Growing Basil – Easy to grow from seeds

Lots of large green leaves on small plants growing in a green rectangle tub. growing basil on a windowsill

Growing basil is easy from seeds! I love the warmer months as I can start growing my summer herbs. This is because it is so handy having herbs on your kitchen windowsill. You only have to reach out for a handful of flavour to add to your cooking or salads.

Basil is delicious and will quickly fill up your windowsill with its fragrance!

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Growing basil from seeds indoors

Basil can be easily grown from seeds indoors during the warmer brighter days. I prefer to wait till late March to sow my seeds as spring sets in here in the UK.

Sweet basil seedsgrowing basil seeds_grow-with-hema

You will also need some fresh multipurpose compost and a clean pot or container which has holes at the bottom to allow good water drainage.

  • Fill a small pot or container with fresh multipurpose compost.
  • Pick up a pinch of seeds – basil seeds are tiny and sowing less is better as they can germinate and grow easily.
  • Sprinkle a very light cover of compost on the seeds.
  • Use slightly tepid water to moisten the compost. You can also use a spray bottle if you have one. Please don’t be generous with the water as it may cause the seeds to rot instead.
  • Use a plastic bag to cover the pot or place in a tray that has a plastic cover – this will help to hold the temperature and humidity.
  • Leave the pot in a warm place indoors. I like to leave mine near the boiler in my kitchen.
  • After 7-14 days, you will see little green shoots peeking through the compost. Once this happens, you can take the plastic cover off and place the pot on a bright warm window.
  • Keep the compost lightly moist as I have found that basil does not like very wet compost.
  • Once the seedlings have the second set of leaves (true leaves), they will be ready for transplanting into their own pots with multipurpose compost in them.

Growing basil on outdoors

Once the danger of frosty nights is over, which is around May in the UK, basil seedlings can move outdoors. They will have put on a few more leaves and some height by the time the basil plants move outside!

Lots of large green leaves on small plants growing in a green rectangle tub. growing basil on a windowsill
Young basil plants ready to move outdoors this spring!

I will be planting some of my basil with my tomatoes as they make great companions! You can watch Monty Don planting his tomatoes and basil together in this Gardeners World post. Some basil plants will travel up to the raised beds to join the other vegetables that have already started growing there this spring.

Harvesting Basil

Begin picking your basil once the plants are about 15 cm in height. Ideally, pinch the tops of the basil off generously so that plants can become bushier.

Once the hot summer days start, all you have to do is keep the basil plants watered and keep picking it. The more you pick, the more it will produce. Do not allow it to flower as the plant will stop producing leaves! I harvested tubs full of basil last summer and made pesto to enjoy with homegrown tomatoes!

a metal dish full to the brim with large leaves. Growing basil.
A dish full of summer basil leaves!

Problems you may encounter

  • Seeds don’t germinate well

It was not warm enough for the seeds to germinate, or they were over watered. I also find that seed sowing compost does not work well for sowing basil seeds. I prefer multipurpose compost as it drains water away well and is light in texture.

  • Poor growth of seedlings

This could be because your compost is too wet. Basil does not like very wet conditions. Water only to keep the compost lightly moist. Also check that that the container or pot you are using have enough holes to allow excess water to drain out.

Low light levels could be the reason too, especially if they become leggy!  Daylight is pretty dim here in the UK in the winter months. I tend to wait for late March before I start sowing basil seeds as the days become longer and brighter after that.

It could be too cool for good growth. Basil loves warmth! Give it a warm windowsill to grow on while it is young. When you move them outdoors, choose a sunny spot and it will not let you down!

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