Growing basil can sometimes be surprisingly challenging, as I learned long ago. If you’re experiencing unsatisfactory results from your basil, here’s the secret to growing basil successfully!
If you’ve tried to grow basil in your garden in the past but weren’t very successful, there’s a good chance that you were making some of the same mistakes that I was. I had kind of the same experience with growing basil as I did at first with my hydrangeas that I talked about a few weeks ago. (Check out my guide to reviving sad-looking hydrangeas here!) Basically, basil always seemed like one of those things that was really easy to grow and that anyone who had a garden could harvest in abundance with very little effort, and that just wasn’t the case for me the first time around. In the past few years though, I’ve figured out how to grow ridiculous amounts of basil easily. So much basil that I don’t know what to do with it all! There’s a trick to it, but I’m going to share it with you today!
Growing Basil: Be Super Lazy About it
It turns out that when I was first starting to try growing basil, I was just trying too hard. I first tried going to the nursery to buy the healthiest-looking plants that I could find. I thought that if my plants had a head start, then I’d have a much better chance at success. I don’t buy everything in my garden as seedlings from the nursery, but I do that with some things and it always works out just fine. Well, the basil just didn’t appreciate being moved to my garden at all. It took such a beating every time we had a summer storm and finally just wilted and died completely.
I also tried starting my basil from seed indoors, thinking that maybe I just needed to keep it safe indoors for a little longer before bringing it outside for the summer. I ended up having pretty much the same experience as what I did with the nursery plants though. They just never thrived. (Whomp whomp whomp)
Well, the next summer I didn’t really plan on growing any basil at all after all my previous challenges, but I had a little extra space left in the garden, so I just sprinkled a few seeds down to see what would happen.
They. Went. Crazy.
Those basil seeds just exploded and grew into a giant basil bush about three feet tall! And it took absolutely no fussing on my part whatsoever!
It turns out that the easiest way to grow basil is to allow it to grow from seed in the same environment that it will be in throughout the season. If you don’t shock it, it will just acclimatize itself as it grows!
Other Things Your Basil Will Need to Grow Successfully
We live in a pretty rainy area, and the basil definitely likes that. We’re lucky that we don’t usually have to worry about watering our garden too much during most summers because the rain does that for us and basil definitely reacts well to that. If you don’t get regular rain on most days during the summer, definitely water your basil quite frequently. We had a really dry start to the summer this year and I didn’t water as much as I should have. Our basil was still strong, but it didn’t really take off and it stayed quite small until I realized what was happening and started watering more regularly. Now that the rain is back, it has really grown a lot.
Basil also likes a lot of the same things that tomatoes like: Heat, direct sun, and well-drained soil. A lot of people like to use an organic plant food on their tomatoes to really make them produce abundantly, but I’ve never needed to give my basil anything other than sun and water to make it grow to a ridiculous size. 🙂
Once you grow your basil from seed directly in the garden, you’ll laugh at the thought of buying those tiny $5 plants from the garden centre. You can probably get 100 plants that will grow so much better from a $2 packet of seeds. 🙂
If you want to bring your basil inside in the fall, I recommend planting it directly in the pots that you’ll bring inside. The plants should do just fine moving indoors as long as you don’t physically dig them up and try to transplant them.
Also check out this post on How to Harvest Basil for Strong, Healthy, Productive Plants. I always take the time to harvest my basil this way on my indoor plants, but I find when basil is growing outdoors in my garden, I can basically just cut here, there, and everywhere as much as I like and there’s nothing I can do to slow it down.
Have you tried growing basil in your garden? What do you do for an extra abundant basil harvest?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.