It all depends on the variety of basil you’re keeping. Please understand that basil is a member of the mint family, and there are many different varieties, sub-varieties, and hybrids of basil. You have to account for all these differences because there is no such thing as one type of basil that is good for everybody.
For example, if you’re going to be cooking mostly Italian cuisine, your best bet would probably be standard Italian basil with a slightly tangy, aromatic taste. On the other hand, if you prepare mostly Southeast Asian, Thai, Vietnamese food, you would be better off with sweeter varieties of basil.
These don’t just differ from each other in terms of flavor profile. They also differ in terms of their growing season. But generally speaking, basil is in season during the summer.
If you’re looking to plant basil indoors with as little attention and care as possible and still enjoy a nice healthy plant with lots of wide aromatic and crisp leaves, summer is your best bet. This is when basil is generally in season.
End of Its Season
When basil starts to bloom, you’ll know that it has reached the end of its season. It usually happens during September in the US and the rest of the northern hemisphere.
You can’t allow this to happen, though, if you want to continue enjoying its tasty and aromatic leaves. The basil is nearing the end of its lifecycle and wants to propagate the next generation of plants before it dies. Your basil will start to go into a reproductive mode, and it will divert all its energies from foliage production and focus on going to seed.
As a result, the quality of the leaves would go down dramatically. They will lose most of their original flavor, texture, and aroma and turn bitter. The basil will stop growing, and then it will die.
There’s no need to worry, though. If you pinch all the flowers or buds as soon as you see them, the plant will continue to produce healthy leaves. In fact, pruning promotes leaf growth producing a bushier plant.
Basil is an annual plant, however, and will eventually succumb at one point or another. You could buy another plant or grow another one from seed. You can also extend the life of potted basil by moving it indoors. It may even last throughout the winter.
What About Indoor Basil?
The good news is, if you are growing basil completely indoors, then you don’t have to worry about seasonal issues. You can pretty much grow basil all year round.
It depends on one key factor. You have to be in an area of the United States where fall and winter seasons are fairly mild. We’re talking about the southern portions of Florida, maybe Southern California, and certain areas of the American Southwest.
For the rest of the country, you may have a tougher time growing basil during the winter. You definitely have to spend a little bit more money on equipment to ensure that your basil gets the right amount of light and heat so it can continue to produce leaves through winter months. It may be a little bit on the expensive side, but it is definitely doable.
As you probably already know, a lot of indoor gardeners grow tomatoes in the middle of December. Where there is a will, there is a way. Because if you really want to grow warm season plants in the dead of winter, you can do so provided you have the right equipment and enough electricity.
If you don’t mind paying a little extra when it comes to electricity bills, growing basil in the middle of winter is entirely doable. You have to have fans making sure that warm air circulates in your indoor growing area. You have to also invest in hydroponic grow lights to bring out the best in your basil plants.
Basil thrives in bright and warm locations, so find a suitable spot inside your home, preferably near a large window that receives direct sunlight most of the day. Don’t put them where it’s drafty, and be sure to keep those windows shut at night when temperatures drop considerably. If the color of the leaves starts to fail, use liquid fertilizer in the ratios recommended by the manufacturer.
A lot of indoor gardeners don’t really look into the dollars and cents of growing basil off season. They look at their basil plant simply as a source of the basil leaves that they need for the dishes that they’re preparing for their family.
This is all well and good, but if you are going to have to invest in heaters, blowers, and special grow lights as well as nutrient mixes for optimal winter cultivation, you might want to consider the economic aspects of your project.
In other words, look at how much fresh basil will cost in your local farmer’s market or farmer’s coop markets and see if you can stand to make a little bit of money. The key here is not so much to get rich off basil farming, but more along the lines of offsetting or compensating for the amount of cash you would have to shell out to get an off-season basil garden going.
Small Scale Indoor Gardening Can Make Economic Sense
If you are just growing basil for your personal consumption, it can make sense to buy equipment and just give out whatever leaves you harvest.
On the other hand, if you are looking to actually make money from your basil cultivation because you want to offset your expenses, you really have to pay close attention to market trends at your local community farmer market. The numbers might not make sense.
So instead of going all the way and buying the most expensive equipment, you might want to hold back and try to come up with halfway measures or a more micro-operation that doesn’t require expensive equipment and inputs.