Planting Basil

Planting basil indoors can be done any time of year.

It is an annual plant which means it grows, flowers, seeds and dies in the same year.

You can start harvesting when a plant is around three months old, so if you sow a pot every month or so, you will always have a plant to cut at.

Use a good potting compost and fill a 4 inch (10 cm) pot to the brim.

Tap it down well, then put it into a bowl of water until the bubbles stop rising.

Set aside to drain for about 30 minutes or so.

You could leave it for longer if you like, that will enable the soil to warm up.

When you open the paper packet, you will normally find a foil packet inside.

Tap the packet on a firm surface so that the seeds fall to the bottom. This will help them stop spilling out when you open it.

Steadily tear the top across, being really careful that you don't tear downwards to split the packet.

As you can see, the seeds are very tiny. There was a 650 count on the packet of seeds I bought - I'd like to know who counted them!

You will need to just tip out a few to sow in one pot.

I use five in a pot this size, it gives a fairly bushy plant if they all germinate and if they don't, you'll still get a reasonable amount of growth.

I use a cocktail stick or a pencil when planting basil seeds.

Dampen the tip.

Pick up a seed and place it in the plant pot - just sort of rub it off the tip into the compost.

If you imagine a clock face, then plant one at 12 o'clock, one at 6, one at 3 and one at 9 then another one in the centre.

If you put them about an inch away from the edge, they will have plenty of room to grow.

Scatter a very thin layer of soil over the top and then press it down to firm it up.

You can get special plastic covers to go over the plant pot - some kits come with them as standard.

If you haven't got one, then cover the pot with a piece of polythene.

Keep the pot in a warm, dark place until you see the seeds begin to poke through.

You shouldn't need to water the pot - the damp soil, warmth and plastic cover make it virutally self watering.

Once you see the first seedlings come through, remove the lid and place in a well lit place.

Use a plant spray and keep the seedlings moist but not waterlogged.

I like to use a Cheshunt Compound in the water for the first few weeks as this helps prevent damping off a fungal disease which attacks seedlings and makes them keel over and die.

GARDNER'S TIPS You will only need a few seeds out of the several hundred you have in your packet. Keep them dry, just tip a few out and leave the rest in the foil packet. You can store the surplus seeds in a poly box in the refrigerator. They will keep for years if you don't leave them out in the warmth. You can test them for viability by popping a few on a piece of damp kitchen roll prior to planting and seeing if they germinate. If you get a reasonable strike rate - say more than 50%, then you can use the seeds, just sow a few more than normal, so you have enough for planting basil.

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