Growing with Rachel


I’ve been growing fruit and vegetables for 15 years, detailing my successes and failures on social media, and I can’t wait to show you how versatile growing veg can be. We grow across our garden and allotment. Each month I’ll be sharing my experiences and advice, and basil is a great way to begin – it’ll grow happily started on your windowsill before moving to a pot on the kitchen table.


Let's hear it for herbs!


Whether you’re new to growing food or have been doing it for years, I firmly believe herbs should be on everyone’s must-grow list. It's such a joy to be able to pick herbs whenever you need them, and you can use them in so many different ways in the kitchen, from soups to quick pastas. Herbs often come packaged in plastic at the supermarket so growing your own is a good starting point if you’re gardening for sustainability, not to mention saving money.

Growing basil is no exception, and I’m thrilled to be growing it with Gardeners’ World magazine subscribers. It’s one of the easiest herbs you can grow from seed and is the perfect companion for fresh tomato salads and sauces in the summer. Plus homemade pesto is delicious and incredibly easy to make, ideal for an easy midweek supper.

Getting organised


The first seed sowings of the year have an almost therapeutic quality to them. The greenhouse stands empty and full of potential, with space to move around before plants fill every corner later in the season. The compost is sieved, seed trays washed and tea freshly poured. We're ready to go!

Of course, many hours of preparation have gone into this moment. Over the last few weekends I’ve emptied out everything from the greenhouse and given it all a clean. The chickens have been in to confirm no slugs are hiding, and I’ve sorted and stacked the seed trays. I use cardboard pots for quick-growing crops later in the season, but for early sowings I use strong reusable plastic trays. Where possible, to save time, I use module trays so that I can plant directly into the ground, rather than pricking out from a seed tray.

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Ready, set, sow!

Sowing basil seeds

Many years of experience have taught me to trust the weather over the date when I’m starting seeds. I like to organise my seeds in order of sowing dates, but there’s no point putting something in the ground if it’s forecast to snow! I also pay attention to light levels, which start to increase from mid February.

For this reason, I’ll usually start basil off in the second half of the month, sowing the seeds in pots containing peat-free multi-purpose compost. It’s important that basil is somewhere warm – a windowsill or a sunny spot in your home will work well. Annoyingly my son’s bedroom is the best spot in the house for this, so the seeds also run the risk of being knocked over by a small, flying tractor!

My top tips

  • When sowing small seeds, water the compost before you place the seeds in, rather than after, as this way you won’t wash your carefully-placed seeds away.
  • Water sparingly until the seeds germinate – too much water can cause the roots to rot.
  • Water basil in the morning rather than the evening, as it doesn't like to sit in wet compost overnight.
Growing on your basil seedlings

Basil can be planted outside from June, but I plan to grow our basil on in both the greenhouse and our kitchen, so we’ll see which spot it prefers! Remember that the pots will need drainage, so if growing indoors, use pot with holes in the base and place a tray or saucer underneath.

Basil plants

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