Friday, December 8, 2023

How To Grow Basil Indoors or Outdoors

Down here, you’ll read anything about how to grow basil both indoors and outdoors. This magnificent herb has conquered the world and is very versatile. Use the index to jump to the spot you want to read, or just dive in :-).

What is basil, and where does it come from?

Basil is a popular herb, but where does it come from? Some say it is native to South Asia or the South Pacific Islands. Others say it is indigenous to India, and then you got people believing this herb is from Italy.

Today there are many cultivations, but according to several sources, we can say that the Basil plant’s indigenous region is scattered from Eastern Africa to South East Asia. 

Basil, being a- member of the mint family, grows with little effort. It is considered a tender annual plant; basil produces aromatic leaves often used in Italian, Greek, and other Mediterranean dishes. But also, in Thai dishes, basil seeds are a popular ingredient.

Because basil is an annual crop, it overgrows quickly. It can grow from seed to harvest in 3 to 4 weeks. This fast and easy growing herb is an excellent choice for beginning gardeners. As long as you know how to grow basil, and take care of it of course ;-).

How to grow basil from seed

Most gardeners get a head start on the growing season and start to grow basil indoors from seed, in pots. You can begin to grow the indoor sown basil seed from four to eight weeks before the last frost date. 

Basil is versatile and grows well under a wide variety of conditions. You can put them in a decorative pot to grow indoors or put them outdoor, to do just as well as if you were to grow basil outdoors, as long as the growing conditions are the same.

Planting basil from seed

Planting basil indoors and outdoors

Although the easiest way to grow basil from seed is to sow it directly into your garden as soon as the spring frost passes, I still like to grow my basil indoors. It’s a simple process that allows me to get my hands in the dirt when I’m longing for spring, but it’s not yet warm enough to dig outside.

Materials needed: Basil seeds, starter pots, starting container with a plastic dome, seed starting mix, sprinkler or spray bottle.

1. Prepare your starter pot

Prepare your starter pots by adding a slightly moistened starter mix until about ½-1 inch/1-2,5 cm below your container’s top. I usually do this by hand because the jars are relatively small.

2. Add seeds to each pot

Add basil seeds to each pot. Try to place a few seeds in the center of your container, some might grow, and some don’t. In this way, you are spreading your chances ;-). 

3. Cover the seeds

Cover the seeds with ¼inch/0,5cm of basic dry seed starting mix.

4. Moisten the soil

Gently spray your basil seeds with water. A spray bottle with a fine jet, a special garden sprinkler, or even a light spray from the faucet will moisten the starter mix and ensure that the seeds are in good contact with the soil.

5. Create a microclimate

Keep the moisture in by placing your basil in a specialized plastic starter container with a plastic dome. You can also use a shallow pan with some plastic wrap for a quick and inexpensive solution to start seeding.

6. Put the seeds somewhere warm

Place the basil in a warm place where the temperature is about 70°F/20°C. You do not need to water the basil seeds again until they have emerged.

7. Emerging seedlings

Basil seedlings will emerge after 7 to 10 days. Then remove the plastic dome or plastic wrap and place the pot on a sunny windowsill. Keep the soil moist by watering regularly. Once true leaves appear, choose the strongest seedling in each pot as your primary basil seedling. You can pinch off the other seedlings to remove them without disturbing the roots.

8. Repotting

Transplant basil seedlings to 3-4inches/7,5-10cm pots when the plants have three pairs of leaves and are not yet ready to go outside. You can add a weak fertilizer solution for an extra nutritional boost.

9. Put your basil outdoors

Gradually move basil seedlings outside to harden them off. This will allow the basil to adjust to the harsher conditions outside. Once outdoor temperatures are around 70°F/20°C, put the seedlings in a sheltered place outside for a week.

Transplanting basil into your garden

repotting your plant outdoors

Whether you bought seedlings of basil at your local garden center or grew them indoors, once the weather consistently reaches 70°F/20°C degrees, it’s time to move your plants into your herb, vegetable, or flower garden.

