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Basil Growing

Updated on March 22, 2011

Sweet Basil, Ocimum basilicum

Sweet basil, one of the most popular used herbs in cooking, is a must have in every culinary garden. There are over 64 species of basil in which the most common variety used for cooking is sweet basil also referred to as large leaf basil or broadleaf basil. The most sought out variety, and my personal favorite is Genovese, a large leaf Italian variety.

Basil is used in so many cooking applications. Cooks from all around the world use basil in just about everything such as, fresh and cooked vegetables, in salads, with meats, eggs, sea food, cheeses, in soups and breads, to season vinegars /oils and most recognized in pesto and served with tomatoes.

Basil, a natural mosquito repellant and companion of tomatoes and asparagus

This herb is mostly credited for its culinary properties, but has some medicinal and insect repellant properties as well. Basil is known to deter mosquitoes, which has been said that by picking fresh basil from the garden and rubbing it on your skin can act as a natural mosquito repellant. Also when planting basil near tomatoes, it is known to deter mosquitoes and flies, and when fresh basil is laid over tomatoes in a serving bowl, will deter fruit flies as well. Basil is also known to improve the taste of tomatoes and improve the growth of tomatoes and asparagus.

Genovese Basil

Starting Basil from seed

It is recommended if starting basil from seed to start indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting outdoors. This limits the risk of seeds being washed away in heavy rains and not germinating due to cool soil. Basil is a heat loving plant that needs a bottom temperature to be about 70 degrees to germinate, and should not be transplanted outdoors until nighttime temperatures stay above 50 degrees. Basil is a very tender herb and will start to turn brown at temperatures below 40 degrees.

To start basil from seed be sure to slightly burry the seed and use a quality growing mix- avoid using regular top soil or potting mix. Water the growing mix so that it is not dry. Once you have sown your basil seeds cover with either a plastic dome or plastic wrap to help retain moisture. It is important to not let the soil dry out. As soon as the seeds have germinated which should be about 3 days or so depending on quality of seed, remove the plastic covering, and continue to have placed in a window that receives plenty of sun, or under growing lights. Basil is prone to damping off and fungal diseases, so be sure to provide air circulation. You can do this by occasionally leaving an osculating fan on from time to time, and do not water at night. Basil does not like going to bed with its feet wet.

Pest and Disease

Basil is known to attract aphids; spider mites, various worms and white flies, and very susceptible to fungal disease such as botrytis stem rot and Pythium. Greenhouse plants are typically more prone to these diseases and pest due to poor air circulation and humidity. Another fungus that attacks only sweet basil is the soil born fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. basilicum also known as Fusarium wilt. This one is really bad and there is no known cure. The basil plant will appear to grow normal reaching about 6 to 12 inches in height but will then begin to wilt and start dropping leaves and quickly die. This fungus can live up to 12 years in infected areas. It is not recommended to compost these dead plants or soil, and to avoid growing any herbs in the mint family in these infected areas. Mint will not show any signs of the disease but will carry the fungus from season to season.

Transplanting Basil seedlings

For easy cultivating and proper air circulation plant your basil plants 2 feet apart and in rows 3-4 feet apart from each other.  Once seedlings have been transplanted they will establish and grow quickly demanding to be cut often.  Although we grow these wonderful plants to satisfy our taste buds, the ultimate mission in life for these plants is to produce seeds and propagate themselves.  No matter how many times we prune, eventually the plant will flower and die.  We can delay the flowering by cutting the main stem and large side branches often.  Cut just above a branch no more than a 3rd of the plant at a time, this will also promote more growth.

Harvesting your freshly grown basil

You can expect to begin harvesting your freshly grown basil 6 weeks after transplanting outdoors, and 8- 10 weeks if transplanted in growing beds in a greenhouse.  Here are some harvesting tips.

  • Always cut with clean and sharp shears or scissors, cutting just above a leaf cluster/branch.  This will encourage new growth and increase yield.
  • Select stems that have at least two leaf clusters or more to cut, and do not cut more that a 3rd at one time, allowing the plant a little bit of time to recover.
  • Always check for insects, and do not forget to check the underside of the leaves. If insects are detected and are not easily removed by hand, be sure they are sprayed off when rinsing your freshly cut basil.
  • Be sure to remember when washing basil that it is a delicate herb that bruises easily and to be gentle when washing.

For the most part, basil is very easy to grow and highly recommended for all culinary gardens.  Plant some basil plants near your tomato plants this year and enjoy the wonderful aroma and flavor of this magnificent herb all season long.

How To Grow The Perfect Herb Garden

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    • Organicpixie profile image


      6 years ago from London

      I planted my basil the other day, after 3 days it's already germinating. It's a really easy herb to grow.

    • profile image

      barbie mannas 

      7 years ago

      You certainly cover a lot of ground Rob. I was reading about stinging nettle on your webpage, I don't think it grows in India unfortunately. However, I do grow basil and it's cousin, the Tulsi. One of my recent discoveries is that drinking basil tea first thing in the morning is excellent for fatty liver sufferers. I feel better than ever and gone is the bloated balloon look! Will do more exploring on your webpage.

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      eventsyoudesign, thanks for stopping by, I too love the basil and love, love, love pesto.

    • eventsyoudesign profile image


      7 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

      Basil is one of my favorites. I love pesto. Basil also has calming and purifying properties. Thanks for another interesting article.

