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Failing to start basil from seed in pots

Hi all,

Brand new gardener here. I keep trying to start basil from seed (have tried maybe three or four times) and I'm clearly doing something wrong.

1. Put herb soil from Home Depot in a pot and put a pretty heavy concentration of seeds in the soil. Pot stayed outside in the shade (summer in Seattle) and was watered about once a day. Basil sprouted just fine, got to about 1.5 inches high and then stopped growing and died.

2. Started basic in egg cartons outside, waited for sprouts, then gently separated the sprouts and replanted in a pot. Watered about every other day. Basil got to about 1.5 inches high and stopped growing and died.

3. Planted seeds in a pot with sandy soil underneath and herb soil on top, planted seeds. Kept pot indoors by the window (was hitting autumn, so temp dropped), watered every other day. Basil got to... well, you get the idea. I had two pots of cilantro that did just fine with this setup.

4. Bought two adult basil plants from Trader Joe's and ate them up. They were delicious. :)

I'm clearly missing something important. Any suggestions, or basic herb growing how-tos?

[edit] Oh, and I now have my own house so pots are not a necessity anymore. If you've got tips for proper outdoor planting that would be great too! I don't think I'm too close to planting season in Seattle yet though.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: TN/GA 7b

Hard to tell without seeing them, but top of my head guess would be too much water and not enough sun/ light. Basil is a full sun plant. When I start basil seeds indoors under lights every winter, I put fluorescent lights like 3" above the plants, that are on for 16 hrs a day. In low light, high moisture conditions, seedlings are very susceptible to damping off, a fungal condition.

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Sage Hermit
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BaSiL Specs
Temperature: Hot
Soil:pH 5.5-7.0
Sow Depth: 1/4"
Light: Full Sun

Take care of the light issue and mayhaps you will smell the wonderful basil aroma in no time. They grow rapidly when you meet their needs.

Take care.
You can solve all your problems in a garden/laboratory.

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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I agree with rainbowgardener. Basil tends to need more light than cilantro. Also, like Sage Hermit said, basil needs more warmth than cilantro to grow since cilantro is cool weather (spring/summer) crop while basil is a summer crop.

Another clue: "put a pretty heavy concentration of seeds in the soil" --
I usually plant 2 or 3 seeds per spot in case of germination failure and separate each "spot" by about 1" so the roots don't get tangled up. Out of the 3, if more than one germinates, I save the "best" -- this is usually pretty subjective, but looking for thicker, sturdier stem, undamaged seed leaves, etc -- and clip off the others with a pair of nail scissors.

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Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2009 4:42 pm
Location: Mendocino County Wannabe

Thanks all! Sounds like I either need to check out the Container forum for some tips on experimenting with my next batch indoors, or wait until it heats up in my area. Any tips or thoughts on how much water basil likes?

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Newly Registered
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Basil outdoors in pots

DEFINTIELY more sun! put it under a glass table or something and make sure the soil is well moist but may not need watered daily. in the florida sun the basil sprouted wildly, whereas in the shade it piddled about. the plants i had underneath my glass table did best (i assume because it got a lot of water due to florida's heavy summer rain that would land from the blow of the wind, and intense sunlight with a layer of translucent glass distorting rays)

To elaborate, i had a pot that had no hole in the bottom, would completely and entirely soak the basil plants, literally drowning these things from seedlings and just when i thought these plants sure would die, the sun would come out and they were okay! before i knew it i had literally a masssiive sized plant on my hands.

keep in mind, warmth is necessary. as is spacious pots, transplant when they start making leaves other than their first ones.

as they get about three or 4 tiers of leaves, do some mincing (trim the tops, you don't want basil to go in to flower for as long as possible) , and try to get some good split branches going on(to maximize production) . mine did wonderfully in direct sunlight, and basil LOVES water. Basil will come to be surprisingly large. and so ^_^ delicious. get your thyme started during august so you can use that in place of basil for the winter!

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MC Mixin Bricks
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Location: Pennsylvania

basil in a boot

For christmas i got a cute little clay boot w/ a growing medium and basil seeds in it.

Do or do not....there is no try.

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