How to Grow Basil
To grow this tender annual from seed, sow in flats about 6 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds and cover with the growing medium to about twice the depth of the seed. Keep soil at 70-72 degrees F, and keep moist. Seedlings are very sensitive and most losses occur due to low moisture and low temperatures. If not crowded in the seed flat, do not thin, but let them grow to 3 to 4 inches before transplanting. Basil likes the warmth of the full sun to grow best. Lift transplants carefully by the leaves instead of the stem. Set outdoors only after soil and air temperatures are warm. One chilly night can set plants back.
Basil can be directly sown in the garden after the soil has warmed up and nights are not too cool. Be sure to sow to a depth of twice the size of the seed or heavy rains may wash the seeds away. Purple varieties, lacking chlorophyll, is more susceptible to shock in the early stages.
Harvesting and Storing Basil
Sweet green basil can be dried, frozen in ice cubes, frozen as prepared pesto or used fresh. Blend fresh basil leaves with pine nuts, oil, garlic and cheese for a bright green, fresh-tasting pesto; perfect for pesto or grilled meats. It is also good for making flavored vinegar for salad dressing or suffused in oil for flavored oil. Purple types are best used fresh in salads, and for making flavored vinegar. In the garden, it is a colorful contrast to annual flowers, and its color and blooms are useful in cut arrangements.
Basil is probably one of the easiest herbs to grow. The number one mistake made when growing basil is oversowing. Good quality seeds have a 90-99% germination rate so only a few seeds are needed for success. For example: in a 10-12″ container, three seeds are plenty! You will end up with three strong plants that have plenty of space to flourish.