Growing Basil From Seeds Is Easy With Our Handy Gardening Guide

If you're a food lover, it can be hard to imagine a good meal without the intoxicating pops of concentrated flavor that only fresh herbs can provide. One particularly popular (and pungent) herb is vibrant, leafy green basil. A staple of Italian cooking, basil is often used to lend its sweet, aromatic, subtlety spicy flavor to foods like pasta sauce, pesto, pizza, or caprese salad. Even cocktails — like the basil gimlet and the Irish jig — utilize basil for its unique herbal flavor.

Summer is the best time to grow basil from seed directly in your garden or in outdoor pots. However, you can grow basil from seed indoors at any time of year as long as you provide it with ideal germination conditions. Consider this your gardening guide to growing and taking care of your very own basil from seed. How you'll prepare your eventual harvest of the delicious herb, of course, is up to you. 

Selecting and planting your basil seeds

Basil comes in a stunning number of varieties, but the easiest to grow and most readily available for purchase is sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil. Once you've acquired your seeds, you'll need to decide between starting the seeds indoors and transplanting them outdoors or into a larger pot later or planting them directly into the ground. Starting your seeds indoors has both advantages and disadvantages; the seedlings will be farther along when they reach your garden, but they'll also be more likely to bolt (go to seed prematurely).

If you decide to start your basil seeds indoors, you'll need a cell pack tray or alternative tiny containers with drainage. Plant two or three seeds ¼ inch deep in each cell in a light, well-draining potting or seed-starting soil mix that has been pre-moistened with water. Cover the planted seeds with plastic wrap or place them inside plastic bags for increased humidity. Place them in a sunny windowsill or under grow lights — watering regularly — for about seven weeks and then transplant your seedlings into the garden.

Planting basil seeds directly in your garden is much simpler. Just wait until the soil is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit and add some compost to a sunny location. Plant the basil seeds ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Gently water the seeds and keep the soil consistently moist as they grow into seedlings over the sext several weeks. 

Caring for your basil seedlings

Whether you plant your basil seeds indoors or outdoors, they will take about two weeks to germinate. Once seedlings have emerged, be sure to provide them with at least 1 ½ inches of water each week, providing more water if the soil feels dry. If you sowed your seeds directly into the ground, as the seedlings grow, you'll eventually need to trim them to ensure proper airflow between plants. Once a few sets of true leaves have developed on each plant, cut them back to the point that 8 to 10 inches of open space exists between each pair.

For seedlings started indoors, you can ensure proper airflow by pointing a fan at the plants to create a gentle breeze. When the seedlings are 6 to 8 weeks old, you can transplant them into your garden or into a larger pot. Just keep in mind that outdoor potted basil tends to require more water and will benefit from regular feeding, especially when kept indoors.