hydroponic basil

Hydroponic Basil – A Guide to Keeping It Fresh and Healthy

Thinking of trying to grow hydroponic basil? Let’s learn more about this precious herb before you start to grow it.

Here are the topics that will be covered in this article:

  • What is hydroponic basil?
  • How to Grow Basil Using Hydroponics At Home?
  • Which Basil is Best for Hydroponic?
  • 2 Ways You Can Grow Basil Hydroponically
    • Stem cutting method
    • Seed method
  • How Do You Take Care of Hydroponic Basil Plants?
  • How Fast Does Basil Grow Hydroponically?
  • How to Harvest Hydroponic Basil?
  • Tips on How to Keep Hydroponic Basil Alive

Disclaimer

This article may contain some affiliate links which means I may earn some commission when you click on it, but no additional cost to you. Hope this article is helpful, enjoy.

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What is Hydroponic Basil?

A simple explanation for hydroponic Basil is Basil that grows in a soil-free system or called a hydroponic system. 

Hydroponic means you skip the use of soil and substitute it with nutrient-rich water to support the roots of the plant. Growing plants without soil is a more efficient way to provide water and food to the plant. 

Hydroponics allows the grower to grow the plant anywhere and any time of the year. Cool isn’t it?

If you grow Basil hydroponically it can save you up to 10 times as much water compared to when you grow it the traditional way. Growing Basil in a hydroponic system can drastically reduce issues you would face with soil such as pests, diseases, and weeds.

How to Grow Basil Using Hydroponics at Home?

How to grow basil hydroponically at home?

You can grow Basil at home, but you have to make sure this plant is placed in a suitable condition for them to grow healthily.

Basil is a good choice for hydroponic gardening as this plant grows quickly and adapts well to this method of growing.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) and Deep Water Culture (DWC) are the most suitable hydroponic systems for Basil plants.

NFT system – The Basil seedlings are transplanted into channels with a thin film containing nutrient mix. The channels are sloped to drain the water back to the water reservoir.

DWC system – The Basil seedlings are transplanted into rafts and the rafts will float in ponds that contain water mixed with a nutrient solution. The water will circulate with the help of a water pump through the system. To keep the pond aerated, an air pump that provides oxygen is used.

Which Basil Is Best for Hydroponic Growth?

Basil is a kind of herb that is widely used in cooking Italian food. 

It is a part of the mint family (Lamiaceae) along with thyme, oregano, and rosemary. It is known to be the main ingredient in traditional pesto and an ideal seasoning in tomato-based pasta sauces. 

This plant is also used to make medicine for intestinal gas, warts, loss of appetite, and stomach spasms.

It also can be used to treat insect and snake bites.

There are more than 100 different species of Basil and they differ in characteristics including flavour, growth rate, and disease resistance. Like any other plant, some varieties will do better with hydroponics than other methods of growing.

  • Fast-Growing Basil Varieties

Genovese/Pesto Varieties – Aroma 2, Genovese, Prospera, and Rutgers Devotion DMR

Italian Large Leaf Varieties – Newton, Italian Large Leaf, and Nufar

  • Slow-Growing Basil Varieties

Compact Genovese/Pesto – Elidia, Prospera Compact, Everleaf, and Genovese Compact Improved

Compact Italian Large Leaf – Rutgers Obsession DMR

  • Speciality Varieties – Purple basil, Thai Basil, Citrus Basil, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Greek Basil

You can find out more about hydroponic basil varieties by Johnny Seeds as he made a comparison chart of it.

You can find out the 15 most popular varieties if you still don’t have an idea which varieties to choose.

Generally, fast-growing varieties are popular among hydroponic gardeners because you get to harvest them in as fast as 28 days.

Here I shortlisted different types of Basil that are popular:

  • Classic Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) – a favorite among the Upstart Farmers (Food producers that try to improve agriculture with efficient and sustainable techniques)
  • bush basil- compact plant great for hydroponics
  • Genovese basil
  • Thai basil
  • Dwarf basil

2 Ways You Can Grow Basil Hydroponically

You have two ways to grow Basil hydroponically.

  1. Stem cutting method
  2. Seed method

There is no good method or bad method. Both methods work well. It is just a matter of which method suits your preference.

