Growing basil indoors is easier than you think. However, it is still important that you get things off to the correct start or else you will only be making life more difficult than it actually has to be. This is of course a widely used herb in cooking with the nickname of being the ‘King of Herbs’ and it has an important role to play in not only Mediterranean cooking but also Asian.

The herb itself has a rather distinct aroma which is often described as being both sweet and strong lending itself to a number of amazing dishes. Generically speaking, it is a member of the large mint family and it is believed that the herb itself originated in India even though we now associate it more with other parts of the world. However, there are other reports that even India may have imported the herb with there being some suggestions that its real origin is in the Hunan Province in China.

Historically speaking, basil has been cultivated for at least 5,000 years that we know of and that in itself is quite impressive. Now, it is cultivated in every single corner of the world and that is mainly due to the ease with which it can be grown indoors, something that we will look into in more detail later on.

But why is it used so much in cooking?

Well, we have to look at the aroma and flavor that it gives off along with its versatility. We can also really thank the Italians in particular for introducing it to so many of their dishes that were then basically exported around the world as that has certainly made it even more popular than ever before. In addition, it can be used as a garnish for decorative purposes rather than as a main ingredient and then there are different sauces where it can add a bit of a bite without being too overpowering.

Also, this herb is high in different nutrients from Vitamin K to Vitamin A and also manganese. You will also find some levels of Vitamin C mixed in with calcium and iron so including this in your diet in some way is certainly going to be advantageous to your health.

However, it is probably more to do with the fact that this herb is so easy to grow that anybody can do it and that is why you will now find it being grown in all four corners of the globe. Furthermore, this is something that you can do at home and you can then have some fresh basil sitting on your window ledge ready to be harvested and used whenever you need it.

The fact that you do not require any specialist gardening knowledge in order to grow it is just an extra bonus. All that you need is soil, a container, seeds, and the ability to keep an eye on things and avoid them just going to waste. In addition, these plants will pretty much grow before your very eyes and do not require too much maintenance making them the perfect herb to grow in your kitchen.

However, you might be wanting some tips just to make sure that you do everything the correct way, so here they are.

Tip 1: Getting the correct soil.

The first tip is focused on getting the correct soil for basil to not only grow but thrive. The best thing for you to do is to go to your local gardening store and look for quite a coarse soil as this is often more free draining than others and that is something that the seeds and young plants are going to love. Anything that holds onto moisture too long is going to be your biggest enemy and it is certainly something that should be avoided at all costs.

Tip 2: Select the correct pot.

As you are growing basil indoors it does mean that you are going to require the correct pot and you should not just go ahead and buy the first one that you see and think that it is attractive. Instead, the key is in the drainage that the pot offers and if there is no hole in the bottom, then put it back down on the shelf. Basil needs brilliant drainage if you are going to be successful in growing the herb because if there is a build up of excess water in the soil then the roots are not going to be too happy. Remember, it is a plant that originates from drier and warmer climates so wet roots is not going to be its natural habitat.

Tip 3: Buy basil seeds.

Now that you have both the correct soil and plant it is best that you think more carefully about the seeds that you are going to buy and there are several varieties for you to choose from. However, each one will tend to grow the same way so do not get too involved or stressed out as you try to choose the type of seeds that you would like as it is not that important even though there will be a slightly different aroma and taste to it.

What we recommend is that you try one of the following three types as they are so easy to grow that anybody will be able to do it. The types are, Purple basil, Cinnamon basil, and Thai basil and you should be able to find the seeds at any good gardening store. If not, then there are always other options available to you. What you will find with these three versions is that Thai basil has more of a licorice flavor to it while the purple basil has less of a sweet taste when compared to the more common version of the herb. As the name suggests, cinnamon basil has a spicier taste to it although, at the same time, it is not overpowering so there is no need to worry about it dominating a dish as that is not the case.

Tip 4: The planting of the seeds.

Next, we have to look at the way in which you plant the seeds and, once again, you do not require any specialist gardening knowledge for this part to be a success.

