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Caring for basil: how to do it right

31.05.2021  /  Reading time: 9 minutes

With the right care, your basil will reward you with aromatic leaves for cooking or drying. We give you tips on watering, fertilizing and cutting basil. We also explain how to care for and propagate basil from the supermarket. You can easily grow basil seedlings yourself.

This article contains:

  1. Planting basil - what you need to know
  2. Basil care: tips for watering, fertilizing & cutting
  3. Water the basil
  4. Fertilizing basil
  5. Basil care: correct cutting & harvesting
  6. Propagate basil: Growing cuttings
  7. Growing and propagating basil from the supermarket

Quick Overview

How do I care for basil?

  • Location: sheltered, sunny and warm
  • Soil: loose, humus-rich soil is best
  • Temperature: the herb dies below 7 degrees
  • Nutrient requirements: weak grower, no additional fertilization required
  • Water requirement: high

Watering basil correctly - instructions

  • Water in the evening or early in the morning
  • Basil does not like waterlogging!
  • Water from below in the pot if possible

How often to water basil?

  • Water moderately every day to prevent waterlogging and mold growth

Planting basil - what you need to know

Basil(Ocimum basilicum) belongs to theLamiaceae family. The herb likes it warm and sunny. It is therefore not hardy and only grows as an annual in our latitudes. For perennial cultivation, you need to bring the herb inside for the winter. Otherwise, you will have to sow your basil again every year. In addition, not every basil variety is perennial. If you want to overwinter your basil and grow it as a perennial, you should bear this in mind when choosing the variety.

Basil is not only a very healthy plant for humans (it is not for nothing that basil is a valued medicinal plant in India), but also a good partner in a mixed culture. The herb keeps whitefly away from your bed and can preventmildew. This is why basil and tomatoes are such a good mixed crop, as tomatoes are often affected by mildew. You can find out more about the effect of herbs in a mixed crop here in the article.

Basil: location and temperature

For basil plants, choose a sheltered and sunny location. The soil should be loose and rich in humus. All in all, however, basil is not fussy and thrives in almost any location - even in a pot on the balcony. The right temperatures are more important: below 12 degrees, growth stops and the basil gets "cold feet". If temperatures fall further to 7 degrees, basil dies.

Basil and sun

As already mentioned, basil does well in the sun, but the plants often lack water at midday, especially on warm days. You can therefore also grow basil in partial shade, for example between tomatoes, where the basil plant is at least partially shaded.

Sun and suitable temperatures are essential for basil plants to grow well. So if you have to deal with a cold, wet and rainy gardening season, it's probably not your fault if the herb doesn't grow in the garden.

Mixed culture with tomato and basil
Tomato and basil is a proven mixed crop. Image by Heidi Hanson on Pixabay.

Basil care: tips for watering, fertilizing & cutting

There is not much you need to consider when caring for basil. If you follow the tips for watering and fertilizing basil correctly, you should be rewarded with healthy basil plants. There are also a few tricks for cutting basil that will allow you to harvest the herb several times.

Water the basil

As the tropical herb loves the sun, but has many leaves to supply with moisture, it needs a lot of moisture. So don't forget to water your basil on sunny days. This should preferably not be done in the midday heat, as otherwise your plants will get a "shock" from which they may not be able to recover. It is therefore best to water in the evening so that the water can be absorbed overnight without evaporating too quickly. Even early in the morning, not so much water evaporates on the cooled soil and can be absorbed by the plants. But be careful: too much moisture can lead to mold growth. This can happen quickly, especially if you keep your herb on the windowsill.

Water the basil in the pot

Water the basil daily so that it is evenly moist. When doing so, follow the rule of thumb for herb pots: the daily water supply should not permanently exceed the maximum amount of 10% of the pot volume. For a standard herb pot with a capacity of 1 liter, this would be approx. 100 ml of water.

