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Seed starting, growing and storing Basil

Updated on January 14, 2017
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Perfect for Pesto

Large leaved Italian basil seed was imported especially for pesto recipes.
Large leaved Italian basil seed was imported especially for pesto recipes. | Source

Basil seed starting

Sometimes called sweet basil or garden basil, (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb that thrives in my Zone 6 garden. These tiny seed are easy to start.

Start with well moistened germinating mix or seed starting medium and a shallow container made of plastic, wood,styrofoam. Begin with clean container and healthy soil.

Select a container at least 2 inches deep. Egg cartons and empty eggshells are not a good choice. Developing the seedling roots need more depth.

Drop one or two seeds in each seed starting cell, about 1/8th inch deep. Cover and gently firm seed into germinating mix. Next cover the containers with a protective lid or with clear plastic to prevent moisture loss. Wait 7 to 14 days for germination of most basil seed.

Remove extra seedlings, leaving only 1 plant. The best way to remove 1 plant where 2 have come up, clip one at soil level. This will avoid disturbing or damaging the roots of the remaining plant.

After germination occurs, loosen or remove the clear plastic to improve circulation and prevent damping off and soil borne disease. Transplant seedlings to individual containers or cells in a week or 10 days.

Continue to water seedlings when the soil is dry to the touch. Take care not to over water. Keep seedlings away from cold windows or cold drafts. Basil is not cold tolerant.

Start from seed for best selection

Thin seedlings to 1 plant per cell. provide a strong light, consistent watering and no fertilizer yet.
Thin seedlings to 1 plant per cell. provide a strong light, consistent watering and no fertilizer yet. | Source

Growing basil at home

Midseason gardening tips to boost herb productivity.

Summer is when sun loving basil is most productive. Continue to pinch or clip back basil to increase leaf production. Use the fresh leaves to make pesto, add to pasta dishes or in green salads.

Plant Care - Keep the plants well watered, but not in wet soil. Fertilizer may only be necessary in containers. If plants are actively growing and producing rich green leaves, omit the fertilizer.

Take cuttings to multiply basil plants. Pinching or cutting basil will result in a bushier parent plants. Put cuttings in water, removing all lower leaves that will be submerged. In a few days you will see tiny roots beginning to grow. (This pinching method is the same as for mint or coleus.)

Basil bouquet

Clip basil and keep on the kitchen counter. You are more lkely to use it if it is handy.
Clip basil and keep on the kitchen counter. You are more lkely to use it if it is handy. | Source

Saving basil

Collecting and preserving basil - To me, there is no point in growing tomatoes if you don't grow basil. Most classic tomato dishes also call for basil: Bruschetta, Pasta Sauces, Insalada Caprese.

Try making a small test batch of pesto with each different basil variety. For example, I will make traditional Italian pesto with a large leaf basil. I also make lemon pesto with Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil.

Continue to pinch off buds and keep the basil from flowering. Or, to make seed, let the basil flower. Collecting seed from the plants that thrive in my garden is not only frugal but fun.

Save seed

Collecting seed on a white surface, like a flour sack towel or sheet, make gathering these seed easy.
Collecting seed on a white surface, like a flour sack towel or sheet, make gathering these seed easy. | Source

Your home grown variety

Developing your own basil

Saving Seed - Once a herb plant begins making flowers it will then make seed. It's days are numbered. Now the only purpose of the plant is to reproduce.

Start with a non hybrid, or hierloom basil the first year. Each year collect seed from your own plants.

Basil seed are tiny. Collect seed by gently shaking the plant over a sheet or newspaper. Allow seed to dry in open air for a few days. Save in a cool dry location.

Snack size ziplock bags or small envelopes are good for storage. Label bags or envelopes. Or, save in a small airtight container like a pill bottle or herb jar.

As you grow basil seed into plants and eventually collect seed every year, in the unique conditions of your region and garden, developing a unique variety. Select your best plants and save their seed.

Thai Basil, "Queenette"

Clip all these basil branches back, taking several inches off the top of each. The plant will imediately begin producing more foliage.
Clip all these basil branches back, taking several inches off the top of each. The plant will imediately begin producing more foliage. | Source

Favorite uses for basil

Basil tea - Basil is a good source of antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. Make basil tea if you have a nervous stomach. Add a few leaves to a cup, then pour in very hot water. Let steep for ten minutes. Discard leaves. Sweeten if you like.

Pesto - Best used fresh. Use it now, freely experiment while you have lots of fresh leaves. To season a dish with basil or pesto, add it in the final cooking stage or just before serving. If freezing pesto, omit the cheese. Add Parmesan later, when you use the pesto. It adds a freshness to the pesto.

Salads - Caprese Salad Stacks. Slice mozzarella and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, salt if desired. Layer tomato, whole or shredded basil leaves and top with a slice of cheese. Lightly drizzle with, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Add another layer of tomato, basil and cheese. Use only a little oil and balsamic vinegar.

Basil Mojitos - Replace mojito mint with basil in the traditional mojito recipe.

Tai Basil - Substitute for mint in iced tea.

Lemon Basil - Try it in iced tea instead of a lemon slice.

You may also like : How to Preserve Basil: 5 Ways

Basil loves tomatoes

Tomatoes love basil and basil loves tomatoes. Growing together increases the vigor and flavor of both the tomatoes and basil.

