Basil is a must-have for those cooking with home-grown herbs. It is frequently used in Italian and Asian dishes, particularly any dish that features garden tomatoes. Basil also is relatively easy to grow. If you can get your hands on a basil plant with roots attached, take advantage of it. Not only is it easier to grow basil from an already established plant than from a seed, but you'll be able to harvest the leaves for your recipes much more quickly this way, too.
Planting in a Pot
Most gardeners prefer to grow basil from seed directly in a pot or in a garden. However, basil can be successfully grown from cuttings in water until a good root system appears. Wait until the plant has grown about 2 inches of root before planting it, according to www.gardeningknowhow.com.
When it's time to move the plant into a pot, fill a small pot with potting soil and saturate it with water. Plant the rooted basil and keep the pot in water overnight.
Now you must gradually "harden" the plant, or help it grow strong enough to handle the full sun basil ultimately needs to grow and thrive. Start putting the plant outside for two to three hours a day in a sheltered location protected from direct sun, wind and rain. Water it well. Gradually increase the exposure to sunlight a few hours at a time and gradually reduce the frequency you water. The minimum temperature to start hardening basil is 65 degrees, according to the Washington State University Extension office.
Regardless of whether you're working with a rooted basil plant from a cutting or an established plant, don't replant basil in too large a pot, or it could suffer from root rot, according to the Herb Society of America. For example, start the plant in a 2- to 3-inch pot, and once that pot becomes too small, move basil to a 4- to 6-inch pot, and gradually increase the size of the pot from there. Plant basil in either a plastic or a clay pot; just be sure it has plenty of drainage holes.
Planting in a Garden
Transplanting rooted basil to an outdoor garden is a challenge. For the best result, start the basil in a pot, allowing it to grow stronger before moving it to a garden.
Harden the plant just as you would if you were going to keep it in a pot. Wait to transplant the plant into the ground until well after the last frost in your area. Plant the basil in full sun, watering and fertilizing the plant thoroughly at first. In "Fine Gardening" magazine, author Susan Belsinger recommends continuing to fertilize the plants every two to three weeks, and watering them if there is a dry spell.