How to grow basil on your windowsill

Carol Klein provides advice on growing herbs successfully

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Basil is simple to grow at home all you need is a sunny windowsill. This versatile herb is popular for a reason; it’s a summer staple, sprinkle it on pizza, use it to whizz up delicious homemade pesto or toss it into salads. Follow‘s simple tips and you’ll soon have an ample supply of this fragrant herb.

Sad bunches of shop-bought basil can quickly go over. Why not grow your own to make sure you have a plentiful supply all year round.

Growing your own can save you money as well as brightening your empty windowsill.

There are numerous different kinds of basil from Thai Basil to Lemon Basil. It’s worth doing your research to pick the type that suits you.

The most widely grown variety is Sweet Basil. This has smooth, bright, green leaves and is normally the kind you’ll pick up in supermarkets.

Basil is an annual, or sometimes perennial, herb. Its leaves are harvested to be used for cooking.

Basil is native to tropical regions from central Africa to Southeast Asia, and it is used to hot climates.

So, basil needs warm temperatures with the temperamental British weather can’t reliably provide.

Basil is too delicate to survive British winters outdoors and any cold snap will cause this herb to shrivel, so it is best grown indoors.

How to you grow basil

Start sowing your basil seeds in March. They will need long daylight hours that the summer provides so it is best not to sow them too early.

Start by filling a window sill-sized flower pot with compost and carefully water it.

Make sure you use containers with good drainage. The pot should have holes in the bottom and then place this on a tray to ensure you don’t end up with a soggy windowsill.

Then firm the compost down. This can be done by gently pressing down on the soil with the back of your hand or a small hoe.

The seeds will need to be placed individually, so space seeds evenly on top of the compost then cover with another thin layer of compost.

Gently press down on this layer to get rid of air pockets.

Place your pot on a sunny window sill and water regularly.

You should make sure your soil is always moist but not waterlogged.

The seeds should germinate within two weeks and their first leaves should appear by the third week.

Soon you will have enough leaves to be able to harvest them to put in the kitchen.

If you want to transfer them to a more aesthetically pleasing pot you will need to wait until they have half a dozen leaves. You can now transplant them to your fancy pot or simply leave them in the pot they are in.

If any leaves look weak and straggly pull them out as they can become susceptible to mould.

Make sure your window ledge isn’t too drafty, as basil plants will soon shrivel up in the cold.

Depending on the variety, basil plants can grow between 30 and 150cm tall, so make sure you prune your plant regularly to stop it from growing out of control.

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