Basil is an important herb for your kitchen garden and it would need good care.
Below are the factors that you should look at while choosing the best fertilizer for your basil plant.
Look for the Grade
To identify the best fertilizer for your basil, you need to look for the grade.
The grade is a three-sequence number in a specific order that is found on the label of a fertilizer.
Each number represents the percentage of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). These three nutrients are considered most important for the development of every plant.
The grade is associated with the letters N:P: K (N-P-K) on the label.
The best fertilizer for basil is 10:10:10 grade fertilizer. This means that 10% of the fertilizer weight is Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorous, and 10% Potassium.
The rest of it is inert material like limestone or stand.
The 10-10-10 grade fertilizer has balanced nutrients with a light concentration of nutrients, which is also safer for the plants. This fertilizer improves the size and flavor of basil leaves.
If you do not find the 10-10-10, you can go for the 4-4-4, such as Dr. Earth.
Fertilizing basil with DIY 10-10-10
For basil, the recommended fertilizer ratio is 10-10-10. This means equal portions of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. This is the best fertilizer for a basil plant.
A 10-10-10 fertilizer premade mix is readily available everywhere. But you can also make your own by buying individual ingredients.
You will need:
- 2.5 lbs kelp meal
- 1.25 lbs cottonseed meal
- 0.6 lbs bone meal
Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly and store them in a dry place. When you want to use it, spread 0.75 lbs for every 50 square feet in your basil garden area. Water thoroughly so that you do not burn your plants.
The best thing about this organic fertilizer is that you can adjust the quantity according to your plant requirements. For example, if you do a soil test and it shows enough potassium, then you can reduce the amount of kelp in the mixture or just remove it completely.
Solid or liquid fertilizer?
Once you find your 10:10:10 fertilizer, the next question is whether to use a solid or liquid fertilizer. Indeed, fertilizers come in both liquid and granular forms in almost all supermarkets.
If you are a beginner, you should go for liquid fertilizer. In any gardening store or supermarket, the most common and popular options for domestic use are liquid fertilizers.
Liquid fertilizer is usually sold in small plastic bottles starting from as small as 30 ml. They come in either a powder form or as a concentrated liquid fertilizer.
Below are some advantages to using a liquid fertilizer.
- Liquid fertilizer is quite easy to use. You just have to mix the fertilizer with water in the proportion that is instructed on the label of the fertilizer.
- The ingredients are uniformly mixed in the liquid.
- These fertilizers are very inexpensive and can last for months.
You can use a sprayer to spray the fertilizer, for better results.
How to use liquid fertilizer?
This type of fertilizer can be applied frequently, as many as 1 to 4 times a month. This is because it is absorbed by the plant pretty quickly.
The fertilizer needs to be diluted in water before adding it to any plant. Never use pure fertilizer directly on your plant. Avoid any direct contact of the concentrated liquid with the plant. The chemicals present in the fertilizer can burn your plant easily.
Pour the diluted, water-soluble fertilizer directly on the soil around the plant.
Solid, or granular fertilizers are for advanced farmers or used in the mass production of crops. It is sold in larger quantities, unlike liquid fertilizer.
They are used in a blender to create a specific mix of nutrients according to the plant requirements.
These granules release nutrients slowly into the soil. This is an advantage, as it reduces the number of times you need to fertilize the plants.
You only need to fertilize the plants once or twice a year if you use granular fertilizers, which is very cost-effective in fields where the crop is mass-produced.
How to use dry fertilizer?
If you are using a granular fertilizer, sprinkle the fertilizer in the soil around your basil. Then use a spade or a garden fork to dig the granules inside the soil. Make sure that the fertilizer does not touch the leaves. If it does, wash it off instantly so as to prevent burning.
Water the plant deeply so that the fertilizer is seeped and distributed evenly into the soil while preventing any damage to the roots.
Should you use All-purpose fertilizer?
All-purpose fertilizers are available in markets and people also have some level of success with them. However, it is recommended that you stick to the 10:10:10 ratio, or the organic 4:4:4 ratio, especially if you are a beginner.
All-purpose fertilizers can cause serious risks to your basil plant. This is because basil needs a specific balance of nutrients.
All-purpose fertilizers have ratios that vary from brand to brand, as it claims to be useful for all sorts of plants. They have vastly different ratios, but what they do have in common is a high ratio of nitrogen.
