Planting Basil

Yesterday, in between rain blasts, I ran outside and planted some basil starts.  I started basil seeds indoors under lights on March 6th.  My choice of seed is ‘Genovese Basil,’ because it has large leaves, grows well here and is great for cooking or using fresh in salads.  This basil can be grown in the ground or in a large container outdoors, but since my planting beds are rapidly going to be filled with other plants, I chose to grow my basil in containers.   My starts had reached a size of around four to six inches tall, and had several large leaves on them, so they were ready to go out.

Prior to planting them outdoors, I hardened them off first.  I put them outside in a protected area on May 24th, so they could get used to outdoor temperatures and weather conditions.  I kept an eye on them and on the weather forecasts, but where I am the weather has been very rainy, but very mild overnight temperatures, so I just left them outside.  I did this for about a week, and that is enough time for them to get ready to be planted out.

I chose to plant my basil starts in containers.  These are simple two-gallon or larger plastic containers that I have painted turquoise blue to match the accent color of our house, and they work great.  Basil plants will put out a pretty big root system relative to the top of the plant growing above ground, so I usually plant one basil start per two-gallon pot, and more in a larger pot.  Water them in after planting, and you are done.  It has been my experience that using smaller containers will not work as well, because the basil will put out a lot of roots, and they won’t have enough room for the roots to expand as they should if they are constricted by too small a container.  Also, smaller containers dry out much more rapidly, making for a lot more work for the gardener.  Now that we still have rain, nature will usually water the plants for me, but when we start to have drier and warmer weather, I will need to water the containers once a day, and fertilize with complete organic fertilizer once a week or every other week.

A benefit that comes from growing these heat-loving herbs in containers is that the soil temperature tends to be warmer in a container than out in the ground, and so they get a little extra heat with these growing conditions.  Basil of course can also be planted in a prepared garden bed as well.

So go for it!  You will find lots of uses for fresh basil in your cooking this summer!



  1. drop30 said,

    June 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    I just planted some basil seeds in a container a few weeks ago,they are coming up nicely even though they are seedlings still I am so looking forward to picking frsh basil. I plan on putting my basil next to my tomatoes to grow,as the flavours marry up so well.
    Happy gardening 🙂

    • minervasgardenwriter said,

      June 4, 2010 at 3:31 am

      That sounds wonderful! I try to grow lots each year, and when the autumn arrives, I makes pesto and freeze it, and then I also pick the leaves off the mature plants and freeze them in a plastic bag, so they are ready for use in cooking over the winter months.

      Happy gardening to you as well!

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