Basil is an easy-growing herb that can supply your kitchen with a constant supply of fresh, aromatic leaves for cooking. Growing your own basil means you’ll save money at the grocery store, you’ll enjoy fresher produce, and you can choose varieties that suit your tastes.
We’re sharing advice on how to plant and grow basil, from selecting varieties to harvesting leaves. We’re also sharing a delicious pesto recipe that will bring that homegrown goodness straight to your table.
Safety tip: Always wear the appropriate safety equipment (safety glasses, gloves, and a mask, for example) and always follow the instructions for the product or equipment. Always wear gloves and a mask when handling potting mix, mulch and compost, and store products out of the reach of children and pets. After applying fertiliser around edible plants, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before cooking and eating.
Basil is an excellent herb for beginners due to its adaptability to various spaces, from cosy windowsills to spacious garden plots. Choosing the right type of basil involves considering its intended use, the climate, and your personal taste preferences.
Sweet basil is versatile, while Thai basil has an anise-like flavour. African Blue does well in hot areas; lemon basil has citrusy notes; and cinnamon basil is perfect for people who like a little spice.
Basil thrives in warm and sunny spots. Plant it in a location that basks in six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. If you're opting for indoor cultivation, position your basil near a sunny window or utilise artificial grow lights.
Basil prefers well-draining soil. If yours is heavy or compact, consider enriching it with organic compost or aged manure to boost drainage and fertility.
When it's seedling time, dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball, nestle your seedling in, backfill with soil, and secure it by patting down gently. Level up the root ball with the soil surface and keep the soil consistently moist without overdoing it. Water deeply when the top layer feels dry, adjusting frequency according to the weather.
Prepare the soil for your basil plants by adding a layer of organic mulch, like pea straw, encircling the base of your plants. The mulch acts as a trusty moisture retainer, keeping the soil hydrated. Mulch also suppresses the growth of weeds, allowing your basil to flourish, and it regulates your soil’s temperature, creating a cosy environment your basil can thrive in.
The golden rule of basil growing: keep those fresh basil leaves in check! Regularly pluck leaves to nudge your plants towards bushier growth, curbing premature flowering. This sets the stage for a cycle of continuous growth, ensuring a constant bounty of fresh basil.
If there’s one thing you can look forward to growing your own basil, it’s homemade pesto. This versatile sauce is great for pastas, focaccias, salads, grilled meats, dips and much more! It also makes for a great gift.
Makes 350g of pesto (2 cups)
2 cloves garlic
30g pine nuts (2 tbsp)
80g basil, picked and washed (4-5 packed cups / 2 bunches)
Handful of ice cubes
40g parmesan cheese, finely grated (2 cups)
150g extra virgin olive oil (¾ cup)
Salt and pepper to tasteMethod:
1. Blend or bash the garlic and pine nuts into a coarse paste.
2. Add the basil and ice cubes, followed by the parmesan, and continue blending.
3. Slowly add in the olive oil to create an emulsion.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Basil and tomatoes are great together! Learn how to grow your own in this helpful guide.