Basil plants thriving in a set of Pop-Out Pots.
By Deborah Miuccio
ON the coldest darkest days of winter, there is nothing like the smell of fresh basil to bring back the memory of summer in the garden. Follow the four easy steps below to experience the joy of growing basil year-round.
Start with a bag of high-quality organic soil and a packet of seeds. I love our Organic Seed Starting Mix because it is so rich in nutrients that you won't need to add fertilizer for at least six weeks. One packet of High Mowing Organic basil seeds will be enough to keep you well-stocked in basil plants, with plenty to share. You can use ordinary 4-6" pots for growing. However, if you use self-watering containers, such as our Pop-Out Pots, the soil will stay consistently moist and your plants will be happier, healthier and will grow faster.
Basil thrives in a warm, bright location, such as a south-facing window that is sunny for most of the day. If you don't have a suitable window, use a grow light. There are lots of options. My favorite is our full-spectrum Coltura LED Grow Frame. The sleek, low-profile design allows me to grow robust, healthy plants in small dark spaces and frames the plants beautifully.
Use scissors to thin crowded seedlings.
Step 1: Lightly moisten fresh potting mix and pack firmly into 4-6" pots. Pour some seeds into your palm, and sprinkle the soil surface with a few seeds. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and press gently to firm the soil. Water gently or use a mister.
Step 2: Place in a warm window with a southern exposure. Avoid drafty windows, or places where temperatures drop considerably at night. As the plants grow, rotate the pots to keep them from leaning in one direction, toward the light. If you are using grow lights, set a timer so that they are on for 14 hours a day. Place the lights a few inches above the seedlings, raising the lights as the plants grow. If the plants look leggy, move the lights closer. If you see white spots on the leaves, the lights are too close.
Step 3: Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet. If the plants start to look crowded as they grow, use scissors to thin them out. Snip the extra seedlings at the soil line and enjoy them in a salad.
Step 4: A month after planting, you can enjoy the aroma of basil by running your hands over the small leaves. Two months after planting, you may have enough basil leaves to make fresh pesto and impress your friends! If the leaves start looking pale green in color, start using liquid fertilizer, mixing at the rate recommended on the package. For continuous harvests, plant a batch of seeds every few weeks.
Deborah Miuccio coordinates the
research and testing program at Gardener's Supply.
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