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How to Grow Basil in a Home Garden: An Illustrated Guide

Basil is a delicious herb that I enjoy putting on pizza or cooking into a pesto sauce. The herb is low in saturated fat and very low in cholesterol and sodium and provides protein, vitamin E, riboflavin, niacin, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. Basil grows easily in warm, sunny weather. Plus fresh basil tastes so much better than dried varieties, although you can dry your homegrown basil for later use.

To grow basil in a home garden, start by preparing your soil. Basil needs soil that drains well. I prefer to grow my basil in containers, but I make sure that the bottoms of my containers have plenty of holes for drainage. Basil also requires full sun and temperatures above 70° during the day and 50° at night. You can start your basil seeds inside during the late winter months and early spring, but do not move your plants outside until the weather is consistently warm. Cooler temperatures may harm your basil, and frost will kill the tender plants.

Soil in Container Planting Basil Seeds

The most common recommendation for growing basil is to plant the seeds at least a couple inches apart. However, I have had good luck with simply sprinkling my seeds into my containers. I had a lot of fairly tall basil plants in a single pot. However, if you want really large basil plants, then plant the seeds about 10 inches apart to allow the plants to grow and bush. You can also thin out the basil once the seedlings emerge. Water the seeds immediately after planting. In cooler weather, water your basil every other day. In warmer weather, water every day. Make sure the soil does not dry out but is not saturated either.

Small Basil Seedlings Larger Basil Seedlings

Begin pinching the tops off your basil plants once the plants grow to about six inches tall. If you do not pinch the tops off regularly, your basil will grow quickly and bolt to seed. Continue harvesting the basil leaves as soon as enough grow for the plant to have some to spare. Harvest your basil leaves throughout the growing season. Basil is a tender plant and will die following the first frost of the fall. If you want to continue growing fresh basil during the fall and winter, move your containers inside. But remember that basil needs full sunlight to grow, so place the container in a sunny window or use a grow light.

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Two Medium Basil Plants Two Large Basil Plants

What tips do you have for growing basil in a home garden?

For recipe ideas, try my basil pizza with zucchini or hearty tomato basil and black bean soup.

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Image Credits

Soil in Container © 2013 Heather Johnson
Planting Basil Seeds © 2013 Heather Johnson
Small Basil Seedlings © 2013 Heather Johnson
Larger Basil Seedlings © 2013 Heather Johnson
Two Medium Basil Plants © 2013 Heather Johnson
Two Large Basil Plants © 2013 Heather Johnson

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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