Basil can be a great herb to include in your cooking. My wife makes Thai Chicken with Basil that is very delicious. One issue with basil is that it can be fairly expensive, especially in a basil-intensive meal. The Thai Chicken meal that my wife makes takes $2-$3 worth of basil each time she makes it. However, basil seeds are really cheap and growing basil can be pretty easy.
I’ve had great success growing basil under a grow light and then transferring it to the garden. Basil is sensitive to frost, so if you want to get an early start you’ll need to use a grow light. You can plant the seeds directly in your garden soil if you prefer, but not until after the last frost. I plant basil under the grow light in early February, at the same time I plant onions. I plant 6-8 seeds in a ~3″ deep baking tin, so the seeds have 3″ – 5″ between them. You can probably get away with planting them even closer. Plant them in good potting soil if possible as they will be in there for a while. Keep the soil fairly moist and they should germinate in about a week. I continue to water every 2-3 days. If you start getting moss-type growth on the soil, then water less.
It takes about two months for the basil to be ready for it’s first harvesting. If you only need a few leaves you can harvest prior to two months. About 45 days after planting, the basil plants start to grow very rapidly and can double in size in two or three weeks. The picture above shows my basil after about 55 days.
You can harvest basil without killing the plant. Just cut the main stem about an inch below the lowest set of good leaves. The basil will keep growing and you’ll get several good leaves that you can cook with.
Once all danger of frost has passed (about mid-May where I live), you can transfer the basil to your garden. Let the tin you planted in dry out a little bit (not completely). Then just dig a little indentation in your garden that will fit the tin. Try to take the whole chunk of dirt and basil plants out of the tin in one group and stick it in your little hole. Now just water it with the rest of your garden, and pretty soon you’ll have more basil than your family can possible use. Basically those 6-8 little plants will grow into a basil bush. When the basil tries to make seeds, just clip off the buds so that the plant keeps growing. As long as you do this, your basil should last until the fall frost. Basil can be used to make tomato sauce, so if you’ve grown some tomatoes you might use your basil when you’re canning.
You can even dry basil leaves if you’d like. By the end of the summer, our family is usually sick of basil so we just let the plants die and then start the process again the following year.
Thai chicken with Basil: