How to grow basil

Basil growing guide

Basil is undoubtedly the most popular herb sold by Leaf Produce – and the bigger it is, the more our customers love it!

It’s a relatively easy herb to grow – but do remember that it’s actually not a Mediterranean herb (even though it’s used a lot in Italian cooking) – it’s more at home in Thai-style conditions: hot, sunny, and moist.

So put your basil in your sunniest place, and water it regularly. (Here at Leaf Produce, the basil plants get watered 2 to 3 times a day in summer.) It’s OK to put your basil plant in a saucer of water, it doesn’t mind having ‘wet feet’… this can be handy if you need to go away for a short while.

Remember to feed your basil plant

Basil also enjoys a really good feed: it’s surprising how quickly these little plants get pot-bound with their vigorous root system. So if you can re-plant your basil in a bigger pot, you’ll be rewarded with a bigger, more vigorous plant.
Organic fertiliser
If the leaves on your basil plant start turning yellow, that’s a sure sign it needs a feed.

Basil is a hungry plant, so it’s important to feed it regularly, especially if it’s growing in a pot or container. Follow the instructions on your fertiliser – or if you don’t have any fertiliser to hand, grab some certified organic fertiliser from us.

Note: We’ve recently switched to using a growing mix that’s free from artificial/chemical fertilisers – it no longer contains a slow release fertiliser. So if you’ve grown our basil successfully in the past, you’ll need to feed any new plants you buy from us.

Why does the basil I buy from the supermarket always die?

Those poor little supermarket plants are doomed from the outset:

  1. Basil is a hungry plant, and it quickly runs out of nutrients in those small pots.
  2. It’s been grown using hyrdoponic/fertigation techniques – in other words, it’s been continuously fed with the perfect balance of nutrients. Once the nutrients in the little pot get depleted, the plant suffers.
  3. There isn’t enough growing medium in those small pots to provide basil with the moisture it needs.

Pests love basil too

Unfortunately, it isn’t just humans who love basil – so do insect pests. I’ve had woodlice (slaters) devour numerous basil plants, as well as slugs, but the #1 enemy is without doubt caterpillars. Caterpillars can devour an entire crop of basil overnight – yes, it has happened to us when the Tropical Armyworm Caterpillars invaded!

So squash any caterpillars if you see them, but if that’s not doing the job, you might want to use a spray. See your local garden centre for advice on sprays: there are organic sprays, natural sprays, and more potent brews. The basil plant you’ve purchased from Leaf Produce may have had a natural spray applied to it (an extract from a daisy plant) – but many days before it’s sold, so it’s absolutely safe to eat.

How to pick basil for maximum growth and yields

There’s a trick to picking basil that makes the plant re-grow – and do so more vigorously, and in a way so that it gets bushier rather than tall and leggy.

What you do is snip the main stem of the basil above where there are little leaf nodules, or leaf-lets. By pruning the top in this way, it encourages those leaf nodules to grow and become new branches. Hello, bushy basil!

Cutting basil above baby leaf-lets encourages bushy growth.

Many customers tell me that they get their basil plant to last all season by using this technique.

If you look after your basil plant well, it will feed you for a long time! It is an annual plant though, and it doesn’t like the cold, so you’ll need to grab a new basil plant from us in Spring/Summer.

How to re-grow your basil plant

Check out my other blog post with a video on how to re-grow your basil plant.

Get in touch

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