Winter Basil/Heat Cables?

rustico_2009October 8, 2012

Basil has been a good seller for me at both markets. I am thinking it might be worth it to grow, if possible, through the winter, with heat cables if necessary?

We get about 5-10 frosts per year, just a few hours at ground surface only. Average lows are 44f. Day length is 10 hours at the shortest with more sun than clouds by far.

Does anyone think basil could be grown in these conditions and with or without heat in a cold frame?

I thought about growing it in black bags in a cold frame against a southern wall, or with buried cables. I think the cables for 72 degress F are about 120 watts per 40'and two would get me about 90-100 square feet which could grow enough basil. Might even just try fewer square feet the first year if electricity is needed. I can grow it on my seed starting tables under plastic, which have the heat cables but are more exposed to the elements than against a south facing wall, so don't get as much of a passive boost.

What pitfalls to look out for? Aphids, mold anything like that. Would people likely want basil in the winter? I won't have tomatoes which seem to push basil, but other growers will have greenhouse tomatoes year round.

Anyone finding a good trade off with heat cables on any other crop?



Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i would just use row covers if i didn't need to worry about freezing. i think without supplemental light this will be very slow growing basil.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 4:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

120 watts stretched over 40 feet is not going to make much heat at all. The cable itself might be 72 degrees, but if the ground is cold, that heat will wick away quickly. Soil has a lot of mass, which takes a lot of energy to heat, and that is before the wicking effect of the surrounding cold Earth. If you're paying for electric heat, it might be worthwhile to insulate around the edges of the cold frame. Or you could grow off the ground altogether.

I am most interested in using solar collectors to heat water, and then letting that water provide the overnight heat. It's free energy, which is about all I can afford :)

Good luck with the basil project.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 4:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks to both of you,

I saw a video of some guys growing in rain gutters with heat cables inside a high tunnel. Some of you with tunnels might be thinking about that?

In 2011 grew a watermelon outside from a transplant starting in Late January or early February, with the heat cables in front of a south facing wall.The plastic was held just above the leaves. You can see it in my 2011 diary on, if there is any interest. The Carolina Cross plant was a very healthy monster and grew very fast. Feb. is barely warmer here in the day and equal at night with Dec. and Jan. It even snowed once after the watermelon seedling was planted!

As you all know,heat rises, so that helps with loses when the low slung cold frame traps the heat rising from the soil into air. I think it cost about $25 a month to run the 2 sets of 40' direct buried cables, but that should be fact checked.Electricity is probably higher here than almost anywhere else. It couldn't have been much more though because the bills weren't crazy high. I can sell around $300 or more, a month in basil and having it year round could help with the "prestige" issue at the stand.

Passive is better!If it works. Isolating the soil with insulation has to be good either way. Black water bottles added to the cold frame would help. It certainly is easy to try passively outdoors. I am setting some up basil in a south facing window in trade gallon pots and can add light if needed...cheaper than outdoor heat but space is limited unless I put in skylights....Hmmmm!

The other deal is, if 10 hours of daylight works, is just to grow in the trade gallons in manageable totes that I can lift out of the cold frame and bring indoors on cold nights. Sounds like a lot of trouble but the learning curve...and getting something to market this winter may be worth it.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 5:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I believe that the cold AIR temps is what kills basil.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I believe that is what kills basil Marla, but I am wondering about how to make it thrive in my mild winter, and soil temps will be a factor too. Do you know what air temps kill it and what soil temps are minimum? Minimum hours of direct sun?

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

At 50 degrees, Basil will turn black. Under that it will be killed. Don't know about soil temp or # of sunlight hours.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 9:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

O.K. We will dip under 50F, soon. Figure the basil in the garden will be finished.
I found minimum soil temp to be around 60F and 6 hours of full sun. Our soil drops to at least 50F. I imagine 6 hours of winter sun is not the same as 6 hours of mid-day summer sun but our 10 would probably do.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 10:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

You can cover the basil with cotton/cloth to help protect it for a few degrees.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 2:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

so does the 50 degrees kill the whole plant or just damage the leaves?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 4:46PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Once you kill the leaves, the plant can't get what it needs to continue to grow.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 7:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

Hang on and back up a second. Basil will absolutely not turn black at 50F, I think there must be a typo here from Marla.

My basil is still green and looking great even though the temps have dropped into the 30's.

From my experience, basil will turn black from frost damage, 32F and below.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2012 at 11:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mine always started to turn black after dropping below 50, and all the hundreds of books that I have agree with that. You must have a micro-climate where it's warmer. Lucky you.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 6:55AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

No micro-climate here, or any of the farms i've run over the past 17 years. When my thermometer says 41F like it does now, my basil is still green and fine. I can post a picture if you want.
My basil has always stayed just fine till frost. And beyond that with row cover.
Don't know what to say about your books or your experience, just that mine is very different.

