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Growing Basil from Seed

Growing Basil from Seed

Basil is a well-known culinary herb that has the scientific name of Ocimum basilicum. It is hardy in Southeast Asia, central Africa, and other tropical regions. It has tender leaves that are often used in many cuisines worldwide. Moreover, its leaves come with a strong taste, yet sweet-smelling, depending on its species. 

Basil leaves are either used fresh or dried. Fresh basil leaves, of course, taste better than the dried ones. So, if you want to enjoy a continuous supply of fresh basil leaves, you should not think twice about planting your basil plants.

Aside from basil’s exquisite taste, it is also very nutritious! It contains beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. It is also rich in healthful micronutrients like vitamins A, K, and C. Plus, it contains useful trace minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, and potassium. In this post, you’ll learn how to grow basil from seeds.

Factors to Consider When Planting Basil

There are several reasons why you should cultivate basils at home. First, if you cultivate your basil plants, you can assure yourself that you will have a continuous supply of fresh basil leaves. Second, you are assured that you will be using leaves that are free from traces of harmful chemicals. Planting basil is easy. You just need to learn the steps on how to grow it:

There are several reasons why you should cultivate basils at home. First, if you cultivate your basil plants, you can assure yourself that you will have a continuous supply of fresh basil leaves. Second, you are assured that you will be using leaves that are free from traces of harmful chemicals. Planting basil is easy. You just need to learn the steps on how to grow it:

1) First, You Need Proper Timing!

If you are living in a tropical region, you can plant basil at any time of the year. However, if you leave in a region with winter, you need to time your planting of basil. You should start germinating seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. This is because frost will kill basils. 

One to two weeks after the last frost, however, you can then plant the young plants into your backyard garden. The trick is—you should wait for the soil to warm up to 50°F or 10°C before you transfer them to your garden. The best temperature for basil is around 70°F or 21°C. You should also take note of the nighttime temperature in the garden. The nighttime temperature should never be below 50°F or 10°C.

2) You should Cultivate it in the Right Soil!

Every plant has its preferable type of soil. Basil likes a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. The preferred pH for the soil should be from 6 – 7.5. The soil should be kept moist likewise. Basil doesn’t like sitting for a very long time in soggy soil. Hence, you need to ensure that you plant it in fast-draining soil. You can also add granular organic herb fertilizer to the soil before planting to enrich the soil. 

3) Basil Needs More Sunlight!

Sunlight, of course, is essential to the growth of basils. They should get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day. Basil conducts well its photosynthetic activities when it gets enough sunlight. So, you better keep basils in a place where there is ample sunlight. 

Steps on Planting Basil

Steps on Planting Basil

After learning the abovementioned factors, you can now start your basil garden. You simply need to follow this step-by-step procedure on how to grow basils from seeds:

1) Choose the Kind of Basil Seed You Wish to Grow!

If you are familiar with genetic engineering, you will know that some seeds are better than others. Well, just kidding! But there is a tinge of truth in it. This implies that you should choose the basil seeds that you will plant. Moreover, basil has different varieties like cinnamon, lemon, purple, and African Blue Basil. Each of these varieties carries a different flavor and smell. So, you should pick the variety that you like. The most recommended varieties of basil are Cinnamon basil, the Purple basil, and the Thai basil.

2) Prepare the Seeding Trays!

You can use a mixture of equal parts vermiculite, perlite, and peat for your seeding tray soil. Begin by pressing the mixture to do away with air pockets. Then, dampen with water the mixture to get the right environment for the basil seeds to germinate. 

3) Plant 1 to 3 Seeds in Each Container!

You can plant a maximum of tree seeds for each container. Then, cover the seeds with about a quarter of an inch of soil. Cover the container with a plastic lid to keep the moisture and heat intact during the germination period. Then, twice each day, you should remove the lid to sprinkle the seed with water. You can use a heat mat, or an overhead grow lamp to keep the soil warm. Afterward, within a week, the seeds will start to germinate. 

4) Remove the Plastic Lid When You See Green Tendrils.

At the sight of the first green tendrils, you can then remove the plastic lid. Continue watering the soil twice a day. Once some pairs of leaves appear, you should thin the plants to about 6 to 12 inches from each other. Basil plants grow to a height of 24 inches. So, you should space them properly for better growth. 