Basil in a pot is best watered from below. If the leaves get wet, the risk of fungal infection increases. The leaves can also burn if the basil plant is placed directly in the sun. Use a pot with a hole at the bottom and a saucer. You can then water daily via the saucer. Take care not to cause waterlogging!

Basil in a pot
Always water your basil in a pot from below. Image by seeandfeel2017 on Pixabay

Fertilizing basil

Fertilization is not a must for basil, as it is a weak grower. However, basil thrives best when the soil is loose and rich in humus. Simply use a little compost, which you can make yourself. Mix in a little sand to prevent waterlogging.

Basil care: correct cutting & harvesting

To ensure that basil grows back and you can harvest regularly from a plant, you need to prune your basil correctly. To ensure that there are still enough leaves to sprout again, only cut off the top tips of the sh oots. By shoot tips, we really only mean the upper part with about 4 large leaves. Use a sharp knife to damage the plant as little as possible. Then cut off the shoot tips above a leaf axil to make it easier for the plant to sprout. By harvesting regularly, you can delay flowering and harvest fresh basil for longer. You can find out more about harvesting and processing basil in this article.

Propagate basil: Growing cuttings

Once your plant has developed larger shoots, you can cut off 10-15 cm shoot tips and remove the leaves from the lower half. Now place the cuttings in water. If this is kept fresh, small root shoots will form on the plant parts after 1-2 weeks. You can plant the cuttings when the root shoots are 3-4 cm long.

Cutting and harvesting basil
Cut off the shoot tips above a leaf axil so that the plant can sprout again. Picture by Pitsch on Pixabay

Growing and propagating basil from the supermarket

We all know the problem: you buy a spice plant from the supermarket and want to use the herb for a long time, but it dies after just a few weeks. Even though you only use a few leaves for your dishes. Surely the basil should recover from this? However, the plants are grown very quickly in greenhouses under optimal conditions and are therefore not particularly robust. They are also usually planted far too close together. Here we show you the best way to care for and propagate your supermarket basil.

How can basil bought in the supermarket be strengthened in a pot?

If you want your basil from the supermarket to survive in the long term, you should definitely separate and repot it. Only take a quarter of the plants for a pot of the original size. This means that you can grow four basil plants from one supermarket basil. It is best to fill these pots with organic potting soil, as this is somewhat richer in nutrients than herb soil. This provides the small plants with a better supply of nutrients. Water the repotted plants with plenty of water.

Instructions for repotting basil:

  • Divide the root ball of your plant into 4 parts immediately after purchase. Do this carefully so as not to damage the roots too much.
  • Pot up the individual parts with fresh soil in a pot. It is best not to use nutrient-poor herb soil, as the plants need a slightly more nutrient-rich environment for further growth. Organic potting soil is therefore very suitable for basil. The size of the new pot can be the same as the original pot.
  • If it is already mid-May, you can also plant the basil outside in a sheltered spot. But be careful: plant the basil in a semi-shady spot first, as the greenhouse plant is not used to full sun. You can also add some compost to the planting hole.
  • Water your repotted/planted basil at the beginning. Don't forget to water the thirsty plant regularly.

The basil plants now have more light, space and nutrients at their disposal. In addition, they are much better aerated, which prevents many diseases, such as mold. Give your plant some time to adjust before harvesting leaves from it.

Herb garden with basil in a pot
Keep the supermarket basil alive and repot it. This will give the plant more light, space and nutrients to grow. Image by OlgaofDG on Pixabay

I hope this has whetted your appetite for growing your own basil. If you have any questions or comments, please write to us at [email protected].
Would you like to receive helpful gardening tips all year round and plan your own beds in the best possible way? Then register here or download the Fryd app for Android or iOS.

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Cover picture by Jelenajuhnevica on Pixabay.

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Isabell studies agricultural sciences and loves to be surprised by nature and its complexity again and again. Herbs - whether gathered wild or in the garden - are her passion.

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