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Top Tips For Propagating Basil

We love to use basil in many dishes at home, but to buy enough fresh basil to make pesto for family dinners is quite expensive. Growing our own from seed or cuttings is cost effective and surprisingly easy.

Growing basil from seed can allow you to grow a wider variety of basil, but then you can grow on from cuttings of those original plants. Taking cuttings is easy and will not harm the plants that you harvest from. Using a sharp knife and using either water on the windowsill or soil to propagate into directly you will quickly increase your crops.

green leaved basil
Basil is perfect as a garnish or as the main attraction in pesto.

If you want to grow basil indoors it is a really simple process and you will need a windowsill with around 6 hours + of sunlight each day. Yes, the kitchen is the obvious choice but we don’t actually get that much daylight there, so we grow mainly on the living room windowsill.

How to grow basil from seed

  1. You will need suitable compost, one with a neutral PH for basil seeds. Seed trays that have drainage holes, so you could use old mushroom cartons, but make holes in the bottom to avoid wet soil. Moisten the soil thoroughly first.
  2. Thinly sow the basil seeds. I make sure to water the soil first because you will only need around 1/4 inch to cover the seeds. If you water once you have that fine covering it can move the seeds. Spacing is key as you want to give each seed a fighting chance.
  3. Spritz the top of the compost with warm water and cover the basil seedlings. You do not need a heated propagator, but having somewhere warm will help with germination rates. Covering them will also mean you can leave them to it. Until the seedlings emerge they do not need sunlight, so putting the covered seeds into your airing cupboard is kind of alright!
  4. Two to three weeks later you should see the first shoots of your basil emerging. At this point move them to a sunny spot with between 6-8 hours of sunshine a day.
  5. Once the basil seedlings are around 3 inches high and have at least two pairs of true leaves, they are large enough to handle. Move them into pots with around three plants to a 8 inch pot as a rough guide.
  6. If you are planting basil outside, make sure that all fear of frost has passed. In the UK this can be a bit hit and miss, therefore having a few plants on the windowsill can extend your growing season to become all year round.
  7. If planting basil directly in the ground, make sure to have a humus rich soil which will allow for adequate drainage. Over watering will kill your basil faster than anything else. Plant between 6-12 inches apart.
  8. To keep your basil flourishing make sure to pinch out fresh growth to encourage a bushier plant. You can then use these plants for cuttings and to grow even more.
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How to grow basil from cuttings

  1. You will need a healthy plant to take cuttings from. No worries if you buy a living basil from the supermarket and choose to take cuttings from that, or even from fresh cut basil.
  2. If you are using fresh cut basil from the store it is possible to propagate it into a living plant, but you will need to first perform some sort of resurrection process! Stand your fresh cut herbs in water for a few hours before trying this method.
  3. With a sharp knife take a cutting between 4-5 inches high. Remove the lower leaves and make sure to have at least two pairs of leaves remaining at the tip.
  4. Use the knife to slice one side of your basil cutting, removing the ‘skin’ of the stem. This is essentially opening up the main pathway for the water to go up the stalk, making ideal locations for new roots to grow from. We have experimented with just removing the leaves and we found a lot more new growth with slicing, but it will still work even if you are not confident with a knife.
  5. You can propagate basil in water or directly in soil. If you are using water, keep out of direct sunlight as this can discolor and wilt the leaves.
  6. When we propagate basil in water we change the water every day to keep it fresh. Make sure to avoid leaves being submerged as they can die that way. You will see root growth within 3 weeks. After another 3 weeks they will be ready to plant into the soil. Care must be taken not to damage the roots when potting the basil up.
  7. To grow basil cuttings directly in soil you will have the option to dip the cutting into rooting hormone. This will prevent rot, but it is not essential. Just pop the cutting with removed leaves into the soil and moisten. Cover and leave in sunlight for around 2-3 weeks. After this time you can gently tug the cuttings and when resistance is felt you know that you have roots. Then you can leave them in those pots or plant out to the ground after another few weeks.
  8. Growing basil from cuttings is much faster than by seed, meaning that you can harvest it sooner. Keep pinching out the new leaves to encourage the basil plant to be bushier. If you do not want to use all of that basil straightaway we have a full guide for drying herbs, available for free here.

Grow a Healthy Windowsill!

Basil is in the mint family so it has a real desire to live and grow everywhere. But my one word of warning is that it needs plenty of sunlight to grow happily.

By growing basil indoors you can harvest all year round. This is fantastic for any home cook who also cares bout getting some healthy food into their families meals!

We grow so many herbs on our windowsill and love that it is there in any weather! So no trudging outside in the rain, and no forgetting to even use the herbs we do have! You may want to think about growing parsley or chives in your kitchen too.

We love basil as a micro herb as well and think it is perfect for beginner gardeners. It really is versatile and packed with nutrients so there is every reason to give it a go!

What Next

Get totally immersed in basil and all thing fresh or dried! Check out our ideas and inspiration for using basil here.

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