Thomas J. Story
'Sweet' and 'Profuma di Genova' varieties in back, 'Red Rubin' and 'Windowbox' in front

How to create the perfect little basil garden

Lauren Bonar Swezey  – January 13, 2006

Watch: See how to make pesto from your garden


Most good cooks agree: Basil is a must-have herb―it’s wonderful in marinades, salads, and soups, and is the key ingredient in pesto.

The pot pictured here combines several types―‘Sweet’ and ‘Profuma di Genova’ in back (these mild-tasting green basils make the best pesto), ‘Red Rubin’ (a spicier, more pungent basil that’s striking in salads and vinegar), and ‘Windowbox’ (a flavorful, compact, 6- to 9-inch-tall basil; good on fish or for sprinkling into sauces or salads).

Specialty basils are available at many local nurseries or they can be ordered by mail. Renee’s Garden (888/880-7228 for store locator) sells ‘Profuma di Genova’ and ‘Windowbox’. Territorial Seed Company (541/942-9547) sells ‘Sweet’ and ‘Red Rubin’.

Time: 10 to 15 minutes 

Cost:  $35 to $50


23-inch-wide container, at least 9 inches deep

2-cubic-foot bag of potting soil

Organic granular fertilizer

Three green basil plants, two purple basil plants, three dwarf basil plants, from 2- or 4-inch pots


1. Put the container in a spot that gets full sun. Fill it to within about 2 inches of the pot rim with potting soil. Mix in a granular fertilizer.

2. Gently remove the basil seedlings from their nursery containers, then set them in the big pot so the tops of their rootballs sit about an inch below the pot lip. (If you start basils from seed, allow four weeks for the seedlings to reach transplant size.) Plant three large green basils toward the rear, two purple basils toward the center, and three dwarf basils in front. Fill in around the plants with soil.

3. Water well. Harvest by pinching growing tips or leaves.