Growing Hydroponic Basil
Virtually all the varieties of basil available for the outdoor garden can be grown successfully in a hydroponic environment. Some yardeners will grow basil in their garden during the growing season, and then in September, collect some stem cuttings to root in a hydroponic system. The basil supply does not end with the first frost.
The easiest, fastest way to get started with basil in a hydroponic environment is to buy basil seedlings at the garden center and transplant them into the hydroponic container. More experienced gardeners may prefer to start their own seedlings from seed or stem root cuttings from existing plants. Most hydroponic containers can accommodate at least 4 or 5 plants.
Outdoors - In the yard basil needs all-day full sun for top performance; however, it can manage on only three or four hours a day if it has to but will not perform quite as well.
Indoors - To grow basil indoors, set the growing container on a sunny kitchen counter or near a south facing window that admits plenty of sun. This is not the best approach, but will work. The best way is to set up the hydroponic container under a flourescent light or better and high intensity light. Now you get good basil consistently through the season.
Installing Plants In The Hydroponic Container
Plants installed in a hydroponic system need to have well-developed root systems. Roots should be at least two or three inches (preferably longer) long.
Rinse Off Dirt
If you are using plants purchased from the garden center, then you must carefully rinse as much of the soil off the roots as you can. It is very important that you try to remove ALL organic material and soil from the root system.
Hold the rootball under the faucet running with lukewarm water. Gently massage the root mass to untangle it and free fragments of soil until the roots are pale and bare. If a few root tips break off during this process it is not serious. Keep turning the plant as you rinse its roots. Pay special attention to the crown of the plant, where its roots meet its stems, and dislodge as much soil there as possible.
Starting From Seed - It is possible to start Basil seeds directly in many hydroponic devices. Check you unit’s instructions.
Keeping Basil Happy
The techniques for caring for and harvesting basil in a hydroponic environment are identical to those for plants in the garden.
Feeding- In normal situations when only a few leaves are pinched off every so often, the basil plants will do fine with a "normal" level of hydroponic nutrient (usually two teaspoons per 2 gallons water). However, if you are harvesting a basil plant heavily, the plant will need extra energy to regrow its foliage, so use the "strong" nutrient level (2 1/2 teaspoons nutrient per two gallons water).
More Information - For complete instructions for hydroponic growing techniques go to Hydroponic Gardening and for all equipment and supplies go to Hydroponic Equipment in the Yardener's Tool Shed.