many people even enjoy sprinkling fresh basil leaves over sliced tomatoes with their favorite balsamic vinaigrette recipe.
It pairs especially well with dishes prepared with fresh garlic grown in the garden. It is also very good in tomato based dishes, such as your favorite tomato spaghetti marinara sauce.
In addition to being flavorful, basil also has a number of health benefits.
The smell of basil is known to be uplifting. The scent is a sweet minty herbal fragrance and is often used in aromatherapy. It can be helpful to relieve tension and stress.
Aromatically, basil plants can help someone to feel more positive. It can sometimes be useful for alleviating worry and stress.
As a herbal remedy, basil is often be used for chest congestion, ulcers, and to help support digestive wellness.
Basil is often planted outdoors as it can help deter many common insects. Many insects do not like the scent of basil! In fact, many people will plant basil around their vegetable garden to repel harmful insects from their other plants.
There are a lot of great benefits to basil. While it is useful for cooking, it certainly has a lot more uses than as just a basic kitchen plant!
Growing Basil is Easy and Fun: How to Grow Basil
The basil plant is easy to grow and care for, and it can be grown both indoors and outdoors.
Since the plant is an annual plant, it will need replanted when grown outdoors each season. However, with its delicious taste and a number of beneficial uses, it’s certainly worth the effort!
Basil is commonly grown indoors and rarely reaches a height of over 12 inches indoors unless it has enough space and sunlight. When grown outdoors, basil can grow up to 24 inches or possibly even taller quite easily.
It usually is started by planting seeds, although you of course can always opt to purchase a fresh basil plant seedling.
How Many Basil Plants Should I Grow? How much basil does each plant produce?
This is a very common question many people will ask when planning their garden, because it is helpful to ensure you plant enough to keep up the supply for how much you will use.
Each basil planting will produce about 2.5 – 4 ounces per week. If you wish to have a lot of basil, you will want to grow more than just one plant. 2-3 plants will give you about a cup of basil per week.
If you wish to have more than this, simply grow more plants. Knowing how much basil to expect can give you a good idea of how many plants you should grow.
You can always grow more and preserve the harvest by drying or freezing it for later use.
Where to Grow Basil: Indoors or Out?
The directions to grow basil is pretty much the same whether you want to grow it outdoors or in a kitchen windowsill. There are a few benefits to both, so we’ll compare so you can make the best decision that is right for you!
Pros & Cons of Growing Indoors
Indoors, you will have the benefit of a longer growing season. You can plant the sweet basil anytime of year, and do not have to necessarily wait until the frost has passed. Yes, this means you can have delicious fresh basil to use for pestos and sauces right in the middle of winter!
The major drawback of growing indoors is you will have to ensure the plant gets enough light. This can be difficult for some, especially in northern climates in the winter months.
Another potential downfall to growing indoors is you may be limited by space. Instead of growing an entire row of plants, you may have to limit yourself to just one or two pots.
Pros & Cons of Growing Basil Outdoors
Outdoors you have the advantage that most insects are repelled by the scent of basil. It is a very good idea to grow basil in between tomato plants, as it can help ward off any insects and diseases from the tomatoes. On the patio, it can help keep away pesky mosquitoes and other insects.
Another great benefit is if you have the space outdoors, you can grow a LOT of basil! This is an excellent idea if you love to cook or want to share your harvest with family or friends.
Of course, there are some drawbacks when planting basil outdoors. First, you are at the mercy of the current weather conditions. You have to make sure you plant it after the risk of frost is gone. This will depend on your garden zone, but for most people in the U.S. this means waiting until May or June to start planting.
You may also find that certain wildlife animals like to eat basil just as much as you do! If you find there are animals eating your basil, you can always surround it with garden netting or build a fence around the garden to protect the plant from thieves.
The Best of Both: Growing Basil in Containers
Perhaps better than choosing whether to plant indoors or out is to grow basil in containers which you can keep outside during the warmer months, and bring indoors when the temperatures begin to drop.
This also allows you to move the plant easily as necessary, which is helpful if you find the spot you intended to grow it is not sunny enough or gets too much water when you have rain.
