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A guide to growing basil microgreens
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Growing basil microgreens is a fun (and yummy) container gardening project to do at home. Basil seedlings also make a lovely, delicious garnish or salad ingredient.
Basil microgreens are the baby shoots of new basil plants. Tiny basil seeds are sprouted in potting soil until they grow a few inches high and produce a few tiny little leaves. Basil microgreens are wonderful to enjoy in salads, sandwiches, or as a beautiful garnish on a meal.
Here’s everything you need to know to learn how to grow basil microgreens.
Getting started growing basil microgreens
Basil microgreens are quite an easy type of microgreen to learn to grow. They’re easy to germinate and sprout in warm indoor temperatures and tend to readily produce nice tasty green leaves with adequate light. All in all, they’re a nice way to get comfortable growing microgreens while growing a familiar herb that you already may know how to use in your cooking.
First, collect the supplies (or purchase a little indoor basil gardening kit). You’ll need a container, potting mix, and seeds, as well as clean water and sunlight. Let’s look at the supplies required to grow basil microgreens.
- Basil Seeds: your favorite variety
- Container: Tray, preferably with drain holes
- Potting Soil: Well-draining organic potting soil
- Water: Filtered or non-chlorinated, if possible
- Sunlight: Sunny window and perhaps an LED
Buy basil seeds or grow your own from fully-grown plants. Seeds sold specifically for microgreens (where you need lots of seeds) are usually in packages over 1 oz and generally contain more than 1000 seeds. You can also grow microgreens from clean basil seeds packaged for the garden.
If you’re a true foodie and love an interesting, intense basil flavor, it can be fun to look for specific varieties of basil for your microgreens. Sweet basil, Genovese basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, and more are all available.
Containers and trays for growing microgreens
Basil microgreens can be grown in a baking tin, an old takeout tray, or a specialized microgreens tray. Check that the tray/container you’ve selected has drain holes to allow excess water to escape. It’s also nice to have a second tray (without holes) under the growing tray just to catch and hold the water after it drains, so it doesn’t end up all over the countertop.
Basil plants will “drown” if their roots become waterlogged. Plants require air in the soil as well as water. If you do grow them in a baking tin or something without drainage, take great care not to overwater them (and watch for signs of excess moisture).
Saturating the soil for an extended period will suffocate the plants. There is little room for air in the soil if it is saturated with water. The only time these little seeds will put up with a little extra water is during the initial germination phase of growing basil from seed. Once roots are established, let them dry out a bit between waterings.
Potting soil for your microgreens
For your potting soil, choose a well-draining variety. Some high-quality potting soils are specially formulated for growing plants from seeds. These “seed-starting mixes” are perfect for growing basil from seed, as are high-quality all-purpose potting mixes.
How to grow basil seeds into microgreens?
- Fill the tray container with potting soil.
- Moisten the potting soil, so it is damp (clumps) but not wet (muddy). After moistening, the soil should be about 1″ from the top of the container.
- Place the basil seeds on the soil. Seeds can be about 1 cm (1/2″) apart or closer. Imagine you’re sprinkling ground pepper onto the pasta.
- Lightly sprinkle a bit of soil (less than 1 cm or 1/2″) of soil on top of the tiny basil seeds. It is ok if each seed isn’t covered with soil. Seeds right on top of the soil will still grow.
- Gently water the soil until the top layer of soil is saturated and the seeds are in contact with the water. Gently tamp down the soil with your fingers.
- Place the container in a warm area to help the seeds germinate.
- Keep the soil moist and warm while the seeds germinate and sprout into seedlings. You’ll have germination problems if the environment is too dry to support sprouting.
- Wait! Basil takes a long time to germinate in comparison to other seeds. Grow some peas or another quick microgreen crop alongside your basil if you’re looking for a quick win.
- Water the sprouted basil microgreens regularly.
- Once the basil sprouts have become established, watering can be reduced. At this point, the greens are probably almost ready anyways.
- Basil can be harvested as a microgreen once the sprouts have grown several inches high. Yum! Basil microgreens make a lovely garnish on pasta or a perfect addition to a tomato salad.
- If you have too many seedlings, save a few to allow them to grow into large plants! Pot them up, enjoy them, or give them to friends.
“Basil is a low grower. Be sure to cut close to the soil to keep the full plant intact. Take your time during harvest to avoid capturing excess soil with your scissors.”Microgreens: A Guide to Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens, by Eric Franks & Jasmine Richardson
Considerations for growing microgreens in an indoor environment
You can grow basil microgreens indoors with a few simple tricks to mimic nature. Growing any type of plant indoors rather than outdoors does require some special considerations to make sure your basil sprouts are healthy. Read on to learn about growing the healthiest greens.
Light is vital
The most important consideration is providing enough light. If you have a bright sunny window, place your basil greens tray where it will get lots of light throughout the day. Remember that basil loves 12 hours of light each day and needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive, so ensure you’re selecting your window carefully.
If you’re at all doubting that your basil is getting enough light, get yourself a plant light. You can either buy a fancy plant light set-up or just a regular fluorescent light. Place the basil plant right under the light so it can soak up all the rays. Gardeners growing under artificial lights usually set the light on for 12-16 hours/day, followed by at least 8 hours of darkness each night.
Heat and humidity are also important
You may also want to consider other environmental factors, such as heat and humidity. If your microgreen tray is very close to a drafty window, it could be negatively affected by the cold.
Basil also may be affected by indoor humidity. The dry winter air in heated homes can desiccate the soil and dry the plant. Consider using a humidifier if the air in your house is particularly dry.
Air movement helps too
Lastly, basil sprouts benefit from some sort of air movement. If your house doesn’t have an active air movement system, a fan may help to simulate the outdoor environment. Air movement will help your basil sprouts grow strong and discourage pests and disease.
Can basil be used for microgreens?
Basil seeds can certainly be used for growing microgreens. Basil microgreens are perfect for topping pizza, pasta, and other culinary favorites.
What do basil microgreens taste like?
Basil microgreens have a strong, fresh, true basil flavor. You only need a small amount of these microgreens to add the taste of basil to your dish.
How do you grow microgreens without soil?
Basil microgreens are difficult to grow without soil as the seeds are small and can dry out quickly. That said, placing the seeds on a wet paper towel or on top of a moist bed of coco coir can work to grow microgreens without soil or regular potting mix.
Are basil microgreens profitable?
Selling basil microgreens can be profitable, but only if the numbers make sense in your local market. Many small-scale growers choose to supply only fine restaurants, specialty grocers, and well-attended farmer’s markets.
- PennState University, Growing Microgreens
- South Dakota State University, Growing Microgreens at Home
More about microgreens
Interested in growing your own microgreens? Here are the basic and some ideas for gourmet types to try.