by Bethany Hayes
Basil prefers to grow in moist soil, and problems occur when you overwater basil. The first sign is usually yellow and drooping basil leaves. The real issues are under the soil surface that you can’t see with your eyes. That’s why learning how to fix overwatered basil is essential; you can save your plants!
It’s easy to overwater plants. Everyone knows that plants need water, and you don’t want your plants to lack water. So, you provide frequent watering hoping that all is well, but instead, you end up overwatering your basil plants.
It happens to the best gardeners, so don’t stress. This problem can be fixed, so keep reading to figure out the best way to treat overwatered basil.
Why is Overwatering Basil a Problem?
Overwatering is little-discussed, but is a one of the common problems among gardeners and can cause many problems for your plants, basil included.
Basil plants need consistent water, but their roots can’t adapt to soggy soil. When planted in a location with well-drained soil, air fills the spaces near the roots, circulating freely. Chronically saturated soil makes it impossible for air to access the roots.
Basil roots need access to air, or they stop working. That’s not what you want since roots are the basis of your plants, sending water and nutrients upwards which are needed for survival.
Essentially, overwatering suffocates your root systems and causes problems quickly. Plants wilt soon, and if you don’t figure it out quickly, chances are your plants will die.
Overwatering is More Than Giving Too Much Water
The problem is that everyone assumes overwatering means you’re giving too much water, and that’s a factor. However, any factor that reduces root aeration or causes the soil to stay soggy for long periods also leads to overwatering.
What does that mean for you?
It means that you might be slightly overwatering, but the soil might not drain well. If it doesn’t drain, over time, the ground becomes too soggy, suffocating your plants. The first thing is to figure out what is causing your overwatering. Here are a few factors that contribute to an overwatered plant.
- Using containers that lack drainage holes or one with too few drainage holes.
- Using poor draining soil
- Planting basil in a container that is too large means the soil takes longer to dry, and the roots will be deprived of oxygen for more extended periods.
- Forgetting to check the soil before watering.
Signs of Overwatered Basil
How do you know if your basil plants have excess water? Plants send us signs when things are wrong, so watching for the signs of overwatering is critical. Basil plants show us a few signs.
- Yellow leaves that start from the lower leaves and work upwards.
- Drooping and wilting leaves
- Nasty odor coming from the soil
- Stunted growth
- If you remove the plant, the roots will be mushy and brown or black.
Unfortunately, in severe cases, significant signs and problems take place under the soil with the roots. Chronic overwatering causes the roots to rot over time. It’s the same for any plant that deals with standing water and wet feet.
Rotting roots is a huge problem, as you might suspect. It leads to stunted growth, failure to flower or fruit, and might even cause the plant’s death.
How to Fix Overwatered Basil
Fixing overwatered basil depends on how often it has happened. Overwatering once is no big deal; the cure is to let the soil dry out and water when it’s time again. Fixing chronically overwatered plants with root damage is a bit more complicated and requires more extensive treatment.
Let’s go through how to fix overwatered basil, starting with the easiest and working towards extensive treatment options.
- Pick Off Damaged Leaves
Once your plant has yellow or brown leaves leaves they can’t turn green again. They’re a lost cause, so removing them from your plant is step one. Unproductive plant parts should always be removed because they steal your plant’s energy.
Since your plant is already vulnerable, be sure to use sterile pruning shears to remove leaves. Clean used pruning shears in a diluted bleach solution to remove any bacteria. Removing leaves and branches leave small wounds that bacteria might enter and kill the plants entirely.
- Prune Your Plant
In some situations, large sections of the plant might be yellow or brown. If that’s the case, cut the entire plant back to just above the second leaf set. Your plant will turn its attention to building up healthy roots, but try to save severe pruning for later situations.
- Stop All Irrigation
Once your plant has been overwatered, the last thing you want to do is continue irrigation. You might need to disconnect irrigation lines or stop watering the plant until it’s back to its healthy self.
Check the forecast as well. You can bring your potted basil plant inside on rainy days, but it’s not easy to cover basil plants in the garden. An option is to use a plastic sheet or tarp with poles to create a small tent over your plant. You also could put a rubber tote or another container upside down over your basil plants to protect them from the rain.
- Remove Mulch Around Plants
Use your hands or a rake to pull back the mulch around the base of your basil plant. Doing so gives the damp soil a better chance at drying out with fresh air.
One of the purposes of mulch is to retain soil moisture, which is helpful in most circumstances, but now is not the time for retaining soil moisture. Overwatered plants need plenty of opportunities to dry out. Just don’t toss out the mulch; replace it when the soil is dry and you resume your normal watering schedule.
- Let The Soil Dry For Several Days
Once you remove irrigation and spread back mulch, it’s time to let the soil dry out for several days. The top two inches of the soil should be dry, and the ground below two inches can be moist but not soggy. It’s safe to water again when the soil starts to feel dry below two inches.
The length of time that it takes for this to happen varies. It might only take two days if you have hot temperatures, but if the temperatures are cooler or if you have humid conditions it takes several days or up to one week for soil to dry out. Check daily.
- Aerate the Soil
One simple way to help soil aerate and dry faster is to use a weeder tool to poke holes around your basil plant. A weeder tool goes into the ground straight down, and twisting the tool loosens up compacted soil at the base of the plant without damaging roots.
This step is essential for chronically overwatered plants. Aeration allows more air to access the root system, which is the only way that the roots will dry out. If you have the type of soil that compacts easily it will hold too much water and suffocate the roots of your plants.
- Dig Up The Plant and Move It
The last thing that you can try is fairly drastic and should be a final resort. If it seems as if your planting soil has poor soil drainage and refuses to dry out, dig up the root ball and transplant it somewhere that has plenty of sunlight and good drainage.
It’s easier to do this with container-grown basil. If your basil in a pot seems to be chronically wet, changing potting soil is a solution. You might also need to change the pot itself; some don’t have enough drainage holes at the bottom and the material might hold too much moisture.
How Much Water Does Basil Need?
Remember that basil likes moist soil, but drowning your plants isn’t a good idea.
Basil plants need one inch of water every week. Watering your plants deeply once a week helps your roots grow deeply while keeping the soil moist.
If you’re growing basil in containers, plan to water more than once a week because the soil dries out faster. Try watering in the morning, which is the best time to water plants for the roots to access it before the heat of the day.
Always Be Careful Watering
Water is necessary for the life of plants, but overwatering is just as dangerous as underwatering. Plants need a certain amount, and giving your plants too much water for long periods will lead to rotting roots and the plant’s potential death. Be careful and avoid overwatering your plants so that your basil plants thrive and grow without problems. By following these few simple watering guidelines you can ensure your basil has the best conditions for healthy growth and you can enjoy fresh basil.