If your family likes sweet basil as much as ours does, one or two basil plants in the herb bed is nowhere near enough. I grow at least 40 basil plants each year to keep our family well supplied in fresh basil for the summer with plenty left over for drying too. Of course, this many basil plants can be costly to buy as seedlings which is why I always grow my basil from seed. Growing basil from seed is fun and super easy too. Here’s how it’s done.
Gather your supplies
To grow basil, you will need a packet of high quality seeds. I prefer a “basil blend” which contains a mix of basil seeds. Also needed is premium potting mix, trays with clear plastic lids, starter pots, and water sprayer. Some people prefer peat pots or egg carton trays; I typically use small 2″ pots that I’ve recycled from past years.
Planting the seeds
Loosely fill each pot with potting mix, add enough water to each pot to thoroughly moisture the potting medium. Sprinkle two or three basil seeds on top, lightly cover with no more than 1/8 inch of dry potting mix. Cover tray (either with plastic lid or plastic wrap) and place in warm, sunny window that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
Basil seeds can take up to 2 weeks to germinate which is why it’s important to keep the soil moistened during this entire time, using the water sprayer as needed. The lids should remain on the trays until all the basil has sprouted.
The basil seedlings should remain in a sunny window until all danger of frost has past. And once it looks like they’ve outgrown their peat pots, it’s time to transplant them into containers and flower pots. My rule of thumb is pretty simple – peat pots with two or three seedlings are planted in a one quart pot, larger clusters go into either a one or two gallon pot.
As the days start to warm up, the basil plants can be moved outdoors for brief periods of sunlight starting with an hour the first day, two hours the second day and so on. Basil plants do best in areas of full morning sun with filtered sunlight from noon on.
One of the downsides of container basil is that the plants will dry out much faster than basil which has been planted in the ground. If you live in a semi-arid region like I do, you may have to water the basil twice a day when temps reach 95 degrees and higher (this is where a watering bulb comes in handy). In other regions, you may only have to water every other day or when the soil is dry.
You can begin harvesting the basil once the plant is 6-8 inches tall by simply pinching off the leaves. Regular harvest stimulates new growth and prevents the basil from blooming. If a bloom should sprout up (and sometimes it does), simply cut the bloom off at its base. Basil that is regularly pruned will continue producing new leaves until the end of the season. If however you want to keep enjoying fresh basil into the winter, simply move some of your plants in doors before the first killing frost of Autumn.
More by this contributor:
8 high yield vegetables for the garden
What vegetable seeds grow best in my area
Why I plant vegetables and flowers together