How to Grow Basil
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 common in many different types of cuisines. Basil is believed to be originally from India and to have been in cultivation for 5,000 years.
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 rather overpriced at the grocery store, considering how easy it is to grow and that it doesn’t taste garden fresh, this lends more motivation into growing at home. The fresher the 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 most 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 is sweet basil or genovese basil. Genovese basil has a similar flavour to sweet basil. It is commonly made into pestos, 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 special flavours.
Basil is a sun loving and heat loving herb, so it will thrive when grown with full sun. It will tolerate partial shade although it is not ideal it will still do well. 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 so as to make the basil grow like a bush. This will increase the harvest significantly. You also do not want to allow basil to flower as it gives the leaves a strange flavour. All basil varieties can be propagated in the same general way. 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 you want to cover it a little to stop it from blowing away or from birds eating it. Keep the soil moist but never soggy. You will want to water the plants at least once a week.
Basil can easily be grown indoors as well. You want to make sure you put the plant in the sunniest location possible, or maybe even provide extra lighting for it. It’s the most convenient way to grow basil since you can just grab some leaves as you are preparing meals. Basil tastes best when fresh and can be added to almost any dish, so to have it grown indoors is a big plus.
Growing Basil from Seed
Growing basil from seed is very easy. Start the seeds indoors in plugs, or pots. Fill the pots with sterilized black earth. Water the pots so that the soil is moist but not soggy. Surface sow the seed 1-2 inches apart and press gently into the soil 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!
Make sure you reseed the basil about every 3 to 4 weeks so that you will have a constant fresh supply. Other than that basil is a very easy herb to grow from seed and is one that is very easy to maintain. Basil is a very popular 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. I hope I’ve made it easy for to learn how to grow basil.
You can buy garden seeds here at my online store: Seed Bank.