Basil leaves smell amazing don’t they?
Basil is a favorite aromatic herb for many. Growing basil indoors and outdoors is easy and a perfect addition to your garden or in containers. Basil makes an excellent companion plant for crops like tomatoes or other garden crops to deter pests. We love adding fresh basil to homemade quiche, pizza, salad dressings and of course, making traditional pesto. Basil herb uses go beyond the culinary kitchen and can also be used in many medicinal ways too. Research has demonstrated many great basil benefits. Basil essential oil (you can buy it from me here) is rich with linalool, a naturally occurring chemical, which is beneficial in decreasing feelings of tension when applied to the temples and reducing anxious feelings (learn more here).
To have a fresh supply of basil year-round I recommend growing basil indoors & outside
This post will cover:
- How to grow basil
- Choosing basil types
- Growing basil indoors & starting seeds
- Growing basil outdoors
- Timing for year-round supply
- How to harvest basil properly for increased yields
- Keep basil fresh & preserving basil
Basil is an annual herb that needs warm weather (no frosts) to grow. You can buy basil seeds or buy plants from your garden center or even grocery store. You’ll often seed fresh basil in pots in supermarkets that are meant for kitchen harvesting. You can grow basil easily yourself, all you need is a little time and patience. For a first time gardener, basil is a great plant and herb to start with. Unlike other herbs that take many weeks to germinate and grow, basil grows faster because it’s an annual not a perennial. You can learn more about buying versus growing herbs in this post which lists perennials and annual herbs.
There are some great types and basil varieties:
- Genovese Basil is the traditional pesto variety
- Lettuce Leaf Basil has huge leaves that you can use as a wrap!
- Purple basil is beautiful and adds nice contrast to your garden. Try ‘Dark Purple Opal’ or ‘Purple Ruffles’
- Holy Basil (also known as Tulsi) is strongly aromatic and used medicinally as a tea (see more herbs for a tea)
- Thai Basil licorice taste
- Lemon Basil lemony!
- Christmas Basil spiced taste
- & More! Just browse through your favorite seed companies seed catalogs
A bonus to buying seeds versus plants is more basil varieties to try
How to grow basil from seed
Basil seeds are super easy to start. You can grow basil seeds and harvest indoors in a sunny window or grow plants to transplant outside. Growing basil indoors is great for that year-round supply. Here are some great kitchen herb garden ideas.
- Sow seeds ½” deep. Germinate seeds in a container and sow seeds densely, or use a 72 cell tray and sow one seed per cell. Use seed starter soil for great drainage.
- Plant in a sunny window or under grow lights. Leggy seedlings can happen if your basil is reaching for the light.
- Basil needs warmth and heat to grow, they won’t grow well in cold soil. Seeds usually sprout in 5-10 days
- Once the seedling is 6-8 weeks old harden off and transplant them outside after the risk of frost is gone.
- When sowing basil outdoors be sure any risk of frost has gone. Basil does not tolerate frost or germinate in cold soil.
- You can harvest baby basil seedlings as micro herbs, or allow them to grow large and harvest later.
- Propagate basil into more basil plants. This is another method of growing basil plants from cuttings instead of seeds. 33 shades of green shows you how.
- Plant basil plants from your nursery or grocery store (which tend to have multiple plants). Garden Betty shows you how.
- Water plants until the soil is moist and allow to try in between watering. You don’t want the soil to be too wet as it can create fungal problems like damping off.
- Learn more seed starting tips in seed starting 101.
Growing basil outdoors
You can directly sow basil seeds outdoors or transplant seedlings into your garden beds or containers after the risk of frost is out of the way. I do a bit of both.
Basil plants need:
- Full sun
- Warm climate and warm soil
- Rich and loose well drained soil
- Neutral ph
- Plant basil around your other garden plants like peppers or tomatoes, broccoli cauliflower for companion planting benefits
Having a year-round supply of basil
To have a year-round supply of fresh basil, you need to grow indoors and outside. You need to practice succession planting, meaning you sow new seeds indoors or out every few weeks. Your plants will give you harvests for 1-2 months, so by starting new seeds and planting frequently, you can have year-round harvests!
Many people harvest basil leaves from the bottom up, however the trick to harvesting basil is to pinch off the top. Pinch off flowers forming to delay the plant going to seed.
Harvesting the top of your basil plants allows the plants to bush out instead of becoming leggy.
Eventually you’ll need to allow it to flower. The bees LOVE herb flowers and basil flowers are especially decorative. Keep sowing frequently though so you have consistent harvests.
You can freeze basil pesto or chop and freeze basil into oil cubes for use later on. You can also air dry basil in a similar way as celery leaves or use a dehydrator to dry basil, however the taste is different.