Holy basil or “tulsi” (Ocimum tenuiflorum), is an amazing aromatic herb, part of many expensive dishes served in Thai and Indian restaurants, but it’s not just a culinary herb, it’s a healing herb with many health benefits. Native to the Indian subcontinent, holy basil is highly regarded in the world of Ayurveda, the traditional Indian healing system where it is considered as the “Queen of Herbs”. Let’s look at how to grow holy basil at home.
How to Grow Holy Basil
Holy basil can readily be grown indoors or outdoors. As a rule of thumb, if grown outdoors, make sure your climate is warm enough for it, because holy basil hails from a tropical region. Otherwise holy basil dies off in winter and becomes an annual. Of course, if you plant it indoors, shielding it from cold weather, it will grow as a perennial. When fully grown, holy basil reaches about 1-2 feet in height, and about 1-2 feet wide.
Planting indoors from seed: If you plan to grow tulsi indoor from seeds, then take a seedling tray and place the seeds over the soil. Cover these seeds with the same growing mixture and water them. All this practice should be done six weeks before the last danger of frost. Maintain the seedling tray in a site where it gets enough sunlight or heat and water for proper germination. The seedlings should be transplanted when they develop 2-3 pairs of their true leaves.
Planting outdoors from seed: For outdoors planting, only plant it when you are sure there is no danger from pesky frosts. Plant the seeds in soil in a sunny location and maintain their distance about 2 feet apart. Cover them lightly with the same soil mixture. With outdoor sowing, prune or thin the plants to prevent overcrowding as needed.
Planting indoors from cutting: You can also grow tulsi from your existing mature plant through the cutting technique. Take 4 inches of the stem that is present below the leaf node and place it in filtered water. Change the water regularly and give these cuttings enough warmth and sunlight. Transplant the cuttings when they develop roots of about 2 inches in length.
Watering: Regular and adequate watering is the key for lush green tulsi plants. However, do not overwater. Overwatering and dry soil will both lead to problems. A convenient watering method for container-grown holy basil is this – you can place a container, tray, or plate below the pot, and pour some water into that container about one inch deep. This will keep the potting soil constantly hydrated.
If holy basil is grown outside in the garden, then water it almost daily in the morning (in summer) depending upon the weather condition. The tip is keeping its soil moist, not wet.
Fertilizer: Holy basil doesn’t really need extra fertilizers if the soil is adequately fertile in common with nearly all herbs. If you feel you really must add fertilizer, then only a light application of fertilizer is suggested, because holy basil loses its taste and flavor with a higher dosage of fertilizers.
Soil: The recommended soil for holy basil should be moist, sandy loam with good drainage.
Mulch: Mulching is beneficial for the growth of tulsi. Not only will it help reduce or prevent weeds from sprouting up, but mulching also reduces the need to use any weed killers (even if they are organic).
Tulsi plant harvesting is quite simple. Take a scissors and snip off the top leaves evenly from all sides as you desire. It is advisable to take the leaves from the upper portion of the plant, not from the bottom, because this practice might hinder further growth of the plant. Use fresh leaves as they are rich in flavor. If you wish to store the leaves, use the drying process of herbs as shown here.
Some Health Benefits of Holy Basil
Holy Basil has numerous health benefits, which is the reason why it’s so highly regarded by Indian herbalists. Among its claimed numerous health benefits include lowering blood sugar (good for diabetics), relieving fatigue, decreasing stress (it has a calming effect on the nervous system), aiding with insomnia, good for the kidneys and preventing kidney stones, as well as having anti-cancer properties. It’s also said to speed up healing of any mouth ulcers. A fuller list of its health benefits can be found here.
Holy basil is rich in flavor and nutrients, and it can be grown easily at home with little effort. Pests are rarely attracted to this plant as well. It can help you in making great flavorful dishes for as long as you are growing this amazing plant. Try to grow some holy basil this season and enjoy new flavors on your table, or partake of its amazing health benefits.
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