Q. Can you tell me about how to grow basil?
Basil is easy to grow and treat as an annual in the home garden. Basil likes full sun and well-drained soil that is not overly rich. Sow seeds indoors five or six weeks before the last frost. Seeds will germinate at a temperature of 65 to 75°F in a few days. Transplant outdoors when the weather is consistently warm, above 65°F. Seedlings should have 3 pairs of leaves when transplanted.
Space plants about a foot apart in the garden bed. If direct seeding into the garden outdoors, thin seedlings to one foot apart. When flowers appear, cut plants back to 6 inches to stimulate more growth. Nipping flowers just stimulates growth of more flowers in the axils of the leaves. To regenerate vegetative growth, basil stems must be cut back hard.
- Light: 6 hours of sun a day (best grown in bright, sunny summer conditions)
- Temperature: night temperature should be above 60°F outdoors
- Soil pH: 4 to 7.0
- Water: water well, about an inch a week during morning hours. Keep cold water off the leaves to deter black spot disease.
- Harvesting: basil can yield an ongoing supply of leaves if picked often, but cut and use right away for best taste.Cut, do not pull, enough of the stem to leave only two to four leaves on the plant. Plants will reproduce two to four new branches for harvesting.
- Propagation: can be done by seed or cuttings. Basil is one of the most prolific herbs. A single flower stem contains about 120 to 240 seeds or nutlets. Basils are self-fertile, and cross-pollinate easily if more than one variety is grown in the same vicinity.
Growing Basil in Pots
Basil is prone to root rot caused by soggy soil in too large a pot. When selecting potting soil, use fresh soilless potting mixtures available from the nursery. These mixtures are spongy, soft and well drained, just what a fast-growing plant like basil prefers. When watering, check soil moisture with a finger test. If it is moist don't water yet; if the mix has lightened in color, it's time to water. You can also tell by the weight of the container. If it is dry, the pot will be lighter than when thoroughly watered with wet, heavy soil. Basil can be grown indoors on a windowsill that receives at least 6 hours of direct sun a day.
For more information on growing and using basil, please refer to our guide Basil: Knowing and Growing.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service