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      prairieprincess- thanks for stopping by, so glad that my hubs inspire you. I am excited for you and encourage you to definitely start a garden this year. It doesn't have to be big, you may even want to start with containers or raised beds. Herbs like basil do great in containers, and you can place them near the kitchen or bring them in when the weather gets too cold. Thanks for commenting take care and happy gardening!

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      It is time for me to take up my herb garden again, and you are such an inspiration! Thanks rpalulis!

    • katiem2 profile image


      7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Just had to pop in for the tips on basil growing. Thanks :)

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      7 years ago from Canada

      rpalulis, your hubs are so inspiring to me, and I am going to bookmark this one, too. My Mom was a fantastic gardener, but I have never had a garden. This year, we have a yard, and I really think growing some herbs would be a great start, besides being so delicious. Fresh basil sounds amazing, and just recently, I found out basil is great on roasted vegetables. Yum!

      Thanks for a great hub and take care!

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Bethany- yes sweet basil can only mean sweet summer, I can't believe we are expected a foot of snow tonight- hoping this is just an April fools joke.

    • profile image

      Bethany Culpepper 

      7 years ago

      Mmmm - sweet basil - means summer's coming. Can't wait! Mine didn't turn out so well last year, but maybe it was because of the fungus. I'll have to try again. I really can't get enough of it.

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      toknowinfo thanks for stopping by- basil is on the top of my list too. Heres to a great growing season!

    • toknowinfo profile image


      7 years ago

      I love growing my own herbs and basil is on the top of my list. Thanks for the great tips.

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Prasetio30 thanks and now I have learned something new, as well, "kemangi" Thanks for reading this hub on basil my friend. Have a blessed day.

      Hyphernird, I like the sounds of the dehydrater idea. I have to get one. I have a friend who that pretty much all she cooks with. Thanks for commenting, I am so glad you enjoyed all this info. on basil. Take care- Rob

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Yummy basil. We love it and I am going to dry some in the dehydrater. Thanks for the great informaion on growing basil.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I always find something new from you. You have done a great job here. Gardening is always interesting and you shown to us useful tips in growing basil. In my country it called "kemangi". Basil is always smelling good. Thank you very much. Rated up!


    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Bob, No better place to grow basil than in the kitchen, thanks for commenting, happy growing!

      Micky Dee, thanks! Nothing like fresh cut basil, glad you enjoyed this hub.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      7 years ago

      I miss the fresh basil! Great job!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 

      7 years ago from New Brunswick

      Just yesterday, I planted some sweet basil in my kitchen window, well ina pot in the window, actually. I have been growing basil for many years now, easy enough to do and a great culinary plant, plus I like the fragrance.

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Katie I love it that your twelve year old is having so much fun watching these seedlings grow, thats awesome!

      I agree there is nothing like fresh basil in the kitchen.

      Happy growing- Rob

      Pamela, I wish I was in Florida right now, we are expecting some more snow, good news is that it does not snow in my greenhouse.

      I think your right you would probably be better off just buying some basil plants from a local grower. Hope you have the most enjoyable spring and growing season, be well- Rob.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Now I wish I had started some basil by see but that's much too late to do in Florida. I think I will buy some small plants as we use a lot of basil also. Your hub was very thorough and informative. Voted/rated up.

    • katiem2 profile image


      7 years ago from I'm outta here

      Awesome, we have little sprouts all over the house, my twelve year old is having a ball planting and watching the little plants grow. Basil is a great and easy plant to grow and there is nothing like fresh basil in the kitchen. I love it! Thanks :) Katie

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Chatkath, thanks for the visit and reading my hub here on basil. I am so glad that you find my hubs informative, as that is my goal- to share what I have found to be interesting and or valuable information. Gotta love hubpages- right! Take care- Rob

    • Chatkath profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Another great learning experience for me R. Thanks so much for your informative and beneficial Hubs!

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      cheapsk8chick, thanks for stopping by, I do hope that you are able to grow some basil successfully this year, if you use it a lot in your cooking try growing it in a container near your kitchen.

      Darlene, Sweet basil is one of my absolute favorite smell in the garden and I too adore the taste. So glad you enjoyed the video and thanks for stopping by and commenting. Talk to you soon- Rob

    • Darlene Sabella profile image

      Darlene Sabella 

      7 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

      Excellent hub and information, great video as well. Sweet basil is my favorite smell and taste in all my cooking. I simply adore sweet basil. I will follow you instructions on how to plant and grow. Rate this hub up all the way, love and peace darski

    • cheapsk8chick profile image


      7 years ago

      Awesome info! I should try to plant some again this year, now that I have some idea of what to do!

    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      Thank you Sunnie Day, I had forgot to mention about drying and storing basil in this hub, thank you for mentioning that, and yes Happy Growing Season! Unfortunately this mean that I spend less lime on my computer during this season but will try my best to keep up with reading and commenting on my favorite hubs. Off to the greenhouse and will be back on hub hopefully later on. Thanks for commenting.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for a great article. We love our basil. We have Italian basil growing. Last year we dried, crushed, and stored the basil. We also keep some planted in our garden. It is great all the way around. Thanks again. Happe growing season,


    • rpalulis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from NY

      RTalloni- thanks for stopping by and so glad this hub has reminded you to grow some basil in a container this year, excellent idea! Happy Growing- Rob

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Good reminder with new-to-me info on harvesting basil. You've reminded me that I want to grow basil in a large pot in my front yard this year. Thanks much.

      Excellent hub, voted up.


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