How to Grow Basil
The most common basil is sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum). Basil is a very aromatic herb and part of the mint family. This herb is well known and familiar in many different types of cuisines. Basil is believed to be initially from India and to have been in cultivation for 5,000 years. Follow the steps below on how to grow basil.
Basil leaves are very aromatic, and just rubbing the leaves will produce a pungent aroma. Basil is best used fresh as it loses a lot of its flavour when dried. It is a perfect compliment with tomatoes and also goes well with onion, olives, and garlic. I find fresh basil to be somewhat overpriced at the grocery store, considering how easy it is to grow at home. Also, the fresher basil is, the better the flavour; herbs and vegetables can start to lose their fresh flavours in a few hours – they still taste good, just not as good as freshly picked. Herbs are some of the healthiest foods we can eat and give to our families. Gardening really is a great way to save money, eat healthier, and enjoy the freshest possible foods.
The most common types of basil you will find in the grocery store are sweet basil or Genovese basil. Genovese basil has a similar flavour to sweet basil. It is commonly made into pesto, it has large leaves, and it grows bushier than sweet basil, making it a more abundant producer. Another popular basil is Thai basil. Thai basil has a licorice flavour, small narrow leaves, produces a distinct purple flower, and has a more stable flavour than sweet basil that is more resistant to the cooking process. There are many varieties of basil to try with their own distinctive flavours.
Basil is a sun-loving and heat-loving herb, so it will thrive when grown with full sun. While basil will tolerate partial shade, it is not ideal. The seeds are one of the easiest to germinate. Germination will only take around 5 to 10 days, and you will start to see tiny sprouts. The plant will grow rather quickly, and it is best to pinch off anything over 2 inches to make the basil grow like a bush. This will increase the harvest significantly.
Don’t allow basil to flower as it ruins the flavour. All basil varieties can be propagated in the same general way.
Growing Basil from Seed
Growing basil from seed is very easy. Start the seeds indoors in plugs or pots. Fill the containers with sterilized black earth. Water the vessels so that the soil is moist but not soggy. Surface sow the seed 1-2 inches apart and press gently into the ground while still leaving them exposed to the light. Keep the soil moist, and do not let it dry out. If germinating the basil seeds in the winter, you might want to cover the pots with plastic to keep the seeds warmer. Make sure the plastic does not touch the soil or seeds. When the seeds germinate, remove the plastic. Under the proper conditions, the seed should germinate in 5-10 days. Don’t be alarmed if it takes a few days or even a week longer. Just be patient!
Starting Seeds Outdoors: If sowing the seed outdoors, you only need to surface sow the seed a few inches apart and apply a thin layer of soil. Make sure the soil is wet before you sow the seed. It’s best not to cover the seed too much as it needs light to germinate, but cover it enough to stop it from being washed away. Keep the soil moist but never soggy. The soil should be moist at all times.
Starting Seeds Indoors: Basil can quickly be grown indoors as well. You want to make sure you choose the sunniest location possible or possibly provide extra lighting for it. Basil can be produced entirely indoors. It’s a very convenient way to grow basil since you can harvest leaves as you are preparing meals. If you wish to transplant it outdoors, wait until the seedlings have at least two sets of leaves.
Make sure you reseed the basil about every 3 to 4 weeks to have a constant fresh supply. Besides that, basil is a very easy herb to grow from seed and is very easy to maintain. In addition, Basil is a prevalent herb and can be used for almost any meal, so it’s a good idea to grow more than you think you will need. And there are always friends and family or even neighbours to share it with.
Where to Buy Basil Seeds
For those living in Canada, you can order them online here: basil seeds.
Have any thoughts on how to grow basil? Please leave a comment below!