1. Choose a sunny spot

Choose a location with lots of energizing sunlight. Basil is addicted to warmer temperatures and loves to be in the morning sun. Please watch out that they don’t burn while standing in the afternoon sun, try to give your basil enough shade during the hottest part of the day.

2. Soil requirements

Top up the garden soil with plenty of organic matter to create a rich, well-draining base for your basil. The garden bed or outside pot should be at least 6inches/15cm deep so the basils’ roots can grow nice and long.

3. How to plant your basil

Place your basil plants 12-16inches/30-40cm apart for adequate sunlight and airflow.

4. Planting the basil

Dig a hole using a small hand shovel or specially designed equipment. Some have the amount of inches/cm carved on the metal to help you to determine the proper depth for transplanting your basil.

5. Securing the basil plant into the ground

Place the basil plant so that the root ball is level with the soil. Use your hand (shovel) to fill in any gaps when the plant is surrounded by new soil pres down on the earth to tighten the sand, increasing the basil plant’s stability. 

6. Apply mulch

Water your basil and apply a mulch layer to retain moisture and prevent competition from weeds.

Basil care tips

To grow basil is not tricky. With a little care, you may even have extra basil to dry, freeze or give to friends. Some of my favorite care tips for an abundant harvest of basil include:

Water regularly

basil needs to stay moist and requires about 1inch/2,5cm of water each week. If possible, water deeply or below at least once a week to help the roots grow deep and keep the soil moist. Basil in pots should be watered more often. If tend to grow basil in a container, make sure the soil does not dry out. The best time to water basil is early in the morning.

Fertilize little

Basil is a vigorous grower that needs little to no fertilization. Too much fertilizer is detrimental to the flavor of the basil. If you choose to add fertilizer, a mixture of a tiny drop of liquid fertilizer and half a liter of water should be enough for the whole season. If you want to grow basil in a pot and add fertilizer, your plants will only need a very weak liquid solution every 3 to 4 weeks to compensate for the nutrients that are washed away by frequent watering.

Prune your basil plant regularly

Especially in the beginning, it is essential to cut off the basil leaves to grow big and bushy. Start cutting when you see three of the so-called true leaves. These are the leaves that grow on the opposite side of the stem and have that distinctive pattern.

Accompanying planting

This technique gives basil an excellent advantage. It may be an old gardening story, but many say, and I believe it wholeheartedly, that planting basil together with tomatoes makes both tastier. Some of my favorite companion plants to basil are oregano, lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers.

Prevent bolting

Bolting means that the plant is getting ready to flower and produce seeds, in other words, ready to reproduce. This is something we don’t want because it will affect the taste. Prevent this from happening by keeping the soil moist, leaving the basil in the sun for too long, and seeing the basil plant flowering cut it off. 

Harvesting basil

how to grow basil

Basil is not harvested at a specific time – you just grab a few leaves when you need them. However, regular harvesting will keep your basil round and less leggy. It will also help prevent your plant from going to seed.

Harvest basil regularly

Basil grows relatively quickly, and to encourage new growth, you should try to harvest the leaves regularly. Per month you can cut away 1/3 of the leaves without hurting the plant too much. Do you need to preserve herbs but not sure how to? We have made an excellent guide to help you on your way. 

Where to cut the basil stem?

Cut the stem just above the point where two large leaves meet. It might be wise to use a herb clipper for this. It will keep you from harming the plant when cutting the leaves. However, sharp kitchen scissors also work fine. 

Basil’s pests and diseases

Some of the most common pests to watch out for when growing basil indoors or outdoors include the following:

  • Aphids
  • White powdery mildew
  • Various fungal and bacterial diseases on stem, leaves, and roots
  • Unfortunately, basil is susceptible to numerous fungal and bacterial infections, such as gray mold, WPM, Fusarium wilt, and black spot. Seedlings can also suffer from moisture loss.

Avoid problems with diseases that affect your basil by waiting until the weather gets warmer before planting. Don’t plant too close together, as this also promotes disease outbreaks on your basil.

Japanese beetles can also attack the leaves, and you can control them by picking them off the plants.

