If you enjoy the taste of fresh basil in your favorite recipes and would like to have a fresh supply on hand whenever you cook, you should learn to grow this herb from seed. The good news is that basil is easy to grow from seeds to a healthy plant that provides fresh herbs whenever you need them.
How to Germinate Basil Seeds
Basil seeds need a warm, stable temperature to germinate. For most gardeners, the best place to germinate basil seeds is indoors in a sunny window or under lights.
- Fill small terra-cotta pots or seedling trays (if you plan to transplant the seedlings outdoors) with quality, nutrient rich, potting soil.
- Add no more than five to six basil seeds to each pot or two to three seeds in each seedling tray cell.
- Lightly cover the seeds with organic soil or seed starting mix.
- Use a squirt bottle to gently mist the soil so that it becomes damp. Do not over saturate.
- Cover the pots or trays with plastic wrap to help retain moisture and humidity.
- Place the pots or trays in a warm, well lit room.
- The basil sprouts should begin to emerge within seven to fourteen days. Promptly remove the plastic wrap as soon as you observe the young plants emerging.
When they first sprout, the leaves of basil seedlings look like a perfect little green oval that has been cut in half. Each half of the oval is one leaf. In almost no time, the two leaves will seem to move further apart as the plant grows, and you'll see tiny new leaves, the plant's first "true leaves" appearing above the original pair.
Transplanting Basil Seedlings
Once your seedlings are two to three weeks old, they are ready to be transplanted if the weather is warm and you would like to grow them in your garden. Make sure to pick a warm, sunny location in your garden to transplant the seedlings.
- Basil seedlings should be transplanted after danger of frost, and when the plants are at least three inches tall, with a couple sets of leaves.
- Using a trowel, dig holes deep enough to accommodate the seedling's root system, plus the soil in each cell.
- You can loosen the soil in each seedling cell by gently going around the perimeter with a knife, however, be careful not to damage the roots.
- Place the stem of the seedling between your thumb and index finger and gently work the seedling loose, tipping the tray if necessary.
- Once it's out, carefully place the seedling into the hole and gently fill in any gaps with extra soil.
- After the seedling is planted, water the plant with a watering can.
Maintaining Healthy Basil Plants
Basil is fairly easy to care for, whether you transplant your basil seedlings into a garden bed or into a container.
Pinching Basil Seedlings
When your basil plants are three to four inches tall, pinch off the very top leaves, which will cause the plant to produce lateral shoots. This will help the plant to grow bushy. When you see flowers starting to grow, pinch them off immediately because they will hinder stop new leaves from growing and can also alter the flavor of the existing leaves, making them bitter.
Only allow basil plants to flower if you are trying to produce seeds for future generations.
Basil needs about an inch of water every week. Regular, deep watering will keep basil growing well. If you notice that your basil is wilting, check the moisture of the soil by sticking your finger about an inch deep into it. If it's dry, it's time to water.
Basil grows quickly and keeps growing until it either bolts (produces flower stalks) or it's hit with a frost. With this in mind, it's important to fertilize basil regularly.
Feed basil grown outdoors with a side dressing of compost or kelp meal, or water with fish emulsion every two to three weeks. If growing basil indoors, fertilize with a balanced all-purpose fertilizer every four to six weeks.
Flavorful, and Easy to Grow
Basil is one of the easiest herbs to start from seed, and it's a worthy addition to any garden. Whether you grow it indoors or out, in containers or in a garden bed, just be sure to give it regular watering and feeding, harvest or pinch back regularly, and give it plenty of sun, and you'll have basil all season long.