Growing season is over = No more fresh homegrown basil?
Well, not anymore.
Today, you can grow basil indoors all year round and enjoy an unlimited supply of fresh pesto sauce.
But you must be ready to use grow lights.
Growing basil indoors with grow lights is a straightforward activity. In this article, I’ll show you how to do that.
Growing Basil Indoors with Grow Lights
Here’s how you can grow basil indoors with grow lights in few easy steps:
1. Decide Where You Want to Grow Your Basil
There are many places indoor where you can grow plants, including the kitchen, a dedicated grow room, or a grow tent.
Choosing a growing area for your basil plants depends on several factors.
First, ask yourself how many basil plants do you want to grow?
Are you growing basil to garnish and season your dishes with few fresh leaves from time to time? Or do you want a good supply of homegrown basil for your pesto dishes? Maybe you want to prepare several jars of pesto sauce for friends and family?
Answering those questions will give you an idea about the number of basil plants you’ll need, which will tell you how much space you must dedicate for growing.
Few basil plants can fit well in a small kitchen, but if you want to grow a basil garden, you’ll need a wider growing space.
Overall, an area measuring 3’ x 3’ (≈ 1 x 1 m) will be more than enough to grow basil in good quantities.
You can use grow tents for the best results. Grow tents create an enclosed growing space that will allow you to have more control over the environment.
But if you want to grow few basil plants, grow tents can be too much for your needs. After all, grow tents cost a good amount of money and they need a lot of space, so they’re best suited for big quantities of plants. It’s up to you to decide whether you need them or not.
Since most herbs have similar light needs, you can grow different herbs with your basil plants under the same light. Just make sure that the growing environment doesn’t get too crowded.
2. Choose a Suitable Grow Light for Your Basil Plants
This is the most important step.
There are hundreds of grow light brands and models, but the majority aren’t suitable for basil.
To choose a good grow light for your basil plants, you need to focus on two factors: intensity and spectrum.
Leafy herbs, such as basil, need less quantity of light than fruiting plants, including tomatoes and peppers.
So, a grow light with moderate intensity will work well for your basil plants.
In fact, if you use a very powerful lamp to grow basil, you’ll be wasting energy and money.
That said, you must avoid growing your herb under low-intensity grow lights. Those work best as supplemental grow lamps.
Besides giving your plants the right quantity of light, you need to make sure they’re receiving the right quality of light.
The majority of plants need most of their light in the red and blue spectral range.
It’s well known among indoor gardeners that blue light drives the growth of leaves and stems, while red light drives flower and fruit formation.
But new studies show that red light plays a special role in the development of basil plants. High quantities of red light will make your basil plants more productive and aromatic.
There’s one issue here: Red light will trigger flowering in basil.
When we grow leafy herbs, we try to keep them from flowering, because they can become stiff and bitter after they bloom.
But growing basil under blue light only is not an option, since it will make the plant less productive.
So what’s the solution? Pruning.
Here, you must prune your indoor basil regularly to prevent it from forming flowers.
In addition to red and blue light, basil will benefit from small quantities of UV light. UV light can boost the aroma and taste of your basil because it can increase the levels of volatiles in the plant.
However, it’s better to avoid using lamps that emit UV light if you want to grow your basil plants in an open space around the house.
Based on all the above information, here are two great grow lamps for your basil plants:
1. Mars Hydro TS 1000
Mars Hydro TS 1000 is a bright grow light that will allow you to grow a great number of basil plants and other herbs.
It can cover a 3’ x 3’ (≈ 1 x 1 m) growing area.
With a spectrum rich in red and blue light, Mars Hydro TS 1000 is perfect for basil.
The device emits sun-like light that won’t dazzle your eyes and will allow you to see your basil plants clearly under it.
It’s highly efficient, so running it for long hours won’t cost you a lot of money.
Mars Hydro TS 1000 is an affordable grow light that can live over 50,000 hours (check its price here).
2. Viparspectra V300
Another excellent choice for your basil plants is Viparspectra V300.
It’s less intense than Mars Hydro TS 1000, so it’s a better option if you want to grow fewer basil plants.
The spectrum of Viparspectra V300 is very suitable for basil. It’s rich in both blue and red light.
The device draws nearly the same number of watts as Mars Hydro TS 1000, but it’s less efficient since it puts out less light.
One of best features about Viparspectra V300 is its price. It’s one of the cheapest high-quality grow lights found on the market (check its price here).
3- Install the Light and Prepare the Growing Environment
Most modern LED grow lights are hung above the growing area. You can choose the hanging method that you see best, but there are two important points you must pay attention to:
1- Your grow light should provide uniform coverage of light over the growing area
2- You should have the ability to adjust the height of your grow light easily
Once the grow light is in place, you can start preparing the growing environment.
You need deep growing containers or bags because basil plants can grow long roots.
Choose well-drained potting soil that can get rid of excess water. I use the famous Foxfarm Potting Soil and I highly recommend it.
You can start basil from seeds, or you can buy basil plants from your local nursery. If you choose to start seeds, don’t sow them too deep in the soil.
Basil seeds don’t need light to germinate, so there’s no need to turn on your grow light before they sprout.
4- Care for Your Basil Plants and Manage the Growing Environment
As your basil plants grow, you need to look after their needs:
The number of hours of light your basil plants need each day depends on the grow lamp you’re using.
If the grow light is bright enough, 12 to 14 hours will be sufficient. But if the lamp is not very bright, you must keep it on for 14 to 18 hours a day.
No matter what, don’t exceed 18 hours of light a day. Darkness is also important for your basil plants because prolonged and continuous light exposure can stress your basil.
Also, the light should not be too close to your plants. For this reason, adjusting the hanging height of the lamp as your plants grow is necessary.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to know how long the distance should be between the top leaves and the light.
In general, maintaining an 18-to-24-inch (45 to 60 cm) distance between the plant’s top leaves and the light is risk-free.
Basil loves water, but in moderate amounts.
When you grow plants outdoors, much of the water gets lost because of evaporation, so there’s less risk that the soil may end up becoming soggy.
But when you grow plants indoors, soil can easily become soggy, especially if the temperature is relatively low.
So, keep an eye on the potting soil and water moderately when it becomes dry.
Basil prefers warm temperatures.
In fact, studies showed that the optimal temperature for basil is around 72.5°–82.4°F (24°–28°C).
If it’s hard for you to maintain that range where you’re growing your basil, just make sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 64.5°F (18°) during the day (or when the light is on).
Basil plants like humid environments.
When your basil plants are still seedlings, it’s important to keep humidity levels around 70% to 80%.
You can achieve that by using a humidifier or by constantly misting the plants with water.
As they grow, you can lower humidity levels to a minimum of 45 to 50% (preferably 60 to 65%).
It’s important to keep the air flowing around your basil to reduce environmental stress and prevent disease.
A fan will get the job done if you’re growing several plants in a tight place.
Otherwise, you can open the window for several hours a day to let the air flow in the growing area.
Pruning your basil is necessary to keep it from flowering and to encourage its growth.
Growing plants indoors is very exciting. Once you master the art of growing plants inside under lights, you will keep expanding your indoor garden.
But for now, enjoy growing your basil and don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments below!