How to Grow Genovese Basil Microgreens

Genovese basil is the most common variety grown by commercial and home microgreen growers.

Basil’s popularity among foodies and chefs is because Genovese basil adds such intense fresh flavor to a wide variety of food. Genovese, which is often also called sweet basil, is packed with vitamins and vital nutrients.

Basil is often labeled as a difficult microgreen to grow.

What are microgreens

We don’t find that the case when you follow a few different steps from some of the easier and quicker growing microgreens. 

This article will lay out those steps and discuss Genovese basil microgreens’ nutritional and culinary value. 

Growing Genovese Basil Microgreens

Before we get into the nutritional value of basil microgreens, we’ll go over a few of the basic steps necessary to grow them.

If you’re more interested in the nutritional information, click this link to skip to that section.

Also, if you’re looking for a Genovese basil microgreen kit or Genovese seed click the highlighted links to visit those products at the Home Microgreen Store.

how to grow basil microgreens
home microgreens sells seeds

FREE Home Microgreens Grow course that teaches you the basics of growing microgreens in your home! There are 12 video lessons (over 120 minutes), downloads, and more written information and tips!

How to Grow Basil Microgreens

Basil seeds are mucilaginous; this means that when the seeds get wet, a gel-like substance called mucilage forms. You can read more about mucilaginous seeds by clicking this link.

As such, mucilaginous seeds require more care and observation than other microgreens. Because the seeds get sticky with mucilage gel, they’re often labeled difficult to grow.

However, following the steps below, you’ll find that Genovese basil is an easy microgreen to grow. Even first-time growers will have no problem growing these beautiful and tasty microgreens.

Basil seeds are pretty small, so you must carefully plant them. The seeds take two days to germinate and up to 28 days before they’re ready to harvest. However, they grow slowly and can be harvested over a long period.

Genovese basil tastes very similar to the mature herb; they’re more tender and have a sweeter fragrance. They also provide a ton of flavor to food. 

Ten Easy Steps

Below are the ten steps to follow to grow basil microgreens. Watch the step-by-step video in Growing Microgreens for the First Time for a more detailed explanation of how to plant microgreens.

The steps below show how to grow basil microgreens using the Home Microgreen Kit. If you don’t have the kit, the photos will show you what you need to grow microgreens.

You can click images to expand their size.

When you see bold text, these sections are very important to grow basil and other mucilaginous seeds.

Note: Some images below are of the beta Home Microgreens Trays (opaque trays & red lids). The black trays and opaque lids are the new Home Microgreens Trays. Both are similar-sized, but the latter uses much less soil and is more economical.

Step 1

Add a premium potting mix to the planting tray. A planting tray needs small holes in the bottom to draw water up from below. This is better than top-watering microgreens as it keeps the greens clean.

The soil should be firmly compacted and level just below the top of the tray. Read this article on why I believe soil is the best media to use to grow microgreens

how to grow radish microgreens

Step 2

Use a spray bottle to wet the soil surface with un-chlorinated water. Allow the water to soak into the soil, then respray the surface.

If you see depressions or high spots on the soil, use your fingers to level the surface.

Never pre-wet basil seeds. They’re mucilaginous and will stick together. More on this below.

growing radish microgreens spraying the soil

Step 3

Add your Genovese basil seed to a shaker bottle. A shaker bottle will allow you to spread the seeds more evenly.

There are between 16,000 to 17,000 Genovese basil seeds in an ounce. Other varieties of basil may contain less or more.

That’s between 560 to 600 seeds per gram. For Genovese basil, you want about 15 seeds per square inch. So if your planting tray surface is 37.5 square inches, add 1.0 grams of basil seeds to your shaker bottle.

The photo below shows 1 gram of Genovese microgreen seeds or about 3/8’s of a teaspoon.

how to plant genovese basil seed

The measuring spoon is one-half teaspoon.

Step 4

Now that the soil surface is prepared and the basil seeds are in the shaker bottle, it’s time to sow them.

Start sprinkling seeds onto the soil by working the shaker bottle around the planting tray in concentric circles. Holding your spare hand around the tray can be helpful so seeds don’t bounce out.

Spread the seeds as evenly as possible across the surface.

This is very important for basil because mucilage may produce biochemicals that will slow the growth of adjacent seeds.

