Basil is a go-to herb for many people as its flavor and aroma always seem to add just the right touch to a number of recipes. However, for the novice gardener, it may seem like a daunting task to establish an herb garden. You may be surprised to learn that the process is simple, and the reward is well worth the time and energy.
Don’t have a garden? Don’t worry! Basil can actually thrive as an indoor plant just as well. The trick is learning what it takes to grow a successful plant inside or outside.
Whether you plant indoors or outdoors, basil certainly has a few preferences. According to an article from Bonnie Plants, basil thrives in warm temperatures: 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 27 to 32 degrees Celsius) is the ideal temperature range, with six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. However, basil does not do well if it becomes too dry.
Basil loves rich soil that stays moist, but it needs proper drainage in whatever pot you plant it in. To help retain some of the moisture in the ground of a garden, SFGate suggests using mulch around the base of the plant. Basil does not do well in cold temperatures and should be protected from frost by covering it or moving it away from windows or doors. As a side note, three plants should yield plenty of basil for a family of four.
Indoor growing tips
The Kitchn indicates that you should begin growing basil indoors six weeks before the last frost. Fertilizer is critical if you are growing basil indoors. Offbeat Home & Life says that if you decide to start basil inside, you should use natural fertilizer once per month. Basil does best with slow-release fertilizer, and you should not use fertilizer if temperatures fall below 60 degrees F (15.5 degrees C). Sunlight is critical. If you do not have a south-facing window, Gardening Know How suggests growing the plants under fluorescent lights.
Outdoor growing tips
The key with growing basil outdoors it to make sure that the temperature is right. If there is an unusually cool day, remember to cover your plant with plastic to shield it from the low temperatures. The Kitchn reminds us that if you plan to start growing the herb in the ground or will transplant a starter into the ground, make sure that the soil temperature is at least 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).
Cutting fresh basil
Harvesting basil is one of the most important parts of growing this herb. There is certainly a right and wrong way to do it. Failure to accurately cut the plant could mean less product and an early death for the plant.
An article from Food Renegade indicates that the process for cutting fresh basil is simple. Once the plant has a set of three to five leaves, it’s ready for pruning. You should cut right at the second level of leaves. New branches of leaves will begin to grow from the area that you cut. Every couple of weeks, cut in the second row of leaves on the new branch. Before you know it, you will have a beautifully established basil plant that could produce up to 20 cups of fresh herb during the growing season!
Food Renegade suggests that you soak the plant thoroughly the night before cutting and that you prune early in the day before it gets too hot. The natural oils of the plant will be at their best during this time.
If you put off cutting and blossoms begin to form, you have a choice to make. Food Renegade indicates that you can prune each of the blossoms off, or you can allow them to flower, after which your plant will die. Remember, basil is an annual, which means that it only lives through the growing season. Bonnie Plants warns that you should never cut the woody part of the stem because it will not continue to grow.
Ready to start your basil plants? Don’t forget the tips discussed here so you can keep your basil thriving and producing. Share with your friends to help them kick-start their basil plants, too!