First of all, take your container and add some of the soil until it is roughly ¾ full. Never fill it to the top as there has to be some space left for the sake of watering as it will simply spill out over the top and that is something to be avoided.

Next, give the soil a light watering but do not soak the soil. The key is to just add some moisture as this is going to give the seeds a bit of a kickstart to life and it is going to make germination all that bit easier. After all, you want to make the start as simple as possible as that is going to result in you getting a better and stronger plant further down the line.

So, when it comes to sowing the seeds then it is also important that you keep the individual seeds far enough apart so they do not crowd one another out. You do not want to create too much competition for all of the nutrients in the soil and their roots will just get tangled up which, in turn, is going to result in the plants effectively choking one another.

Ideally, if you are using a round container then you should be looking at sowing them some 2.5cm apart as an absolute minimum and we recommend a maximum of 5cm apart. Therefore, the number of seeds that you can sow in a container is going to really depend on the size of the pot that you are using so keep that in mind before you get started. It is better to have a lower number of seeds and healthy plants than trying to do too much and getting nowhere.

However, let us say that you are going to sow them in a window box as this is a common and popular way of doing things. With this, there is the option of scattering the seeds the length of the box and then once the second set of leaves have appeared on the seedlings you then have to thin them out and give the stronger plants more space to grow.

No matter which option you go for, after you have sown the seeds you then need to give them a light covering of soil and when we say light we really do mean nothing more than ¼ inch (or 6mm) although this soil should be quite fine and not too heavy. Once this has been done, you then need to give things a light amount of water and we actually prefer to use a spray bottle rather than a watering can. You will find that you can control the amount of water a lot easier and a watering can will be like a deluge on the delicate seeds and result in over-watering which is going to be a disaster for the seeds.

After that, it is all about caring for them.

Tip 5: Dealing with the temperatures.

Seeds and plants need light to grow and basil is no different to the rest. Generally speaking, the seeds and plants will require at least six hours of good quality light each day and we understand that this is not always possible for everybody in every single situation.

However, there are ways around this particular problem and the first one is to use artificial lights. If you want to become very fancy then you can buy specific lighting kits just for this purpose as that will deliver an intense amount of light in a short period of time and it will also generate some direct heat on the seeds and young plants as well. Because of this, you will then see improved results as the plants grow stronger when they have had the correct light whereas those with less light will be weaker and take longer to germinate.

In order to get the correct amount of light you cannot really use natural sunlight especially when you are growing basil indoors. The problem here is that the light is going to be sporadic and that has an impact on the way in which the plant can grow. What you need is to use LED grow lights and there are various reasons as to why they are the best solution.

First, you can better control the light and the times when the plants are exposed to it. The light is also far more directional so the plant gets even light for as long as you need resulting in stronger plants that will thrive under these conditions. These LED grow lights will give you the intensity that you need especially when growing things indoors. It also means that you can grow them in far more places in your home rather than being restricted to the location that has the best light for the longest part of the day. Thanks to these lights you will then see better results with your plants.

Tip 6: Dealing with light.

Seeds and plants need light to grow and basil is no different to the rest. Generally speaking, the seeds and plants will require at least six hours of good quality light each day and we understand that this is not always possible for everybody in every single situation.

However, there are ways around this particular problem and the first one is to use artificial lights. If you want to become very fancy then you can buy specific lighting kits just for this purpose as that will deliver an intense amount of light in a short period of time and it will also generate some direct heat on the seeds and young plants as well. Because of this, you will then see improved results as the plants grow stronger when they have had the correct light whereas those with less light will be weaker and take longer to germinate.

Tip 7: The daily care.

So, you have the seeds sown and you are looking at trying to get the best plants possible and in order to do so you need to do some simple daily care to get the strongest plants.

First, we recommend that you put the container or window box near a window and preferably one that gets the most amount of sunlight for the longest part of the day. We did just say that you can supplement the light issue with artificial lights, but natural daylight and the sun is still going to be the best, and cheapest, option.

Next, consider running a fan nearby or if it is not too cold outside make sure that the window is open so that a gentle breeze can come in. This is going to simulate the natural habitat and when you are able to successfully do this you will then see better plants as a result.

