7 Tips To Successfully Grow Common Sweet Basil At Home

Basil Herb

Summer just wouldn’t be the same without fresh basil on pizza and tomato mozzarella salad. How amazing does it sound to step out onto your patio, balcony or into your garden to pick a few basil leaves to add to your lunch or dinner dishes? Store-bought basil is expensive, so why not grow your own basil? Here you will find 7 great tips to successfully grow basil at home. 

The most common type of basil used in cooking is known as Sweet Basil or Common Basil and the botanical name is Ocimum Basilicum. There are also many other types of basil such as Thai Basil, Greek Basil and Holy Basil to name just a few. The flavour of each is varied as are their growing conditions.

The following tips focus on the growing conditions of Sweet Basil as it is the most widely used and grown. Sweet Basil is the basil essential for Italian cuisine, the basil most commonly sold in grocery stores and topping pasta dishes in a restaurant.

Basil Pesto Pasta Dish

Sweet Basil is an annual plant, meaning it will grow for one season. In ideal growing conditions, in the garden, basil plants can be healthy and productive for 6 months or longer.

If your basil plant is in a pot it will last around 4 months. Basil will happily grow in both pots and the garden. 

Let’s get into the 7 tips to help ensure you have the best possible chance of growing basil successfully in your garden.

Tip 1: Basil Thrives in Warm Soil

Tip 2. Basil Loves Sunshine

Tip 3. Basil Hates Wet Feet But Loves A Drink Of Water

Tip 4. Harvest Basil Regularly For A Bushier Plant

Tip 5. Feed And Mulch Your Basil Plant

Tip 6. Pinch Off Flower Buds To Prolong Basil Leaf Production

Tip 7. Grow More Basil Plants From Cuttings

There’s a bonus tip at the end of the article, be sure to read through to the end to catch it. Now let’s go through each tip in detail.

Tip 1: Basil Thrives in Warm Soil

Basil needs warm soil to grow. Soil should ideally be 18-35°C/65-95°F. The outside air temperature should above mid 20°C/70°F for the ideal soil temperatures to be reached. So unless you are thinking of growing basil hydroponically or in a greenhouse, it is best to start growing basil 2 weeks after the last frost, if your climate receives frost. 

If you live in a part of the world where there is no frost and the weather is always warm, you may be lucky enough to have basil growing year-round.

Conversely, if you have cold weather all year, you may have to give basil a miss and try a cold-tolerant food plant or alternative growing methods which may be indoors with grow lights or in a temperature-controlled greenhouse.

Basil is generally grown in the warm months of summer with planting starting in spring through to autumn. 

You will know your basil plant is affected by cold conditions when its leaves develop yellow or black discolouration on its leaves. It may droop and generally look unhealthy.

Have you ever wanted to grow your own basil at home but don't know where to start? Basil is a wonderful addition to your herb garden and widely used in culinary dishes around the world! We share 7 tips to help you successfully grow your own basil at home #grow #basil #herbgarden #kitchengarden

Tip 2. Basil Loves Sunshine

Basil will grow best with 6 to 8 hours of sunshine a day. Position basil in the garden or pot to catch the morning sun.

If afternoon sun is the only option, that’s ok, just make sure you keep up the watering so it doesn’t dry out with the harsher conditions of afternoon sunshine.

Tip 3. Basil Hates Wet Feet But Loves A Drink Of Water

Basil does not like wet roots, also called wet feet, and will rot if the roots are wet for a prolonged period of time.

If you are growing basil in a pot, make sure it doesn’t sit in water day after day. 

Basil in a pot

A sign of over-watering and potential root rot is yellow leaves or brown leaves that not only discolour but also drop off the plant. The basil plant could droop and look wilted. This may be confused with too little water.

During the warmer weather, basil will appreciate daily watering. Like many soft leafed herbs, basil needs a good supply of water to keep it healthy and prevent it from becoming bitter tasting and wilting.

So what is basil’s water requirements? How much water should you give a basil plant? The answer depends on your basil growing conditions. Such as, how free draining is your soil? Is the basil in a pot (more water will be needed) or a garden bed? How hot is the climate, and so on. 

The best way to gauge how much water your basil plant requires is to gently scratch the surface area of the soil around the basil plant and test it with poking a finger around an inch down. If the soil feels moist to touch, that’s perfect, you don’t need to water at the moment. If it’s really dry then give your basil plant a drink and water more frequently.

With practice, you’ll find the perfect balance of watering for your climate and conditions. You could also use a water gauge which is found easily garden centres or online such as this water gauge here.

Tip 4. Harvest Basil Regularly For A Bushier Plant

You can pinch out the top centre set of basil leaves to encourage a bushier basil plant. The idea here is that by removing the centre stems and leaves you encourage the plant to produce more side stems and therefore more leaves. 

