There will be no need for you to buy the costly basil plants from the nursery once you see how quickly and easily you can grow your own little forest of basil yourself.
The plants for sale in the stores are usually quite expensive. This is because they are quite a high maintenance plant for the stores and nurseries. It’s a very weather sensitive plant and they also attract a lot of different pests.
When planted in the garden, they’re often a magnet for slugs, snails, all kinds of bugs, bunnies and so many other creatures.
The weather is big factor for them as well, they have sensitive leaves that turn black and die easily if under stress.
It can be a challenge to even grow enough good basil for your own purposes.
The best way to avoid these problems is to grow the plants in your house. Treat them as a house plant!
Plant the seeds in pots on a window sill in the late spring and early summer and all those issues will be non-existent, you’ll get a bounty of basil with perfect leaves.
My favourite variety is Genovese Basil. It’s a green, large leaf type that grows beautifully large leaves consistently every time.
The seeds will remain good to sprout for at least 3 years if you store them in a cool, dry place.
Let’s Get Planting
- Choose your favourite varieties of seeds
- Several cheap 6″ round plastic pots and trays, or a narrow but long windowsill box
- Good quality sterilized indoor potting soil
- Set aside a warm sunny window sill or skylight area for them to sit
Do not use outdoor garden soil for this, as doing this will invite bugs and other issues into your home.
How to Plant Basil
- Fill the 6″ plastic pots loosely with soil
- Pat it down to level it out at about an inch from the top rim, water lightly
- Use a seeder to sprinkle the seeds, 20-30 seeds per pot will be enough
- Sprinkle ½” more potting soil over the seeds and pat down lightly
- Water very gently and evenly with a soft sprinkling watering can, it’s very easy to disturb the seeds
- Set the pots in their trays in their chosen location, fill the trays with water
- Once the weather gets hot, keep the trays filled with fresh clean water
- Change the water if it turns yellow or gets stinky in any way
- Ensure some air flow around the young seedlings to avoid mould issues
Watch for Sprouts
In about 6 to 8 days you should begin to see evidence of the little seedlings coming up. At this point they are very strong but quite fragile at the same time.
If you have a cluster of seeds in one spot, you’ll see that they are strong enough to lift an entire layer of the soil above them until they’re tall enough to poke through.
Water them carefully from the top to soften the soil so that layer doesn’t crush the new sprouts. If the seedlings can’t get through, the soil may fall and squish the sprouts.
The first leaves that will appear are called Cotyledon leaves.
This is a Latin word meaning “seed leaf”. These leaves are distinctly different in appearance than any of the other leaves that grow afterwards. This is true to all plants.
After the first set, you’ll begin to see new leaves emerge as the stalk grows taller. They have a completely different shape and will be recognizable as basil.
Give Plenty of Water
The mature leaves get very large and need quite a lot of water to plump up. If you keep the tray filled with clean water all season long, they will be fine and grow happily.
They’ll be very quick to tell you that they’re under watered if you fall behind.
The leaves will droop and they’ll feel like rubbery plastic. In most cases, they will respond and perk up very quickly, if they haven’t gone past the point of no return. “The point of no return” is the stage of drought from which a plant cannot recover.
When you leave the plant pots sitting in clean water throughout the hot months you won’t have to think about them everyday and they won’t fall into the category of a high maintenance plant.
Basil is the perfect seed for kids and beginners because it sprouts very quickly, usually in about 6 or 7 days.
Let the young plant become established before harvesting leaves from it. Allow at least 3 sets of leaves after the cotyledon leaves to grow and establish before you start pinching them off.
As the plant grows it’s important to pinch and harvest the leaves regularly. The plant will produce more leaves if you do so.
Pinch in the “V” of new leaves but don’t pinch off the tiny baby leaves just emerging and those leaves will gain in strength and become two new branches.
With good care and adequate water, 3 or 4 – 6″ pots of seeds will grow plenty to use fresh and store for winter. If you love basil like I do then certainly grow as many plants as you have room for.
There’s no need to wash the leaves before use, they are perfectly clean since you grew them yourself and no pesticides were used.
Drying: Put a layer of paper towel on the plate or tray. Take the leaves that you’ve just trimmed from the plant and put them on the plate in a single layer, cover it with a second paper towel and allow it time to dry. The local weather will determine how fast it dries.
Toss and separate the leaves once each week to ensure they don’t stick together and go mouldy. This method might take a couple of months to completely dry out. They dry faster in the warm summer months.
Dehydrator: Same as air drying just turbo speed, leaves must be very crispy and dry before storing them in your spice cupboard in a jar. Any moisture present will cause mould to grow in the jar.
Freezing: Chop the leaves up and put them in an ice cube tray then fill it with water or olive oil. Once they are frozen put the cubes in a zipper freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Then when you want to use Basil in a soup, stew or spaghetti sauce throw in a handful of the frozen basil cubes for terrific fresh basil taste. The water or olive oil that is the ice cube will melt and mix throughout the dish. It will never be noticed.
If you’ve dried it, rub the leaves between your hands vigorously and the wonderful aromatic basil dust will fall into your cooking. Your hands will smell terrific as well.
Please leave a comment below about your basil growing adventures and share your favourite basil recipes if you have any.