Basil is one of the most popular herbs to grow, either in your garden or in containers. The fresh green leaves are used in many types of cooking, such as French, Asian and Italian cuisines. Unlike many other herbs, basil is easy to grow.
Basil smells terrific, tastes great, and is a snap to grow. Here's how!
- While you can certainly use cuttings or basil plants from a nursery, growing basil from seeds will actually give you better results. The seeds grow quickly, so you'll have your basil plants peeking out from the soil in no time.
- Plant basil seeds or plants in well-drained soil that will stay moist. It's a sun-loving annual, so make sure it gets plenty of sunlight too. Organic matter like compost or manure should be worked into the soil before planting.
- The seeds are ready to plant after the last frost of the season. Plant them about an eighth of an inch deep, and half an inch apart, in rows with about two inches between each row. Fertilize the soil lightly after planting by mixing your fertilizer with water. Repeat this procedure a couple more times throughout the growing season.
- Most varieties of basil will grow to about two feet in height. If you're growing your basil in containers indoors, it will take about five days to germinate. Planting outdoors takes about twice as long for germination.
- Once the plant begins to sprout up and the leaves start to develop, cover the soil with an inch or two of mulch to keep the soil damp and help prevent weeds from appearing near the basil.
- Keep the soil moist, but avoid standing water which can encourage pests and bacteria. Pinch off flower buds as soon as they appear, so your basil plants will get nice and bushy and the leaves will develop well.
- Basil leaves are ready to pick as soon as they appear. The more you harvest, the more leaves will grow!
- If you want your basil plants to resow themselves back into your garden, allow some of the flowers to grow and mature. The seeds in the flowers will drop out and plant themselves in the soil.
- Basil grows very well with tomato plants. The basil helps to repel certain pests that are fond of tomatoes.
Basil leaves can be dried for long-term storage. Simply hang the leaves tied in bunches upside down in a warm, dry place for several days until they are dry and crumbly. Crush the leaves or keep them whole, and store them in an airtight container or zippered plastic bag.