Climate and temperature are key factors in successfully Growing Basil.
It is a sun lover, and grows wild in Mediterranean climates. It will do reasonably well in containers if the temperature is kept above 10 Degrees C.
The cold or any kind of frost will kill Basil straight away, but it will thrive in 6-8 hours of sun a day.
Basil is pretty much the world’s most popular herb. It is a key ingredient in many dishes, in particular Italian, and is great in fresh salads.
Fresh Basil is by far, more tasty fresh than in dried form, but it is sometimes quite difficult to get hold of fresh Basil in the UK, so growing Basil yourself is a great way to get around that. Basil is also quite expensive to buy, so growing your own will save you money.
Basil is a perennial plant so will keep supplying you with fresh herb all year as long as you bring it indoors and give it plenty of sunshine during the winter months.
Grow from seed
Basil will grow well in good quality compost. If you are sowing from seed, pre-moisten the compost before placing half a dozen seeds in a small 2 inch seedling pot and very lightly cover with just a few millimetres of potting soil. The key is not to plant the seeds too deeply or they will not have enough energy to reach the open air. Water them and place in a light warm spot.
Important – make sure the soil remains moist throughout the germination period.
Alternatively, if you want to sow them directly into a permanent container, or grow from plants, then position the seeds (or plants) about four to five inches apart.
Germination will take less than a couple of weeks, so do not sow too early if you intend to put them outside. Mid to Late April is fine, but make sure there is no danger of frost or temperatures below 10 Degrees C, otherwise, keep them indoors.
Once sprouted, keep them on a sunny windowsill.
Thin the young growing Basil plants from the seedling pot once they are showing about 6 leaves, and transplant them into a larger pot which will be their permanent home. Plant them four to five inches apart.
Pruning is Important!
This is a step that many people growing basil for the first time fail to do. In order to get bushy Basil plants, instead of long spindly ones, you need to prune them in a very specific way. The basil leaves appear on opposite sides of the stem. Once you have three or four sets of leaves, it’s time to prune the plant.
Do this by pinching off the top of the plant just above a set of leaves. The leaves now at the top of the stem will go on to become branches.
Once the branches bear three to four leaves, again, pinch off the tops just above a pair of leaves, and it will branch again.
Continue to do this as much as you like go get a healthy, bushy plant, as opposed to a spindly thin one.
Also when the plant produces flowers, it is important to remove them so that the plant puts more energy back into producing more leaves.
Basil plants are heavy feeders, so it will need to be supplemented with nutrients. Use an organic liquid fertilizer during the summer months. An effective way to apply the fertilizer is to apply it directly to the leaves, in its correctly diluted format, with a spray bottle making sure you spray both the tops of the leaves and the undersides.
Simply cut off the leaves as you need them. For everyday use, don’t cut the stems, only use the leaves, unless you are pruning-back (see the video below). You can eat the stems, but removing them will affect the growth of the plant.
Do not put them in the fridge, or this could turn the leaves black. Instead, put them in water and leave them out at room temperature.
To dry basil, place the leaves up in a warm, dry, dark place and allow to dry out completely. Once brittle, simply crush them up into a bag or a jar with an air-tight lid. They can also be frozen.
There is an additional ‘summary’ article on how to grow basil successfully here.