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Growing Basil For An Unending Supply

Basil is the ultimate summer herb. I mean, what is there to dislike about it? There are endless varieties, each with its distinct fragrant smell and taste. Summer meals like garden pizza, pasta, or even sauces are not the same without fresh garden basil. If you don’t like fresh basil, try making and freezing pesto and other seasonings or drying the leaves to make your spice blends. There are so many uses and reasons to grow more basil. Luckily, growing basil is easy as well as cloning it to create more plants than you know what to do with. By the end of this article, you will be able to clone your basil plant, or friends for that matter, and grow the cuttings in water until they have a thriving root system and are ready to transplant.

Growing Basil Tips

  1. Basil can be grown seed indoors or outdoors. To grow transplants inside, start the seeds about six weeks before your last frost date. To find out more about your frost dates, check here. If you live in zone 7 or higher, sow basil seeds outdoors after your last spring frost.

  2. Do not transplant seedlings outside until the risk of frost has passed. Don’t be in a rush to get basil out. It does better the hotter it is out.

  3. Basil enjoys full sun, so plant in any location that receives a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight.

  4. Keep basil plants watered. Depending on where you live and your rainfall pattern, be prepared to water basil deeply every seven days. Living somewhere like Houston, you may have to water your basil plants every three days.

  5. If growing basil in a container, you will water plants more often. Container plants always dry out faster than raised beds or inground beds.

  6. Basil cannot tolerate cold temperatures, so to keep your basil supply throughout the winter months, either preserve your harvests or take clones and grow them indoors over these winter months.

  7. Most importantly, allow some of your basil to go to flower and leave the flowers for the pollinators.

Why Do I Need This Much Basil?

Basil is one of the most common herbs worldwide. Many dishes from different cuisines call for basil. Since we have a garden and are growing basil, we might as well grow enough to keep a supply ready throughout the winter months.

The easiest way to keep basil plants in the garden is not by purchasing many transplants from the nursery. It is not succession planting and growing them from seed. The easiest way to keep an endless supply of basil is from propagation.

  1. Propagating from cuttings speeds up the time needed until harvest. Basil plants grown from seed take a minimum of 21 days to reach a transplantable size. While basil grown from cuttings takes 14 days to reach the same size.

  2. If you follow the water propagation technique rooting will occur in 100% of the cuttings. If you start seeds, even though basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow, you may have a germination rate of around 90%.

  3. Growing one rooted cutting per pot will produce a plant with stronger roots than had you grown multiple seedlings in one pot.

What Is Propagation

Propagation is the process of reproducing an identical copy of a plant from a piece of that plant. There are many ways to propagate plants; grafting, division, and budding, but in this article, we will focus on taking cuttings.

How To Propagate Basil

Rooting basil takes time, but not as much time as growing from seed. There are many ways to propagate basil, but we will go over two of the easiest ways. One way involves water and the cup, while the other requires soil. Whether you decide to do the soil route or the water method, it’s easy to do.

Growing Basil by Water Method

  1. Go outside and collect basil cuttings. You want these pieces to be 4 to 6 inches long. It is best to take these cuttings right at the node area.

  2. Remove the leaves from the bottom 2 inches of the stem. This is where the new roots will grow from.

  3. Get a cup and fill it with water. I prefer to use clear glass to watch the roots grow and know when I will need to change the water.

  4. Place the basal cuttings into the cup of water.

  5. Place this cup somewhere where the cuttings will receive bright indirect light. I recommend finding a sunny windowsill inside. But if the inside is not an option, then place your basil cuttings in water in a shaded area.

  6. Change the water every few days.

  7. After about seven days, you should see roots starting to grow at the bottom of the stem.

  8. Allow the routes to reach one to two inches long before transplanting into a four-inch pot or directly into your garden.

Growing Basil by Soil Method

  1. Fill a four-inch pot 3/4 of the way with potting mix.

  2. Now, take a four to six-inch long cutting from your basil plant. I prefer to take many cuttings at once and do all of the propagating at one-time.

  3. Dip the base of your 4 to 6-inch cutting in rooting hormone. Read about how to make your rooting hormone here. Place the cutting into the pot, rooting hormone side down.

  4. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or larger container. This is to help prevent moisture from escaping and create a high humidity zone for the cutting. Since the cutting has no roots, this high humidity allows the plant to intake water while developing a new root system. 

  5. Place the plant on a sunny windowsill to keep the soil moist.

  6. In about ten days, you should see new growth on your basal cutting. Give it one more week before transplanting out into your garden.

Now that you are a propagation professional and able to grow as much basil as your heart desires, don’t forget to share some with your gardening friends. And once you have all the basil you could ever want, check out this link to learn how to dehydrate and store your basil harvest. Or this link here where we talk about how to make your garden pesto.


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