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How to Grow Basil from Seeds?

Growing basil from seeds.

Fresh herbs are expensive, and many are very easy to grow. Basil is one of the easiest herbs there is to grow from seed. Unfortunately, when you buy plants from the local garden store, you are stuck with the variety they supply.

However, you can quickly grow basil from seed. You will be able to choose from many different varieties, and growing your own is more economical and satisfying. Some types are better for pesto, while others are better added to your favorite recipes that call for sweet basil as an ingredient. Try growing one variety or try several to see which ones you like best.

You can use basil for more than spaghetti sauce and pesto. Basil plants come in many varieties and colors that make lovely accent plants in flower beds and vegetable gardens. Some types also make beautiful additions to cut flower displays. In addition, they are a natural deterrent to many pests, while they attract pollinators, and they all have lovely aromas.

Each variety of basil has a unique flavor and appearance, and growing it from seed means that you can have more than one kind. In addition, basil is easy to grow and forgiving to gardeners with minimal skill.

How to grow basil from seed indoors?

You will need flats, cell paks, or seed trays, potting soil, water, and seed before you begin. First, fill your containers with moistened soil, then gently place a couple of seeds on the soil.

The recommendation is to plant basil seeds one-quarter of an inch deep. Then, you can either press them into the damp soil or cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil. After you have planted the seeds, mist the soil lightly.

Growing Holy Basil

A cup with basil seeds beside a small shovel.

If you are planting holy basil seeds, they need the sun to germinate. Lay them on top of the soil and lightly press them into it. DO NOT cover them with soil, and keep them lightly spritzed with water.

You can put a cover over them or plastic until they have sprouted. It will help hold in the heat and give the seed some protection until the seeds have sprouted and begun to develop roots.

Basil seeds will germinate faster under cover

Any seed will germinate more quickly if you cover the top of the seed tray with clear plastic or a clear lid. I have found that aluminum cake pans with plastic covers work great for starting plants for seed.

If you poke holes in the bottom of the soil’s container and set the pan in a tray of water, your seeds will germinate very quickly.

Bottom watering plants keep you from disturbing the tiny seedlings with a spray from a mister or watering can. Water on a plant’s leaves can cause disease if your plants stay too wet.

Caring for your basil sprouts

A woman planting basil seeds in pot.

Once the seeds have sprouted, remove any cover you have over your basil seedlings so that air can circulate them. You can continue watering your plants from the bottom or lightly from the top. However, please do not get them too wet, or your seeds may rot.

Once your plants have two sets of true leaves, you can transplant them into containers or directly into your garden. Before putting them in full sun, put them into more light every day. The full sun can burn young plants grown indoors, so you need to get your basil seedlings used to the sun slowly.

How to grow basil from seed in containers?

The above method of growing basil seeds in flats works well if you are going to transplant your basil seedlings into pots or directly into the garden. Basil is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes. You can grow basil right alongside it and other plants and vegetables.

However, suppose you will grow and transplant your basil into containers anyway. In that case, you can plant your seed directly in the container and skip a step. Be sure to use a container that will drain, fill it with moistened (not wet) potting soil, and put six to eight seeds in the soil of a four-inch pot, to a depth of a quarter of an inch and about an inch apart.

You can cover the containers with clear plastic wrap, place them in a warm, sunny location, and in a few days, you will have basil seedlings. Once your seeds have sprouted, remove the plastic and keep the seedlings lightly watered.

If you have grown the plants in the sun, they will not need to acclimate before placing them there. However, if they have been in partial shade, move them into the sun slowly over a few days so that they do not wilt and die.

How to grow basil from seed outdoors?

A basil sprout in the garden.

You can sow basil seeds directly into your garden. It will attract pollinators, repel pests, and is a companion plant to tomatoes, peppers, root vegetables, chamomile, oregano, and chives.

It will take six to eight weeks before your basil is ready to harvest, and if you pluck leaves from your plant just before they bloom, the leaves will have a more intense flavor.

If you want to prolong the life of a basil plant, keep the blooms pinched back, and you will be able to harvest a plant a little longer by doing so.

If you sow basil seeds every couple of weeks during the growing season, you will have fresh basil all season long.

Do basil seeds need to be soaked before planting?

You do not need to soak basil seeds in water as you do some plants. However, they will benefit from being soaked in a little warm water twenty-four hours before planting them. In addition, soaking your basil seeds should encourage them to sprout more quickly.

Varieties of Basil you can grow from seed

There is more than one variety of basil, and you can grow any of them from seed. The only one you need to treat differently is Holy Basil, mentioned above.

You should plant and tend all other varieties of basil as mentioned above, depending on whether you are starting plants indoors for transplant, in containers, or direct seeding.

Some of these varieties are culinary, while others are more ornamental. Try several types to give your garden a splash of color and a plant that will draw beneficial insects while repelling the bad ones.

Except for worms, that is. Worms love basil, and you will need to take precautions against them, especially if you are growing your basil outdoors in the garden.