Ways to Care for Your Basil Plants

Ways to Care for Your Basil Plants

Basils should be nurtured to make them grow healthy. They don’t need meticulous care. Nevertheless, you can apply the following tips to get a healthy harvest from your basils:

1) Regularly Water Your Basil Plants!

Basils want damp and moist soil. So, you should regularly water the plants. As mentioned above, basils thrive best in quick-draining soil. So, you should ensure that they are planted in fast-draining soil. As the plants mature, you should reduce the frequency of watering to just once a day. 

Do the watering in the morning to let the water soak in thoroughly and for excess water to evaporate. Nighttime watering is not advisable. A quick tip for watering the plant is this—you should water the plant from the bottom instead of from the top. This prevents the onset of the growth of mildew and other leaf diseases. 

Additionally, if you live in a very hot region, you should apply some mulch around the plant. This will keep the moisture in the soil and suppress the growth of weeds. You should also freely water the plants during very hot days of summer. 

2) Engage in Pruning!

Pruning is the process of pinching or cutting the small branches to encourage new growth of foliage. So, you need to prune your basil plants once in a while. Do the pruning when you see flower buds forming in the plants. Pinch them along with the two pairs of leaves nearest to the buds. This will make the plants grow bushier. 

Remember that blooming flowers can change the hormonal settings of the plants. Flower blooms also reduce the growth of foliage to give way to the blooming flowers. If you let flowers grow early on, soon, the plants will become lanky and less bushy. Moreover, the leaves of the flowering basils become less tasty.  

3) Fertilize Your Plants!

Basil plants are not heavy feeders! But they would appreciate herb fertilizer. You can fertilize the soil with organic fertilizers like compost tea bags, liquid kelp, or fish emulsion. These organic fertilizers can make your plants healthy and bushier. 

4) Check for Pests and Diseases!

The onset of disease and the appearance of pests can signal doom to your plants. So, make sure that you don’t overwater your plants. Fungal diseases like powdery mildew start when the soil is overwatered. Be wary of the onset of diseases. If you see signs of mold growth, you should expose your plants more to sunlight. It may also be a sign of improper spacing. So, allow for proper spacing of plants and weed out smaller plants. 

Pests can also be a big problem for basils. They can eat up the leaves and damage them. Japanese beetles, for example, are some of the common pests that damage basil plants. So, make sure that you remove these pests from the plants by plucking them off the plants. 

5) Harvest Some Leaves!

Once your basil plants have reached a reasonable height, you should pinch off the 2 top pairs of leaves. Avoid damaging them while you do this. Moreover, the best time to harvest basil leaves is during the early morning. During this time, basil leaves are at its juiciest. 

You should also harvest regularly to encourage new foliage, especially during summer. Yet, before the onset of sudden frost, you should harvest all your basil leaves. Cold temperatures will surely wipe out your basils. 

6) Store Your Harvested Leaves!

Basil leaves will dry out if they are not frozen. So, make sure that you freeze them when you store them. In this way, the leaves will retain a good amount of their flavor. You can turn them first into a pesto or puree them before you freeze them. In this way, you can store them for months. Keep them in an airtight container when you store them inside your refrigerator. You can also dry basil leaves and store them afterward. You can use your oven to low heat them to dry them. Afterward, you should keep them in an airtight container once the leaves have cooled. 

Final Words

Basil comes in different varieties. Some of the popular types of basils are the Genovese basil, Thai basil, Lemon basil, and Holy basil. Basil is also not a high-maintenance plant. It doesn’t need meticulous care to grow fully.

Moreover, planting basil can be very rewarding. You simply need to provide them with basic requirements like water, sunlight, and good soil. Soon after, you’ll get rewarded with a healthy basil plant. Lastly, you’ll get a continuous supply of fresh basil leaves for your culinary needs. 

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Carlos Warren

Growing up in Texas, I was fascinated by the world of science and invention, thanks in large part to my father's work at Dow Chemical Company. However, my true passion lay in the natural world, and I became an expert in organic gardening and composting at a young age. I spent hours studying the microbiological communities in our family garden, using a microscope to define the quality of the soil. My love for farming and gardening led me to explore new techniques and methods, constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible.