Propagating sweet basil is a simple and easy process. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the taste and aroma of sweet basil. It really adds flavour to grilled cheese sandwiches,pizzas and pasta. I am so crazy about it that my husband jokingly suggested that I use it to flavour my rooibos tea….hmmm…I might just give that a try soon 😉
Anyway since I love eating it, I also enjoy growing and propagating it as well. It is such a simple herb to grow . I will show you just how easy it is to grow your own basil in different ways to guarantee success. Imagine picking fresh leaves from a basil plant, which you grew and which are free from chemicals and pesticides and haven’t been sitting in a store refrigerator for a few weeks. The feeling and the taste is simply amazing.
Sweet basil is an annual,which basically means that the plant cycle lasts just one year, they germinate from seed, grow to maturity,and produce new seeds within one year. They are quick to germinate from seed or root from cuttings.
If you have a garden where you grow tomatoes or even if you grow tomatoes in a pot, plant some basil around it. Basil repels insects which attack tomatoes. This companion planting also makes the tomatoes taste great.
Okay, I’ve sung the glories of sweet basil, let’s get down to growing it now…
I grow basil in two ways, one by seed and the other by stem cuttings. Both methods are extremely simple and both have always been successful. These methods are cheap as well and don’t require any special equipment or chemicals.
GROWING BASIL USING SEEDS
You will need
- Basil seeds
- Flat trays or pots
- Potting soil
- Spray bottle with water
- Clear dome or clear plastic bag
How it’s done
- Fill the pots or flat trays up to about 3/4 with the potting soil and press down to form a level surface. Spray the soil with water. I usually do this before adding the seeds, so the seeds stick to the surface of the soil more easily and they also do not move around with the water pressure after they have been sown
- Basil seeds are very tiny so sprinkle them on the surface of the soil and gently press them down. I never cover the seeds with anymore soil and they germinate faster. You can give it a very light spray now if you like, but don’t use a high pressure watering.
- Place a clear dome over the tray or place the entire pot or tray into a clear plastic packet.This serves as a mini greenhouse, keeping the temperature constant.
- Keep the pot or tray in a well-lit area. Not in direct sunlight.
- The seeds should germinate in 5 to 7 days. As soon as you see it the plants emerging from the seed, remove the dome or plastic wrap.
- Now place the pot or tray in a well-lit area, near or on a windowsill is a good place , again not in direct sunlight. If you find that your seedlings are becoming tall,leggy and weak and tilting for the light ( this happens when you start seedlings indoors and there is not enough sunlight) place your seedling tray outside where it is brighter but is shaded slightly from direct sunlight. This will fix the problem.
- Keep the soil moist but not soaking otherwise the roots will rot and the plant will die. If any water collects on the saucer under the pot, make sure that you empty it out because basil hates sitting in too much of water.
- You can feed your plant at this stage with a weak solution of liquid fertiliser. I use nitrosol to feed the plants every two weeks.
- The plant can be left in the pot or transplant into bigger pots or into your garden. Only transplant when the plant is big and strong enough to handle.
- Transplant in the early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler, so that the plant does not wilt too much.
- Plant it in slight shade so that it does not burn in the sun and mulch with grass clippings around the stem to keep the plant cool.
- Water every 3 days and try to water in the mornings, so that the water dries off the leaves otherwise the plant will get a powdery mildew which is not good for the plants.
- That is it. Remember to pick the leaves as often as you want as this encourages the plant to produce more leaves. Also pick and remove the flowers as soon as they appear, otherwise the flowers will produce seeds and the plant ends its cycle and does not produce much leaves and dies earlier.
PLANTING BASIL USING STEM CUTTINGS
You will need
- stem cuttings from a basil plant or store-bought basil stems
- small container with water
Make a cut about 4 inches / 10cm of new stem growth just below leaf nodes.
Place the cutting in water and change the water every two days.
Roots will emerge after about 5 days
Once the roots are about 2 inches / 5cm or longer, you can plant the cutting in a pot or in your garden
Now that you know how to grow basil, you can impress your family and friends with potted basil plant gifts and have an endless supply of this delicious aromatic herb for your recipes.