Basil is a thirsty plant- but this does not mean it is good to overwater it. Learning how often to water basil is part of basil plant care that I love to share here at Herb Growing Guide.
Whether you have indoor basil plants or purchased a supermarket basil pot, being able to harvest basil from your own homegrown organic herb garden is a luxury that can take your home cooking food to the next level with fresh basil leaves. Knowing how often to water your basil is an important factor in growing basil.
Basil watering tips
Basil requires about an inch (25.4mm) of watering per week. I prefer to split between two waterings per week. The soil I have contains pearlite and vermiculite so it is both well-drained and has water holding capacity.
- First work out what half an inch of water is for your potted basil
- To do this, find a similar diameter container and fill it until you have half an inch of water.
- That is how much water to give per watering. Do these waterings twice a week.
- If you see the basil plant looking wilted, and the soil feels dry, give it more water.
- If you see the basil plant looking wilted, and the soil is wet, then do not water it.
- If you struggle to figure out how much water to use, use a self-watering pot.
I have grown basil for many years and used to make the mistake of overwatering it. This causes root rot and the plant does not thrive.
Getting the right amount of water gives you juicy basil leaves that taste good. Self-watering pots contain a reservoir below the pot and water wicks up to the basil plant. These have many advantages – just don’t overfill the reservoir as it makes a mess on your windowsill.
There are two reasons I grow basil – for culinary use and to attract bees.
If you are growing basil for culinary use, a balcony or window sill garden is ideal. It is a great herb to use in your cooking.
If you are growing basil in the ground in a vegetable garden, basil is also an excellent attractant for pollinators. I use perennial basil for this purpose and plant this all over my garden. It keeps solitary bees such as leafcutter and mason bees healthy.
How often to water basil seedlings
Basil seedlings are quite sensitive to overwatering. If you give them too much water they just do not come up. Use a misting spray for watering your basil seedlings.
My normal go-to choice for herbs and higher-value plants is to use a peat pot. These are biodegradable pots that come with a small highly absorbent coco coir pellet. You place the pellet in the pot, water the pot and the pellet swells to fill the pot with a compost soil-like substance.
You then place your seedlings in the pots and they germinate and flourish quickly. For my area, I water these once and the seeds germinate.
This is a nice starter pack that has both the pots, coco coir pellets, and little marker pegs to write on. Ensure you use a permanent marker for this. I say this because I was just planting my spring garden and found I accidentally used a whiteboard marker and now I do not know what any of my seedlings are!!
How often to water basil in a pot
Every 2 days to maintain moist soil. You don’t want the soil to dry out and you don’t want to overwater it. So you must ensure the potting mix is moist to touch especially when growing indoor basil.
As mentioned in how to keep basil alive, basil develops a deep root system so make sure your pot is at least 10″ deep.
How often to water basil in winter
Basil comes in two broad types. Perennial basil – this does not die in winter if you keep it warm. Annual basil – this dies in winter.
For perennial basil, you need to reduce watering a bit in winter – try the equivalent of half an inch of water a week, and see how the herb plant looks. If it gets a bit dry, you can give a little more water. In winter, the plants are more sensitive to overwatering.
Do you water basil from the top or bottom?
This will depend on your pot. If it is a normal pot, with a tray, water from the top.
If you have a wicking pot, then water by filling the reservoir and letting the wick take water to the potted basil. My experience with wicking pots is that they really take a lot of the stress out of growing herbs and many plants. This is a new technology that makes it easier for busy herb growers to water their basil plant.
With a wicking pot as described above, you will find sometimes there is a bit of salt accumulation on the soil surface. If you see this, remove the pots from the reservoir, place them in the shower and give them half a minute of cold shower rain. This washes the salts through the soil and solves that problem.
How much water does potted basil need?
The equivalent of one inch of rainfall a week. This means enough water to cover the surface of your pot in one inch of water. It is ideal to split this into two waterings. IE 2 x half an inch per week.
Do you need to water basil daily?
Herbs need to have a few days to toughen up between watering. If you water them too often, they become very bland tasting. All plants generally benefit from a twice-weekly watering regime as it forces them to develop a deeper root network. Deeper roots find more nutrients, making your plant healthier to eat.
For more herb growing tips on how to keep basil alive read this article.
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