Comprehensive Guide On How To Grow Basil From Seed

Basil is a must have in any home garden. From its culinary uses to pest control, basil is a versatile addition to your growing space. In this blog post I’m going to discuss how to grow basil from seed all the way to harvest.

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We’ve been growing basil for 5 years now and every year we find ourselves wanting more and more basil in our garden. This year like every other, we have started some basil from seed. Once that seedling is large enough it will be planted into our garden. Then we’ll propagate basil from cuttings of the original plants.

Basil plant
Basil Plant

In the end we hope to have fifteen to twenty basil plants spotted around our garden this year. We use a lot of basil to make our homemade pesto which we freeze for use all winter. While we use a lot of fresh basil during the summer we hope to have enough to dehydrate to be able to use it dried as well.

Enough jabbing about why we love basil. Let’s get into how to actual grow basil and take care of it until it can be harvested.

What Do Basil Seeds Look Like?

Basil seeds are very small black seeds. They are about the one centimetre in length.

Showing basil seeds in palm of hand
Small black basil seeds

What Time Of Year Should I Plant Basil?

Basil is a annual plant. This means that it will go through it’s full life cycle in one growing season and need to be replanted the next year. Because of this, start basil in the spring. Either indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date, or outdoors after all threat of frost has past.

How Do You Plant Basil Seeds?

Since basil seeds are very small they do not need to be planted very deep. Make sure you are using a high quality potting soil or seed starting mix and get the soil moist before planting.

The easiest way we have found to sow basil seeds is to sprinkle them on the soil surface and then get some extra seed starting mix and spread it on top. This way you will know that the seeds are covered but only by a small amount of soil.

One week old basil seedling in a 4 inch pot.
One week old basil seedling in a 4 inch pot.

A general rule for any seed starting is to never plant the seeds deeper than twice the diameter of the seed itself.

Can You Direct Sow Basil Seeds?

Yes, basil can be directly sowed in the garden. After the threat of a frost past. Follow the same steps as if you were starting the seeds indoors. Sprinkle on the soil surface, and lightly cover with soil and water in.

How Long Do Basil Seeds Take To Germinate?

Basil Seedling Emerging
Basil Seedling Emerging

Basil typically takes 7-14 days to germinate. When using the assistance of a heat mat in conjunction with humidity domes that time can be reduced to as little as 3 days.

This is our go to method for germinating any warm weather crop. Basil germinates the best when the soil temperature is between 75 and 85°F.

How Long Does Basil Take To Grow From Seed?

For the purposes of transplanting germinated seeds, it will take 6-8 weeks. Harvesting basil can start as soon as it has enough leaves to harvest.

Basil seedlings a few days after germination
Basil seedlings a few days after germination

When Can Basil Plants Be Transplanted?

Basil plants can be transplanted outside when the risk of frost in your area has past. For example, we are in zone 5b and our last frost date is May 10th. We wait a couple extra weeks to make sure there is no risk of frost and plant our basil outdoors at the end of May.

How To Transplant Basil Seedlings?

When transplanting basil seedlings, you must find the right location. Ask yourself these questions:

How Big Does A Basil Plant Need To Be To Be Transplanted?

Basil plants can be transplanted when they are still relatively small. After 6-8 weeks of growth the seedling should be a few inches tall which is more than enough for transplanting.

Six week old basil plant
Six week old basil plant
How Much Sun Does Basil Need To Grow?

Basil is a sun loving plant. It requires 6-8 hours of sun a day for optimal growth.

What Kind Of Soil Does Basil Need?

Soft, loamy, well draining soil is ideal for basil to thrive. Make sure there is lots of organic matter by adding fresh compost or well aged manure before planting.

What Are Companion Plants For Basil?

One almost obvious companion plant for basil is tomatoes. Some other common garden plants that would make a good companion for basil are: Carrots, Celery, Cucumber, Garlic, Marigolds, Nasturtium, Onion, Parsley, Sage, and Thyme.

