If you’re thinking of growing your bunch of basil leaves, you’ve come to the right place!
Known for its fine aroma, basil is a popular herbal plant, widely used for cooking and to treat various bodily ailments. With more than 100 species, some common types of basil include sweet basil, Thai sweet basil, Genovese basil, and Lime basil.
This well-loved herb is also commonly grown using hydroponics – people want to have direct access to their batch of basil leaves as they know that it has the best fragrance and taste when it is fresh. Some restaurants grow basil leaves in their hydroponics systems.
Basil can be grown through the usual germination of seeds, or by the propagation of basil cuttings. Although it grows best in warm temperatures (70 to 80°F), this plant does not do well in humid environments where the humidity exceeds 70% for extended periods.
Steps to growing basil in a hydroponic system
The Elindra and Genovese Compact are the two kinds of basil suited for indoor cultivation.
To grow them, the most common way would be seed germination. This method will require hydroponic trays, starter plugs, soaking solution, and a heat mat.
To begin, soak the starter plugs in soaking solution and allow the excess to drain off. Avoid adding too much solution, as this can cause rotting for the seeds. If you are growing the seeds indoors, remember to place the hydroponic tray in light – this step is important to ensure that seedlings continue to grow and remain at a warm temperature of 75°F.
When deciding on which grow medium to use, perlite, vermiculite, Rockwool, and coco noir are recommended options. During germination, ensure the surface of the starting plugs remains moistened, and water them when they start to dry up.
Once the basil seeds have sprouted to two or three inches tall, transfer them into the hydroponics setup.
Process of growing hydroponic basil
The basil plant takes a total of five weeks to grow and requires ten to twelve hours of light to grow healthily. If you are growing your basil plants during the winter season, you will need to use LED grow lights to provide sufficient warmth and light.
To begin growing the basil plant, these are the steps to follow:
- Fill a pot four to six in. in diameter with potting soil.
- Scan the basil bunch and check that it consists of no more than one plant. If there are multiple, identify those that have their roots enjoined, and are attached to the same stem. For large plants with many stems and leaves, cut a few stems, keeping only six to eight in. of the first section.
- When potting the basil plants, ensure that they are spaced with a minimum of four to six in. between them.
- Water the basil plant daily for five to seven days to allow the plant to adapt to a moist environment.
- After this period of five to seven days, slowly cut back on the watering until you have reverted completely to giving it the usual amount of water.
- Look for a place where the temperatures are warm and where the most sunlight is received. Places that face the south are the best option. For plants that are to be placed outdoors, leave the plant for a week after it was first transplanted. This is because plants can go into shock from sudden exposure to strong sunlight and wind.
Growing healthy, quality basil
Plants that are grown hydroponically need nutrients that are catered more to their specific needs. As such, growing basil plants in hydroponic systems might just allow you to produce a crop that has a better aroma and taste.
All basil plants are at risk of being attacked by pests like aphids, fungus gnats, and whiteflies. Another possible issue would also be the onset of diseases like fusarium wilt and damping-off.
Such problems can be prevented by strengthening the resistance of plants to disease and pests, by supplying a consistent and balanced level of nutrients.
Tips on growing hydroponic basil
Growing basil plants in a hydroponic system will require a lot of monitoring and maintenance on a daily basis. To cultivate a healthy batch of basil plants, conditions like light, temperature, water, pH, and EC levels, as well as the nutrient supply need to be adjusted to the precise needs of the basil plant. Furthermore, these conditions will change under different types of grow systems and weather conditions.
Overall, these are the conditions that enable basil plants to grow well in a hydroponic system:
- Consistent temperature of 65 to 70°F
- A pH level of 5.8 to 6.2
- At least 14 hours of light daily
- Electroconductivity (EC) level of 1.0 to 1.4mS – note that this requirement increases during the winter season
- Nutrient solution; specialized for herbs and leafy vegetables
- Daily light integral (DLI) of at least 12 mol/m2 daily.
It is also good to grow basil plants separately from other plants so that you can modify the growth conditions to an optimal level.
Basils have been cultivated to become single-stemmed plants that grow upwards in a vertical direction. As such, growers are encouraged to prune their basil plants, as these tend to produce more. This will also give you control over the shape of the basil plant while making it easier to transplant (although this depends on your growth method).
Once you have harvested your basil, remember to store it well by wrapping lightly in plastic film and placing it a cool area of 52 to 57°F. Another way you can prolong its freshness is to place a cut stem of the plant in a little container of water. Place it in an area of room temperature, and the basil plant will be able to last for a few days.
Harvesting a good bunch of basil leaves requires lots of care and attention. From checking nutrient levels to ensuring they get enough warmth and sunlight, the process will require lots of patience and hard work from the grower. Nevertheless, as long as you follow the steps and tips given in this article, you are likely to succeed in producing your very own batch of fragrant basil leaves!