How To Grow Basil

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Although you can sow (i.e. plant) basil seeds directly outside once the soil is warm (ideal is 70F/20C), in my zone 6 climate, that means a short growing season, so I like to start them inside.

And you can keep them inside for the whole year and just harvest them from a windowsill, or you can plant them outside in late spring (basil doesn’t like cold). 

Either way, I like to start inside.

You can use any container with drainage, even used food containers such as yogurt. I like 3” in diameter, but I’ll use 1”-2” diameter when I’m starting a lot of plants at once and as high as 6” when I’m just starting a few.

Put the container(s) in a tray (to eventually catch water).

Fill the container with seed starting mix or potting soil. Garden soil may work but it often fails because it’s too heavy.

I water at this point, before planting the seeds, although you could water after instead.

Optionally, soak the seeds to improve germination. I read one study on basil where 12 hours of soaking was better than 8 hours, which in turn was better than 4 hours, so it seems a 12-hour soak is ideal.

Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch (1 ¼ cm) deep.

You’ll need to water it occasionally – that could be every day or 2 or maybe only once a week – it depends on the temperature/humidity and the growing medium. They don’t want to be too wet or they may get diseases, but of course, they can’t be too dry either. 

Basil seeds need warmth for germination (“germinate” means you see the plant peaking out of the soil), so if you have a heat mat, you may want to use it. Otherwise, put it in a warm place until it germinates. That could be a sunny window, but it doesn’t need light until it germinates, so anywhere warm is fine.

It should germinate in 5-10 days. 

When it germinates, put it in a warm, sunny window or under grow lights, in which case I use LED lights in the 4000-6500 Kelvin range, set on a timer for 16 hours per day.

Here are some of my favorite health benefits of eating basil:

  • It contains antioxidants that help boost immunity.
  • Traditional uses include the treatment of snakebites and colds.
  • It contains essential oils that can help lower inflammation, reduce blood pressure, and fight illnesses.

We would love to see your seed-starting photos! You can email them to [email protected].