The Stem Cutting Method

What you will need to grow Basil using the stem cutting method:

Here are the steps on how you can grow Basil using the stem cutting method:

  1. Rinse the Hydroton clay pebbles using a sieve. 
  2. Make your liquid nutrient blend. Take an adequate amount of liquid nutrient by following the instructions on the back label. Add the nutrients to a large mixing jar by using an eyedropper and mix it well.
  3. Take a squeeze bottle and add some of the nutrient solutions into it.
  4. Take the healthy Basil plant that you have chosen. Cut halfway between the node that has multiple leaves and the main stem of the plant.
  5. Take the squeeze bottle that you have filled with nutrient solution and apply it to the hole in the Rockwool cube.
  6. Take the rooting hormone gel and dip your stem cutting into the gel. It will help to clone the plant faster.
  7. After that, stick your stem cutting into the hole of the Rockwool cube and put them into the net pot.
  8. Fill the pot with the clay pebbles that you have rinsed till the top and fill ⅓ of the Mason jar with the mixed nutrient solution.
  9. Take the net pot and place it into the mouth of the jar. 
  10. Add more nutrients with the squeeze bottle until the water covers the bottom of the net pot.
  11. To create a humid dome, place the plastic cup on top of the jar and cover the plant as this will help your plant to grow roots. The dome should be in place for about a week.

After a week, check if the root system has been developed and if yes, you can transfer your Basil to a separate mason jar to continue its growth.

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You can watch the tutorial by Epic Gardening to help you understand more.

Seed method

If you do not want to follow many steps and just want simple steps to growing Basil hydroponically, you can use this method.

This method is also suitable for someone who just started to grow Basil and has no Basil plant yet.

What you will need to grow Basil using the seed method:

  • Water
  • No-hole seed tray
  • Heating mat (optional)
  • Rockwool cubes
  • Seed sprouting lit or humidity dome

Here are the steps on how you can grow Basil using the seed method:

  1. Take the no-hole seed tray and place the Rockwool cubes into it.
  2. Wet the cubes that are in the seed tray with water and let them sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 6 Basil seeds inside each hole of the cubes.
  4. Take the heating mat and put it onto the bottom tray of the humidity dome (it should have a dome and a tray) or a seed sprouting kit.
  5. Place the no-hole tray with the Rockwool cubes on top of the heating mat.
  6. Switch on the heating mat. If you decide not to use it, you can place the setup next to a warm window.
  7. Then, put the humidity dome on top.
  8. Add some diluted fertilizer to the tray once the seeds have sprouted and grown their first mature leaves.

The plant needs to be kept in this setup for 2 to 3 weeks until they are stable enough to be transferred. Once they are set, you can move them into their respective hydroponic system.

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You can watch the tutorial by NewMoore to help you visualize the steps.

How Do You Take Care of Hydroponic Basil Plants?

  • Temperature

The most suitable temperature for Basil would be between 70 to 80°F  because this plant is a warm-weather herb.

  • Medium

If you still find a medium to start growing Basil hydroponically, you can use Rockwool blocks because it is a common medium used for Basil hydroponics. 

Other names for Rockwool blocks are stone wool or Rockwool.

 It is made of molten rock which is then spun into fine candy-like fibres and compressed into blocks, slabs, or cubes. This pathogen-free content medium enables an optimal development of root for its healthy growth and production

Rockwool drains excess water pretty well due to its physical structure and it still retains small amounts of water. 

This medium allows plants to get enough hydration while allowing more air to circulate and oxygenate the roots. What makes this medium ideal for Basil hydroponic is the difference in moisture level from the top to bottom of the block.

Other mediums you can use are coco coir, perlite, peat moss, and vermiculite. These mediums need to be sterilized before use.

  • Pruning

Pruning is important if you grow hydroponics like Basil.

 You will have to throw the plant completely once you find Basil’s stem ends increase heavily as its roots will split and might become bitter. This is because the stem has been damaged.

  • Nutrients

Each plant has its nutrient composition including the Basil plant. The nutrient ratio will change if the plant becomes more mature.

The calcium and potassium mixture is good for this plant. You can use a 1:1 ratio for the measurement. These two nutrients have a direct correlation with the oil and flavour of Basil’s leaves and branches.

Nitrogen and magnesium are other nutrients that you need to consider. 