You may need to unscrew the top off the sprinkler bottle to get the last few seeds out of the bottle. Once all the seeds are out of the bottle, use your finger to spread clumps of seeds to areas with fewer seeds.

Below are photos of sown Genovese basil seeds before and after wetting. Notice the mucilage on the wet seeds. It appears almost immediately after the seeds are watered.

planting basil seed

Genovese basil seed was sown but not wetted.

Genovese basil seed with mucilage

Genovese basil seed with mucilage after being sprayed with water.

Step 5

After the basil seeds are planted, it’s time to get them ready to germinate. Use the spray bottle again and wet the seeds. Go easy so the seeds don’t fly off the tray. The water will also help settle the seeds into the soil.

You will see the mucilage form almost immediately. 

It’s essential, however, not to overwet the seeds. The mucilage will retain water, so the seeds don’t need as much as other microgreen seeds.

Now place the planting tray inside the watering tray. A watering tray does not have holes and will hold water. Use a similar-size tray, like in the Home Microgreen Kit, or a larger one.

Place a cover on the seeds so the cover or lid is touching the seeds (don’t seal the tray tight). If the tray you use has a lid, turn it upside down (yes, upside down) so the top is pressing on the seeds. See below.

If the cover or lid is transparent or opaque, use a tea towel over the tray to keep light off the seeds.

This is called the blackout phase.

It has also been reported that basil seeds will germinate just as well under a clear dome. We will test that theory in a future post and link here once published.

Assuming, for now, that we are going to blackout the basil seed, place the trays where you will grow them or on a seed heat mat and place a weight on top. Don’t worry; the growing plants are vigorous and will lift the cover and the weight as they grow.

How to put a home microgreens tray lid on seed

Any weight will work. A rock, a heavy book, a piece of metal, anything that will press the lid down onto the seeds. The weight should at least be 2-1/2 pounds using the Home Microgreens Tray—more weight for 1010 and 1020 trays.

Step 6

Leave the seeds and tray alone for four days. The basil seeds should germinate between 1.5- and two days, especially if the tray is on a seed heat mat or the room temperature is above 75 degrees.

But leave the cover on; the mucilage is sticky, and lifting the cover will pull the seed off the soil surface. The plants need to be established before the cover is lifted. The mucilage and cover will keep the seeds and young seedlings moist enough over that length of time. 

Just let the seeds germinate and grow. 

Step 7

On day 4, you can look at the seeds. You’ll see that germination has occurred, and the basil seedlings are growing! At this point, you have a decision to make. Look at the germination rate; if it looks good and the seedlings are similar to the ones in the image below, you can remove the lid and allow the young plants to receive light.

If the basil plants are smaller or the germination rate is low, replace the cover for another day or two.

Check the soil surface to see if it’s dry.

If so, use the spray bottle, wet the surface again, and place the cover back over the tray. Let the seeds germinate for another day before checking on them again.

Basil seeds after 4-days

Basil plants four days after planting and under blackout conditions. Don’t worry about how bent they are. They’ll straight and fill out under lights.

Step 8

Now that the basil microgreens have germinated and grown, it’s time to get them under a light. There’s a lot of discussion about what type of light is best for microgreens. I think it’s best to give them as much light as possible.

After all, light is where the plants get their energy to grow. Give them as much as you can, whether it be sunlight, cheap LED lighting, or a special grow light. Don’t fret over it, do the best you can with what you have.

White or yellow plants are not a problem. Once under a light, they will turn dark green. If the soil surface looks dry, use the spray bottle to wet the surface. But this will be the last time you use the spray bottle.

genovese basil microgreens 5-days after planting

Basil microgreens five days after planting and one day under led light. See how they’ve recovered.

Step 9

Watering is the only care the basil microgreens will need once under the light. Don’t water them from the top; water from the bottom. Here’s where the watering tray comes into play.

Memorize the feel of the dry tray. Judging the weight is the best way to know when to water the microgreens again.

Add water to the watering tray, a quarter of an inch works at first. Set the planting tray in the water and allow it to absorb the water from below.

Watering from the bottom keeps the leaves and stems dry, eliminating the possibility of damping off disease and stopping soil from splashing on the plants.