If we now turn our attention to the soil then you cannot just put it in the container and then forget about it because the seedlings are going to eat up those nutrients as well as them breaking down naturally. What we recommend is that you fertilize the soil once a month with the appropriate natural feed and you can get a selection of them from your local gardening store. Check out an organic version or a fertilizer that is slow-releasing for the best outcome.

However, at the same time as you fertilize the soil we also recommend checking the pH levels of the soil. Basil enjoys soil that is somewhere between a pH of 5.5 and 6.5 and if it is too high or too low then you are going to see an impact on its ability to grow. If this is the case, then you need to alter the pH in whichever direction it has to go and there will be options once again at your local gardening store that can help you out.

Now, as the plant grows you need to consider pruning it in order to get a stronger and healthier plant although there is a rather specific way of doing it. The idea of pruning is that it stops the plant getting out of hand and you can control the growth better. The time to start pruning the plant is when it grows to something in the region of six inches tall. If you clip off the top of the plant then what you will then see is that it gets bushier. If this approach is then adopted time and time again you will end up with quite a thick plant that gives you more basil in the long run. In addition, if you see flowers appearing on the plant make sure you cut them off straight away. Failing to do this will lead to the flowers turning to seed and that is going to have a negative impact on the quality and strength of the plant that you then grow.

The final tip with the regular care is keeping an eye on potential pests or diseases. Now, this can affect any plant at any point and it is important to remember that you should only use organic solutions that are not going to endanger your health. One potential idea is to use liquid seaweed although tests on that are a bit mixed but it is certainly worth a shot.

By doing these different things it should ultimately lead to you having stronger and healthier plants.

Tip 8: How to harvest the basil.

If we can jump forward in time a bit and say that the plants are well on their way to maturing and you can then turn your attention to potentially harvesting the plant. Now, clearly you should not just go ahead and hack away at it because that is going to limit the lifespan of the plant itself as you need to be more selective when it comes to you cutting off parts and then being able to use it in your cooking.

The best time to start harvesting is as soon as the plant has got past those early stages where it is rather fragile and weak looking. You should be looking at the plant being in the region of 6 inches tall and even then you should only snip off the top leaves and be careful as you do so.

With harvesting, you should only cut off the top branches and if possible take a couple of inches at a time. However, even after cutting the branches you need to be careful with how you handle it as there is a need to be as gentle as possible since basil does bruise quite easily and the leaves are going to blacken surprisingly quickly. Clearly this would not be a good thing to add to your cooking.

If you are careful with how you harvest the plant then it should last for quite some time but harvest it too heavily early on and you will stop growth in its tracks.

Tip 9: Storing the basil.

The final tip is going to focus on storing the basil because if you grow a number of plants at the one time then you will find it difficult to use it all up before it starts to blacken and is past its best.

A huge tip is to look at freezing it as soon as you have harvested it as this is going to preserve most of the flavor and it will certainly result in a better aroma and taste than if you air dried it like the basil you will get in jars from the grocery store.

In order to freeze the basil, you should wash the leaves and then puree them in a blender and add some water. Add this mixture to ice cube trays and just pop it in the freezer. Nothing could be easier and they are going to last for months in that condition.

Furthermore, you can use the basil in order to make a pesto and for this you just have to add some cheese (Parmesan is best) along with some garlic and olive oil and puree that basil like we mentioned above. This is also going to keep for some time and it is a fantastic addition to all kinds of dishes and it is just your imagination that is your limitation.

In other words, storing basil is easy to do and we strongly recommend that you do it or you are just going to waste so much of this amazing herb.

​Conclusion

So, there we have it. 9 simple and easy to follow tips that will mean you are able to grow basil successfully indoors no matter where you are in the world. As you can see, there is no need for you to have any specialist knowledge or understanding of gardening as this is something that really does pretty much grow all on its own without it needing too much help from you.

However, do take care with the steps that we mentioned above as they will certainly make sure that those seeds and the young basil plants get off to the best possible start in life. By doing so, you can look forward to them growing successfully with you then able to use them in order to give those dishes that little spark of life from the king of the herbs.