How to Grow Great Basil
Updated: Jun 22
It seems people either have a love or hate relationship with growing basil. If you are doing something wrong the plant has a tendency to wilt and die. When done right, the plant will flourish and grow you plentiful basil. Homemade pesto anyone?
There are many different varieties and speciality flavours of basil. The most common type is sweet basil. Other varieties include purple, lemon and Thai basil.
When seeding sweet basil, plant sees about two inches apart in your pot and cover with a thin layer of soil then water in with warm water. This means, for a 6 inch round pot, you should end up with about 5 seeds.
If you have access to an established basil plant you can easily propagate basil by cutting a 4 inch section off and placing it in water for a week. It should begin to grow roots in that time. Once visible roots are established plant your basil into a pot.
Basil does NOT like the cold. I suggest starting it indoors in early spring and growing it in a pot. Anything below 6 degrees Celsius is too cold for basil. For those of us gardening in the zone 3 climate this means being very careful when leaving it outdoors. I like to keep mine in a pot all year so it is easy to bring inside when there is risk of the temperature dropping.
Basil does best in a location where it will receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.
One of the keys to growing great basil is watering it properly. It does not like wet leaves or soaking wet soil! Plant in well drained soil and if anything, keep the soil on the dry side. Be sure not to over water, This means allowing the soil to dry out somewhat between watering. Water at the base of the plant to avoid wet leaves.
Harvest basil regularly to encourage more growth. Begin harvesting once there are more than 6 leaves on a stem. Always take from the top of the plant and cut stem down to the next intersecting leaves. This will cause it to grow 2 new stems in place of the one you cut and your plant will grow larger and bushier. If you notice your basil beginning to form flowers, snip that part off to encourage more leaf production.
If you are wanting to make pesto, basil can be frozen until you have gathered enough for your recipe.
Tomatoes are know as the perfect companion plant for basil. It deters pests from tomatoes and some say tomatoes taste better when planted next to basil. Other companion plants include cabbage, asparagus and peppers.
Basil does better in the company of other vegetables vs. herbs with the exception being chamomile and oregano.
Plant basil in pots on your deck to deter mosquitoes!