Basil is a perennial herb that grows best in warm weather. Plants can be started from seed or transplanted from nursery pots and containers. If planting from seeds, start indoors 6-8 weeks before your average last frost date in early spring.
To start basil from seed, sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep in a container of sterilized seed starting mix. Cover with a plastic bag or propagator to help maintain a consistent temperature and humidity level. After the seeds sprout, remove from the propagator or bag and place in a sunny window. Basil is prone to damping off, so it’s important to keep the soil well ventilated and watered regularly, but not overwatered.
The seeds will germinate in a week or so, and when they are ready to be planted, thin them out. Each seedling grows at a different rate, so you will want to leave plenty of space in the basil plants for future growth. The young plants will also need regular watering, but you should avoid overwatering. Basil is a very delicate plant, so don’t allow the soil to dry out completely.
Unlike many herbs, which can grow in poor or sandy soil, basil prefers rich, fertile soil with a moderate pH level. It is easy to grow in pots or raised beds, but you can also plant it directly in the garden in a sunny location. If growing it in the garden, try to stay away from areas that receive a lot of traffic or pollution, as basil is sensitive to fumes.
Another great option for growing basil is to purchase starter plants from a local greenhouse or grocery store. They often come overcrowded, but if you can gently tease the roots apart, you can create even more plants to transplant into your own garden or into larger pots.
When planting your basil outside, wait until all danger of frost has passed in late spring or summer. It is difficult to grow basil in the ground if the temperatures drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so you’ll need to use a cold frame or a poly tunnel if you live in a northern climate to protect your plants from frost.
If you’re growing your basil in a pot, use a large container filled with rich, fertile soil. It’s easier to water and fertilize a larger pot, and you’ll be able to control the amount of water that the plant receives. If you’re using a commercial liquid organic fertilizer, opt for one with a high nitrogen content to encourage basil’s quick growth and lush foliage. Then, water the pot as needed to maintain moist soil, but do not overwater, since this can lead to basil root rot.
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