How to Grow Basil & Care for Your Plants
Seeds should be started indoors once the daily temperature stays consistently above 60 degrees. Basil requires warm weather for growing, so if you start too early you risk it not doing well due to cooler temperatures.
You will also want to make sure the place you grow this plant is warm. It will not tolerate cold temperatures, so you will want to make sure that it is grown at room temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
If you are growing indoors in the winter near a window, be sure that no drafts are making the conditions too cold for your plant. Insulating the window with bubble wrap or clear weatherstripping plastic is a good idea if growing in a colder climate indoors in the winter months. The chill from the windows may be too much for your plants, especially as young seedlings.
If you will be planting your basil seedlings outdoors, you will want to start them about 6 weeks before June, so sometime in late April or early May.
Basil requires full sun for growing. You will want to plant in a spot that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun a day for the best results. It will grow in areas that receive partial shade, however be sure that it gets the majority of the sun during the peak hours between 10am – 2pm if this is the case.
If you are growing indoors and do not get a lot of sunlight, you may wish to invest in a grow lamp. There are many different types of lights and light bulbs on the market today that can help ensure your plants get enough light to prosper.
Let’s talk dirt: What’s the best type of soil for basil?
The best soil for basil is slightly acidic soil and is nutrient rich. You may wish to use a specially formulated garden potting soil. The soil must absolutely be well drained, as basil will not tolerate becoming water-logged.
If you are growing basil indoors in your herb garden, you’ll want to ensure the pots you use have a hole to drain water. Placing a tray or saucer underneath the potted plant will help reduce water from dripping all over the place.
If growing outdoors, a raised garden bed can be helpful to ensure proper drainage and to reduce weeds.
Your plants will also need watered regularly. The soil of the plant should remain moist at all times. Be careful not to overwater – smaller amounts of daily frequent watering is much better than drenching the plant with too much water!
Make sure there is no water collecting or pooling in the dirt of the plant. If the water is not being absorbed by the soil and not draining, you may wish to mix a small bit of sand or perlite into the soil to help improve the water drainage.
Plant Care for Growing Basil
To get the most flavorful basil as possible, you do not want the plant to overgrow. It is best for the plant to be tall and skinny rather than full and bushy.
While you may wish to fertilize your garden, with this herb you may want to do so only sparingly. Over fertilization can cause damage to the plant, or it can cause the plant to grow too fast and not allow it proper time to fully produce the oils which make it so flavorful.
To have the best possible leaf production, you will want to make sure you pinch off any stalks where flowers begin to form. Once the plant goes to flower, it will need to be replanted if growing indoors.
If you regularly pinch the flowers off whenever you harvest the leaves, this will help the plant last longer.
Harvesting Basil Leaves
To harvest your plant’s leaves, you will want to wait until the plant has grown to be at least 6-7 inches tall. This will give it enough time to have grown enough to be able to withstand the leaves being harvested.
You can use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip the leaves if desired.
The leaves should be harvested regularly to ensure the optimal production from the plant. You should harvest the leaves at least once a week, if not more often. If you won’t be using the leaves, you still should harvest them to ensure the plant stays productive.
If you don’t have any immediate use for your herbs, you can preserve them in a number of ways. Basil freezes quite well, especially when frozen as a pesto. You can also dry your herbs for later use, although the flavor of dried herbs is not always as strong, so you will likely need more dried herbs in your recipes than you would use when cooking with dried basil.
Propagation & Seed Collection
Once your basil plant goes to flower, you may wish to save some of these flowers for seed collection. Harvesting basil seeds is quite easy. After picking the flowers from the plant, you simply need to place the flower heads in a warm place to allow them to dry. Once they are dried out, very carefully break them apart to collect the small seeds.
Basil seeds are very small, so you may wish to do this over a covered area or with a fine strainer to ensure the seeds do not get lost.
Save these seeds for replanting – this way once your original plant is done growing, you can begin to grow more without the need to purchase seeds again.
Growing basil is fun and easy to do. Once you learn how to grow basil, you will be happy to have a fresh supply of basil to use in your cooking!
Do you have any questions on how to grow basil? Do you currently grow basil and have tips you would like to share with our readers? Your experiences and thoughts are always welcome in the comments section below!