I have shared all kinds of awesome tips to help you grow an amazing home garden. I was so fortunate to learn from my mom, who was a master gardener. Her passion for gardening sparked my passion and I’ve learned all kinds of tips and tricks over the years. I especially love growing herbs and growing basil.
Yep, basil is one of those delicious herbs that everyone loves to eat. We love to enjoy it fresh in the summer and dried in the off-season. This is why we grow a lot of basil. We’ve started it from seed and we’ve even tried growing it indoors. We’ve had some great successes and we’ve had some epic fails. That’s what gardening is all about. Experimenting and trying new things.
Over the years I have had many inquiries about growing basil. So, I’ve pulled together the top questions that have been asked and I’m giving you all my best answers. Now, I’m not an actual expert…I’m just a curious gardener who has many years of experience and I’m super happy to share. Let’s get you growing some basil!
How to Grow Basil – Everything You Need to Know
How to Grow Basil from Seed?
Basil is a great herb to grow from seed. We’ve grown basil from seed in our egg carton planters and our toilet paper roll pots. Typically, basil seeds take about a week to germinate (move from seed to tiny seedling popping through the soil surface) and then take 4 weeks to grow large enough to be planted outdoors. You are going to need to check the seed packet for exact instructions on the timing of your seeds. In general, start your basil seeds in a seed starting soil. This kind of soil has the proper balance of nutrients for producing happy and healthy plants. Check out our post all about starting seeds on your window sill for more great tips.
How to Plant Basil?
Okay, now that you have a basil plant and it’s time to plant it outdoors. If you are planting a seedling you have started from seed you want that seedling to be at least 2 inches tall. What’s the best soil for basil? Basil is a particularly hearty herb, it can tolerate tough conditions. Basil plants grow best in well-drained, medium pH level, soil. If you are growing basil in a pot, make sure it has good drainage. While basil can tolerate sandier soils, it doesn’t do well in poorly drained, clay soil.
How Much Sun Does Basil Need?
Basil is a sun-loving herb. Like most herbs, actually. Basil likes to be in the full sun. Which means 8-10 hours of sunlight a day. The good news is most of your herbs like the same conditions, so be sure to place your herb garden in a sunny spot for maximum growth.
Where to plant basil in your garden?
As I said, plant your basil in a sunny spot. Basil likes being planted with “friends” or what are called companion plants. Basil’s best companions are tomatoes and marigolds. Marigolds are a great tool to use in your garden. They fend off some pests and they attract bees…which all of your plants need.
How much water does basil need?
If you’ve planted your basil in a sunny spot then it is going to need to be watered or it will dry out. Water your basil, and all your herbs, once a day in the heat of the summer. It can tolerate getting a little dry, but the leaves will wilt and turn brown if the plant is too wet or too dry. If you want healthy, deep green leaves, be sure to keep them watered.
How far apart to plant basil?
Basil doesn’t mind being a little bit crowded. The spacing of your basil will depend on the variety of basil you buy. Check the label that comes with your plant or the packet that your seeds come in. There are columnar varieties – these are quite compact, tiny leaves and grow tall. There are varieties that spread more and need wider spaces. It is really going to depend on the basil you are growing.
How to harvest basil leaves?
Harvesting basil, or pruning, is important. The more you prune your basil plant the more your basil will grow. If you want a healthy basil plant there are a couple of things to know when you’re harvesting. First, if you see a flower starting to form, it is definitely time to harvest some leaves. Once the basil turns to flower the plant starts to focus all of its energy on turning to seed and stops growing…so don’t let it turn to seed too soon.
To harvest basil start by deciding how many leaves you need. Clip the basil (or tear) the stem below the big leaves and above the small leaves. When you prune in this spot, leaving the smaller leaves, they will become new basil stalks. So, your one stalk will become two. This is how you get a nice healthy basil plant. Don’t remove all of the little leaves. They are the new growth.
Does basil grow back every year?
