Growing basil is about as easy as gardening gets. It can be grown from seed indoors or outdoors, in pots or directly sown into the garden.
The only caveat is warmth. Basil needs six to eight hours of sunlight each day, so if growing indoors, a sunny windowsill is perfect.
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For an earlier harvest, start basil seeds indoors about four to six weeks before the date of the last expected frost. Plant the seed thinly in containers, enough for a few seedlings in each. Place the container in a warm place until germination takes place about 7 days after the initial planting.
Some gardeners cover the container with plastic wrap until the plants emerge for a mini greenhouse effect. Transplant to your garden when the plants are 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) high.
Basil likes warm weather (at least 70 degrees F/21 C), so plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. A well dug, fertile seed bed is essential for basil plants outdoors, while potted basil needs a good organic potting soil.
If starting basil outside, choose a sunny spot that is sheltered from any cool springtime winds. Sprinkle the seed on the soil, and then lightly cover with more soil and water gently. Basil seed planted outside take longer to germinate than those started indoors.
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Once the basil plant has begun to sprout and develop leaves, you will want add mulch to the base to help retain moisture and also to keep down garden weeds. Keep the soil moist (don’t ever let it dry out), but not wet.
Pinch off the flower buds when they start to emerge to help the plant become more bushy and full. Use a liquid organic garden fertilizer biweekly for the first two months of growth and once monthly near harvest time.
One of the secrets for high and bushy basil plants lies in the frequency of harvest. It’s best to wait until the plant has four to six sets of leaves, and then harvest those leaves (whenever their size suits you), also cutting the stem off right above the second set of leaves. Though this seems drastic, done every three weeks or so this will lead to bigger plants with more leaves.
Whenever flower buds emerge, cut them before they open.
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If you will be using freshly harvested basil within a short period of time, you can place it in a glass of water and cover it with a plastic bag. Basil stored in this manner will keep for seven to ten days. Change the water in the glass daily. It is best not to refrigerate the glass, as basil is susceptible to cold.
Freezing basil will conserve its usefulness for up to a year. You can either freeze the leaves in a plastic bag or freeze them after blending in a food processor with a small amount of water.
Any leftover basil seeds are viable for two to three years.
The following pests and diseases have been known to affect the success of growing Basil. For more information about preventing and controlling them, see Organic Garden Pest Control.
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