by Jennifer Poindexter
Do you enjoy the fresh flavor of basil? When we grow it in our herb garden, my husband will literally eat it straight from the garden. He enjoys it that much.
Whether you love it enough to eat it by itself, enjoy it in sauces, or like it as a garnish, basil is a great herb to have on hand.
Since it’s also easy to get along with, it’s a great herb to grow indoors for year-round use. If you’re interested in growing basil in your kitchen window, here’s what you should know.
Growing Conditions for Indoor Basil
Basil requires well-draining soil that’s also high in nutrients. When growing basil indoors, it’ll need a proper container.
You should only plant one basil plant per container, and the planter should have a large enough drainage hole to ensure that water is flowing through it and not pooling inside it.
The herb should be placed in a sunny window where it’ll receive six or more hours of sunlight throughout the day.
If you don’t have an appropriate window for this, consider using grow lights. If placed under grow lights, basil should be given ten hours beneath them.
By providing the right type of soil, an adequate amount of nutrients, a proper growing container, and a sunny location, your basil should be off to a great start.
How to Plant Basil Indoors
When growing herbs indoors, most gardeners opt for purchasing a seedling and transplanting it to a proper container.
If this is your preference, dig a hole in the soil of the container. Place the seedling snugly in the hole. Ensure the hole is large enough to support the roots of the plant.
Once the plant is sitting tightly in the hole, fill it in with the soil in the container. Press firmly around the base of the plant to ensure no air gets to the roots.
Some people may prefer to grow their basil from seed. Though this is a longer process, it can be done. Place one to three seeds in the container.
Planting the extra seeds is a germination insurance policy. In case one seed doesn’t germinate, there are more to take its place.
Plant the seeds approximately ¼ inch deep into the soil and lightly cover them. Keep the soil moist via misting it with a spray bottle.
The seeds should emerge within one to two weeks. Pick the strongest plant and discard the remaining seedlings.
Keep the temperature around the plant at approximately 70-degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the soil moist, as the plant grows, and provide ample sunlight.
Now that you know how to plant your basil, it’s time to learn how to properly care for it until harvest time.
Caring for Basil Indoors
Basil requires more work when being grown indoors. There’s no way around it. However, to have this herb at your disposal year-round, it’s worth it.
The first thing you should do, when caring for basil, is to keep the soil moist at all times. It’s a good idea to practice shallow watering with this plant.
Be sure to water the plant once per day, or set it in a tray of water. This will allow the roots to absorb moisture from beneath without watering the plant as frequently.
The next step in caring for basil is fertilizing the plant. If you’re planning on eating the basil, it’s best to go with an organic fertilizer.
If you aren’t overly concerned with this, you can use a general balanced fertilizer. It will come down to your preference.
Either way, dilute the fertilizer by half and fertilize the plant one time per month. You should also use this time to check the soil’s pH level. It needs to be between 6.0 and 7.5.
The pot where your basil is growing should be rotated regularly. If you don’t, the plant will lean as it’s stretching toward light.
You can watch your basil to know what it needs in reference to lighting. If it becomes long and lanky, the lighting needs to be closer. It’s stretching to get what it needs.
If the leaves on the basil plant are developing spots, the light is too close, and it should be moved back some.
When your basil plants begin to flower, prune them back by half. This is a sign the plant is feeling old. By pruning it, this will make it feel young again and prolong the plant’s growth.
Finally, your basil plant will need to be repotted on occasion. When the roots are bound in the pot, pull it out, and transplant to a larger pot.
By providing these basic necessities to your basil plant, it should thrive under your care while growing indoors.
Pests and Diseases Which Impact Basil Indoors
Thankfully, you shouldn’t face as many problems, with pests or diseases, when growing basil indoors. The reason being is you’re controlling the environment.
You’re in control of the soil being used because it’s growing in a container. You’re in control of lighting, nutrients, temperatures, and there aren’t as many bugs indoors as out.
This is all great news. However, there are still a few pests and diseases which you might want to look out for because they can frequently find their way indoors to impact houseplants.
The main disease to be aware of when raising basil is root rot. This occurs when basil is consistently standing in water. It causes the roots to actually rot.
You can avoid this disease by planting in well-draining soil and using a container which drains well.
The pests you should look for include aphids, thrips, and slugs. Aphids like to suck the sap of the foliage of plants and can be treated with an insecticidal soap.
Thrips feed in larger groups which will cause your plant to become discolored. They, too, can be treated with an insecticidal soap.
Finally, slugs can either be handpicked from your basil plant, or you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the base of the plant to create a hazardous terrain for the slugs to crawl over.
By staying aware of these threats, and acting quickly, you can help your basil plant survive their attacks.
How to Harvest Basil
Basil can be harvested two months after planting. You can either pluck the leaves from the plant or use scissors to snip them away from the stem.
Bring the harvest indoors and give it a quick rinse under cold water. Allow the leaves to air dry. Place them in a moist paper towel and store in an airtight bag in your refrigerator until you’re ready to use them fresh.
They should be used within the first few days from harvest. When the leaves become soft and brown, it’s time to discard. You may also dry the basil leaves to use them at a later time.
Raising basil indoors has a few hurdles which must be overcome, but for the most part, it’s a simple plant to grow.
It also looks beautiful, has a delicious scent, and produces an abundant harvest. If you’d like to have this herb available to you right in your own kitchen, consider raising basil as an indoor herb.