In the Garden

How to Grow Basil: A Beginner’s Guide

July 1, 2015

Basil is the quintessential beginning gardener’s herb. It seems so accessible, sitting pretty in its pot outside your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. But who among us isn’t guilty of snagging a bushy pot of happy-looking basil from the supermarket on a whim, only to find it limping along, close to death, only a week or two later? If that sounds like you, don’t be discouraged! I’m going to walk you through it.

The Basics

If at all possible, try to grow your plant outside. A sunny, south-facing window will do in a pinch, but basil really prefers the outdoor air and unfettered access to sunlight. It needs a lot of light to thrive, so make sure you choose a spot that gets all day sun.

If your basil plant came in a decently sized container you may be okay leaving it in that pot, but it’s certainly not going to complain if you give it a little more room to spread its legs. A 10 to 14-inch diameter pot will be more than enough room for a single basil plant. Alternatively, if you have a garden patch, you can plop it straight into the ground.

Don’t go crazy on the water. Basil likes to dry out in between waterings. It’s a fairly drought-tolerant plant, and many a wilted, dying basil plant has actually been the victim of overwatering.

Feed it! You’re not very productive at work if you haven’t eaten in a while are you? So why expect your basil to go all season long without being fed? Find yourself an organic fertilizer– whether compost, worm castings, or one of the pre-mixed dried or liquid versions at your local nursery (look for one that says “all-purpose”), and give your plant a little spruce once a month according to the package instructions.

Follow those simple steps and your basil should be one happy camper.

Just don’t expect it to live forever. After all, basil is an annual. Eventually it’s gonna croak on you, but that’s okay because by the time your basil is on its way out, arugula, and mustards, and all the other wonderful fall and winter greens are on their way in. That’s the beauty of seasonality, y’all.

 

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