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Basil. Bah-sil? Bay-sil? However you say it, this easy herb will take your garden—and your kitchen—to the next level.

Phase One: Planting

There’s plenty of beauty to be found in basil, but maybe the best bit is that you can grow it all year long inside or get down and dirty in the garden over the summer.

  1. When planting outdoors, wait until two weeks after the last frost so your soil has time to get nice and warm.
  2. If you plant your basil in the great indoors, make sure it gets plenty of sun by leaving it near a window.
  3. The sun is your friend, and basil needs about 6 – 8 hours a day. But to avoid drying your soil out, water in the mornings, about 1” of water per week.
  4. If you want to make pesto, grow several plants — running out of basil mid-pesto is cause for mourning.
  5. Plant ¼” deep, with about 12” of space between plants.

Phase Two:

You’re watering. You’re monitoring sun exposure. You’re uttering gentle motivation to your plant when nobody’s around. This, friends, is the road to herbed glory.

  1. Your basil will germinate (fancy for growing shoots) about 7 – 10 days after planting.
  2. Once your plant has three sets of leaves and is over 6” tall, you can cut just above the second set of leaves.
  3. This will help it branch off and grow more leaves.
  4. You can repeat the pruning process every couple of weeks. More leaves = more basil = greater happiness.

Phase 3: Growing

Your masterful prune-grow-prune pattern should yield some pleasing results by now. Remember, harvesting is good for basil. So go ahead, more caprese salads!

  1. After about six weeks, pinch off the center shoots of your plant to stop your plants from flowering.
  2. If you’re unavoidably detained, and a flower sneaks past your gaze, it’s alright. Simply pinch off about 1” below the flower.
  3. This helps you avoid what’s called “bolting,” where the plant starts to produce seeds, causing the leaves to get bitter.

Phase Four: Harvest

You can harvest as long as your basil is tall, leafy, and handsome. But as first frost nears, cut off some end shoots and root them in water to pot inside later.

  1. For those growing their basil outdoors, about two weeks before you expect frost is a good time to collect your end shoots.
  2. As you choke back the tears and harvest the last of your crop, try air-drying your basil by hanging small, loose bunches upside down.
  3. Or, store basil in the freezer. Just tear it up, place it in an ice cube tray, and pour olive oil over it. When you need a dash, toss a cube or two into whatever you’re cooking.
  4. You can even purée washed basil with some water and freeze that as well.
  5. Simply line up similarly sized carrots in a row and tuck them into a freezer bag before putting them in your fridge’s crisper.
  6. Who’s got basil for months? You do. That’s who.