Thursday, September 16, 2021

Growing Basil - Homesteading 101

Basil is a warm-season tender herb with soft stems and leaves.  It's popular for many reasons.  It makes the perfect partner for tomatoes, not only in the garden where its strong scent may confuse predatory insect pests but also chopped and sprinkled on thick slices of juicy tomatoes, still warm from the sun.

Basil with a bowl of tomatoes

Popular types of Basil

Christmas Basil Height: 16-20"

This basil will add a fruity flavor to salads and drinks.  It has glossy green leaves and purple flowers.

Cinnamon Basil Height 25-30"

This basil has a delightful fragrance and spicy flavor.  It has dark purple stems and flowers and small glossy leaves.  It's used in fresh arrangements and in fruit salads and as garnishes.

Dark Opal Basil Height 14-20"

Spicy basil in salads, in pesto and as garnishes.  Purple stems, flowers, and leaves.

Holy Basil Height 12-14"

The leaves are used to make tea for boosting your immune system.  Mottled green and purple leaves.

Lemon Basil Height 20-24"

Lemon basil is used in fish dishes and iced tea.  Light green leaves with white flowers.

Lime Basil Height 12-16"

Lime basil is a compact basil with green leaves and white flowers.  It's used with fresh fish and chicken dishes, teas and margaritas.

Purple Ruffle Basil Height 16-20"

This basil has the same flavor as Opal basil and is used for floral arrangements and garnishes.

Sweet Basil Height 14-30"

Sweet Basil is used in Italian sauces and soups and for making pesto.  It's more prolific in hot sunny locations.

Sweet Tai Basil Height 12-16"

An Asian variety with a distinct spicy anise-clove flavor.  Purple stems and blooms with green leaves.

Basil Seedlings in small blue pots

Starting Basil from Seed

Seed Longevity:                                      5 years. 
Seed Sowing Depth:                               Just cover.
Days to harvest:                                      60-90 days.
Best Soil Temp for Germination:             75-85 degrees.
Days to Germination:                               5-10 days.

Spring Sowing                                    

Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.  Plant out after all danger of frost has passed.

Direct Sowing

Direct sow seeds straight into the garden after the danger of frost has passed.  

Milk Jugs used as winter sowing seed containers   

Winter Sowing

If you haven't tried winter sowing, you're in for a treat.  This method is especially good for sowing herbs.  Winter sowing is basically sowing seeds in the bottom of milk jugs in the winter, setting the milk jugs outside for the winter and leaving them there until the seeds germinate in the Spring.

For our article containing detailed information about Winter Sowing, click here.

Growing Basil

Plant size:                                          See list above.
Growing Soil Temperature:                75-85 degrees. 
Spacing:                                             4-8" apart.
Container Size:                                  16"-18" diameter.
Soil:                                                    Well-drained, moderately rich and loose.
Watering:                                            Light and even.
Light/Sun:                                           Full sun  6-8 hours.

Good Companions:                           Pepper, tomatoes.
Bad Companions:                             Beans, cabbage, cucumbers.

If grown in rich soil, none.  Otherwise, light fertilizer one time during the growing season.

Scissors snipping off basil cutting from plant

Basil Cuttings

Take a 4" long cutting from a stem that hasn't flowered yet.  Remove the leaves from the bottom 2" and place in water on a windowsill.  After the roots are 2" long, usually 2-4 weeks, pot in soil and continue to grow.  

Harvesting Basil

Use fresh basil leaves any time.  Basil is at its peak flavor then the buds are about to blossom.  

Harvest the whole plant before frost, preferably in the morning.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Harvesting Basil Seeds

Wait until the stem or seed pods turn brown.  When the seeds are viable, they will be black in color.

Basil plant growing in a pot

Storing Basil

Bouquet Storage  

Clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Trim the end of the stems and remove any wilted or browned leaves.  Place the Basil into a Mason jar or clear glass with 1" of water like a bouquet of flowers.  Leave at room temperature.


For best results, use frozen Basil within one year.
By freezing herbs, you will lose some of the herb's texture but preserve the flavor.
Here are some suggestions for freezing:

Whole Leaf Freeze

Remove the stems.  Blanch the leaves for 2 seconds, then dunk in ice water bath.  Dry completely and store in freezer bags.

Ice Cube Trays

Remove the stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Puree one cup of basil with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Freeze the pureed basil in ice cube trays firmly packed 3/4 full.  Transfer frozen cubes into a labeled freezer bag to store.

Flat Freezer Bag

Remove stems, clean and thoroughly dry the Basil.  Chop herb into 1/2" pieces, place in a labeled freezer bag. Squeeze out the air, lay flat and freeze.


Basil does not dry well.

Using Basil

Basil's rich, spicy flavor, likened to pepper with a hint of mint and cloves, works wonders in pesto, tomato sauces, salads, cheese dishes, eggs, stews, vinegars and all sorts of vegetables.  You'll find basil used often in Italian and Thai foods.

Growing your own herbs is fun, easy, more healthy than the herbs shipped to grocery stores, and what's best, saves you tons of money! Try it today.

To view the other herb articles in our culinary herb series, click on the herb name below.

Where to go next!

Great Garden Articles -- Full List!
Follow us on Pinterest!
Back to Our Blog Homepage!

This post may contain some Amazon Associate links meaning that I will get a small compensation at no expense to you if you purchase something from this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Popular Posts