Our favorite Italian Plant Lady, Maria Failla, was a former plant-killer. Now, she cultivates and nurtures plants from the comfort of her home with tips she picked up from her mama, who comes from a long line of Italian farmers in Italy, and horticultural experts.
Maria uses her knowledge to help plant-killers everywhere successfully and confidently grow plants. In her podcast, Bloom and Grow Radio, Maria teaches her audience (AKA her “plant friends”) how to grow a myriad of plants including tomatoes and Cannabis (yes, Cannabis!)
Of course, being the pesto-lovers that we are, we wanted to learn how to grow basil to use in our favorite dishes such as Fresh Pesto Salad or Pesto Pizza Toast. Maria shared with us some useful growing tips and why homegrown basil is better than store-bought basil.
Do you consider yourself to be a self-taught plant-grower?
I don’t think self-taught is the right word because I have sourced my community of plant lovers for advice to transform myself from a “Plant Killer” to a “Plant Lady.”
Do you have to be a seasoned botanist to be successful at growing plants?
Absolutely not! The only skills you need to care for plants are kindness, patience, and empathy. Everything else is easily learned through books, podcasts of my show and our community.
Why grow your own basil?
Because basil is the best for its unbelievable smell and many culinary uses! You can set up one basil plant in your garden or windowsill and harvest all season long, instead of routinely spending $3-$6 on those annoying little packages of it in the grocery store.
Can basil be grown indoors?
Absolutely, but you need access to 6-8 hours of bright, direct light for your basil to thrive. I go into how to set up a windowsill herb garden in detail with a horticulturalist from the New York Botanical Garden in Episode 22 of the podcast, “Windowsill Herb Gardening”.
What tools do you need?
- A pot with drainage holes and a saucer (basil roots don’t like to sit in too much water)
- A basil plant- I prefer buying a small pre-grown plant to begin. You can buy these are your local grocery store, farmers market or even online. You can start from seed but if you are a beginner (and impatient like me) it makes more sense to buy a seedling.
- Get potting soil that comes in a bag, it is designed to be a little airy, so water can drain more effectively. I like Espoma Organics.
Are there other herbs that you grow that you love to use in Italian-based dishes?
We grow them all! Rosemary, basil for pesto, sage for gnocchi with brown butter and sage sauce, mint to flavor our water and cocktails, and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley and chives for our scrambled eggs. We even grow citrus indoors under growlights!
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to start growing their own herbs?
Give it a try! Growing your own herbs and then using them in the food you make is the most fun and empowering feeling and hobby. It also saves money because you aren’t constantly buying small portions of them at the store as well. Those store-bought herbs have also been cut days if not weeks prior to arriving at the grocery store. You won’t experience herbs more flavorful than ones you literally pick from your garden or windowsill and eat within hours.