How to Grow Basil

How to Grow Basil from Seed 

We may be familiar with one or two varieties of basil but there are so many different types to choose from. As well as the popular large leaf Genovese types which are usually found in the supermarket there are lots of different flavours and smells to be considered. We grow the Genovese types but always try some of the other types. If you like basil there are many taste adventures to enjoy. 

Latin Name: Ocimum basilicum is the most common but there are a number of types such as Basil tenuiflorum  or Holy Red Basil. 

Where to grow Basil

We grow basil in the greenhouse in various size pots. They make a great companion plant for tomatoes.  They also grow well in the garden in a sheltered sunny spot or on a windowsill. It’s a very versatile plant but needs warmth to thrive.

How to sow Basil seeds

A key to good results is the quality of the seeds. The good news is that the seeds can maintain their viability for 4-5 years if they are kept in a cool dry place. The seeds are easy to germinate. Use a good quality seed compost. It can be tempting to sow the seeds too thickly, something we have done in the past. Sow thinly so it is easier to transplant the seedlings . Cover the seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite or fine compost. Water the seeds and then keep them moist during germination. Keep the temperature around 21-24OC to optimise germination. They will grow well in a propagator or if you are growing your seedlings indoors select a warm sunny windowsill and you should get excellent results.

How long does Basil take to germinate?

The seeds can start germinating in as little as 5 days but usually take 10-14 days. If you are growing indoors then cover them with a clear plastic bag to keep their environment humid. It is important to take this off when the seeds have germinated to avoid damping off.

When do you transplant Basil seedlings?

The main thing is the plants have enough room to grow. We will usually split the seedlings up and plant 2 or 3 in a pot and then gradually increase the size of the pot.  The final size of the pot will determine how big the plant grows. We will limit this if the plant is remaining on the windowsill but often put plants in 1 or 2 litre pots to grow on as a companion plant in the greenhouse.

Does Basil grow outside?

Yes you can transplant your plants outdoors in the summer. It is important that you harden your plants off slowly by gradually moving them outside during the day to get used to the conditions. If you don’t do this you may stunt the plants if the weather is too cold..

How do I care for my Basil plants?

If you follow a few simple steps, you will have quality basil leaves all summer. Make sure you keep the plants well-watered. They will benefit from some plant feed over the summer to encourage leaf growth. Just follow the instructions on your chosen feed.

Remove the growing tips to help the plant become bushy.

If the plant flowers you may choose to remove them to keep the fresh leaves coming and avoid bitterness in the leaves. At the end of the season leave outdoor plants to flower as they are loved by bees.  Protect from slugs and snails and keep a check for aphids.

When can you harvest Basil leaves?

It is great to have a constant supply of leaves. We will often start a number of pots so we can start using the leaves of the first plant while they are still young. The other plants have time to develop well and continue to give us a great harvest through the summer. Basil can also be succession sown every few weeks.

Which are the Basil best varieties to grow?

There are so many types of Basil to select from and we will all have different favourites. We have been trying lots of different varieties with their distinct taste, smell and form. Here are a few to try but why not take a look, to make your own selections click here.

Genovese Basil Types

This is the most popular variety that has the familiar basil flavour. It has large green leaves, and the plants can grow to a good size over the summer. Idea for use in most Italian dishes especially with tomato based recipes..

Try Basil Sweet Genovese or Basil Nufar Hybrid

Lemon Basil

We love this basil with the distinct lemon scent that fills the air when you move past it. It has a lemon citrus like taste. Popular in tea and with seafood.

Cinnamon Basil

Basil Cinnamon are strong growing plants with a delightful scent. It has light green leaves on reddish stems and purple flowers. The flavour is a noticeable spicy cinnamon. It is popular for desserts and salads.

Thai Basil

This is a popular variety in Thai and Asian cooking. It has small leaves and delightful redish stems and flowers. The flavour has sweet aniseed notes.

Greek Basil

This is a strong flavoured basil. It is a perfect seasoning in soups and meat dishes. The plants have small leaves and tend to be compact in growth habit.

Holy Red Basil

This is perfect for oriental cooking with its delicious scent and flavour. The leaves have a purple tinge and usually have pink flowers. Used in Indian food and culture.

Basil Floral Spires 

This variety is perfect for culinary use as well as a lovely floral addition to the garden with its attractive lavender flower spikes.