Basil is a religion to me. I think about it daily. Each week I make my trek out to the garden to harvest and sow more seed. And when I sit down for a meal that’s sprinkled with chopped leaves or a pasta soaked with pesto, I sit back and thank the universe for making such wonderful deliciousness.
So let’s get serious about growing basil! It’s so easy that even my one-year-old son can get some going (albiet without knowing what he’s doing). I’m going to share with you my top 5 growing basil tips. First you need seeds. If you’re new to growing your own basil, start with the tried-and-true traditional Genovese. As you become more of a basil connoisseur you can test out different varieties for taste, color, size and use.
Growing Basil Tips #1
You can start sowing basil early or directly into the ground as your season gets underway.
Whichever method you use, top off your garden bed with a couple inches (2-3”) of compost. This will ensure your plants get ample nutrients throughout the season as well as improving your overall soil structure. Drop a couple seeds into your compost-laden bed (or into moist potting soil if you’re sowing early in small pots or cell packs) every 9-12”apart, lightly cover, pat down to firm and water-in. Keep the area moist, and your happy little basil plants will emerge in 5-10 days!
Basil Boss Tip #2
Plant in a spot where your plants get plenty of sun and water. Basil is a warm-weather crop and really only flourishes when it gets a minimum of 6 or more hours of sun.
When you do water, water deeply and at the base. If water gets on the leaves, they can get leaf scorched in addition to inviting pesky diseases.
Basil Boss Tip #3
Here’s my favorite—and most used—technique I use in the garden, PINCH! When your seedlings are about 6” tall, use with your finger or sharp snips to cut back the center stem by half, cutting right above a branched set of leaves. I use this for almost everything I grow (except single-stemmed flowers like sunflowers). Cutting back in this way encourages the plant to get bushier and produce more stems and leaves. Thus more basil. And if you’re growing basil you’re always going to want more. So remember, pinch early!
For all the nitty-gritty details on pinching seedlings, check out my full post HERE.
Basil Boss Tip #4
Harvest regularly to prevent flowering. When you harvest every 4-7 days you’ll be amazed at the leaf production by what consistent watering and “pruning” will do for your plants. And no worries if you go out and start to see a flower stalk popping out of your plants, just snip it back to a point right above a set of branching leaves.
Sidenote: If you are a flower farmer, or just love flowers, let some of the more decorative varieties begin to bloom before you harvest them. Basil ‘Aromatto’ (pictured above) makes a stellar scented flower filler. Even a simple bouquet of flowering basil will be a gorgeous addition to your kitchen table.
Basil Boss Tip #5
Never harvest more than 2/3 of the plant. Always leave about 33% of the leaves and stems behind to ensure your plant has enough energy to keep you in plenty of basil all season long.
A garden without basil isn’t truly complete in my opinion. And the best part….not only is it tasty and essential to most summer recipes, it’s a great scented bouquet filler or even flower spikes if left to fully bloom!