Every year, we try to grow basil from scratch. The kids get a kick out of it, and hubby and I like to use it in our meals. This may seem like a simple task, but growing basil from seed and having it survive into a full-grown plant can be more challenging than you may expect! So, I thought it was important to document how to grow basil from seed indoors, so here we go.
What You Need to grow basil from seed indoors:
There are many ways you can do this, but to keep it kid-friendly and contain some of the mess, we use the following:
- Plastic dome. You can use old muffin containers or buy a plastic dome at the local dollar store. We like the premade ones as they work well with item #2 below.
- Soil – Loose or dried pucks work. The kids have a blast watching the pucks expand, so we go this route.
- Seeds – We eat a lot of basil, so we focus on just that. But oregano and thyme are also good to grow.
- 5-10 minutes to seed, weeks to grow.
Step-by-step – how to grow basil
Wet the Soil pucks
Open the dome and place the pucks inside. Add water and wait. The pucks will start to expand. They start off about 1/4 inch thick and end up being 2-inches high.
This is neat to watch as an adult. But for kids, watching them start to understand that the soil inside is super dry and when wet, it expands makes their eyes pop in amazement. That is even more fun to watch.
Keep adding water until the pucks are fully grown, about 2″ in height. Then, add a bit more water to keep the whole system wet.
Just Wetted Pucks
Moderately Wet Pucks
Fully Wetted Pucks
Add Basil Seeds to Soil
Put the basil seeds into each puck. From years of doing this, I find it is best to put multiple seeds into each puck. This will help some catch. But do not overdo it, as you do not want too many.
Seal it up, and now you wait!
And That’s It! Your Basil will start to grow!
Questions about Growing Basil
Why Should I Grow Basil?
Basil is a wonderful herb to eat as it adds amazing flavor to food. Nothing beats fresh basil on a meal. It works great with any Italian dish, like homemade pizza or pasta. It can be made into sauces like pesto and it works great as a garnish on desserts.
Is it hard to grow Basil?
Growing basil is easy. We do it every year. All it needs is sunlight and water.
What Kind of Basil to Grow?
There are many different kinds of basil. I’ve listed a few below. But if you are just starting out, and not familiar with all the varieties, I would recommend starting with Sweet Basil.
How Many Different Basil varieties are there?
There are over 50 types of basil, but you will not be able to buy seeds for all of them. The most popular ones that you will find at the grocery store or the gardening center are:
- Sweet Basil – This is the most common basil, and is used on pizza and pasta.
- Genovese Basil – This basil is very similar to Sweet Basil and interchangeable with it.
- Dark Opal Basil – This is spicy basil that is purple.
- Lemon Basil – As the name suggests, it has a hint of lemon in the flavor.
- Lime Basil – Similar to the above, this basil has a hint of lime in the flavor.
- Christmas Basil – A fancy-looking basil that works well with drinks and salads.
- Cinnamon Basil – This is spicy basil, that works well with fruit salads.
When do you start growing basil?
If your intention is to have your basil be moved outdoors, the best time to start growing is mid/late March. This will allow the plant enough time to grow before being transplanted outside after the frost has passed.
If you intend to keep your basil indoors all the time, you can plan your seeds any time of year.
Should I soak basil seeds before growing them?
No, there is no need to soak the seeds. Once the seeds are planted and hydrated, they will start to grow.
How do i know if my basil seeds are growing?
Basil is really neat when you plant it. It almost instantly starts to grow. Within seconds of getting wet, the seeds expand and grow hairs on the shell.
How often do you water basil?
Basil likes moisture. When the seeds have just started to grow you want to make sure the soil is always moist. When the plant is larger, water every day or two.
If you transplant your basil in a hot and sunny area outside, it will need to be watered daily. Otherwise, every 2-3 days will work.
Your basil will start to wilt if it is short on water. You can visibly notice this. If the basil is wilting, add water right away.
Do i need a dome on my basil, and When do I remove it?
Using a dome on top of the basil seeds helps keep the temperature and humidity inside the planter constant. This helps the plants grow. You do not need it, but I find it really helps for the first two weeks.
Once the seedlings start growing and are about an inch in height, you can remove the lid during the day. Start with short time intervals, and increase as the days go on.