1. Sweet Basil

Sweet basil plant in the garden.

This is a compact variety of basil and is the classic herb most of us are accustomed to, also known as Italian Basil. The plants do well in containers or freely sown in the garden.

2. Genovese

A woman's hand holding a Genovese basil leaf.

Another variety of sweet basil, you can use Genovese basil for pesto and in sauces. Although it looks much like traditional sweet basil, the leaves of Genovese basil are pointier, flatter, and not quite as glossy.

3. Sweet Thai

A Sweet Thai basil in a pot.

This variety has a different appearance than other basil varieties. It has a clove/anise flavor that is a bit spicy. It will grow 16 to 20 inches tall and is a native of Vietnam.

4. Mrs. Burns Lemon

A Mrs. Burns Lemon basil in the garden.

This is a variegated variety of basil and has light green leaves, with splashes of cream across some of the foliage. This basil has a lemony flavor suitable for summer salads and cocktails. So, if you can find a few seeds, this variety will also add to your kitchen choices and is a beautiful plant.

5. Lemon Basil

A Lemon basil in the garden.

With an appearance much like sweet basil, lemon basil has a sweet flavor and a lemony zest. This flavor is an excellent addition to salads, and the aroma makes it great for flower arrangements.

6. Amethyst

An Amethyst basil in the garden.

This is a variety of Genovese basil; however, it has dark purple leaves that are almost black. They are used more as a garnish than as an addition to your recipes. However, their striking color will add to your garden and summer dishes if you learn how to grow basil from seeds.

7. Holy Basil

A Holy basil in the garden.

Many herbs and some spices are used medicinally, which is the role of Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi. It is also a common ingredient in Thai cuisine, as well as in teas.

It is claimed that holy basil can boost the immune system and work as a digestive aid when used medicinally. It has a different appearance than sweet basil, and the leaves are flatter, with a pointed end and sharper, more defined edges.

8. Spicy Bush Basil

A bunch of Spicy Bush basil on table.

This variety of basil has short one-inch leaves. It is more of a decorative type of basil than one used for culinary or medicinal purposes. It is a dome-shaped plant that will grow from 8 to 14 inches.

9. Everleaf Basil

Another low-growing variety of Basil, Everleaf, is slow to bolt (bloom) and has large glossy leaves and a Genovese basil flavor and characteristics.

10. Tuscany Basil

A Tuscany basil in a pot.

The leaf of Tuscany basil looks more like leaf lettuce than basil. The leaves are uniform, but they are puckered and ruffled.

11. Dark Opal Basil

The dark opal basil’s variegated green and purple leaves can be used in flower displays as a visual accent to outside flower and vegetable gardens and garnish.

12. Red Rubin Basil

A dark Red Rubin basil leaf.

Another dark purple variety of Basil, Red Robin, has large dark leaves, a high yield per plant, and an excellent flavor.

13. Dolly Basil

Dolly basil is another Genovese variety that is high yield. It grows compact full plants and is the basil most commonly used for field production. Dolly basil is an excellent choice if you want to produce a large quantity of basil.

14. Cinnamon Basil

A Cinnamon basil in the garden.

This variety of basil is different than typical sweet basil. Its flavor is a bit spicy instead of sweet, and it is an excellent accompaniment to fruit. In addition, it can be used in flower arrangements, as it has a lovely scent and attractive foliage.

This list is just a sample of all the varieties of basil you can grow from seed.

Can I save seed from my basil and grow it next season?

You can if you are not growing hybrid seeds. Unfortunately, many growers have developed hybrid varieties of basil, and you cannot save the seed from these plants and plant them. However, if you have heirloom seeds, you can harvest the seed and keep them for next year.

The seed is in the spent flower. They are black and very, very tiny. Pick out the flower petals and other parts, and you should have nothing left but the seed. Please put them in a bag, seal them and plant them again next season.

Basil and damping off

A dying basil plant in the garden.

Also called root rot, damping off is a fungal disease caused by several microorganisms (fungi) and can potentially kill every basil plant you grow.

It is most common in seedlings and can affect many varieties of vegetable and flower plants. It can kill off all of your plants or just a few and is one of the leading causes of early crop failure.

Damping-off can be caused by soil with the pathogen present or dirty garden tools that cross-contaminate the soil. Insects can also carry the spores of the fungus that cause this disorder.

It is best never to reuse old pots and trays for new seedlings. It is also best to use fresh potting soil to avoid introducing the pathogens that cause damping off.

Damping-off is more likely to occur during cooler weather or on plants with low sun. So whether you are planting basil seed into flats, containers, or directly into the garden, they are all susceptible to this fungus.

Growing basil from seed is easy

Growing basil is one of the easiest plants you will ever start from seed, besides marigolds, perhaps. In addition, having a supply of fresh herbs will save money and give you new ingredients to add to your recipes.

Or, if you choose to grow a variety of basil that works well in flower arrangements, you have that option too. The cost to grow basil from seed is relatively low, considering the return you will get when your plants are ready to start harvesting.


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