How Do You Grow Basil From Seed?
This can be a difficult question to answer for gardeners because of complex factors like temperature, lighting, watering, soil needs, and even the length of the growing season.
This article will help solve this problem with 5 EASY Steps for growing basil from seed indoors.
And I recommend scrolling to the bottom of this page to find answers to the 6 most frequently asked questions most gardeners have when growing basil from seed.
Step #1: Start Basil Seeds Indoors
You should start your basil seeds indoors 8 weeks before the last frost to help minimize the risk of weather, pests, and disease.
- Begin by taking a 3 inch Peat Pot and fill it up to approximately 80% full with Seed Starting Mix. Seed starting mix will provide your basil seeds with the nutrients it needs for the best growth.
- Place your gardening pot into a tray. This will make it easy to move your pots from indoors to your garden and will prevent a mess that can happen from spilled dirty or water that may overflow.
- Next, spray your soil 5 to 8 times with a spray bottle. You will want the soil to be moist, not damp. Moisture promotes seed germination, but damp soil can cause unwanted fungus.
- Then take 2 to 3 basil seeds, plant them 1/8 inch deep (size of a pencil tip) and gently brush the soil over them.
- Then spray again 5 to 8 times until the soil turns a darker shade of brown.
Step #2: Provide the Right Amount of Heat, Light, & Water
Once you initially sow your basil seeds, you then have to provide the right amount of heat, light, and water for 8 straight weeks for your seeds to germinate and plant to grow.
- You should provide your basil seeds 8 hours of light a day by placing it by a sunny window or under a Grow Light (4 inches away from the light) if your windows do not receive enough sunlight. Continue providing 8 hours of sunlight until you transplant your basil seedlings into a vegetable garden.
- Then spray your soil twice a day for approximately 10 days until your seeds germinate or pop through the soil. Continue spraying twice until your basil plant is 3 inches tall (this may take another 2 weeks).
- You will also want to keep the room temperature between 65 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit so that your seeds can turn into plants. If you don’t have an area that will stay that warm, a Heat Mat is a great alternative.
Step #3: Transplant your Basil Seedlings into a Larger Pot (Indoors)!
Once your basil seedlings reach about 3 inches tall you will need to transplant them into a larger pot.
- Before transplanting, you need to take scissors and snip the smallest plants right at the soil line. This will allow the healthier basil plant to grow to its full potential.
- Next, take a 5 gallon pot, fill it 80% full with potting mix and then dig a hole 3 inches deep (the size of your basil plant).
- Then place it in your 5 gallon pot and fill it with soil. The soil should go no higher than the base of the basil plant (where the plant meets the roots).
- Spray the soil 5 to 10 times until the soil turns dark.
- Leave your basil plant in this pot and continue to spray it once a day (for 5 to 10 times) until the last chance of frost. Also, continue to keep it in sunlight for 8 hours a day and at temperatures of 65- 70 degrees fahrenheit.
Step #4: Introduce your Basil Outdoors
Introducing your basil outdoors is what most beginner gardeners miss, but it is critical to your success.
- For about two weeks, you will want to slowly introduce your basil outside.
- On the first day, you will want to place your basil outside (in pots) for approximatley 2 hours. Each day thereafter, place the basil outside for an houror an additional hour until you build up to 6 straight hours. Don’t forget to bring your basil inside if there is a frost or if there is poor weather like strong winds that can destroy your plant.
Step #5: Transplant Basil Plants into a Herb Garden
Once the last frost of the year has happened you can transplant your Tomates outside. Never do it before because you risk your plant quickly dying.
- About 1 month before you plan on transplanting your basil into a garden, dig holes in an area that will receive at least 8 hours of light. Dig the hole about 8 inches deep and fill it 30% full with compost. Space the holes 12 – 18 inches apart to promote full growth.
- After the last frost transplant your basil into the garden by simply turning over your gardening pot, pinching the bottom of the pot, and slowly pulling your plant out. Place your basil plant into the hole and fill it with garden soil (to where the soil meets the base of the plant). It is also beneficial to add a 6 inch layer of mulch around your plant.
- Immediately after you transplant your basil outside add Plant Food and water the soil for about 30 seconds.
- Finally, water your basil once a day for about 30 seconds in the morning or evening to minimize the chance of evaporation. Continue doing this every day until you harvest your basil mid-summer.
Frequently Asked Questions (6 Questions)
#1. What type of Basil Variety Seeds Should I use?
There are four types of seeds that can be used to grow basil; heirloom, organic, hybrid, and GMO.
I recommend using heirloom or hybrid basil seeds. Gardeners do not have access to GMO seeds and organic seeds are a marketing term and not truly a type of seed.
A. Heirloom Basil
- Heirloom basil seeds contain basil’s original traits, meaning it will produce some of the most beautiful and best tasting basil out there.
- The downside of this type of seed is that it is the costliest (due to its rarity). In addition, expect the least amount of yield from this type of seed due to the susception of disease and other elements.