Once the seedlings are touching the top of the dome, it is time to remove it .
When to do you transplant basil outside?
Before you transplant your basil outside you need to make sure that the days and nights no longer have any frost. Ideally, the temperature should be above 4C or 39F at night.
Typically this is mid to late spring.
How do you transplant basil outside?
If you started growing your basil indoors and want to move it outdoors, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Once the weather improves outside and is warm (about 10C or 50F), they can go outdoors (under the dome) for incrementally longer durations. Do not leave them in the direct sunlight.
Putting the plant into direct sunlight for the full day, without hardening it, will burn the leaves and kill the plant. You want to gradually increase sun exposure over several days until the plant has acclimatized to the sun. Start off with an hour or 2, and increase as the week progresses.
Do not leave the plant outside overnight on the first few days.
The seedlings will start to get stronger and thicker, and soon they will be able to stay outside all day. Make sure to bring them inside if there is still frost outdoors or if the temperature is below 4C or 39F.
If your basil is in a pot and will be staying in a pot, simply move the plant from a shady area to a sunny area.
If you plan on planting your basil in the garden, and not in a pot, it also needs to acclimatize. Simply keep it in the small containers until it has been outside for several days, and then transplant it into the ground.
Should I plant my basil in a pot or in the ground?
This is entirely up to you. The plant will grow and thrive better in the ground, but not everyone has that luxury. A pot works just as well.
I prefer to have mine in pots so I can move them around the garden and change up the decor.
Where to plant basil
Basil likes direct sunlight for most of the day, so anywhere warm and sunny is best.
How long does basil live?
If you plant basil before the spring, it will survive the whole summer, so 4-5 months of warm weather.
How do you prune basil?
Once the basil is fully grown, it will start to flower. When this happens, it is time to start pruning back the plant. This means that you want to cut or rip off the flowering part. You can cut below the last large leaves under the flower. This will prevent the basil from flowering and causing the plant to die.
What happens if I don’t prune my basil?
If you don’t prune the basil the flowers will continue to grow, and overtake the plant. The leaves that are on the plant will still be edible, but they will have a slightly different taste, more bitter. And this is the beginning of the end for the basil plant.
Can you eat basil leaves while the plant is still growing?
Yes, you can! You can pull off leave while the plant is growing. Just don’t pull them all off. Using several at a time is fine. The plant will keep growing so long as you don’t take too many leaves off.
This is one of the great aspects about basil you can start to enjoy eating it once the plant is small-to-medium size and keep eating it all season long.
How to harvest Basil
During the growing season of the basil, you can simply pull off leaves and use them.
At the end of the season, you can cut the plant at the roots. Then, simply hang the plant upside down and let it dry out. Make sure to have a sheet or a mesh under it to catch any leaves that fall. Once all the leaves are dry, you can collect them, crush them, and put them in a spice container to use all winter long.
How long to the plastic domes last?
I often talk about not being wasteful and buying one-off things that you can make, but these domes and pucks really make children excited. And for the $2 it cost at the local dollar store, it is worth it. They will reuse these domes for years to come, and now I do not have to share my 15-year-old dome with them anymore.
Toilet Paper Rolls for planting basil
If you are not a fan of using plastic containers to grow the seeds, you can use toilet paper rolls. Simply fold the bottom of the tube, insert soil and add the seeds. These can then be planted directly in a larger pot or the garden at a later time. But these still need some sort of tray to hold the water. You can use a baking dish, a Tupperware container or anything that will hold all the rolls together and keep water at the bottom of the rolls.
How Basil Looks through different stages of growth
Below are some progress updates on my grow herbs from scratch tutorial.
Basil 2 Days Growth
Basil 3 Day Growth
Basil 4 Days Growth
Basil 5 Day Growth
Basil 9 Days Growth
The seedlings have gown so big that the dome no longer covers them.
Basil 12 Day Growth
You can notice the seedlings are growing to the right as my window is on the right side of them.
Basil 13 Days Growth
I have started to rotate the trays so they get more even distribution to the sun and grow up instead of on an angle.
Basil 4 Weeks Growth
Basil 2 Months Growth
Basil 4 Months Growth
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