I have found basil to be a fickle plant to grow. If the conditions are right it grows like a weed and rewards you with vigorous growth but if the conditions are slightly wrong, then the plants tend to refuse to grow or die pretty quickly. After a couple of years without much success I think I’ve finally found the right formula to growing healthy basil.
Below is a series of tips that will hopefully help you grow basil successfully.
Tip 1: Light
In my experience basil plants tend to need light lots of indirect light. The position I have had best success with the plant at home is on a bay window sill which receives light from 3 sides yet only gets about an hour of direct sun in the morning.
Too much direct sun and I’ve found the delicate leaves easily get scorched. Ideally and East or West facing window is best. In the summer i move some of my plants out into an area in the garden that receives lots of light with dappled shade.
Tip 2: Pinching out Basil Plants
Weather you’ve grown your basil plants from seed or from taking cuttings, after a few weeks you’ll probably end up with rather spindly leggy looking plants that won’t get you anywhere near a bowl of homemade pesto. This is where most people go wrong when growing basil. Once your basil plants reach about 15cm high pinch out the top of the plant to encourage bushier growth. Repeat every few weeks and hopefully before long you’ll have a much bushier plant that will yield many more leaves for you to harvest.
Tip 3 : Supermarket Basil
The bushy basil plants you buy in the supermarket are often tricky to look after with many people wondering how to keep them alive. They are mainly grown under artificial lights and designed to be consumed quickly rather than grown on which explains why they often die when taken home. Also if you look you’ll see they are usually several plants grown in the same pot which explains why thy are so busy.
In my opinion the best way to keep a supermarket basil plant alive is to take cuttings from it to grow more plants and use most of the plant.
Tip 4: Take Basil Cuttings
Taking cuttings from existing basil plants is pretty easy and a quick way of growing established plants. Simply snip a stem from an existing plant of about 5-15cm in length. Remove the leaves from the lower half of the stem and place in a glass of water.
Make sure the cutting is kept in lots of indirect light (see above) and hopefully after 1-2 weeks you should see some roots appearing from the end of the stem. After a further week, when the roots seem well established simply pot the plant in some regular potting compost and water regularly.
Freezing Basil Leaves
Depending on the conditions you live in you may struggle to grow your basil though the winter unless you have an indoor space that keeps fairly warm and receives lots of light. At the end of the summer, if you have a glut of basil you can easily freeze any excess by simply picking the leaves and placing in a sealed freezer bag. I simply wash the leaves after picking and dry them using a salad spinner prior to freezing.