How much water does basil need? I feel like I ask myself this every darn time I grow it (which is as much as possible, in case you’re wondering). I’ve had more than a few happy-looking basil plants turn wilty and depressed in just an hour or so. Basil has the ultimate “sad puppy look” down pat.
Despite the moodiness, basil is very easy to grow, and it works in just about anything you make in the kitchen. Seriously. It works in desserts, breakfast frittatas, ice tea – it’s definitely a favorite herb around here. But yeah, how much water does basil need?
How much water does basil need in four different environments?
Let’s start indoors, which, of course, means starting in a container. As with any plants in a container, you want to make sure there’s somewhere for excess water to drain. And whether indoor or out, if you plant basil in a container, you also want to be sure the soil can stay moist without retaining so much water that it’s soggy. You know, the classic “well-drained soil.”
Now then, how much water does basil need when it’s in an indoor container? Unfortunately, the answer is a little tricky just because there are so many variables. Terra cotta containers absorb some of the water, taking it out of the soil. Plastic containers, on the other hand, retain all the moisture except what exits from the bottom or evaporates. The amount of sunlight is a factor, as is the temperature in your house.
All of this is true for basil planted in outdoor containers, too. You want to keep the soil moist, but not wet. That’s how you end up with mildew and root rot. Ick…
Now for the big reveal: If your basil is in a container, whether indoor or outside, the easiest way to determine how often to water it is to dig your finger into the soil. You can tell right away if the soil is too wet or too dry. You can even check the bottom of the plant if the drainage holes are big enough.
Now then, how much water does basil need if it’s in a raised bed or in-ground garden? That’s a little trickier. And again, factors like how sunny or cloudy it is can change the answer drastically. I’ve had to water my basil twice a day on sweltering summer days. I’ve also gone several days without watering it.
You can use the same trick here as with basil in a container, with the obvious caveat that you can only dig your finger into the soil at the top and not from underneath.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to leave you with just a “water the basil whenever.” There are a few general guidelines you can follow.
- How much water does basil need?
- Indoor container: About every five days
- Outdoor container: Give it a soak every 3 to 4 days, or daily if it’s especially hot out
- Raised bed: Probably every 3 to 4 days in cooler temperatures or if you’ve had rain. Daily in summer, but this depends mainly on your climate.
- In-ground garden: Every 3 to 4 days, or daily in hot weather. Again, though, this depends on your local weather conditions.
One last tip to help with growing some awesome basil: Plant it with tomatoes. Tomatoes and basil make fantastic companions because they have similar water and sunlight requirements, and basil repels many of the pests that attack tomato plants.
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Do you have any rules you follow when it comes to watering your basil? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments section.