Newbie Container Gardening: Year Of The Big Basil Plant

close up of green basil plant
(Image credit: Francesco Carta fotografo / Getty Images)

When I was just out of college, I moved to the big city. The move was a dream come true except I was a bit lonely for my more rural roots. To bring a little of the small town girl into the big city, I decided to try planting some herbs and vegetables at my new rental home.

This rental home was divided between upper and lower floors with the renters on the lower floor having access to the only green space - the front yard. I had access to what would have been the backyard except it had been turned into two parking spaces.

What's a girl to do? Luckily, the exterior stairway leading to my apartment was wide and with southwest exposure, perfect for container gardening.

Container Growing Basil

This was my first experience gardening without a family member, so as you can imagine there were successes and failures, but there was one stand out. I had planted a basil start, not really expecting much out of it. And, at first it was puny. The leaves seemed to burn and the plant was stunted. But then, low and behold, the zucchini that was planted one stair step above the basil went on a growth spurt (you know how they can get) pretty much encompassing the basil plant.

This could have been the coup de gras but, instead, the zucchini plant gave the basil start the filtered light it needed, effectively protecting it from the harsh, burning rays of the sun, yet allowing just enough peek through.

Within a very short period of time, the basil plant doubled in size and then doubled again. I was cutting basil back by the handfuls and giving it to all my friends, but the container growing basil plant was still darn near a small shrub. 

Since then, I have always grown basil because I love the delicate flavor but also because I'm hoping to replicate that one year when I had the blue ribbon, not grown on steroids, bumper crop of basil in containers. It still hasn't happened, but I'm not giving up hope. My basil crop is always respectable, but so far hasn't out-shined the first year I grew it as a newbie gardener, a fairly inept and forgetful one at that. Maybe one day I'll get a big basil plant again. Until then, I'll just keep trying.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.