Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

There’s no better way to grow basil than in a greenhouse

Growing herbs in a greenhouse is arguably one of the most satisfying ways you can put the controlled gardening environment to use. 

This is because you get all of the satisfaction of growing some plants all of your own from seed – and herbs are renowned for being particularly aromatic, which is a desirable characteristic for many green-fingered enthusiasts. 

But further to this, when it is fully developed, you can also step outside when you're in the middle of a cooking session and help yourself in order to add a bit of zest and flavour to a meal. 

If you've grown them yourself, it feels more satisfying – and fresh herbs are certainly more desirable than the dull, dried kind you can expect to find in shops. It could also be a little more impressive if you have some guests around. 

Of all the herbs that are suited to greenhouse growing in particular, basil is one of the most ideal. It responds well to being grown in pots and performs well on windowsills. This is why you could argue that there is not a better environment for it than a greenhouse, as it really benefits from the focused sunlight it can enjoy in such a location. 

Basil is in fact the common name for the Latin binomial name of the plant, which is ocimum basilicum. It was originally native to the more tropical areas of Asia – such as parts of India – which could be one of the reasons it is a greenhouse staple in the present day. 

Former presenter of television magazine show Gardeners' World and garden writer Alys Fowler described basil as offering a unique taste of summer. Writing in UK national newspaper the Guardian, she suggested starting to grow it at the start of autumn to compensate for the looming winter blues that will be just around the corner at that time of year. 

She warned that the plant will still need a degree of care when growing – it is one of the easier things to grow, but still demands some attention! 

"Overwatering can be an issue in lower light levels. If the bottom leaves turn yellow, this is usually an indicator they are too wet. Water once a week at most so that the compost dries out between watering. Don't worry if the leaves drop a bit – basil is tolerant to dry conditions, but sulks if too wet."

The expert also warned to be vigilant against the dangers posed by damp conditions, explaining that they tend to encourage gnats – which is obviously something to be avoided, as they can gnaw away at the roots of the plant. 

"A layer of sand or grit on top of the pot helps to draw water away from the surface, making it less appealing for the adult gnats to lay eggs," Ms Fowler remarked, adding: "For severe infestation try … a biological control containing bacteria that kills the gnats at root level." 

It was also recommended that the young buds be pinched off as soon as the plant starts to flower.