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How to Grow Basil from Seed

Are you considering the idea of growing basil in your backyard this growing season? 

While a lot of people propagate basil through cuttings, it’s pretty straightforward to start it from seeds too. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through an easy-to-follow, step-by-step method to help you successfully sow and grow your own basil from seeds. 

Let’s embark on this gardening journey, turning tiny seeds into lush, aromatic basil plants.

How to Grow Basil from Seed?

Basil is an excellent choice for novice gardeners since it typically has high seed germination rates, and you can squeeze many seeds into a tiny area. Plus, it adds a lovely touch to any garden.

The most challenging aspect of growing basil from seeds is having the patience to wait until it’s grown enough to start harvesting and savoring! 

Steps to Grow Basil From Seed

Step 1: Get Your Seeds & Equipment Ready 

Take a close look at basil seeds in paper bags and see the seedlings growing in pots that will break down naturally. The seedlings have several bright and slightly purple-green leaves. 

Basil seeds will sprout in 5-7 days if the conditions are right. Start by buying your seeds from a good seed company. 

Many types of basil are available, from the usual Genovese type to Thai, purple, and lemon-flavored basil.

Basil seeds can last a long time if you store them right, so buy the amount that fits your gardening plans.

For planting seeds, you will need the following: 

  • High-quality seed starter mix 
  • Seeds 
  • Strong small pots
  • Water 
  • A sunny place or lights 
  • Heat mat (if you want)

Step 2: Get Your Pots Ready Before you start, wet your seed starting mix so it’s damp.

Fill your pots up to the top with soil. Give them a light knock on the counter to pack down the soil lightly. Then make a small hole with a small tool or finger to prepare the soil for the seeds.

Helpful hint: Take a handful of the soil and squeeze it. If it falls apart, it needs more water. If water runs out of your hand with the soil, add more soil because it’s probably too wet.

Step 3: Plant the Seeds 

Put 2-3 basil seeds in each cell and cover them with more soil. Lightly press down the tray again. This ensures the seeds are touching the soil, which helps them sprout. The seeds need space to breathe, so be careful not to pack them in too tightly.

Helpful hint: Seed should only be buried twice the depth of its size. Since basil seeds are very small, the hole does not need to be deep. On the other hand, if seeds are buried too deep, they won’t have enough energy stored to sprout or push through the soil.

Now put your trays in a warm spot or on a heat mat and set the temperature based on what the seed packet says.

Related Post: How To Store Basil

Step 4: Keep the Soil Moist and Warm 

The soil needs to stay damp while waiting for the seeds to sprout. You can use a simple spray bottle filled with clean water, or if you’re outside, you can use a light misting attachment for your hose.

Water gently so the seeds stay in place under the soil. You don’t want to risk washing them out of the cells with a strong stream of water.

Another way to water is from the bottom. Put your cell tray into a bigger tray and add about half an inch of water. The soil in each cell will soak up the water from the bottom tray. 

Add more water if the tops of the cells still look dry after all the water is gone. If the water’s still in the bottom tray after a few minutes, just pour it out.

Step 5: Give Them Enough Light 

After about 5-7 days, you should see sprouts. When about half of your cells have sprouted, they need light. If you’re using artificial light, keep the seedlings 2-3 inches from the light.

If the light is too far away, your seedlings will need to stretch to get enough light, and they might become weak and leggy.

If you’re using natural light, put your trays where they can get direct sunlight. If you used a heat mat to help with sprouting, you can remove it now.

Related Post: How To Dry Basil

Step 6: Thin, Harden Off, and Move 

When the seedlings have their first real leaves, choose the healthiest-looking one and cut the rest out with small scissors or a quick fingernail pinch. Then, let the seedlings keep growing under the light for a few more weeks.

When the plants have about six sets of true leaves, it’s a good idea to pinch them back. This means cutting off the main stem above the first set of true leaves (not the baby leaves). Pinching back makes your plant branch out more.

About 1-2 weeks before you plan to move your basil outdoors, whether in the ground or in a pot, you should get them used to the outdoors by letting them experience outdoor temperatures, direct sunlight, rain, and cooler nighttime temperatures.

This will help with any possible shock from moving. Remember that basil is extremely sensitive to cold and frost, so keep an eye on the overnight lows when doing this step.

Once they’re properly hardened off, the plants are ready to move. Basil plants can be planted 6-12 inches apart, depending on how the type you choose grows.

To decrease the chance of shock from moving, you can cover them at night with a light frost blanket as they get used to their new home. Be sure to water consistently as well.

Step 7: Harvest, Prune, and Enjoy! 

Make a plan to harvest and prune regularly. Keeping up with regular trimming will encourage your plants to grow. Your basil plants will keep growing up and out as long as you keep pruning.

If pruning doesn’t happen, the plant will eventually go into reproduction mode and drop seeds. So although any basil left on the plant is still good to eat, it might have become slightly bitter.

Closing Note:

Growing basil from seeds may seem challenging initially, but it’s a straightforward and rewarding process. 

Following these steps, from buying and planting your seeds, and caring for them as they sprout and grow, all the way to harvesting, can help ensure you get a plentiful basil crop. 

Remember, practice makes perfect! So enjoy the satisfaction of nurturing these tiny seeds into lush, fragrant basil plants and the flavor they add to your dishes. Happy gardening!

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