September 27, 2009

Grow your own Basil 2009

  • PLANT: ‘Sweet Genovese’ Basil
  • WATERING: Water by day and not at night as basil hates sitting in the damp and water only when the surface of the compost is dry.
  • THINNING: Thin seedlings to 20cm/8 inches apart.
  • LOOKING AFTER THE CROP: Remove flowers to keep the plants cropping for longer.


Last year we grew chilies, tomatoes, spring onions and strawberries, but as we went to San Francisco at the end of August for 3 months we weren’t around to take care of our plants.

I wasn’t planning on growing anything this year, but I received a packet of basil seeds and cherry tomato seeds with my latest issue of BBC Good Food magazine, so I thought I might as well plant them. There was a whole page in the magazine with advice on how to plant them, which was really helpful as I’m not blessed with the greenest fingers!

Sowing the seeds:

I put some crocks (broken bits of old clay flowerpots) into the bottom of my plastic pot, filled it with multipurpose compost, sprinkled over an even layer of seeds and then covered them up with a thin layer of compost. Sprinkled some water over the top and then left them on a windowsill.


It said that it would take between 7-14 days for the seedlings to sprout. I planted the basil seeds on 30th March 2009 and not much was happening after 6 days, so I re-read the advice in the magazine and it suggested covering with a plastic bottle to increase humidity and encourage growth.

So I covered the pot with a piece of cling film and moved them to a sunnier room and hey presto, the next day some of the seeds had sprouted!

So I’m quite excited that I’ve managed to get some seeds to sprout and I’ve now planted the tomato seeds and I think I might give the spring onion seeds I’ve got leftover from last year another try.

Basil seeds-1


It’s now been 14 days since I planted the seeds and they seem to be doing quite well. I was worried that they weren’t getting enough oxygen, so I stabbed a few holes in the cling film to let some air in.

The guide said to plant the seeds in seed compost, but I just used multipurpose compost and they seem to be doing OK! However, if there are big clumps in the compost then I try to pick them out as they seem to stop the seeds from coming up.

Basil Week 2


The basil isn’t doing that well, as a lot of the seedlings aren’t taking proper roots so they stopped growing. I removed the cling film at the beginning of the week and have only been watering when the soil is dry to touch.

I’ve removed the dead seedlings and sowed some news one in their place, so hopefully they’ll start growing and the bigger seedlings will take proper roots and not die!

Basil Week 3


Not that much progress this week. The established seedlings look a bit stronger and I’ve got a couple of new shoots from the new seeds I planted last week. I did put the cling film back on to help them along.

Basil Week 4


Although some of the new seeds I planted have made some progress over the past week, the other seedlings haven’t grown very much. So I’ve sprinkled more seeds in the hope they’ll start growing!

Basil Week 5


The basil was doing quite well and the 4 leaves had formed on most of the seedlings, so I decided it was time to thin them out before the roots got too tangled up together.Basil thinned out Week 5.5

I moved 9 of the seedlings into individual peat pots and left the other 2 in the original pot. Hopefully this disturbance doesn’t kill them off!Basil thinned out Week 5.5 pot

They’re starting to look more like basil leaves and already have a really strong basil smell, so I can’t wait to start using it in my cooking!


The photo below was taken 18 May:

Basil 18 May

Whenever I look at the basil I think it’s not making any progress, but then I look at the previous photos I can see that it is growing – just not as fast as I’d like! I thought it might be because the peat pots are too small, but they’re actually growing better than the basil in the big pot, so who knows what’s best for them? But I think the bigger ones will outgrow their peat pots pretty soon and hopefully I’ll have my raised bed sorted soon.

The photo below was taken 22 May:

Basil planted

I’ve planted the basil in between the tomato plants, as I read they will help each other grow and improve flavour. I’ve planted them in groups of 3, whether this is right or not I’m not sure! Fingers crossed! I’ve also put a few seedlings in pot which I’ll leave on a windowsill, just in case they hate being outdoors.

The photo below was taken 1 June:

Basil 1 June

The basil is doing well, even though I’ve planted 3 seedlings so close together when they should be thinned to 8 inches apart! I have 2 patches of basil like this in the raised bed and another lot in a pot and some are still in peat pots, so I’ll have so much basil I won’t know what to do with it all! I’d better get myself an ice cube tray so I can freeze some!


The photo below was taken 13 June:

Basil 13 JuneThere hasn’t been much sunshine lately, so the basil hasn’t made much progress. It looks quite yellow in this photo, but it’s actually still a healthy green colour! I’m still toying with the idea of thinning the plants out as I’m not sure if having 3 plants so close together is stunting their growth. I will probably spread these 3 plants out and see what happens!


The photos below were taken on 25 June:

Basil in bed 25 JuneIn my last post I said I might thin out some of the basil plants to see if it would improve growth. Well I did thin them out, but unfortunately something (I suspect a cat) made a huge hole and totally destroyed that patch, so I didn’t get a chance to see the results! This is my other patch of basil and it looks in a bit of a state! I’ve been removing some of the bigger leaves to encourage more growth and bush them out a bit. The same goes for the basil growing in a pot:

Basil in pot 25 June

I haven’t actually eaten any yet as I keep forgetting it’s out there! So next time I make a tomato based pasta sauce or a pizza I must remember the basil!


The photos below were taken on 1 August:

 Basil 1 Aug

The basil is doing really badly outside as it’s being eaten by everything except me! So I’ve brought them inside to sit on a sunny windowsill, so hopefully they’ll recover.


Basil 1 Aug new growth

There is a lot of new leaves growing at the top, so I’ve removed all of the leaves that have holes in them and fingers crossed the plant will bush out.

The photos below were taken on 9 August:

Basil indoor flower 9 Aug

The basil plants I brought indoors are doing better now that nothing is eating it! But 2 white flowers started growing so I removed them so that the plant keeps cropping for longer. The plants still look quite scraggly and spindly and not much like basil plants at all!



Basil in brown pot 9 Aug

But the basil I planted next to the tomatoes in one of the big brown pots is doing remarkably well considering I haven’t attended to it at all. OK it hasn’t grown very big, but the leaves are a healthy shape and colour and nothing has been eating it! The plants in pots are located in a different part of the garden, so maybe that’s why.

The photos below were taken on 15 August:

Basil 15 Aug I double checked some info that I’d got off the Internet and apparently pinching or deadheading doesn’t stop flowering, it encourages more flowers! So to discourage flower production and stimulate more leaf growth, you should cut the stem at least six leaf nodes down. If basil is allowed to go to seed, the leaves will develop a bitter flavour.


Basil tops 15 Aug

So I’ve cut the tops off the plants as suggested. I’m pretty pleased that the plants seem to have made a pretty good recovery since I brought them indoors 2 weeks ago.

The photo below was taken 27 September:

Basil 27 Sept 09 Well I’m pleased to finally say that my basil plants now look like those prime specimens that you buy from the supermarket all wrapped up in plastic.

I’ve been picking the leaves and using them in tomato sauces and the leaves have just regenerated and the plants are looking really healthy. They seem to love it on the kitchen windowsill where there’s plenty of sunshine. The ones outdoors that are planted with the tomatoes are getting eaten to shreds, so I will definitely be keeping my basil indoors in the future!

Growing my own basil from seed has been a bit up and down. They germinated really quickly and quite easily, but finding the right spot for them to carry on their growth has been a bit of a struggle. But now I know that the best place for them is on the kitchen windowsill, growing them next year will be a breeze! It has been really satisfying too, as buying fresh herbs from the supermarket can become so expensive! But a little care and attention given to the seeds I acquired (for free!) was really worth it.


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