Harvest basil leaves by pinching off the leaves with your thumb and pointer finger or you can cut the stems with your secateurs, garden clippers or scissors.

Always leave some leaves on the plant as it will not survive otherwise. If you are harvesting only leaves and not the stems you should still remove bare stems to allow further healthy growth by the remaining stems and leaves. 

Looking for ideas to cook with basil? Click here for our Basil and Corn Fritters Recipe.

Tip 5. Feed And Mulch Your Basil Plant

Basil loves compost! By planting your basil into soil rich in compost, you will provide your plant with all the beneficial nutrients for the growing season.

Apply a natural organic fertilizer every few weeks. Basil will enjoy worm castings and fish or seaweed emulsion. A serve of pellet chicken manure would also be welcome.

Mulch 2-3cm thick around the basil plant to stop the plant roots and surrounding soil from drying out too quickly. The mulch will break down throughout the growing season, providing further food and nutrients to the plant.

Organic sugar cane mulch is ideal but there may be something else more suitable to your area that’s locally grown, depending on where you live.

Tip 6. Pinch Off Flower Buds To Prolong Basil Leaf Production

Basil Flower

Basil will naturally want to flower at the end of its production. When conditions are not right for the basil plant, it may want to flower earlier than expected. Flowers will produce seeds and this is natures way of ensuring future crops. 

Flowering is wonderful food for the bees. However, you can prolong the inevitable flowering by pinching off the flower buds before they bloom. Pinch off the stem at least two sets of leaves down from the bud.

The basil plant will then continue to produce leaves instead of flowers.

When flower buds form and bloom, the plant puts all its energy into the flower instead of the leaves. And once flowering begins, leaves will become bitter tasting.

When the basil plant does flower, enjoy watching all the bees visit your garden to provide further pollination to other fruit, vegetables and flowers.

If you let the flowers dry on the plant you will have seeds to grow in future seasons and have more plants for free! Your garden is generous.

Tip 7. Grow More Basil Plants From Cuttings

Basil cuttings in glass jar
Basil cuttings in the jar on the right

Grow loads of new plants from just one plant! 

Once your basil plant is a decent size, enough to harvest a few stems, you can start taking 10 cm cuttings to propagate more plants. 

Take the cuttings below a leaf node (where the leaf originates from the stem) and remove the lower leaves, making sure to leave a few leaves at the top of each stem.

Place the cuttings in a small glass, jar or clear plastic bottle with a few inches of water and leave it on a window sill with plenty of indirect light.

Leaves should not be touching the water. Change the water every second or third day.

In approximately 2 weeks the cuttings will have formed roots. When the roots have an inch or so of growth you can plant the new basil plants into pots and then ‘harden them off’ (see more on this in the following ‘Bonus Tip’ below).

Or if the weather isn’t too hot yet, you can plant them directly into the garden. Pick a time towards the end of the day when the sun is not too strong and water in well.

In the following days, water the new plants morning and evening to ensure they establish themselves before returning to your normal watering routine.

Bonus Tip: Can You Grow Basil From The Grocery Store?

Yes, you can! Pots of sweet basil are sold in grocery stores for cut-and-come-again leaves to conveniently add to meals. Planting these out into the garden is a great way to start growing basil. 

However, as the plants have usually been grown in artificial greenhouse conditions and placed on grocery store shelves for days at a time, they can be starved of sunlight. They may not do well outside, to begin with. 

Greenhouse Basil

You can help the plant by ‘hardening off’. This is a process of gradually exposing the plant to sunlight each day.

To begin, place the plant outside in morning sunlight for 2-3 hours the first day. Morning sun is best as it won’t be as strong as midday and afternoon sun.

Shift the plant into indirect light for the remainder of the day and bring the plant inside for the night.

The following day, increase the direct sunlight hours by 1-2 hours and continue to do so of the next few days.

The process should take no more than 7-10 days.

Keep the plant well watered but ensure the pot is free draining so the plant does not sit in water.

Once your basil plant has been hardened off you can transplant it into a larger pot for your patio, balcony or plant it directly into the garden.

Conclusion

Basil is a wonderful and versatile herb to add to any food garden. Dinners will be tastier and your wallet will be fuller when you grow basil at home.

With the right growing conditions, you can have months of fresh basil in the garden. So why not try growing your own basil at home? 

I’d love to hear your experience with growing basil, please leave a comment below with any tips of your own. And if you have a friend you think would love to try growing basil, please share this article with them. You never know, your next dinner invitation to their place might just be topped with fresh homegrown, pesticide-free basil.

Basil Tomato Salad

Recommended Products:

Water Gauge

Organic Worm Castings

Organic Fish Fertilizer

Seaweed Fertilizer

Pellet Chicken Manure

Are you interested in growing more food in your garden at home? Click here for How To Grow Delicious Lettuce and here for all about Pepino Melon: How To Grow The Plant And Eat The Fruit.

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