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re: Growing Basil From Seed

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Last year I planted 2 packages of basil seeds directly in my garden and not even one plant came up.
Has anyone had success with basil seeds? Should I start them indoors?

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  1. We've always had success growing basil from seeds. Around the middle of April, we just scatter seeds between 12 tomato plants on a raised bed. Always have more than we can use by September. We live on a hill south of San Francisco and not particularly hot.

    1. I have both direct seeded and started seed indoors. I grew a large variety for a couple years and started the seeds indoors to make sure I got the rarer varieties to grow. I also start seeds every couple weeks to keep it coming in sufficient quantities.

      I direct seed the same way as PBSF. with Genovese. I would guess I have more plants per seeding when I start them, but plenty still come up.

      1 Reply
      1. re: NanH

        I have found that when I let one or two plants go to flower and then seed; after the seed pods dry I will strip them off the stems of the plant and reseed immediately. I have found the Basil will not germinate here in S.W. Florida when the soil temp gets below an average of 55*F The best part of this is I believe by using the seeds I have protected the current generation of plants against Fusarium Wilt, a heretofor common problem with purchased seedlings.

      2. It depends on where you are. My mom direct-seeded hers in Florida, and I have a friend in the DC area who had more basil than she knew what to do with when she direct-seeded, but my season is enough shorter (Europe) that I really, really need to start them indoors.

        1. Your location might be helpful. Here in NH I tend to sow basil seed outdoors in large pots probably in early June. The problem with that is I don't thin them well enough. I suspect if you did not have good germination you didn't provide enough water.

          1. I'm in Massachusetts in zone 6A and have always had to start basil seed...of any variety, indoors. I have the best luck with that. Kept under grow lights they do very well and are strong and hardy when planted into the garden soil. In years when the soil hasn't heated up enough by 30 May or so (the traditional planting date for tender annuals around here) I've placed them in the cold frame to harden off.

            1. Where do you live??

              Basil is a tropical plant that requires heat to germinate. Also needs fertile, loose, well-draining soil to prosper. Best results for most folks is to start it from seed indoors under lights & then transplant outdoors unless one lives in Zones 9-10, where you might have good results from direct seeding.

              Under normal circumstances, Basil is super-easy to grow from seed.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Breezychow

                Also add that basil seeds need light to germinate. Covering needs to be very thin.

              2. Definitely start indoors, in a warm environment. I have to admit, after years of growing my own seedlings, it's so much easier and sometimes cheaper to buy them already started at a garden center ('specially if you don't have a greenhouse, or a large sunny space in a window). Unless there's a particular variety you want

                1 Reply
                1. re: BiscuitBoy

                  Yup. I always start some from seed (especially varieties like lemon basils), but can never resist picking up a pot or six-pack from the nursery. Can never have too much basil since I cook with it so often when it's in season.

                2. I was wondering why my basil was taking so long to germinate-- sounds like I poked the seeds too far into the soil. I repotted up two pots today and am hoping for the best! I'm using two different packs of seeds to cover my bases. The seeds already in the raised bed garden have about a 50% germination rate. I'm going to leave those alone.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: kellylee

                    I've taken to sprinkling seeds like basil on top of the soil and then sprinkling a very thin layer of vermiculite or play sand on top of them rather than trying to plant them that 1/8" or 1/4" in the soil. I've had a better germination rate this way.

                    1. re: morwen

                      That's actually a great idea. Sphagnum moss is just as good and retains water too. I used it when starting seeds indoors because it also helps prevent dying off of the new shoots. That and good air circulation is important.

                      1. re: Gio

                        On thing though, NEVER soak your basil seed before you plant it; plant it dry and THEN water it in. Basil seed has a water retention layer on it's seed, in the presence of moisture this will ballon out into a sort of stick white jelly corona. The word here is STICKY, if you get the basil seed wet before you plant it, you will NEVER be able to get the seed spread out; it will cling together in a single mass and the plants will be too crowded.

                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                          JM... The moss is lightly scattered over the soil in a starter pot AFTER the seeds are planted into the pot. I NEVER soak basil seeds. However, soaking some seeds aids in faster germination:
                          http://goorganicgardening.com/seed-st...

                          1. re: Gio

                            I never said you did, but I know of many people who soak ALL seeds overnight reflexively, the warning was for them.

                  2. Basil seeds are easy to start indoors. Morwen's method works for me. It's fun to try various "flavors", i.e. lemon basil, lime basil, etc. A variety called "Bush Basil" has very tiny leaves and is an interesting spicy addition to lettuce salads.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: DonShirer

                      its a little harder to find, but clove/tree basil (Ocinum granitssimum) can be interesting as well. very strong perfumey flavor (so much that more than a few leaves tend to overwhelm a lot of dishes). and the plants can grow ENORMOUS (unlike most of the basilicum and sanctum basils, granitssimum is woody and fully perrenial; the flower spikes die at the end of the year but the rest of the plant keeps going

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        You can find seeds under Ocimum gratissimum from Underwood Gardens, Everwilde Farms or J. L. Hudson.