Basil varieties

There are many basil available varieties filling your whole garden with them won’t be a problem, haha. Below a few that are popular

  • Planting sweet basil is easy – it’s a favorite variety and is the traditional basil sold in most grocery stores. This variety has medium green leaves with a slightly rounded shape.
  • Thai basil has smaller, pointed leaves. Growing Thai basil is the same as growing any other variety, but you get a slightly spicier leaf that retains its flavor well for use in stir-fry dishes. The purple flowers are beautiful and edible.
  • Purple basil does not have a strong flavor, but it adds a beautiful burgundy color to both your garden and your dishes.
  • Lemon basil and lime basil both taste a bit like citrus, hence the name. This variety is excellent for marinades, sauces, desserts, and even teas. 
  • Green ruffled basil is nothing like traditional basil. The beautifully ruffled leaves are mild and do well in salads.
  • Spicy bulb basil is a small basil growin in bulb shape bushes. The leaves are smaller than other varieties, but the aroma is more intense. 

Frequently asked questions about basil.

I have more basil than I can use – how do I store it?

Oh yes, good question. We have made an excellent post about storing your herbs. A quick recap: You can let basil air dry by bundling the twigs and hanging them in a warm place. Mind that the leave might turn into a brownish color. You can freeze them by putting them in a ziplock or freeze them using oil and ice cubes.

How long does basil take to grow from seed?

Basil germinates within 7 to 10 days of planting. It is usually ready for harvest within three to four weeks.

Why is my basil plant wilting?

There a various reasons why your basil plant is wilting. Start by checking the soil. Basil likes moist soil – not too wet and not too dry. The soil should be moist, not soggy. Although basil likes warm weather, a hot afternoon sun can be quite harsh. If you see that the plant only wilts during peak summer temperatures, you may need to put your basil plant in a more shaded area.

How much sunlight does basil need to grow?

Suppose you can find a spot that ensures to have at least 6 to 8 hours a day, then put your basil plant there. But be careful that it won’t ‘burn’ your plant. So it would be best if you kept an eye on the sun’s rays where you are growing this aromatic herb. Your plant will be big and beautiful throughout spring, summer, and even into fall with the proper sunlight.

Is it better to grow basil inside or outside?

With the right amount of moisture and sunlight, basil can thrive both indoors and outdoors. I grow basil both indoors and outdoors in pots, and I also love to plant it in my vegetable garden containers. Since you now know how to grow basil in pots, your possibilities are endless. Do you leave them indoors or outdoors? ;-).

How to grow basil in a pot and keep it alive?

You can read up about it above, but in short, give your basil plant enough sunlight. Keep the soil moist, and when roots are growing from underneath the container, it’s time to repot them into a bigger container or pot.

How to grow basil indoors, can you grow basil indoors?

Absolutely whether you grow them from seed to bush or buy an existing plant from the groceries, you can grow basil indoors. As far as temperature control, it is even better to start growing your small basil plants indoors. Just mind the sunlight and water, and you are solid.

Why do my basil plants keep dying?

This might be due to several reasons, so it is hard to tell; however, the most common reasons are:

Too little water

Basil plants like water. Water them regularly. When they start to wilt, this might be a cause of too little water. 

Too much water

There is something like drowning your plants. So be careful giving basil too much water. Once a day, a spritz or two, three from a spray bottle is sufficient (when you keep the plants indoors). Once they are outdoors, observe them as the rain will also do its part.

Too little sunlight

Basil is a sun admirer 4-6 hours of sun per day is in their staple diet. Make sure it gets it to grow your basil plant to the fullest.

Too much sunlight

When you see yellowish spots appear on the leaves, your basil is burning, resulting in a dying plant. Move the basil to a location where there is less sunlight or when the sun is not so hot (morning and evening sun).

Please let us know if this helped you on the right track. If so, share this post or give us a thumbs up! Very much appreciated

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Blogging about everything I learn regarding (urban)homesteading, off-grid, and outdoor living and what it takes to build my own CO2-neutral home, one-day ;-).

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