Basil is a heat loving, fragrant herb that is easy to grow. This herb is happy to grow indoors in a sunny windowsill or outdoors during the warm summer months.
GROWING BASIL FROM SEEDS
Basil is best started in small containers, rather than directly sown into a garden. We recommend planting in 4" peat pots with an organic seed starting potting soil. Soil should be moist and not hard-packed. Plant 10-15 seeds per pot and barely cover with 1/8" of soil.
Temperature: For best germination keep the environment consistently between 75-80 degrees. Once germinated basil grows well in 70-80 degree temperatures.
Sunlight: Basil plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. If using grow lights, keep lights on 12-16 hours per day (learn more about growing with grow lights HERE).
Water: Keep soil consistently moist during germination, but not overly damp. Once seedlings have emerged let top 1/2" of soil dry slightly between waterings. If using 4" pots, water approximately 2-3 ounces per watering.
Air Flow: Good air circulation is very important if growing indoors. Keep a small fan on the seedlings to increase airflow. This mimics outdoor wind and helps the plants to develop sturdy stems.
In most cases, your herb seedlings will be ready to transplant about 3-6 weeks after planting, or when they have grown to approximately 2-4 inches above the top of the pot rim.
Transplanting can be hard on your plants, so be sure they are strong and healthy and that they have grown their “true leaves” before you attempt to transplant them. True leaves are the second set of leaves to grow from the plant, and they look like tiny versions of the plant’s adult leaf shape. These differ from the plant’s “seed leaves” which have a generic shape and are used to feed the plant during its early growth stages.
Pots: If transplanting to a container, chose one that is at least 8-10" in height and width. Make sure it has good drainage holes, as your growing herbs don’t like “wet feet.”
Soil: Select a potting soil that is loose and light and drains well. Always choose organic to avoid mixing chemicals and additives into your organic herb garden.
Fertilizer: Herbs typically need only light, organic fertilization. We recommend using our Organic Seed Starter & Transplanter Fertilizer for transplanting and then a light surface dressing of fertilizer monthly.
Indoor or Outdoor?: Basil seedlings are delicate, so successfully transplanting them outdoors will depend on your climate and region. Your basil will live happily indoors in a sunny window, but if you do decide to move your herbs to an outdoor garden be sure temperatures air temperatures are in the 70s-80s. Cold evening temperatures can easily kill basil plants. You’ll also want to avoid transplanting outdoors until after the risk of frost has passed for the year. Use this almanac link to find the last-frost date for your area.
Preparing your Seedlings for Transplant: Water your seedlings about 2 hours before you plan to transplant them. This makes your plants stronger and more resilient to the move, but it also moistens and loosens the soil so it can break apart easily, which is very important.
PRUNING & HARVESTING
Proper pruning encourages growth and makes for a healthier, fuller plant. If left on its own and not trimmed, pruned or eaten, basil will become leggy and go to flower. Make the most of your basil by pruning and harvesting with the steps below:
• Once basil is 6 inches, pinch stem just above a set of leaves from the top of the plant down.
• Trim your basil approximately every 2 weeks.
• Pinch off flowers as they grow.
• Basil reaches peak aroma and flavor between 70-80 days.
• At the end of the growing season, cut the stems to the ground and pick off all the leaves.
STORING YOUR HERBS
Freezing basil is the best method to preserve the flavor of your herb. To quick-freeze basil, place whole or chopped leaves in an airtight, freezer container. Place basil in the freezer. It will keep for 1 year. Drying basil is another storage method (though it will lose some flavor). Spread leaves on a cooking sheet and place in the oven on the lowest setting for 2-4 hours. Store dried basil in an air tight container at room temperature. Dried basil will last 1-2 years.