Answer: Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is easy to grow. It likes full sun and moist but well-drained soil. It can be started from seed indoors, six to eight weeks before the last expected frost date; direct sown outdoors one or two weeks after the last spring frost; or purchased as young transplants. It can be grown in pots or in the ground. Unless your soil is very poor in nutrients, basil should not be fertilized.
Basil is an annual, meaning it will live one season, flower, set seed and die. However you can delay flowering by removing flower buds as they appear. This will also keep the plant producing harvestable leaves. If allowed to flower, it will become woody, with fewer leaves and a bitter flavor.
To harvest basil, simply snip young leaves as needed. You can also cut whole stems off and remove the leaves indoors. If you cut a stem, do so just above a pair of leaves. This will cause two new stems to arise in its place.
You can attempt to grow basil indoors over the winter in cold climates, but this can be challenging because of the plant’s love of sunlight. Unless you have a window that receives strong sun all day, you’ll probably need to grow the basil on a light stand. Also be sure to provide it a large pot with several drainage holes, and keep the soil moist.
Learn all about growing herbs in Rosalind Creasy’s Edible Herb Garden.
See the Renee’s Garden seed collection Herbs for All the Senses.
Get the ultimate herb guide with An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.