Jump To Section
Types of Basil for Home Herb Gardens
Growing your own basil means freedom to experiment with a host of basil varieties. Sweet basil may be the conventional type to plant, but stunning purple basil and citrusy lemon basil come in handy, too. Thai basil brings hits of sharp anise to South Asian soups, aromatic curries, and stir-fries.
How to Grow Basil
Basil is a staple of any herb garden, and also makes for a good companion plant for other crops like tomatoes.
- Start from seed. Basil seeds take between one and two weeks to germinate and sprout. If the soil is already warmed up, seeds can be planted directly in the ground.
- Or pick the plants. Starter basil plants can be found at any nursery or gardening store beginning in early spring.
- Pick a spot. Basil plants love heat, so plant basil well after the last frost, in a spot that will get a good amount of full sun throughout the day (at least 6 hours of sun). Some afternoon shade may be beneficial for planting in warmer regions. Potting or planting in raised beds helps keep the soil moist, but well-drained. Surrounding the plants with mulch will also help with water retention, as well as keeping weeds at bay.
- Plant! Basil seeds or seedlings should be planted about ½ inch below the surface, with about 10–12 inches of space between them. (Larger starter plants or varieties can take a bit more space: think 16 inches.) Keep plants well watered, especially in particularly hot weather.
How to Grow Basil Indoors
If growing from basil seeds at the beginning of the growing season, start seeds inside (ice cube trays in a sunny windowsill works well for this) 6 weeks before planting outside. Growing basil indoors is a great way to have a generous supply ready at hand for any cooking needs: If direct sunlight is hard to come by, considering using grow lights on a timer.
How to Harvest Basil
As soon as the seedlings sprout their first 6 full leaves, at which point, the plant should be pruned back to just above the second set of leaves in order to encourage further branching. Snip and repeat with any new branches once they sprout 6 leaves; prune flower buds as soon as they appear at the tops of the plant.
Harvesting throughout the season can mean pinching off leaves as needed, or cutting full sprigs for larger projects like pesto. Store basil in a sealed freezer bag in the refrigerator and use promptly.
Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass Annual Membership and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.