The only other thing I can think of is that super tender basil leaves may be more prone to damage than older, tougher ones. I don't replant past July, so my Genovese plants are not so tender anymore. But they taste fine and sell well at the market.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 10:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Madroneb, Is it regrowing with any vigor after you cut it, or just kind of holding until you pick it and not growing back? If it's as old and tough as you say it might not grow back after cutting even it best temps?

Do you all feed your basil? I think it takes bad soil, so I never have worried about feeding it after putting it in a composted bed? So far so good, after 8 months. If you feed them what do you use?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 10:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

I apologize for highjacking the thread, hopefully this is interesting to someone.
Here is a photo of some of my basil this morning after another night of 40F.
Granted, I cut this patch hard last week so it's not pretty, but its also not black at all.

If basil was to blacken at 50F, I couldn't grow it.
In spring, when frost stops around May 1st, I transplant outside while night temps are still way below 50F. Here in NW Oregon, temps stay below that long into early summer and go there again late Sept.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 10:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

The regrowth is slow, but noticeable. Obviously not like hot summer growth.
I add good aged manure to the bed before planting, and thats it. If I watered with fish emulsion later on, i'm sure it would grow much faster.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 10:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

No worries about thread jacking, thanks for your comments.
After your first post, I remembered that I put my first basil transplants out under agribon 19 in early March and it got down to around 40 several times. Definitely much lower than 50 under the agribon. It takes a long time to warm up at night here in spring too, not to your extreme, but not too far from it.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 11:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Cole Robbie, Just reread you post. I don't set the cables up in a row. you are right that would not work well. They are run back and forth about 4" apart. 40' makes a bed 45-50 square feet. Then the bed is covered with plastic at night and on cloudy days...maybe half open on medium day. That's how I grew the watermelon in winter/early spring. It couldn't hurt to insulate the bed, use black mulch , or build up a insulated box and put that under plastic.

From what has been said so far on this thread, I might be able to grow basil in a sheltered south facing location in a basic cold frame. Maybe put in a hot lamp and add a second blanket on the coolest nights. That has worked with warm season seedlings before. Watermelon, peppers, Tomatoes etc.

The other way I saw the heat cable used was in a rain gutter above ground. The soil mass was small and it was in a greenhouse which helped. Has to be a cut and come again type high value crop.

Anyway, I have the transplants ready to go and am starting another tray to experiment with.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 12:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I've always planted Italian Large Leaf, not the Genovese type. I realize planting on the other side of the Cascades is supposed to different than the Midwest. We don't have any ocean, or any large lake, to help with the weather.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 1:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

i have a patch similar in plant size to madroneb's. we've had temps in the 30's, no heavy frost yet. some of the leaves on my basil are black but not all.
the basil that was planted in a hoophouse and in a high tunnel last spring is still going strong now. it has been through some cold periods and had some leaf damage but never enough to kill the whole plant.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 2:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Our basil grows well all winter (PHX AZ), unless we have a frost and I forget to cover it. If it were in a hoop house or with row covers I wouldn't have to worry.

It grows more slowly, but I have a lot of basil plants.

The advantage to overwintering them is they explode into growth the next spring. I kept some alive for three summers and they were great.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks lazygardens. I have a few basil stands, but the older ones had a bunch of black fungus on the undersides of the leaves. It comes on very quickly and makes it unsaleable in my opinion. I have learned that it is a seasonal thing. Younger plants look O.K., so I think I'll grow it for cutting whole plants until this problem seems to go away...which will probably be in the spring.

Wierd, I had really nice basil today at the market and my worst sales of it all year. Hope that doesn't mean people don't want it as much in winter.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 1:14AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Mara des bois strawberry?
I have just discovered Mara des bois strawberry and...
Organic pesticide for large market garden
We will be planting on about 3 acres this year - tomatoes,...
Advice for Farm Stand Newbies
Hello! Cant tell you how much I have enjoyed reading...
2 monthes of houzzy
In less than 2 months since houzzy took over garden...
Movable High Tunnels? JRSLICK?
You have mentioned "movable building spots"...
Sponsored Products
Winter White Aviary Ovo Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
Tuscan Thermal Backed Blackout Curtain Panel Pair
Fire Pit 32" Emperador Mosaic Marble coffee Table - PROVENCE
Momentum Mats Christmas Reindeer 29 in. x 17 in. Coir and Vinyl Door Mat 12101
$12.97 | Home Depot
Winter White Bold Stripe Double Gourd Table Lamp
Lamps Plus
Luna Winter Gold Three-Light Bath Fixture
$199.90 | Bellacor
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™