Tending Basil Seedlings

In previous posts, Herbs from Seed and Herbs from Seed Progress, I wrote about starting cilantro, basil, and cutting celery from seed. The cutting celery was a bust but the cilantro and basil have done well. Here's the next steps I took with the basil.

When the first true leaves start to appear, transplant basil seedlings into something larger. When I plan to eventually transplant the basil outside, I use soil blocks, but this basil is part of my basement herb garden, so I used plastic garden pots filled with potting soil.

Start with wet soil - seedlings will come out easier. Poke out a basil seedling, try to keep a nice clump of soil with it to protect the roots. Gently tease them apart if necessary.

Drop the seedling with soil clump into a hole in the prepared pot. (yes, that first one is a pic of cilantro, but same deal) I put 3 or 4 basil seedlings in each pot, watered and left them under the grow lights. A few weeks later and they have really taken off.

When the basil seedling has grown a few sets of true leaves, a bit of pruning can help create a bushier plant. I use my fingers to pinch out the smallest center set of leaves, circled below.

After pruning. You can eat the leaves you pinched off or just glory in the scent of fresh basil in February.

In a few days, new growth will start to appear and branch out from the pruned area. Two new sets of leaves will replace the set you pinched off. I also pinch-prune herbs like thyme, oregano, and mint, as well as some annual flowers. Zinnias and snapdragons really benefit from some pruning in the early stages.