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How to Grow Basil in a Raised Garden Bed (Including What Not To Do)

Basil leaves will add a balance of sweet, savory, and mint flavors to your recipe. You might want to grow basil on your own but don't know where to start. Growing basil in a raised bed is a lot easier than you think. Here's how to grow basil in a raised bed.

Steps for growing basil in raised garden bed

Growing basil in a raised bed is easier than you think. Basil is a hardy herb that adds both lush greenery and a sweet fragrance to your outdoor garden. It is an herb you almost don’t want to harvest because its scent is as stunning as its leaves. You change your mind after you have put fresh basil on pizza for the first time, though.

Gardening basil in a raised bed is both rewarding and satisfying in so many ways. It’s easier to do in a raised bed than you may think. Learn more about how to grow basil in a raised bed here.

Starting the Basil

A basil sprouts and seeds in small cups.

Most avid gardeners will want to start their basil indoors approximately six weeks before they plan on bringing the basil to their raised beds. You want to time your six-week mark of planting around the last frost of spring. For most gardeners in seasonal climates, that means the planting outside in the raised beds typically starts by the end of May.

You can start your seeds in small pots or containers or even start growing basil in water from cuttings from the grocery store. To start, sow them just under the top of the soil, with soil from one-sixth inch to one-quarter inch deep. You will see your basil seedlings sprout through the top of the soil, and they will have approximately two pairs of leaves on them.

Your seedlings will become plants that are between 10 and 12 inches in height to start. When they reach this height, it is safe to bring them outdoors. If you are also growing tomatoes, growing them together can be helpful. You will be able to see the height of the plants grow together. They pair well together in the raised bed as well.

What You Need to Grow Basil in a Raised Garden Bed

When you are trying to plant basil in a raised garden bed, there are a few things you need. Basil is hardy and needs the same things that every plant does – sun, water, and good soil that drains well. One thing that basil needs a little more of than some other plants is additional moisture.

Direct Sun

A basil plants in the garden with abundance of sunlight.

Direct sun is preferred for basil that is outdoors, with basil needing at least eight hours daily. If it has more sun than that, that is okay unless the climate is warm year-round. Then you want to put the basil in some shade or in a place where there will be shade for a few hours.

Warmth

Heat is important to basil, and it’s not the same as putting basil in direct sunlight. Basil needs to be warm. You can’t get it out before that last frost has arrived, or it is game over. It is tempting to get basil out earlier, but you don’t want to do that. The best temperature for basil is in the 80-degree Fahrenheit zone. Any kind of cold, whether it is the soil or the climate, will be damaging to the basil.

You will notice that basil is not handling temperatures well if the leaves begin to darken or there appears to be some damage. It is always very possible for the weather in spring to be fussy, so you really want to wait until that last frost has been and gone. If not, you can always take steps to cover the plants.

Basil is very easy to grow, but you do have to watch the temperature. It really needs the heat to grow into something beautiful. The key is to ensure that your soil is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the warmer, the better. The best temperature for the soil is closer to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want the soil to be lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the evening.

Moisture

A healthy basil plants in the raised beds.

Moisture is also key when it comes to basil.  Basil needs to be in moist soil that is consistently moistened. It is very easy to know this, and over-water the plant, and thus drown it, which will lead to root rot. This won’t happen when the basil is rooting in water. Growing basil in water and overwatering it is two different things. 

So long as the soil feels moist, you are good. You don’t want it to feel soaked. Basil likes to be drained well as a result, which is why raised beds are the ideal solution for basil plants. Here you will have perfect drainage and also the ideal environment for the raised bed to provide warmth to your basil.

Location, Location Location

A woman planting matured basil plant in the garden.

Choosing the location of your raised bed is important, as warmth and direct sunlight are important to your basil. Your basil will do better with as much sunlight as possible when it is outside. Basil prefers the morning and early afternoon sun, as this warms up the basil well before the late afternoons and evenings get cool.

Your watering plan should be included in your location planning. You want your basil to be well irrigated with moist soil that nourishes it and keeps it happy. It is okay to get a little obsessed about watering a lot early in the seedling days of the basil.

You won’t need to water as much as the seedlings get older and more established. Watering weekly is okay, but every other day or few days works as well when it is not raining.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch

Mulching is always a good idea when you are planning raised beds. It adds to the aesthetic appeal of your raised beds, but it also provides an important layer of warmth for your basil. Mulch covers up the root system to retain warmth for plants that need it. But it also helps you to preserve enough moisture for your basil.

