Basil - Easy Herb to Grow From Seed

The popular summer herb basil is readily grown from seeds.

The germination rate is high, and it only takes a few days for the seeds to sprout. This is  a rewarding herb to grow. 

Sow basil seeds directly into the pots they will grow in. Cover them lightly with a good potting mix and water gently. The seeds instantly turn a cloudy grey when exposed to water. Sow several seeds in near proximity - basil likes its own company. Keep the seeds moist. Once the seeds have sprouted, put the plants in a sunny south window.  

The basil plant is very tender and will die if temperatures drop even near freezing. On warm spring days, put basil plants outdoors for a few hours. Basil that is lightly buffeted by the breeze produces a tastier, more turgid leaf. But, I still grow lots of basil in the backyard greenhouse, and these more tender leaves are fine too. Sow basil every few weeks for a continuous supply.

After the ground is warm and temperatures are well above freezing, you can sow basil directly in the garden, but I find that lots of bugs and birds also adore basil. My best outdoor ground crops of basil were grown under protective white cloth covers,which also keep temperatures warm and more even. 

Lately though, I have been growing basil in very large pots in the sunniest part of the garden. It does well sitting a few feet above the ground in a potting mix that is mostly peat. Grow it in a good 8 inches of potting mix. If it show signs of wilting, be sure to water. Basil tells you outright that it needs water. In big pots, basil is protected from most bugs. 

Harvest basil as it grows. Pinch the top leaves before they flower and harvest big leaves as they grow. There is an art to pruning basil. You can grow it as a single plant by pinching just above the second set of leaves.  

Pesto sauce is delicious when made with fresh basil leaves. I use almonds instead of pine nuts. We had pesto in Rome made with almonds, basil, garlic, olive oil with a little butter, and parmesan cheese.  

Sometimes I add parsley or swiss chard to the pesto when I don't have enough basil. By the way, a pesto with walnuts and parsley is also tasty. 

Use this strong, sweet but tangy herb in salads and sauces, mix it into dips and dressings. Chop it and freeze it in ice cube trays with a little water for sauces in winter. 

This year, grow some basil - you will be pleased.