To say that basil is a hearty plant would be incorrect, but it can be an enjoyable herb to grow by following a few care and watering tips. Basil is native to Asian countries where the sun is abundant for six to 12 hours per day. This type of climate may not be as readily available in the US, but you can start basil indoors before the spring season.
Watering Basil Plants as Seedlings
Watering basil babies is much different than watering grown basil plants. If you have purchased a flat of seedlings, begin the growing process indoors where the temperature is regulated. Keep the plants misted but not damp. Too much moisture in the soil will cause mildew and fungi to grow. After seven to 10 days, your seedlings should be ready to transplant to a container or into the ground.
Basil Watering Requirements
Basil is an easy herb to keep healthy once you understand its watering needs. The sun is a must for all plants, and basil requires six to eight hours of sunlight each day. Since herbs are usually planted in smaller containers, they will dry out more quickly than plants in a larger vessel. Cloudy days can also affect adjustment of daily watering. You may only need to water your basil plants once a week during cloudy seasons as opposed to more frequent watering during full sunlight.
One inch to 1 1/2 inch of water each week is the rule of thumb for keeping outdoor container basil plants content. It could take you a while to get used to keeping track of how much water your plants are getting , especially when rain helps along the way. Keep a gauge or small can nearby so you can see how much the rain has been contributing.
Growing Basil Outdoors in a Container
Watering basil in an outdoor container is much like watering any other type of plant. Give it the finger test in the morning to make sure the moisture is reaching the roots. (Insert your index finger into the soil deep enough to where the roots lie. The soil should not be dry.) The weight of the container is also a good indication of whether your herbs need a drink. If the container is light, the moisture has probably dried up and a nice deep watering is in order.
Growing Basil Outdoors in the Garden
Basil plants love the garden. If they get lots of sun and are planted in rich soil, the only other thing they need to thrive is the proper amount of water. You can help your herbs by sparsely spreading straw, shredded hardwood mulch or grass clippings around the plant's base. The roots will stay cooler on hot summer days and retain more moisture.
What Characteristics Does a Healthy Basil Plant Have?
A healthy basil plant will have strong, firm stems and bright-green new growth.When you rub a leaf between your fingers, it should have a slight give as well as release a lovely fragrance. The tips of the leaves should curve slightly — this does not mean the plant is wilting.
Signs of Overwatering
When a basil plant is overwatered, the leaves will begin to turn yellow and drop off. Bumps may appear on the leaves. These bumps are a sign that the plant is trying to take on too much water and has contracted a condition known as edema. Your basil plant may also begin to wilt and curl to the point of hugging its stem. If the soil is too moist, it will take on a greenish tint, indicating algae growth.
Signs of Underwatering
A serious sign of underwatering is when the potting soil begins to pull away from the sides of the container. Leaves become dry and brittle and take on a pale appearance. One thing that overwatering and underwatering have in common is that the leaves will curl under completely as if trying to escape an ultimate death. Take steps to properly water the soil, and perform the finger test daily until your basil plant returns to normal.
The most important part of growing luscious, tasty basil is to water regularly and watch for signs of too much water, too little water, too much sun and stress.
For more information on herb watering, read the following article:
A Guide to Watering Herbs—Best Practices for a Healthy Herb Garden