Fresh Basil Getty 4/24/20

What’s better than a vibrant, flavorful, and refreshing pesto? Pesto (or anything, really) made with basil you grew yourself. Here’s how to easily plant and grow basil in your kitchen or in your garden: 

What Is Basil?

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

Basil in pot Getty 4/24/20

Basil is an aromatic culinary herb. It’s most commonly served fresh, as cooking quickly destroys the herb’s strong, peppery flavor.

Sweet basil—the most common type—is an important ingredient in Meditterranean (particularly Italian) cuisines.

Other varieties you may encounter are lemon, purple, and Thai basils. 

The main ingredient in pesto, basil is also often used in pastas, pizzas, salads, soups, and more. 

When to Plant Basil

Child planting basil Getty 4/24/20

A summer herb, basil thrives in warm temperatures. If you’re growing from seed, you’ll want to start it indoors. Plant seeds about a month before the last frost of spring so they’re ready to go as soon as warm weather comes around. Wait until the plant has a few sets of leaves before transplanting. 

How to Grow Basil Indoors

Basil inside Getty 4/24/20

Many professional chefs and home cooks, for the sake of convenience, choose to grow basil plants right in their own kitchens.

If you’re serious about indoor gardening, you may want to consider investing in a high-tech indoor/outdoor self-watering garden—this’ll allow you to grow your favorite herbs in your home all year long. 

Home Depot self-watering garden

Buy it! Home Depot, $199

However, that’s certainly not required for the average herb enthusiast. Choose containers (one with a 6-inch diameter, like this one, is perfect) with holes on the bottom for drainage. 

  1. Pack containers with lightly moistened potting mix. Pour seeds into your hand and gently sprinkle the surface of the soil with 4-6 seeds. 
  2. Spread a thin layer of soil on top of the seeds. Press down lightly with fingers until the soil is firm. Mist with water.
  3. Keep the plant near a warm window that gets lots of sunlight. 
  4. Mist the soil with every day, but don’t overwater it. 
  5. You should have a thriving basil plant in about two-three months. 

How to Grow Basil Outdoors

Basil in ground Getty 4/24/20

Many gardeners grow basil outdoors, as they’re able to produce much more of the herb that way. You can’t control the temperature outside, though, so you should take weather into consideration. 70º during the day and no less than 50º at night is ideal for basil plants.

You’ll need to start the seeds indoors about a month before the last spring frost, then move the seedlings outside when they’re ready. 

Basil grows well outdoors in the ground, a container, or a raised bed. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil.

  1. Choose a location that gets 6-8 hours of full sunlight every day. 
  2. Plant the seedlings about ¼ to ½-inch below the ground, about 12 inches apart. 
  3. Keep soil moist (but not soaked). 
  4. Once the plant has produced a full set of leaves, prune to encourage more growth. 
  5. Harvest your basil before the season’s first frost. 

How to Store Basil

Store basil like you would fresh flowers: Stem down, upright in a jar with an inch or two of water. Keep the herbs at room temperature (preferably near a window) for about two weeks. 

Read more: How to Store Basil So It Stays Fresh

Basil Recipes

Caprese Tomato Salad

Looking for something to do with all that fresh basil you’re planning to grow? We’ve got you covered: 

  • Best Basil Pesto
  • Layered Sun-Dried-Tomato-and-Basil Spread
  • Corn, Tomato, and Basil Salad
  • Basil Fried Rice
  • Tomato-Basil Couscous with Chicken and Smoked Sausage

Get even more basil ideas right here: Our Best Basil Recipes

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