So You Want to Grow Basil for a Bigger Harvest

by | Apr 22, 2020 | Basil, Freezing Herbs, Harvesting, Spring, Summer | 5 comments

If you want to grow basil in your garden this year, I can guarantee you are already thinking of how you can use this spicy, aromatic herb. Now you are counting the days until you can clip those basil leaves and bring them indoors. For the maximum harvest this summer follow these four steps:

Plant Basil in Full Sun

Where you plant basil will have a big effect on how well it grows and how much you can harvest throughout the year. Basil needs full sun, which means at least four hours of direct sunlight. Don’t plant it in partial shade and convince yourself it will do just fine. It may survive but it won’t grow vigorously.

If you want to grow basil, growing it indoors will not work. Unless you have it positioned close to a full-spectrum grow light it will grow poorly. Even the sunniest window in your home will not – I repeat not – give it the sunlight it needs for good growth.

Essential Planting Guide For Herbs

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Water Regularly

Basil is a water-hungry herb. Whether in a container or in the ground it needs an inch a week – in other words, a good soaking. During the heat of summer, container grown basils may need even more frequent watering. But don’t water so much that the soil is constantly moist or – worse yet – soggy. Too wet soil can damage the roots and eventually kill your basil.

Before drenching your basil check to see if the soil needs watering. Push your index finger into the soil until the first knuckle is buried. If the soil at the tip of your finger is drying out, it’s time to water. If the soil feels moist or wet, wait a while. Basil is more often killed from too much water than not enough.

close up picture of basil
‘Pesto Perpetuo’ basil has variegated leaves and is something of a show-stopper in the garden.

Fertilize for Growth

Any plant that is being harvested will benefit from fertilizer. This is especially true of something like basil that you want to harvest several times throughout the growing season. Container grown basils should be fertilized monthly. Basil growing in the ground should be fertilized every time you clip off a sizeable section of leaves.

Harvest Frequently

basil leaves close up
As soon as you see the first flower heads on your basil, get out there and harvest a third of the plant.

This is where some people make a big mistake. They wait until the end of season and make a big cut to harvest the leaves. Yes, you get a large amount of basil but your total harvest will be more if you harvest several times throughout the season. Each time you clip basil, it stimulates new, bushy growth.

Regular harvest also ensures that you have the freshest leaves when you do harvest. If you wait until September or October to harvest, the lower leaves will be old ones that appeared on the stem back in April. Herb leaves lose flavor as they age. The fresher, newer the leaf, the better the flavor.

Grow, Basil, Grow!

Want big basil harvests? Plant in full sun, water regularly (but not too much), and fertilize to stimulate growth. This will give you lots of fresh basil all season long.

5 Comments

  1. Liz Morris

    I planted basil and also bought plants. The snails absolutely ate them to a nub. 🙁

    Reply
    • Lopez

      Spread crumbled egg shells around the seedlings. Dry them in the oven beforehand.

      Reply
      • Ann

        Despite the popularity of this idea, there is no proof that it works either as an insect/snail deterrent or as a means of adding calcium to the soil anytime in our lifetime. Eggshells degrade very slowly.

        Reply
  2. Ann McCormick

    I am SO sorry to hear that, Liz. Snails love juicy plants like basil. When you plant again try snail bait or, if you prefer, diatomaceous earth (available in most nurseries that carry organic gardening supplies). Don’t give up. Fresh basil leaves are worth the effort.

    Reply
  3. Lynn VonHoogenstyn

    My deer fence was destroyed by the elements and a power pole falling on it. I imagine deer love basil as much as I do. I have been repotting my tomatoes and peppers to grow on the deck while I save $ for a new fence. I was going to use crushed egg shells as a mulch to fend off sluggs. My stone fruit has creative pruning.
    Lynn

    Reply

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