Basil Plant Between Tomatoes
Basil Plant Between Tomatoes
How Much Space Does Basil Need To Grow?

Basil requires 12-18 inches between plants when planting a bunch of basil together. Depending on what you’re planting basil with the actual spacing needed could be higher or lower.

One of our favourite things to do is plant basil between our tomato plants. Our basil plants are only about 9 inches from the tomato plant, but as the tomato grows and gets pruned the lower branches are removed which creates more space for the basil.

How Deep Should I Plant Basil?

If your growing tomatoes you’ve probably heard that it’s best to transplant seedlings as deep as possible. The same is true for basil. When transplanting a basil seedling bury the stem. It will grow new roots, just like it does if you propagate basil, making the plant even more sturdy.

Newly Transplanted Basil Plant
Newly Transplanted Basil Plant

How To Take Care Of Basil Plants?

How To Water Basil:

Basil are water lovers. They require at least 1 inch of water per week.

Fertilizing Basil:

Fertilize basil using a standard 20 20 20 fertilizer. Basil requires lots of nitrogen to create all those beautiful green leaves.

Mulching Basil:

Mulching your basil plants is a needed step to reach its full potential. We love to use grass clippings as a free and readily available mulch for our basil.

Can Basil Be Grown In A Pot?

Basil does really well grown in a pot. It doesn’t have an extremely large roots structure which makes it well suited for container growing. Use a container that is at least 6 inches wide and 8 inches deep.

Can You Grow Basil Indoors?

Basil also does well indoors. A south or west facing window will give enough sun for your basil to thrive indoors. Make sure it gets at least 6 hours of sun per day and if needed supplement sunlight with a grow light.

How To Harvest Basil?

Harvesting basil is a very simple procedure. Once the basil plant is large enough that you have a usable amount of basil leaves there are two way you can harvest.

Harvesting Basil
Harvesting Basil

Either remove individual leaves from the branches or cut the whole stem above a junction point to use all the leaves from the cut portion.

How To Harvest Basil So It Keeps Growing?

This is very easy to accomplish. As long as you leave the roots intact and a few new growth shoots on the plant the basil will continue to grow. See below for example of where to harvest.

Removing a cutting from a basil plant to be propagated.
Harvesting basil to allow plant to continue growing

How To Store Basil?

Storing basil can be accomplished in a few different ways. The main two ways are dried and frozen. Either way you do it make sure to wash your basil leaves in cold water before processing.

How To Freeze Basil For Storage?

Our favourite way to freeze basil is to make a fresh pesto and freeze it in single serving sizes using a silicon muffin pan for easy use. Another way to freeze is to use a food processor or blender and blend the basil with a little bit of olive oil.

Basil Pesto in muffin tin to be frozen
Basil pesto in muffin tin to be frozen

Portion the basil into ice cube trays or muffin tins, and freeze. Store them in the freezer in a freezer bag and grab some basil when needed.

How to Dry Basil Leaves?

There are three different way you can dry basil leaves. Some are easier, and some are cheaper, than other. The fastest way, but also the most expensive is to use a dehydrator. Simply remove the leaves from the stems and place in a single layer in the dehydrator. Dehydrate at your machines lowest setting until leaves are dry and “crispy”

Another way to dry basil is to use the power of the sun. Remove the leaves from the stem and place in a single layer on a tray or baking sheet. Put the tray in a sunny area to allow the sun to dry the leaves. This will take a few days to fully dry out.

The third way is to leave the leaves of the stem. Put all the stems together into a bunch and tie the stems using a sting. The hang the basil upside down in a warm dark area until dry. This way takes the longest but is probably the oldest way to do it.


Basil is a great herb to have in your garden, kitchen, and pantry. Follow the steps above and you will no doubt grow and abundance of basil this year.

We hope you enjoyed this growing guide. If you did make sure you check out the other growing guides, seed saving guides and our recipes. We are growing our website with more articles all the time, and we invite you to grow with us. If you have any questions about basil or would like to share some of your knowledge with us please leave a comment below.

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