Basil is a staple ingredient in our house as we make a lot of Pesto based dishes, especially during the Courgette glut in July. We’ve found a great Courgette Pesto recipe here! We propagate Basil in pots all year round and always have one pot in use while another is growing and whilst this fabulous fragrant herb is easy to grow it can also be super eager to bolt. However, the bonus to that is a ready supply of seeds! (Although a slightly more bitter leaf!)
You don’t just have to grow Basil in pots as you’ll see here and it’s also thought to make a great companion plant for tomatoes (and even better companions for eating!) to keep away the whitefly!
Where to Grow
You can grow on the window sill, tunnel, green house or even outside; this easy to grow herb is a great one to keep on the windowsill all year round to keep fresh herbs during the winter. If you are growing outside the trick is to beat the frost because if you catch a frost it’ll kill them! Basil doesn’t do well in temperatures below about 5c and it takes eight weeks to mature so you’re looking at the end of May at the latest to get these sown outside as you might find (dependent on your area) that temperatures might dip to low at night.
The alternative is to grow in pots, that’s what we do! That way we can protect the plants a bit more by sheltering them a bit more as the nights get cooler and eventually we move them inside.
Growing and Care
The best way to ensure you have a steady supply of basil is to sow in two weekly succession throughout the spring for outside plants and all year round if you are growing indoors.
You can grow in plug trays individual or if you like A LOT of Basil you can simple sprinkle the seeds over a tray of prepared compost. When the seedlings have their first pair of true leaves (you’ll know when you have them as they look less like weeds and more like a baby Basil plant!) they’ll be ready to handle and pot on.
Once the baby plants have got to around 5cm, for those going into a green house or windowsil, or larger for outdoor planting you can move the plants to their final position. We usually mix in Mushroom compost (because seriously, that stuff is AMAZING and gives every crop we’ve used it on a yield boost!) as Basil like a good rich soil to thrive in.
The Basil you grow in the ground is going to look very different from the pots you get from the supermarket, which is often forced in some way, as they can get quite bushy! So they need a surprising amount of space between each plant. Go for spacing around 30cm apart in each direction.
A note on watering. Whilst these tenderer plants need a fair bit of watering, especially in hot weather as they tend to wilt very quickly, Basil hates being stuck in soggy soil so to test how wet the soil is dig down a couple of inches and if the soil looks reasonably damp leave it alone for another day unless there’s obvious signs of wilt!
The best bit (obviously) is the picking!!
There’s just a few hints and tips for getting the best yield from your hard work! When you harvest your Basil from pots take individual leaves (go for the big ones!) rather than cutting stems as you’ll encourage even more growth. You could also pinch out the growing tips so the plant focuses on growing out rather than up and bolting! Even though we harvest daily we still have far more than we can use so we always have a supply.
If you are growing outdoors before the first frosts arrives and the temperatures dip too low (you don’t want a bitter, or worse dead harvest) so pull all your plants and strip the leaves to dry, freeze or even make into pesto! (more on that coming soon)
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