Basil, that beautiful and fragrant herb we all have in our kitchen spice cabinet, is easy to grow from seeds – so don’t waste money buying it already in the seedling stage, when you can do it yourself for the price of a packet of seeds!
What Variety of Basil to Grow in Your Herb Garden
First, decide what variety of basil you want to grow. Some of the varieties of this herb are cinnamon basil and lemon basil (both are aptly named) and there is the standard purple basil which is well known for its beautiful flowers, leaves and fragrant scent. There are other varieties on the market such as the Greek basil, Thai basil and African blue basil to name a few. Chose a variety well suited for your local growing conditions by asking the local Agricultural extension office, or local nursery.
Planting Basil Seeds
Indoors: Fill your seed-growing flat with sterile planting soil. Pack down the medium lightly and dampen it just a little bit. Using a small toothpick, or other little tool, make a tiny hole about every inch, and drop one or two seeds in the hole. Press the soil in around the seeds, packing it down, and water it well. Place your flat in a warm place, and keep it moist until the seedlings emerge, then ‘harden’ the seedlings by placing them in a sunny place for a few hours a day, lengthening out the sun exposure time each day until the plants are receiving full sun all day, if possible. Then, you can either replant the seedlings in the ground outdoors when they are eight to ten inches high, or repot them into a larger container with two to three plants per container.
Growing Basil Outdoors from Seed
It’s quite easy to get basil to establish itself in your garden, so you can also try cutting out the middle-man, and just start your seeds in the garden, if you want. You’ll want to make a seedbed, free of rocks and litter, that is full of loose soil to the depth of eight to ten inches. It’s always a good idea to add slow release granular fertilizer as you prepare the soil, and, after the seedlings are well established at a height of eight to ten inches, apply a side-dressing of well-composted organic material. Plant the seeds about two times their length in depth, press the soil down firmly, and water them well. Even though the soil is not sterile you should still have a good showing of seedlings, since basil are hardy plants. Keep your seedlings well-watered while they grow, and they’ll thrive!
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Caring for Basil Plants
One note of interest: Keep herbs, especially basil, leafy and compact by breaking off the top of the stalk when it reaches a good height (What’s a good height? It will depend upon the container, and where you have the plant sitting.) – this signals the plant to start producing side leaves and branches, keeping the plant compact and lush and avoiding long branches with few leaves.
Basil flowers are beautiful, but allowing them to grow tells the plant that it is finishing its life cycle. When blooming occurs, there is a systemic hormonal thing happening that changes the taste of the basil -unless you’re hankering for some basil seeds, you don’t want that to happen to your herb. When this starts to occur, it’s called “bolting,” however, the plant can be reset if you just pinch off the flowering parts. Take off every one of the flowers and you’ll slow down this life cycle process until you’re ready to harvest some seeds to plant next year – basil is an annual, so you will have to replant every year unless you keep your plants indoors, then you should have basil year-round.
Growing Basil From Seed is Easy!
Growing basil is easy indoors or out – I hope you will grow it for not only its taste, but for the beauty of the plant itself. A seed packet or two will provide you with many, many plants that you can harvest, dry, and package up for your later use – as well as enjoying fresh cut sprigs off the growing plant.