Growing Basil

Ocimum basilicum : Lamiaceae / the mint family

Jan F M A M J J A S O N Dec
T                   T T

(Best months for growing Basil in New Zealand - cool/mountain regions)

  • S = Plant undercover in seed trays
  • T = Plant out (transplant) seedlings
  • Grow in seed trays, and plant out in 4-6 weeks. Sow seed at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. Best planted at soil temperatures between 64°F and 95°F. (Show °C/cm)
  • Space plants: 8 - 10 inches apart
  • Harvest in 10-12 weeks. Pick before flowering.
  • Compatible with (can grow beside): Tomato
  • A Basil plant
  • Basil flower

A frost tender low-growing herb. Basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent sweet smell. There are many varieties including Thai, purple ruffles, and lemon.

In frost-free regions perennial basil varieties will survive for years and the bush will keep on getting bigger and bigger.

Can be grown inside in pots in winter. As the plant develops, pinch out the top to encourage bushy growth. Pick off the flowers to encourage more leaf growth.

Culinary hints - cooking and eating Basil

Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. It is generally added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. Tear rather than chop.
The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water.

Your comments and tips

26 Apr 20, Georgia (New Zealand - temperate climate)
We've got a Basil plant in a raised vege patch outdoors, in Nelson. Any tips on what to do with it as we come into winter? Should I try and transplant it indoors? Or give it a good prune and then let it be? Or am I fighting a losing battle trying to keep it alive?
27 Apr 20, Anon (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I assume the frosts would hit it where you are.
26 Jan 17, Mary (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Please can you tell me if Basil will successfully freeze & still give off its aroma in cooking when use. Is there any special way of freezing it or just plain in a plastic bag? thanks
01 Feb 17, anna (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Works well for me, but the leaves sometimes get a brown colour from freezing, mainly when thawed and refrozen. I perfer to freeze only some fresh and a lot of it already as a pesto in an icecube tray. the cubes are great for portioning.
02 Jan 17, Patricia hay (New Zealand - cool/mountain climate)
Can you grow basil in tunnel house. Any tips. Tried growing from seed with no success .
02 Feb 17, Karen (New Zealand - sub-tropical climate)
I live North Shore Auckland. I've tried to grow allsorts of veg & herbs in pots from seeds outdoors with mixed success. The basil was one of my dismal failures. I now grow all my seeds indoors until the weather is warmer and the plants are well established. I find starting indoors is a lot more convenient for keeping an eye on progress. Regards basil, I find the seeds grow well starting indoors but take a while to get established once outdoors, then they go crazy! Since starting indoors I now have few failures but there are some things to be aware of: Light - needs good light so the seedlings don't become leggy. Be aware that near glass (windows/doors) can cause burn damage. Turn the pots around regularly so the plants don't lean. Don't over crowd, thin out seedlings if necessary. Temperature - Note the soil temperature required to germinate. Overheating during the day, too cold at night. I put a box over the pots at night to protect from sudden drops in temperatures. Ventilation - Ensure good air flow to minimise risk of disease, be aware of cold draughts coming from open windows at night. Watering - My seeds are sown in different sized pots/trays depending on what they are. I use
13 Nov 18, Yolandi (New Zealand - temperate climate)
Mine germinates so well and then I loose about 3/4 of them in the first 4weeks. The leaves die.... They re inside. Not sure whats going on

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This planting guide is a general reference intended for home gardeners. We recommend that you take into account your local conditions in making planting decisions. GardenGrow is not a farming or commercial advisory service. For specific advice, please contact your local plant suppliers, gardening groups, or agricultural department. The information on this site is presented in good faith, but we take no responsibility as to the accuracy of the information provided.
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