Nitrogen is very good for plants and it helps plants to grow better and healthier. It grows larger leaves and has enhanced fragrance and flavor.
However, too high a percentage of nitrogen can harm your basil plant negatively. The basil leaves can lose their fragrance or can turn bitter. While bitter leaves are not a problem for normal plants, it can be an issue with basil, which is grown especially for its delicious leaves.
If the basil absorbs more nitrogen, it will have less room to absorb any other nutrient. This will disturb the balance of nutrients required by the basil to grow.
Excess nitrogen can also weaken the stem of the basil to an extent that it is not able to support the weight of its leaves.
Another issue with excessive nitrogen is excessive salt. Larger amount of nitrogen will accumulate salt in the soil, causing high salinity in the soil and resulting in the roots dying.
Organic and home-made fertilizers
No matter what fertilizer you use for your plant, adding compost is going to increase the bioavailability of nutrients in your basil.
Compost is filled with all nutrients that your basil needs to thrive. Along with nitrogen, it has a lot of organic matter.
You can combine grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, newspaper, eggshells, and fruit and vegetable scraps to create organic compost.
How to fertilize basil with compost?
Compost is an excellent base for your basil plant.
Whether you are growing your basil from seeds or transplanting already grown plants, you can mix a good portion of compost with the potting soil. This will enrich the soil and the surrounding area.
Even when you are fertilizing your basil with other ingredients, you can add some extra compost to the mix.
You might have heard that basil likes coffee grounds as a fertilizer.
While that is true, the requirement of coffee to basil is not the same as for humans.
Using coffee grounds alone could harden them and eventually create a hard barrier that could prevent the water from reaching the roots in the soil.
Instead, you can just add it to your compost pile. This will ensure that the grounds don’t get tough while providing acidity to the plant.
However, because coffee grounds are very acidic, it is not recommended to be used often. With the high level of nitrogen, it can be harmful to your basil. It can also be a potential cause for fungus if you are growing your basil indoors.
Used tea leaves can be a good fertilizer for your basil as long as they are used in less quantity. Tea leaves have the nutrients that basil requires to grow, however, they are acidic and must be used with caution.
Rinse your spent tea leaves and dry them in the sun. You can then apply them directly to the soil. Do a test application with a small dose first to see how your plant reacts to it.
Vegetable, fruit, and flower waste
Fruit and vegetable peels are rich in micro and macro nutrients that are needed by the basil plant for its growth. You can use them as a fertilizer in many ways.
One easy way is to chop them in small pieces and bury them in the soil near the basil plant. As they are broken down by the soil, they will release nutrients that will be absorbed by the plant.
Another way is to pulp them, dilute the pulp and then water the basil with this liquid.
If you have plenty of sunshine in your region, one more way to turn peels into fertilizer is to dry them completely until all the moisture is removed.
Then grind the dried peels into a fine powder. Store in an airtight container and use as and when required to fertilize your basil.
You can use spent flowers in the same way.
Always remember to do a test patch before using fertilizers on the entire plant.
Wood ash is not food for your basil plant. However, it helps in increasing the pH of your soil, making it a better fit for your basil to grow.
While using wood ash, make sure that the wood is raw and natural, and not painted or treated in some way. You can use it by mixing it directly in the soil or by adding it to your compost pile.
The kelp meal is made from seaweed. It is created by drying seaweed and then grinding it into a grainy powder.
It results in an organic fertilizer that is rich in potassium. If fresh seaweed is easily available to you and you have the time and space to dry it yourself, this fertilizer can be easily made it home. If not, buying it is a better option.
Cottonseed meal is made from ground cotton seeds. It is full of nitrogen, which is good for your basil plant. Completely organic and without any additional chemicals, the cottonseed meal is easier to purchase than to try making at home.
Bone meal can be easily made at home. You need to bake discarded chicken bones until they are very dry and then grind them finely in a food processor.
A bone meal is a great source of phosphorous that basil requires to grow well.
When to fertilize basil?
Basil is not a very fussy plant when it comes to fertilizers. A basil plant can live just as well even without adding any fertilizers to it. However, fertilizers once in a while are good for any plant.
For basil, you can add fertilizer to it every 4 to 6 weeks. It will boost the leaf production in your plant, providing you with large healthy leaves for a delicious meal.
If you are growing basil from seed, you can fertilize the seedlings once a week with very diluted, balanced fertilizer so as to give the seedlings a boost to grow better.