Planting Basil

Homegrown tomatoes are nothing without the addition of fresh basil. In fact, there are a lot of things that just aren't quite right without this popular garden herb. Luckily, for gardeners and anyone interested, basil is one of the easiest and fastest growing herbs you can plant! Requiring very little space, there's little reason why you shouldn't be starting basil in your garden this year. To set you off on the right foot, this gardening guide will be focused on how to grow basil seed. Planting basil from seed, caring for seedlings, transplanting and even the harvesting of basil can be found just a few scrolls away!


Plant Identification - 
  • Binomial Name - Ocimum basilicum
  • Family - Lamiaceae (Mints)

Basic Requirements for Growing Basil - 
  • Container - As popular as an herb basil is, it's more than great news to know that it will do well in just about any size of container! Though well adapted, if you're after several nice harvests of basil, you'll want to grow in at least a one gallon container. 
  • Best Soil for Basil- To keep your basil healthy and thriving throughout the season, the right soil will be key. Basil soil should be both fertile and allow for excellent drainage. Look for a potting soil rich in composted organics and one amended with perlite or vermiculite. 
  • Basil Sunlight Needs - Though a lot of garden herbs will tolerate a degree of shade, basil tends to prefer full sun. At least six to eight hours of sunlight for basil plants will be required. 

Germinating basil seeds. Plastic wrap
is used to hold in humidity.
Starting Basil from Seed - 
  1. Four to six weeks before the average last frost in your area, begin planting basil seeds indoors. 
  2. Fill two to three inch starter containers with potting soil and sprinkle a few seeds per container on top of the soil. Gently pat down the soil and water in well. 
  3. Place the basil seeds in a well lit area. South facing windowsills or artificial lighting will do the trick. Basil seeds require light to sprout. For better germination, place a piece of plastic wrap gently over the containers. This will create a humidity dome, keeping the soil and air contained a bit warmer and moister. 
  4. In about seven to fourteen days, the basil seed should begin to germinate. During this time, the soil should be moist but not over watered. Keep in a south facing windowsill, or under artificial light for 15 hours a day. 
  5. If more than one basil seed sprouts per container, thin to one plant after two weeks of growth. 
  6. From sprouting until they're ready to be transplanted, make sure that your basil seedlings get plenty of light and adequate water. The best watering routine to follow is to only water when the top one inch of soil becomes dry.

Transplanting & Continued Care of Basil - 

After about a month of growing in the two inch starter containers, your basil plants will be ready to transplant. At this same time, the threat of frost in your area should be giving way, allowing you to transplant outdoors.
Young sweet basil plants. 2013
  1. Fill the final container with potting soil and gently pack down. Create a hole in the center large enough to support the root mass, and then plant your basil seedling. Water in well. 
  2. At this point, you can return the basil to its indoor space for continued growth, or start to harden the plants off for outdoor growth. 
  3. To harden off, allow your basil plants to sit outdoors for increased time intervals each day for at least a week. Bring indoors during the evening. During this hardening off period, the basil plants will acclimate to the outdoors as well as strengthen leaf cuticles. 
If your basil plants will be planted directly into the ground, harden the seedlings off in their seedling containers and then plant into your garden.


Basil Harvesting -  

Container basil plants. 2013 Patio Garden.
Once the basil plants have reached a height of five to seven inches, harvesting may begin. Actually, at this height, it's essential to harvest. Start by pinching off the top growth of basil. Pinch or cut off the stem directly above the leaf node with two new sets of growth. By doing this, your basil will grow two new stems, and produce a denser plant. Follow this trend throughout the season. Established basil plants can be harvested heavily about once a week, or lightly throughout the week.

When your basil starts to flower, leaf flavor and aroma starts to diminish. To extend your basil harvesting season, cut off flower stems as they appear. To harvest and collect seeds, allow your basil plants to flower and dry to a brownish color on the plants. Cut off the flower stems and gently crush the flowers containing the seeds into a bowl. When all the flowers have been crushed, you'll end up with a bowl of seeds and the papery remains of the flowers. To separate, gently blow into the bowl. The papery flower remains will fly away, leaving the seed.


With the basics of planting basil now completely covered, all that's left is to start some seeds of your own. You'll be surprised by how often you'll get use of fresh basil throughout the season! Thank you for reading this guide on starting basil from seed. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions you may have.