How To Grow Basil From Seed?

How To Grow Basil From Seed?

Basil plants, with the scientific name Ocimum basilicum, are culinary herbs native to the tropical regions of Central Africa and Southeast Asia. These tender plants are extremely widely cultivated, being major ingredients in cuisines across the globe. They belong to the family Lamiaceae, and common types include sweet basil, lemon basil, purple basil and Thai basil. If you want to propagate Basil yourself, read on and familiarize yourself with the steps for successful Basil propagation from seed. 

How to grow basil from seed

Materials you will need:

  • Basil seeds 
  • Newspaper
  • Plastic dome
  • Seed starting mix 
  • Plastic tub 
  • Starter pots with drainage holes 
  • Sink sprayer 
  • Sunny window 
  • Variable height light source
  • Timer 
  • Fan 

Process:

  • First, gather all the materials into your working area. 
  • Fill the plastic container with dry soil, add some water and mix until the soil is moist enough that you can hold it in your hands. Add a little water at a time and be sure to mix well. 
  • Fill the starter pot with moistened soil to a half to one inch below the top.
  • Plant some seeds in each cell. Plant extra seeds as a precaution in case some seeds do not sprout. 
  • Cover the seeds with dry soil to the depth of about twice the size of the seeds. 
  • Mist the seeds or spray lightly with the sink sprayer to ensure that the seeds have good contact with the soil. 
  • Put a dome over the seeds to lock in moisture. If this is kept in place, there is no need to water the seeds again after they start to sprout.
  • Place the seeds in a warm area with a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit and monitor them every day. Basil germinates easily, and within five days you should already be able to see sprouts. It may be earlier or later, however, depending on the environment. 
  • Remove the dome when you see sprouts and add supplemental lighting to promote growth so that the seedlings do not become leggy.

Ideal seed growing pots 

Plastic seed starting trays

These trays are easy to clean and are reusable; you may also opt for individual small plastic pots. 

Cowpots 

These starter pots are made of cow manure and will decompose faster than peat pots, which do not always decompose. These pots provide young plants with organic fertilizer as they decompose. 

Recycled paperboard pots

These eco-friendly pots will tear away before planting and lessen any  root disturbance, easing the transition into the garden.  

Caring for basil seedlings 

Water the plants properly. 

Ideally you should water the seedlings twice a week, but this may depend on the environment and humidity levels. Water them if the top of the soil looks dry. You should water from the bottom to benefit the roots; if the top of the soil is too wet it could encourage mold growth. 

Put the pot into a bowl of water and let it draw up moisture until the top of the soil is wet. Then, remove the pot and place it back into its saucer. If the saucer is big enough, you could fill the saucer and when the top of the soil is wet just pour out any extra water from the saucer. Once the seedlings are older, you can use a soil moisture meter to check whether your plants need to be watered. 

Provide enough light. 

The new plants should get at least six hours of sunlight through the window, because basil plants enjoy the sun’s warmth. Indoor basil plants may need grow lights; an ordinary light bulb may also do the trick. If using artificial light, 12-16 hours is the recommended exposure time.  

Position the plants about three inches below the grow lights and as the seedlings grow you can raise the lights. Put the lamps on a timer so that they turn on automatically. If the seedlings are away from windows, set the timer to a full 16 hours. 

Provide air circulation. 

For good air circulation, direct a small fan on the lightest setting toward the seedlings, so they flutter slightly. Put this on the same timer as the light, or turn it on for just a few hours daily. 

If you do not have a fan, make sure you leave ample space between the seedlings. A space of at least six inches between the pots is ideal, and you should rotate the pots regularly. Gently brushing your hands over the tops of the seedlings will simulate the movement caused by wind, and will help the seedlings to stay strong. 

The right time to plant basil is around two weeks after the last frost, when the soil is between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It can also be planted during summer. Plant basil in areas that get at least six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Basil seeds start to germinate seven to 10 days after planting, and should be ready for harvest within three to four weeks. 

Conclusion 

Basil plants are popular across the world, thanks to their culinary uses. Some common varieties of this fragrant herb include sweet basil, purple basil, lemon basil, cinnamon basil and Thai basil. You can successfully propagate basil plants from seed by following the steps laid out above. It usually takes seven to 10 days for the seeds to germinate, and the plants will be ready for harvest in a matter of weeks. 

Image: istockphoto.com / Volosina