B. Hybrid Basil
- Hybrid basil seeds were made by combining the genes of the same group of plants. This is not a bad thing. The goal with hybrids is to produce a plant that contains the best features of both parent plants.
- This type of seed is what most gardeners use when learnings how to grow basil from seed and is critical if you want the most resistant plant against mother nature’s elements, insects, and diseases or want the most yield.
#2. What are the BEST Types of Basil to Grow from Seed?
1. Sweet Basil
Sweet Basil is the most common basil in the entire world. This is typically what you see in your average grocery store.
This type of basil is great in pestos, salads, and marinades.
Sweet Basil is an annual herb that grows 12 to 18 inches and is ready 60-90 days after planting your seeds.
Best of all is that you can grow this basil in a pot, raised garden bed, and traditional garden.
Genovese Basil is also known as classic Italian basil. This is another popular basil among chefs and gardeners.
Genovese basil has a stronger flavor that is bolder and sweeter than most basil.
This basil can be used with olive oil, pesto, and on salads.
This type of basil is an annual herb that grows 18 to 24 inches. It also is ready to pick 60-90 days after you plant your seeds.
Thai Sweet Basil is famous for its spicy, licorice flavor it adds to Asian dishes.
One of the biggest advantages of sweet Thai basil is that it retains its flavor in high temperatures.
This type of basil is an annual herb that grows to be 14 inches high. It takes 60-90 days to mature and is perfect for small pots and gardens.
4. Purple Basil
“Purple” Basil has a beautiful, dark burgundy color.
This type of basil is not as sweet as other basil types, but it has a stronger clove.
The leaves of this herb are perfect to be added to vinegar and dishes.
This type of purple basil is an annual herb that grows to 10-12 high. Like the other basil on this list, it can be picked 60-90 after seeds have been planted.
5. Lemon Basil
Lemon Basil is another popular type that is used in numerous restaurants across the world.
You will typically find this in big box stores and nurseries.
Lemon Basil tastes like sweet basil, but with a slight lemon taste.
Most gardeners use this type of basil with fish, salads, and garnishes.
This type of basil is an annual herb that grows 12-18 inches tall. It also can be picked 60-90 days after seeds have been sowed.
#3. What Type of Fertilizer Should I Use for My Basil?
The Best type of fertilizer for basil is compost.
And if you don’t have the time or ability to create compost then I recommend buying Peat Moss or Plant Food for your basil.
- What I like about this product is that you only have to apply it once every 3 months and it contains natural ingredients and micronutrients that support root strength and plant development.
- In addition, the benefit of compost, peat moss, or plant food is that it will provide you basil will the nitrogen that is critical to plant growth and an abudance of basil.
#4. What Type of Soil Should I Use for My Basil Plants?
If you will be keeping your basil plants in containers all year then you will want a well-draining potting mix that provides the correct amount of nutrients like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.
If you will be planting your basil into a garden then you will want to add a nutritious garden soil mix into the ground, such as Miracle-Gro Expand N Gro.
And as an added bonus I highly recommend adding a 6-inch layer of mulch around your basil plant (whether in the ground or in a pot) to help minimize evaporation, fungus, and diseases.
#5. How Do I Care for my Basil Plants Once They Begin Growing?
Below are caring tips for your basil throughout the summer:
- Keep Your Soil Healthy – Quickly inspect your soil for fungus, harmful worms, and weeds before you plant and throughout the summer. Remove and replace it with new soil as needed.
- Mulch – Mulch around your plants with compost at the beginning of the year. Using mulch will minimize evaporation and protect your basil plants from fungus, disease, and weather.
- Water the soil, not the plants. By watering leaves you increase the risk of spreading fungus and other diseases. And increase the risk of evaporation.
- Remove diseased and dead plants. This is the easiest way to prevent the spread of deadly diseases. If you notice yellow spots on leaves it means you have blight fungus and will want to remove the leaves.
- Plants your basil at a new spot yearly. This is key to preventing seasonal diseases and insects from attacking the same plants year in and year out.
- Prevent Insects. The best way to prevent them is through an insecticide. If you don’t want spider mites, stink bugs, or Japanese beetles ruining all your hard work I recommend purchasing Sevin Bug Killer.
- Related: How to Get Rid of Aphids on Basil
#6. When do I Harvest Basil?
Below, are several tips to remember when harvesting basil:
- Harvest Basil 8 to 12 weeks after planting.
- Leave your basil on the vine as long as possible. This will allow them to ripen the most effective way and retain their flavor.
- You will want to pick your basil when the whole fruit is solid red and firm. Firmly hold the fruit as the stem with one hand and the stem with another. Twist the basil and gently pull away from the plant.
- If insects are eating your basil before they fully ripen it is okay to pick them when they are orange colored and place on your windowsill.
- For some basil, the time to harvest is right around frost. My recommendation is to harvest your basil before the first frost, even if they are not fully ready. Frost will immediately kill your plants and basil.