Basil or Ocimum basilicum is a low growing herb of the mint family. A native of India, basil is an annual that belong to the Laminacea family. The herb reaches to a height of 2 to 3 feet and has oval leaves that are 2 to 3 inches long with serrated border. The basil plant comes in a number of varieties. While the lemon variety gives a strong lemon flavor and scent, bush basil with its small size makes an ideal consideration for container gardening. Basil has for long been considered as a cooking herb. Be it for its culinary uses or for ornamental value, for those who have an interest in gardening, growing basil at home is always a joy. Let us see in the successive paragraphs how to grow basil at home.
Growing Basil Outdoors
Like most herbs, basil grows best in full sunlight. Hence select a part of the garden that receives ample sunlight. Although basil is not a fussy about soil, needless to say that it has a full growth in a soil that is rich in nutrients. To meet this criterion, prepare the soil with well rotted manure or compost. Ensure that the soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.5. However, before adding fertilizer, make sure that there aren’t any weeds in the soil.
The best time to grow basil is spring when there isn’t any possibility of the plant suffering from harsh frost. Now sow the seeds in the soil about 1/4 inch deep and ensure that they are evenly covered with a layer of soil or compost. Take care that the soil is evenly watered. Once the seeds germinate and the seedlings bear 2 to 3 leaves, thin out the seedlings so that they are 6 to 10 inches apart from each other. Now as they grow ensure that the soil is free from weeds. Once the plant gets fairly established, do not hesitate from plucking the leaves as more you pluck them, better the growth of the plant. Also remove the buds as soon as they appear as this step is also important to ensure good growth.
In case one wants to start the seeds indoors, he must sow them in starting pots or flats that is filled with fine potting soil or a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Start early in spring and sow the seeds a few millimeters below the soil. The soil must then be covered with a thin plastic sheet to trap the heat and moisture in it. Once the seeds germinate, loosen the sheet so that there is some air circulation around them. When two to three leaves appear on the seedlings, plant in pots and expose them outdoors for increasing periods of time so that they are strong enough to bear the conditions outside.
This was all about growing basil from seeds. However, growing basil from cuttings is another option for those who want to add the herb to their vegetable garden. For this, take a portion of a healthy stem preferably that which hasn’t borne any flowers yet. Remove the larger leaves from the base and leave a few at the top. Now you can either plant it directly in the soil or put it in a cup of water and place it on the window sill. Transfer the stem into soil once it has developed a few roots.
Growing Basil Indoors
While growing basil indoors choose a place in the room that gets plenty of sunlight, preferably the window sill. Also one would need a pot to grow the plant. The soil must be prepared when planting the herb in the garden. While growing basil inside, take care that the soil is moist enough but does not have standing water.
You can either keep the plant in pots inside the house or else hang them in containers in the patio or balcony. However, availability of sunlight is again an important consideration. The container should have drainage holes. Put some stones or shards of clay at the bottom and then fill the pot with a light soil that would allow good drainage. If you are growing basil in a container, it is important to know that when grown in containers these plants need more water. Hence make sure that you water your basil plant early every morning and then water it further when required.
There are lots of options as far as growing basil at home is concerned. From growing basil in pots to growing basil plants in containers, these plants can be grown easily with just a little care.