A key reason gardeners mulch is to conserve water for the soil and plant. Mulch is also used to regulate the temperatures of raised beds, regardless of what you are planting here. Another key benefit of mulching is to avoid weeds as much as possible. Mulch will strangle weeds and prevent them from growing somewhat.

You will still need to perform this chore, but you will find that with mulch, the chore is a little easier. You can add mulch to your raised beds and also potted plants on the inside.

Now You Are Growing Basil

A hand prunes a basil plant with a plant scissor.

Now you are growing basil located in your raised mulched beds with well-drained soil in the direct sunlight for hours on end every day. You are going to start thinking about how to babysit the basil so that you can harvest it into something delicious one day soon. As it grows and flowers, you can cut it back and prune it back in order to encourage the growth of the plant.

Pinching and pruning is an important component of growing basil in raised beds. The more you prune, the more basil your plants will produce. You can pinch the basil back and take flowers off as recommended.

However, the flowers are attractive to pollinators and may help your basil bloom even more. Still, pinching the flowers off is going to lead to a more fragrant flavor of basil, and that is typically why many gardeners choose to garden it to begin with.

You want to prune the flowers back off of the basil, or the basil will be signaled to stop producing and growing. You can feed the basil with fertilizer in order to help the basil flower grow bigger. Slow-release fertilizers are useful for basil and provide a steady stream of nutrients for the basil.

If you want more basil from your current crop, you can also work on cutting and growing more basil from the basil plants that you are growing in your raised beds. Basil is an ideal plant to create succession plants because it is easy to populate from cuttings.

How to Create a Raised Bed

A basil plants in wooden raised beds.

Your raised bed needs to be in direct sunlight, and it needs to be on level ground. It is always best to level the ground before you install or construct your raised bed. You want to keep the raised beds away from trees, or the raised beds will interfere with the existing root system of the trees. Not only will the raised beds compete with the roots, but it will also make the area too shady for the basil.

If you need to remove grass for the raised bed, do so well before you install it. That will help to make the bed level enough for you to plant.

You want the bed to be at least three feet wide, but four feet wide is ideal. This gives your basil room to grow and flourish and also keeps it within arm’s length when you are pruning, watering, and mulching. You don’t want to put the bed against a fence for that reason. The most ideal raised bed is one that has room to walk around. You can reach either side of it at any time.

The Depth of Your Raised Bed

The depth of your raised bed should be at least one foot deep. This gives your raised bed plenty of room for developing roots. This depth is ideal for keeping the basil warm as well. If your raised bed is three feet or more narrower, you will not need to walk over the soil to tamp it down. This allows the roots to grow in loose soil and freely without entangling with plants side by side.

You also want to consider adding some chicken wire or some hardware cloth. This will prevent animals from getting in and ruining all your work. Your raised bed should be mixed well with soil, compost, and fertilizer. This ensures the most drainage of soil and the best possible environment for your basil.

When you are planting in raised beds, you can space the basil plants a little closer together than you would if they were on the ground in your garden. You aren’t going to need walking space here, so you can plant them almost as close together as you want.

Watering Your Basil

A soaker hose in an empty raised beds.

There are many different irrigation systems that you can work on to grow basil. A soaker hose is a common one, as it is affordable and easy to implement. A drip irrigation system is another form of irrigation that will help you to maintain your basil bed without too much worry about watering.

Irrigation systems can be as complex as you want or as simple as you want. Some gardeners like using a hose and watering every night. Others don’t mind spending the money on systems they don’t need to think about.

Types of Basil

A hand holding a Genovese basil leaves.

When you are looking for basil to plant, you will see there are many types of basil. If you are new to basil planting, it can feel overwhelming to choose the right kind. Genovese basil is the traditional kind of basil that has large leaves and can grow as high as three feet. Lemon and lime basil is a popular kind of basil for those that like citrus. It adds a very snappy kick to any meal.

Thai basil and spicy globe basil is for the spice lover. This is a smaller plant that is a little more compact and is enjoyed in your spicier dishes or treats. A little Thai basil on your salad on a summer’s day is a treat you will want to enjoy in those moments of escape in your backyard oasis. This is great basil on pasta as well.

Pesto basil or pesto pepetuo is also very popular, and this is smaller basil with more varied leaves.  This basil works beautifully on pasta, salad, but also pizza, and bruschetta bread. The flavor and aroma here is out of this world. The seeds and plants are a little more difficult to find but are worth the search and expense. A little research will go a long way towards affordability here.