Basil is one of the most popular plants to grow at home. You don’t need a big garden to get a good harvest, and they are super useful in the kitchen. But come the winter months and the cold, basil’s tolerance will be tested. It can sustain temperatures of around the 40 F range. Unfortunately, once the thermometer drops down to around 32 F, your basil will get damaged.
This herb is not going to fully die, but the damage will be clear. Its leaves will become dark, wilt, and start to fall. Basil experiences damage right away when temperatures dip, so make sure you have a way to protect your plant.
Basil is a traditional summer annual herb, but there are some perennial varieties. It enjoys and thrives in warm weather. A great alternative to desert climates, it tolerates heat well and prefers well-drained soil. If you are going to plant basil, late spring or early summer is the best time to do it.
As with many annual herbs, basil is meant to live its life cycle within one year and thereafter go back to its seed stage. If you are growing your basil in a greenhouse, it may linger for a longer time, but eventually it will perish. Keep this in mind and plan on purchasing another starter plant or plant new seeds in the late spring, after the last frost of winter.
Moving your plants indoors will buy you time to harvest all your plants before the cold weather damages them. Some garden enthusiasts try to keep it alive by protecting potted basil inside greenhouses or even a room in their homes. The kitchen is a great place, since you will be mainly using the basil as much as possible before it goes into its resting state. It will need some special conditions to stay alive during the cold seasons.
The key to keeping your basil plant alive during the winter is to provide it with as much light as possible. A great solution to this problem is shifting to artificial light sources in the darker winter months. Around 12 hours of light and keeping the soil warm and drained from excess of water is a good starting point. In case you stick to natural light, your basil plant needs to live in front of a window during the day and be protected from the morning cold.
Basil needs a minimum of eight hours of direct daily sunlight to thrive. If you go with artificial light, remember this simple rule: Two hours of fluorescent light is equal to one hour of natural sunlight.
In frost-free locations, basil can behave as a short-lived perennial. It may survive up to two years before needing any replanting in warm climates. An indoor basil plant with full sun and steady, warm temperatures may last even longer. Before the fall arrives, make sure you are taking the necessary steps to save your plant for the next season.
There are some basic steps that you can follow to make sure your basil stays fresh during the winter. With these tips, you can enjoy year-round harvests and make sure your plant flourishes in the next summer:
- Keep your basil healthy.
- Practice frequent pruning to help it propagate.
- Place basil cuttings roots in water to prepare for replanting.
- Use fluorescent lights for fastest growth and bigger yield.
- Keep your plant protected from the morning cold by placing it indoors.
Even when basil can survive the cold months of winter, you need to accept this popular plant for what it is: An annual herb. Basil has many wonderful properties. These include a great flavor, lovely fragrance, and prolific harvesting. Unfortunately, longevity is not an attribute of this beautiful plant. Even then, you can follow these tips to help extend the life cycle of basil to enjoy it a little longer on your favorite dishes, in pesto, and as a lovely indoor decoration.
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