Growing Basil Microgreens: Beginner Instructions & Extra Tips

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 about growing basil microgreens.

Growing Basil Microgreens - How to grow basil microgreens at home

Growing Basil Microgreens: Getting Started

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 for growing basil microgreens (or purchase a little indoor basil gardening kit). You’ll need a container, potting mix, and basil seeds, as well as clean water and sunlight. Let’s look at the supplies required to grow basil microgreens.

Supplies for Growing Basil Microgreens

  • Basil Seeds: your favourite 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

Basil Seeds for Growing Microgreens

Buy basil seeds or grow your own from fully-grown basil plants. Basil 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 seed for the garden. Here are some basil microgreen seeds to try:

Containers and Trays for Your Basil Microgreen Garden

Basil microgreens can be grow in a baking tin, 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 not much room for air in the soil if it is saturated with water. The only time basil 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 Growing Basil 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.

Genovese Basil Microgreens Growing in Indoor Container in Coco Coir
These basil microgreens are just sprouting up in a metal baking tin (no holes). We used coconut coir potting mix and were careful not to overwater due to the lack of drainage holes!

Kits for Growing Basil Microgreens at Home

There are also handy-dandy kits for growing small amounts of basil microgreens at home. You can harvest the basil plants when they’re small, as microgreens, and also leave a couple shoots to grow into bigger plants if you like.

growing basil microgreens - tray of green leafy basil microgreens

How to Grow Basil Microgreens from Seeds into Sprouts

  1. Fill the tray container with potting soil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 pasta.
  4. 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.
  5. Gently water the soil until top layer of soil is saturated and the seeds are in contact with water. Gently tamp down the soil with your fingers.
  6. Place the container in a warm area to help the seeds germinate.
  7. Keep the soil moist and warm while the seeds germinate and sprout into basil seedlings. You’ll have germination problems if the environment is too dry to support sprouting.
  8. 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.
  9. Water the sprouted basil microgreens regularly.
  10. Once the basil sprouts have become established, watering can be reduced. At this point, the greens are probably almost ready anyways.
  11. 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.
  12. If you have too many basil seedlings, save a few to allow 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
Basil Microgreens Growing in Tray

Considerations for Growing Microgreens in an Indoor Environment

Can you grow basil microgreens indoors? Yes! you can certainly grow basil microgreens indoors with a few tricks that mimic nature. Growing basil microgreens 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 Key for Growing Basil Microgreens Indoors

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.  Keep in mind that basil plants love 12 hours of light each day, and need 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. Lately some indoor gardeners have been moving towards inexpensive and compact LED plant lights. Place the basil plant right under the light so it can soak up all the rays. Gardeners growing basil microgreens under artificial lights usually set the light on for 12-16 hours/day, followed by at least 8 hours of darkness each night.

Growing Basil Microgreens Indoors? Yes! – With The Right Climate

You may also want to consider other environmental factors such as heat and humidity. If your micro green 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 out the plant. Consider using a humidifier if the air in your house is particularly dry.

Air Movement for Indoor-Grown Basil Microgreens

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 also discourage pests and disease.

growing basil from seed - thai basil flowers
Holy basil flowering and producing basil seeds. These homegrown seeds can be used for growing basil microgreens.

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