The Secrets to Growing Happy Plants: Basil

May 02, 2018

Helery Harend is a senior botanist at Natufia Labs. She has accepted to share with you her precious knowledge in botanics, her practical experience of what can be done and what cannot be done in hydroponics, her many 'tips' to have plants growing better, healthier and tastier and the many properties and good use of those plants that grow in the Natufia Kitchen Garden. Swell gardening and Bon Appetit!

 

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It originates from India and has many varieties, such as Genovese basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, purple basil, etc. Basil is a beloved and well-known staple herb in every kitchen. Its distinguish flavour is an excellent addition to many dishes, and its beautiful delicate leaves serve as an exceptional garnish. You can learn more about basil from one of the earlier posts in the Natufia blog: https://www.natufia.com/blogs/natufia/100158663-sweet-basil-royal-herb.

Growing beautiful and healthy plants is a pleasure when you have the right tips and background information. In this first post of the series The Secret to Growing Happy Plants, I am going to share some of my knowledge about basil.

Basil seeds are mucilaginous – when seeds come in contact with water, they form a gel sack around themselves. This mechanism helps to keep the seed hydrated during germination and early seedling development.

Basil usually germinates within a week. Seedlings have two D-shaped cotyledon leaves and between the two leaves a sign of first pair of true leaves will appear soon. I have learned from using Natufia Kitchen Garden that in this early stage, basil has already its recognisable smell and flavour, which makes it an ideal microgreen to grow.


Basil is a single-stemmed plant, which grows quite quickly and likes partial harvest during the growing cycle. Harvesting or pruning your basil correctly can make it bushier and therefore yield more. How to accomplish that? Upward growth is called an apical growth. By pruning, you can trigger the lateral growth. Basil has lateral buds, which are plant’s back up plan if something happens with the main stem. Knowing that, we can make basil plants to produce more and look nicer. Start pruning your basil plants when they are about 15 cm (6 in) tall.

 

The first photo illustrates a nice homegrown basil. However, with the right pruning it could have looked nicer and yielded more as it did in the Natufia Kitchen Garden (second and third photo). Basil stems are elongated and do not have much leaves.

On this fourth picture, I marked a place for you to see exactly where the right place for pruning basil is. Snip the plant right above the set of leaves below. Just leave at least one or two pairs of leaves under the cut to make sure plant has enough green growth left to photosynthesize properly and produce new growth. After pruning or harvesting, it is important to store the cuttings properly if you do not use all the basil at once. Keep the cuttings in a jar of water at room temperature. Do not put them into the refrigerator because basil is a warm weather crop and does not like cold temperatures. Also, keep them from direct sunlight to avoid wilting. Correctly stored basil cuttings should last at least a week or two.

Removing old, dried or somehow damaged leaves helps to avoid dying leaves sticking to or affecting the healthy leaves. Also, if the basil has been growing for a long time, the stem becomes tough and the flowers start to develop. When basil starts to flower, the taste of the leaves changes and it is not as enjoyable anymore. To avoid that, I suggest removing old tough growth and cutting off the flower buds as soon as they appear. 

 

These tips apply to every growing condition, whether you grow basil on your  windowsill, in your outdoor herb garden, in a greenhouse or in a Natufia Kitchen Garden. We are growing eight different basil varieties currently here at Natufia. Labs. Distinguish characteristics of each variety are already recognizable and I suggest experimenting with rare and exotic basil varieties.

 

 Helery Harend, M.Sc.



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