Sadly, basil is an annual herb where we live. In fact, it’s pretty rare to have a perennial basil plant. However, you can totally save the basil plants seeds (found in the flowers) and use them to grow basil the following year.
Does basil like coffee grounds?
Yes! The nitrogen in used coffee grounds is a great, organic fertilizer for your basil plants. Be careful not to use too much coffee though, coffee adds acid to your soil and basil doesn’t like soil that is too acidic. Check out our post to learn all about how to use coffee grounds in your garden.
How to fertilize basil plants?
Okay, here’s a true confession…I’m terrible at fertilizing my plants. Yep, I rarely fertilize during the growing season. Basil plants can benefit from being fertilized once a month. However, I find that the soil preparation you do in the spring is just as important. Be sure to add compost to your garden bed in the spring. If you follow our tips around properly harvesting your basil and watering the plants properly your plants should be happy. Oh, and don’t forget our coffee ground fertilizer. If your soil is particularly void of nutrients (sandy soil) then fertilizing once a month is definitely going to help your basil plant succeed.
How to grow basil in a pot?
If you don’t have a backyard garden, you can still grow basil. Yep, you can grow basil on your balcony. Here is where my life experience really comes into play. I have tried and failed and succeeded at growing basil in a pot. There are a few important factors to take into consideration. The first thing is the pot, make sure your pot is larger than your plant because it is going to GROW. Next, make sure your pot has a drainage hole and that you don’t block that hole. Place a layer of rocks over the whole or a shard of terra cotta pot, over the whole to keep it free and clear. Next, make sure you are using soil that is for pots. Soil that is specifically designed for pots has the correct balance of peat and soil – so it drains well and retains water properly. Finally, be sure to place your pot in a sunny spot and water it regularly. Potted plants dry out faster than plants living in the ground. You are going to need to stay on top of the watering. When the soil feels dry it’s time to water it.
How to grow basil indoors?
I’ve tried overwintering basil indoors and I haven’t had any success. Where we live, there simply isn’t enough sunlight in the winter to keep the basil alive. If you are attempting to grow basil indoors follow the directions about (about growing basil in pots) and make sure you have a very sunny, south-facing window. The fact is herbs love sunlight, if you’ve got sunlight indoors
What are the Best Types of Basil to Grow at Home?
The best type of basil to grow at home is the one you will eat! We love a traditional big green-leafed Genovese basil – perfect for making basil and Caprese salads. Purple basil is a show stopper in salads. You can experiment with fun varieties like cinnamon basil, which has a surprising hint of cinnamon. Greek basil has smaller, flavourful leaves and is great for growing in pots as it is smaller. Lemon basil has a lemon scent and flavour…nice in salads. Mammoth basil has large, rippled-edged leaves. Mammoth has a spicy flavour that packs a mammoth punch. There are endless varieties of basil, whichever you choose you are sure to enjoy it.
What is wrong with my basil plant?
In general, the main issues people have with basil plants have to do with sunlight and watering. If your leaves are turning black or the leaves are drooping you have probably over-watered the plant. If the leaves are turning yellow, the plant might need more nutrients (check the next answer). If your leaves are turning white that could be powdery mildew. This can occur when plants are too wet and too crowded. Make sure there is enough room between the plants for air to circulate. If you aren’t seeing any growth in your basil plant, more than likely there isn’t enough sunlight reaching the basil plant. Move your basil to a sunnier spot.
How to dry basil?
Basil is a wonderful herb to dry at home. Dry a big batch and then you can enjoy the basil in soups, stews and sauces all year round. It’s pretty easy to dry basil. Check out my post where I share how to dry herbs at home. I cover all the steps to drying basil and other herbs in your kitchen.
Okay, that was fun to pull together. All the basil growing tip, tricks and facts! Phew! If you have another question please leave a comment below or reach out via email or on Instagram. I’d love to know what other questions you have. Happy growing and happy harvesting!
Learn all about how to grow and harvest coriander seeds too
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