Growing Basil: Planting & Care Tips

by Jack Grover
green leaf plants
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With its vibrant green leaves and irresistible aroma, basil is a culinary staple in many kitchens.

This versatile herb also attracts beneficial insects to your garden. It can help you create a sustainable, eco-friendly outdoor space.

This guide explores the essential steps to successfully grow basil, from planting to caring for your budding herbs.

Whether you’re looking to add flavor to a dish or gain the health benefits of this herb, you’ll find that growing basil is simpler than you think.

So roll up your sleeves, grab your gardening tools, and dive into the world of growing basil!

Key Takeaways

  • To get the best out of your basil, choose a spot with plenty of sunlight and well-draining soil.
  • Water your basil regularly, about once a week.
  • Remember to provide your basil plant with the necessary nutrients.
  • Pruning your basil can help to encourage bushier growth.
  • Keep an eye out for pests and diseases, and consider companion planting to enhance the flavor of your basil.
  • When the leaves on your basil plants are at their peak freshness, it’s time to harvest.

Introducing Basil

Basil, also known as sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), is an aromatic herb that belongs to the mint family. It is native to India.

Thanks to its unique taste, basil is widely grown as a kitchen herb. Its leaves are used fresh or dried to add flavor to meats, fish, salads, and sauces. Basil tea is known for its stimulating properties.

However, other varieties of basil offer different tastes and fragrances.

For instance, tulsi, or holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is a popular variety used in Tamil and Ayurvedic medicines practiced in Southeast Asia.

Uses of Basil

Basil is a popular herb with many uses. For centuries, it has been valued for its medicinal properties. It is known to help relieve stomach spasms, making it an effective natural remedy for digestive issues.

Furthermore, people believe that basil can promote blood circulation, which is beneficial in childbirth and postpartum care, as well as stimulating breast milk production. Its antiseptic properties make it an ideal treatment for snake and insect bites.

This herb is also known to have diuretic effects, making it useful in treating kidney conditions and fluid retention.

green basil

Planting Basil

Planting basil is the perfect way to bring vibrant green feather foliage into your garden.

To get started, plant the seeds ¼ inch deep in moist, well-tilled soil. Firmly cover the seeds with soil and water them generously.

After 8-14 days, you can expect to see the unique foliage popping up.

For a continuous harvest, plant successive crops of basil every 2-3 weeks. Place them in a container, raised garden bed, or backyard garden.

Soil and Spacing

To ensure optimal growth for your basil plants, focus on two key factors: soil and spacing.

Select nutrient-rich soil with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0. If necessary, use a soil test kit to determine the pH level.

Enhance the soil by incorporating organic matter and well-decomposed compost. Doing so will provide essential nutrients and improve drainage.

You can also apply a layer of mulch around the plants, approximately one to two inches thick. Mulch serves to retain moisture and prevent sudden temperature fluctuations.

Lastly, ensure that each plant has enough space to grow. To prevent overcrowding, allow each plant to have 12-18 inches of room for its foliage to spread.

Water and Nutrients

green plant on black pot

Basil plants need the right amount of water and nutrients to stay healthy and productive. To keep them happy, moist soil is essential. 

During hot weather, particularly in warmer climates, give them extra water. It will help them stay hydrated and ensure they receive enough moisture.

Besides water, your basil plants need essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy growth. 

Fertilizers are a great way to provide these nutrients. Use a balanced organic fertilizer or blood meal every couple of weeks to give them a boost. Follow the instructions on the packaging for proper application and dosage.

Light and Temperature

Basil thrives in warm, sunny environments. Choose a garden spot that receives plenty of sunlight to ensure that your basil plants get the best possible start.

At least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day is ideal.

Temperatures should also be carefully monitored; basil seed germination requires a soil temperature between 70 to 80 °F (21 – 26 °C). If a freeze is expected, protect your basil plants by using row covers or other protective measures.

Pruning

green plant in blue plastic bucket

Pruning your basil plant is an excellent way to ensure a healthy and productive harvest. It promotes branching and results in a fuller plant with more yields. 

When your basil seedlings have sprouted six leaves, it is a good time to prune them back to their second set of leaves. For best results, do it every 6-7 weeks.

To promote better flavor and leaf production, pinch off the center growth stem to prevent it from flowering and producing seeds.

Pests and Diseases

Keeping your basil plants free from pests and diseases is essential for them to thrive. Companion planting is a great way to prevent pests like aphids.

To avoid diseases such as fusarium wilt, select basil varieties that are resistant to disease. Ensure your plants have plenty of airflow and water them at the base so the leaves remain dry.

Companion Planting and Recommended Varieties

Basil can enhance biodiversity, bring beneficial pollinators, and even improve the flavor of other crops. Here are some companion planting ideas to get you started.

When planted near tomatoes, basil can help ward off the destructive tomato hornworm. Asparagus loves the company of basil since it attracts ladybugs, which helps deter aphids, Japanese beetles, and bean beetles. Plus, when basil flowers, it will bring beneficial pollinators to the garden.

When choosing varieties for your garden, consider:

  • Genovese
  • Lemon Basil
  • Lime Basil
  • Dark Opal
  • Minet Greek

Each option has unique characteristics, including varying heights, colors, and flavors.

top view photo of green leafed plants in pots

Harvesting Basil

Harvesting basil is an easy and enjoyable process.

When basil plants reach 6 to 8 inches in height, it’s time to start harvesting. The best way to do this is by gently pinching or snipping off the leaves from the stems.

For the best-tasting leaves, harvest your basil in the morning. During this time, the essential oil levels are highest.

To promote new growth, continue to pinch off the branch tips and leaves. Doing this will help your basil plant to grow more abundantly.

Remember that basil plants take around 68-75 days to mature after sowing the seeds, so be sure not to harvest too early.

The Bottom Line

Growing basil is a delightful and fulfilling endeavor for any gardener, whether experienced or just starting out.

With its vibrant green leaves and enticing aroma, basil is a kitchen staple. Yet, it’s also a valuable herb with numerous health benefits. 

Whether you’re looking to add a burst of flavor to your dishes or want to enjoy the many health benefits this herb provides, growing basil is a simple and enjoyable process.

With proper planting, care, and harvesting techniques, you can have a continuous supply of fresh basil right at your fingertips. 

So grab your gardening tools and get ready to witness the beauty and taste of basil in your own backyard. Happy gardening!

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