Nitrogen helps the yielding leaves of your Basil plant while Magnesium helps to yield certain essential oils which can contribute to the aroma and flavour of the plant. You need to keep this nutrient minimum of 50 ppm.

  • Space

Planting the hydroponics Basil too close may affect their growth. So, you need to give space about 5 to 6 inches from each other to allow good airflow. They will have enough space to grow.

  • Pesticides

Neem oil is a non-toxic insecticide that effectively kills pests and prevents powdery mildew (a type of fungus) on plants. This fungus is a concern to gardeners because it will ruin their plants and you will come across it no matter how well you take good care of your plants.

If you decide to use neem oil to protect your plant, test a small area on the plant first and wait for 24 hours. If the leaf does not damage after 24 hours, then neem oil is safe for your plant.

To make sure the plant receives all the benefits and prevents the foliage from burning, apply the neem oil in the evening or indirect light. Other than that, avoid using neem oil in extreme temperatures (too cold or too hot) and do not apply to stressed plants as it would worsen their condition. 

Once a week application will be enough to help prevent fungi issues and kill pests. You have to make sure the leaves are completely coated and give extra attention to areas where the fungal and pest problems are worst.

Do make sure to read the information from the packaging especially on the dosage and concentration beforehand.

How Fast Does Basil Grow Hydroponically?

Do you know how long does it take to grow basil hydroponically?

It depends on the varieties of Basil you choose. If you choose a fast-growing hydroponic Basil plant, crop time is approximately 28 days under optimal conditions.

The germination of the Basil plant takes around 7 to 10 days and it will need 3 to 5 weeks for the transplant to stabilize and mature accordingly in the hydroponics system.

In the 10th week, the plant is ready to be harvested.

How to Harvest Hydroponic Basil?

A bushier and pruned plant is better as they will yield more and can be transported easily but it depends on your growing method.

Basil is usually bred as a single-stemmed plant that grows upward, called ‘apical growth.’ 

You can change the way the Basil grows by triggering a secondary type of growth that moves up and outward instead of straight up. It is called lateral growth.

If you look at a young hydroponic Basil plant (around 5 to 10 inches tall), you can see buds that have not yet grown out on the side of the stem. It is called lateral buds and they act as the backup if the main stalk is damaged or removed.

The lateral buds will grow if you cut the stem slightly above it, let’s say half an inch.

The buds will grow out and if you continue to prune the Basil plant this way, it helps in increasing the hydroponic Basil production plus controlling the plant’s shape.

Let’s say this is your first time harvesting it, you will notice a few pairs of lateral buds on the plant. You need to cut above the second pair of buds because cutting above the first pair of buds will hold back the growth.

Pruning your Basil plant correctly is the key to increasing hydroponic Basil yield per plant every time you harvest for the first three harvests, which would be in weeks 5, 8, and 11.

Once you harvest the Basil, you need to avoid putting the harvested Basil in a cooler. Basil plants are warm-weather crops so when they are exposed to cold temperatures, they will go bad faster.

The harvested Basil needs to be stored at a temperature above 55°F (more preferable if it is 60°F) to extend their shelf life as they can attain up to 12 days. You can put it in a jar of water on the counter of your kitchen.

Tips on How to Keep Hydroponic Basil Alive

Hydroponic Basil needs daily management. They will do best in an environment that is tailored to their needs. Some specific requirements can vary depending on the time of year and the growing system used. 

Generally, the conditions for hydroponic Basil are as follows.

  • Light requirement – Basil plants need an approximate minimum of 14 hours of light each day. If your place cannot give enough light time and warmth especially during winter, you can use LED grow light as a substitute.
  • Temperature 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C) is suitable for this plant as they are one of the warm weather plants.
  • pH level 5.5 to 6.5
  • Nutrient solution – calcium, potassium, nitrogen, and magnesium are the important nutrients for Basil plants. You can try Dyna Gro Foliage Pro if you want a simple solution as it helps to produce plants with heavy vegetation and strong stems.

Cal-Mag is an additional option if you want more nutrients for your plant.

Conclusion

It is time you start to grow your herb garden. By having your own Basil plant, you can get the maximum benefit from the plant as you grow it yourself.

Do you know that hydroponic Basil tastes better than soil-grown Basil? 

It is never too late to grow Basil using a hydroponic system.

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