Is there anything better than harvesting bundles of fresh Basil from your garden and bringing them inside to wash them and strip the leaves from the stems? It anoints your hands and fills your kitchen with the overpoweringly wonderful scent that is the essence of summer freshness. Basil's rich floral bouquet, tinged with hints of clove and licorice, is essential in pasta sauces, pizzas and pesto, and is a flavorful adornment for goat and mozzarella cheeses, Tomatoes, Garlic and silky olive oils.
Growing a bountiful supply of Basil is an easy and inexpensive luxury. Just a few seedlings will yield more Basil than you could possibly use (though you'll likely try.) Its fresh, delicate leaves, rich in volatile oils, bruise easily, which is the reason why bunches of Basil often appear so sad and defeated in the supermarket. Growing your own is definitely the way to go!
To start Basil indoors, sow the seed about six weeks before your spring Frost-Free Date (find yours HERE). Provide heat and good ventilation, and give them 12 to 15 hours of bright light each day. Avoid overwatering. Before transplanting the seedlings into the garden, harden them off by putting them outdoors in a sheltered location for a few hours each day for a week to 10 days, gradually lengthening the time outdoors. This will help them to avoid transplant shock. Hold off transplanting until night time temperatures are reliably above 55°F. Basil is a serious heat lover. Just talking about a light frost can be enough to kill it, and if it doesn't succumb outright, it's growth can be so stunted that it will never fully develop. Once the weather is warm and settled, Basil seeds can also be sown directly into the garden. Thin them out so the mature plants will stand about 10" apart.
TIP: During the growing season, the more Basil you harvest, the more your plants will produce. Pinching off flower stalks also encourages bushier, more productive plants.