You might also like:

Best Home Garden Tomatoes: Chocolate Amazon

Best heirloom tomato from seed: Roma Rio Grande paste tomatoes

Best tomatoes from seed Copia heirloom




Comments

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  • Angelladywriter profile image

    Claudette Coleman Carter 

    20 months ago from Media, Pennsylvania

    Hi Patsy,

    That is an excellent idea. I will definitely try to make the pesto and freeze it in the form of ice cubes. You are right I could use it as well in various dishes. Thanks for that interesting idea.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    20 months ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Thank you, Claudette Coleman Carter. This year I have 8 varieties of basil in the cold frame. We are going to have a taste testing and pesto party for sure. I'll freeze pesto in ice cube trays. This winter, I'll just drop a frozen cube of pesto in my spaghetti sauce while it is heating up.

  • Angelladywriter profile image

    Claudette Coleman Carter 

    20 months ago from Media, Pennsylvania

    Nice article on basil. It is one of my favorite herbs for pork, chicken and other dishes. Thanks for the suggestions on how we can cultivate it ourselves.

  • eugbug profile image

    Eugene Brennan 

    3 years ago from Ireland

    Very useful and shared!

    I grew about a dozen plants this year to put into my homemade vegetable soup. Unfortunately the slugs wiped them all out!

  • rebeccamealey profile image

    Rebecca Mealey 

    3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

    I have a new basil plant that is growing like gangbusters, so it was nice to get these tips. Thanks!

  • peachpurple profile image

    peachy 

    3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    i have seen basil in grocery store , never grown one in my garden, great hub.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    3 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you reading my hubs. Happy we are now hub friends.

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    3 years ago from Taos, NM

    Great hub on basil. From seed to collecting and preserving - you have it all here. I enjoyed reading this as I use basil so much in my cooking. Thanks for the detailed instruction of planting basil from seed.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    anglnwu, I appreciate you reading my hub. I got three different kinds of of basil seed in one packet at Renee's Garden. There is enough seed to use for a couple of years. I love it and I am already looking forward to growing it again next spring. Please ask if you have any questions? I'd love to hear of your successes. Thank you.

  • anglnwu profile image

    anglnwu 

    4 years ago

    Great information about basil. I'm going to try growing them from seeds after reading this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    DeborahDian, Container gardening is so popular. Thank you for reading my hubs. If I can answer any garden questions, please ask.

  • DeborahDian profile image

    Deborah Carr 

    4 years ago from Orange County, California

    I have a container garden on my patio. I will have to try growing my own basil. Thanks for all the info.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Thank you, prasetio30. We both love encouraging others. Voting up and Pins make all the difference. It is an honor that you will share this Hub with your father. I appreciate you.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 

    4 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Very informative hub. I'll show this hub to my father. He likes gardening. Thanks for writing and sharing with us. Voted up!

    Prasetio

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Peggy W, I think it would be hard for us to cook without basil, we love it so. I also like to make herb butter. Basil and butter (1- 3 teasoons chopped basil blended into a softened stick of butter). Add a slice of that butter on fish fillets, green beans, tomato soup to make magic happen in your kitchen.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    LeonJane, I am with you. Infusing the flavor of basil by using the seed is interesting. I would think a faster more economical way to infuse jelly would be by using the leaves. There are always several varieties in the summer garden This year I had great success with a container basil named "Italian Cameo" (from Renee's Garden). It's nonstop leaf production this summer makes it my Go-To herb for basil mojitos, and pesto. Thank you, Pins and voting up make a big difference. I appreciate you.

  • LeonJane profile image

    LeonJane 

    4 years ago from Australia

    Sweet Basil is one of my favorite herbs to grow, it's so easy and tastes so good. I saw a chef on TV just last week use the seeds to infuse a jelly for a dish, it was quite a fine dining dish but gives you an idea on how eatable the whole plant is. I like the varieties of basil out there, some don't shoot to flowers so quickly as well. I loved your photos and the hub was awesome, voted up!

  • Peggy W profile image

    Peggy Woods 

    4 years ago from Houston, Texas

    We always grow basil in our garden each year along with a great many other herbs and some veggies. I love making fresh pesto, Caprese salad and using it in other cooking as well. I have not tried basil tea. Will give it a try. Up votes and sharing this with my followers.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    cygnetbrown, I plant basil in containers near the kitchen door and also cut it for kitchen bouquets. Growing four kinds this year.

  • cygnetbrown profile image

    Cygnet Brown 

    4 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

    I love the smell of basil! I think I would grow it even if it weren't good in cooking.

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Thank you Sharkye11. You are part of the tendsetters who are "mixing it up" growing flowers and herbs together. I'm growing four different kinds of basil this year. Thanks for your comments.

  • Sharkye11 profile image

    Jayme Kinsey 

    5 years ago from Oklahoma

    Fun hub! I love growing basil. It isn't picky about where it grows, and it looks great tucked among the flower beds. Gorgeous, shiny leaves. the recipe for the tomato salad stack sounds delicious. Will have to try that when my basil gets bigger!

  • Patsybell profile imageAUTHOR

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    8 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Parsley is a favorite herb. I use it fresh spring to fall

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