Quick guide to planting basil

Planting basil is a great idea for the Italian food lover, as it means you'll have plenty of aromatic leaves at hand whenever you need them... to throw in tomato sauce, make pesto, whatever you like.

When planting basil, you have a couple of options: re-plant each spring or get attentive to make your plants last all year long.

planting basil harvesting basilIn Autumn, in wintery parts of the world, basil tends to look rather sorry for itself, because it is a warmth-loving plant that won’t survive the cold.

Although it’s a 'perennial' – so it can live for years in warm environments if fed/watered properly – in climates like much of the US and Europe it's regarded as an 'annual'. It lives for a season, dies, and you simply replant each spring.

There are 3 main basil varieties: Sweet Basil, the most popular for the kitchen; Purple Basil – gorgeously attractive, and Lemon Basil, which has a slight lemony flavor.

Planting basil: the annual route

- Plant your basil seeds each spring.

- Basil hates frost, so sow your seeds in pots indoors and only move/plant outside after the last frost of the year.

- Seeds germinate in about a week and grow very fast.

- Transplant into soil when there are at least 4 main leaves, or keep your plant on a sunny windowsill to have a nice aroma waft through your house.

- Repeat each Spring!

Planting: for basil all year long (AKA growing basil indoors)

- Grow it from scratch on a sunny windowsill, or…

- Plant your seeds in a pot outdoors and bring in at the first hint of cold

... or move to a warm climate!

Watering basil

- Basil likes fertile soil and frequent watering. Strangely, unlike most plants, basil likes to be watered in the sun.

- Don't let the soil dry out, but equally don't make it soggy all the time.

- If grown in a pot, basil will need watering each day when it’s hot. Add liquid organic fertilizer every 3 weeks during the growing season if you can.

Harvesting basil

- Start harvesting basil when plants are 15cm (6") high.

- Pick the top 5cm (2") above each leaf axil (where branch joins stem) and watch them take off! They’ll send out side shoots that you can just keep picking and picking.

- You can let a plant flower at the end of the season and the seeds will scatter around, or you can save the seeds.

- One or two basil plants, especially when grown in a big pot or open garden, are likely enough to keep a family, and any dinner guests, going all year.

To dry basil leaves for later: Check out this page.

To make pesto with your leaves: Try this pesto sauce recipe.

Thanks to Megan from www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com for helping me to produce this guide. I highly recommend her excellent site.

Also interesting is this health benefits of basil page.

Recommended Reading

If you like the idea of growing all your own herbs, this practical herb growing guide is rated 5/5 by Amazon’s customers, so it could be worth a look.

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