Growing Basil
And Harvesting your Herbs

Basil is not a particularly easy plant to raise, so is good for the gardener or plant enthusiast who wants a challenge. Basil plants are very sensitive to to frost. It is particularly important to give the plants a sunny position with much light and warmth, preferably with around 5 hours of sunshine each day, and an ideal temperature of between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius.

Basil does not like the cold, and is not resistant of temperatures below 10 degrees celcius. However, in climates with very warm summers the plants will appreciate a little shade. The soil should be moist, fertile and well-drained. If planting outdoors, your basil plants will also prefer to be planted where there is shelter from the wind.

Basil is generally only grown from seeds, and is very difficult to transplant from cuttings. The seeds can be planted at the start or middle of spring, ideally in March but if not then, any time between February and May in the Northern Hemisphere. They will do prefer a gentle warmth in the air, so for best results, plant the seeds in seed trays or individual pots in a conservatory or greenhouse, at a temperature of around 20 degrees Celcius. A good soil with balanced nutrients will help your little seeds in their early days of growth.

When the seedlings have formed more than 4 leaves, the tips should be pricked. If you have originally used seed trays to grow multiple seeds together, separate the plants out into individual pots or boxes and keep them in their place in the conservatory or greenhouse, or behind a warm, draught-free windowsill until the winter and spring chills have gone from the soil outdoors and there is no expectation of further frosts. Then, around the end of may or beginning of june when the plants look like they are ready to make the move outside, it's time to start thinking about moving your plants outdoors. Harden them off first, over a period of about a week or so. There are different ways of doing this, but you may find that taking the plants outside during the day for the first few days then returning them indoors at night is the best...then gradually increase the time they spend outdoors until they're used to being out there all the time. Once hardened off, your plants can be transplanted into the garden outdoors. When planting into their final outdoor home in your garden, they should be kept about a foot apart from each other.

To prolong the life of the plants until late in the season, the flower-stems should be cut as they rise. Many gardeners lift their basil plants in September, pot them, and thus maintain a fresh supply of green leaves until winter is far advanced. However, in mild areas you may be able to overwinter your basil plants in your garden, if you protect them well against winter frost a cloche or similar covering.

Harvesting Basil

The best time of the year for harvesting basil is between July and August. In order to achieve the longest possible harvest, the plant should be prevented from flowering by snipping off flower-budding tips every few weeks. Always cut off the entire bud as well as the next two leaves down from the head of the plant. This will ensure that, from the remaining leaves, new shoots will be driven out, which again can be harvested. After harvesting, the leaves keep their flavour best by freezing. If dried, however, you should be prepared for large losses in flavor.

Sweet Basil Plant and the Herb's Origins
Cooking Basil and Culinary Uses
History of Basil
Health benefits of Basil
Different Species of Basil

Growing Sage
Cooking and Growing Common Thyme

Discover more about Herb Gardening and find out what Herbs are.

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