How to Manage Pests

Pests in Gardens and Landscapes

Cultural Tips for Growing Basil

In This Guide

Site selection

Basil grows best if the plant receives full sun to partial shade (at least 4 to 6 hours a day). Try to plant away from areas that will be watered by lawn sprinklers. Whenever possible, select a location that is not heavily infested with weeds, especially weeds that can be hard to control with hand weeding. Also avoid areas that have had previous disease problems. Planting on level ground may be easier to work on than sloping ground.

Herbs will do well on a wide range of soils and especially in well-drained soils. If your soil forms a clump when squeezed, then it is too wet; if the soil crumbles easily, it is a good soil to use. Damp soil surfaces encourage snails, slugs, sowbugs, root diseases, and certain other diseases.

Adding organic matter (compost, peat moss, manure, sawdust, ground bark) makes clay and sandy soils easier to work with. The soil should be kept at a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Lime or gypsum can be added to soils low in calcium.

Soil recommendation

Plant in well-amended soil with good drainage.

Soil preparation

The preparation of your soil is just as important as adding fertilizer and soil amendments. Before working the soil, make sure it is moist but not thoroughly wet.

  1. Use a shovel, rototiller, metal bow rake, or all of them together to loosen the top 1 to 2 inches of soil. Rake the area to remove weeds and old crop debris. Be sure to dig out roots.
  2. Irrigate the plot deeply to encourage the germination of weed seeds.
  3. In a week or two, after a substantial number of weeds have germinated, work the area again to kill the weed seedlings. Be sure to break up the clods in the soil, as seeds planted in cloddy soil will germinate poorly and won't live long because the soil dries too quickly.
  4. Form soil into beds if desired, and plant while soil is still damp.

Time to plant

Basil is a warm season annual and needs full sun for optimum growth. Spring is the ideal time to plant, when frost is no longer a concern. Basil will be damaged if temperatures drop below 40°F. When planted from seed, most basil varieties take 60 to 90 days to mature.

Planting Dates for Basil in California*
North and North Coast
Monterey County north
May – June
South Coast
San Luis Obispo County south
April – June
Interior Valleys
Sacramento, San Joaquin valleys
May – June
Desert Valleys
Imperial and Coachella valleys
May - June
*Planting dates are only approximate as the climate may vary greatly within the regions denoted. Contact your local UC Master Gardener program and experiment on your own to find more precise dates.

Planting Basil

Plant basil in full sun. In hot areas, light afternoon shade is preferable. Seeds and transplants are readily available for planting. If seeding, sow indoors up to 6 weeks before transplanting. In warmer climates, seeds can be sown directly into the ground about 1 inch apart. For transplants, use young plants and place 12 inches apart in 18 inch rows.


It may not be necessary to add fertilizers or amendments when growing herbs in well-amended soil.

Watering Basil

Proper watering is very important. Drip irrigation or furrow irrigation on raised beds, instead of sprinklers, will keep your soils well drained. Basil requires regular watering and prefers moist soil. Mulch soil to retain moisture.

Harvesting and Storing Basil

Harvesting mature basil leaves frequently will extend the longevity of the plant and encourage continued leaf production. Pick leaves or trim stems to harvest. Pinch off tips and flowers to encourage leaf growth. Like other culinary herbs, basil should be used quickly after harvesting but can be stored at temperatures from 50° to 68° F for a short time.

Sprig of basil.

Sprig of basil.

Seed bed preparation.

Seed bed preparation.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Amending soil to prepare for planting.

Drip irrigation system.

Drip irrigation system.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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