The first time you water, you may have to add more water because the majority of the soil in the tray is dry. Afterward, you won’t need to add as much water.

Every other day check the weight of the tray to see if it needs water. The need will depend on the humidity and amount of air moving across the tray.

growing radish microgreens watering

Step 10

Harvest time! After 18 to 28 days, Genovese basil microgreens will be ready to harvest. 

It’s best to wait until the first true leaves are well-developed. Unlike many harvestable microgreens in the cotyledon stage, micro-basil will taste better as the true leaves mature.

You can let the basil grow. Many microgreens, not basil, have a limited shelf life; let it grow if you want. Because it’s grown in a tray, eventually, it will need to be cut, but you might have up to 40 days before that’s necessary.

Harvest Tip

To harvest, tip the tray about 45 degrees over a cutting board or a large plate using stainless steel scissors or a very sharp knife cut the basil microgreens just above the soil surface. See the process in the video below with Red Acre Cabbage microgreens.

Try not to disturb the soil. If some soil does spill, it’s okay. Use your hands to fluff the cut microgreens. The soil particles will fall to the board or plate, where you can wipe them off. It’s always recommended to wash microgreens before you use them (I don’t know if they are dry and clean) to be sure no bacteria is on the microgreens.

Only cut what you’re going to use that day. Replace the growing tray under the light and let them grow so more.

If you do harvest the whole tray and need to store them in the refrigerator, keep them dry and squeeze the air out of the storage bag.

harvestable basil

Genovese basil at the first harvest stage. The first true leaves will only get larger. Basil has a long harvest period.

In the photo above, you can see the first true leaves forming. They’re the oval leaves oriented east-west. The cotyledons are leaves shaped like half circles aligned more north-south.

The photo below shows that the harvested microgreens have their second set of true leaves.

What are microgreens

Simple Right?

That’s all there is to growing Genovese basil microgreens.

Basil seeds are mucilaginous and require a few precautions.

  • Don’t pre-wet the seeds;
  • Take extra care to space the seeds on the planting tray;
  • Don’t over-water the seeds, and
  • Be patient with germination.

Besides that, they’re no different than other microgreens.  

If you have any questions feel free to use the comment section below the article to ask. I’ll get right back to you.

Home Microgreens Store

Genovese Basil Microgreen Nutrition & Flavor

Basil microgreens contain Vitamins A, B, C, E, and K.

They also contain the following minerals: calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.

Furthermore, basil has chlorophyll, amino acids, and many antioxidants.

You can download a chart presenting the vitamins and minerals for the most commonly grown microgreens by clicking the button below.

For more in-depth nutritional and health information about basil microgreens, visit Dr. Axe’s website.

Basil Microgreen Flavor and How to Use Them

Basil microgreens add freshness and intense basil flavor to your foods. We know it’s not cool to say basil tastes like basil, but we’re sure most people know its flavor.

The microgreen version of basil has a more intense flavor than the mature leaves without that chemical-like aftertaste that older basil can have. The micro-basil leaves are also more tender and mature basil.

You can use micro-basil in the same way you’d use the herb basil. We love fresh micro-basil in eggs, salads, and garnish on tomato sauce dishes. You can also add micro-basil while cooking like you would the herb.

Interested in Growing Genovese Basil Microgreens?

Want to try growing your basil microgreens? Use the buttons below to look at a basil microgreen kit or basil microgreen seeds if you have the supplies.

Have a Question?

If you have any questions about the information in this post or microgreens, please comment below or reach out to me using the Ask a Question page


  • Todd

    Todd is the founder of Home Microgreens & the Home Microgreens store. He also writes for several other websites, including MyViewFromTheWoods.com. Todd worked at a large farm market, garden & nursery center for 20 years. Somehow he snuck off to become a geologist and professor before coming back to his senses to write & lecture about microgreens and gardening. When not at the computer, he can be found in the garden, trout stream, or mountain trail with his new Springer Spaniel Caden.

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2 thoughts on “How to Grow Genovese Basil Microgreens”

  1. You are most welcome, Anna! Don’t forget we sell seeds, supplies, and equipment too! Click the Green Shop Button in the header or the Shop Now button in our add on the sidebar.
    If you have any questions as you grow your basil please ask!

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