Deep Water Culture Basil: The Low-Effort, High-Yield Solution Your Kitchen Needs

According to Marley, “Raising basil in deep water culture makes it incredibly simple to provide everything the plants need to flourish. 

The roots constantly access oxygen-rich nutrients, allowing the plants to grow lush leaves seemingly overnight. 

With DWC, your basil will be the star ingredient for any dish, requiring hardly any work from you. Discover this trick for doubling yields without hampering your busy schedule.”

You’ll want to learn how to set up this foolproof system to treat yourself to restaurant-quality leaves at home, no green thumb needed.

Key Takeaway

  1. DWC allows basil to thrive year-round by keeping the roots in optimal growing conditions. Constant access to water, oxygen, and nutrients fuels explosive growth and higher yields than soil.
  2. Setup is simple – basil seedlings are placed in net cups above an aerated reservoir. Roots freely hang and absorb what they need to produce an abundance of flavorful leaves.
  3. Very little effort is required once installed. Automatic timers ensure reservoir water is refreshed with minerals and pumped with oxygen. Focus on harvesting leaves rather than tedious watering and feeding like with soil.

What is DWC?

Deep water culture basil

A deep water culture (DWC) system involves suspending plant roots in a well-oxygenated nutrient solution (1). 

Over the years of experimenting with different hydroponic techniques, I’ve found DWC to be one of the most effective and straightforward for beginning growers. 

It allows for high yield harvests of herbs like basil with minimal effort.

The key components of a DWC system

OxygenIntroduced into the water by air stones, oxygen fuels root function and health.
WaterThis nutrient-rich solution transports oxygen and minerals throughout the root zone.
NutrientsA carefully balanced formula fuels rapid basil growth and maximizes yields.
TemperatureMaintaining optimal temperatures year-round allows continual basil cultivation.

The step-by-step guide below will show you how to build your own high-yielding DWC system and enjoy a constant supply of freshly picked, hydroponic basil. 

With diligent pH monitoring and periodic solution refreshes, your basil plants will thrive!

Setting up your DWC system

To get started, begin by selecting an appropriate reservoir size and net pots for your plants. 

The reservoir should be large enough that you can maintain stable EC and pH levels between water changes, which help prevent root zone problems.

Net pots are ideal for DWC as they allow the roots to be submerged while providing anchorage for the plant. 

Clay pebbles or coco coir make excellent hydroponic growing mediums that supply drainage and aeration in the root zone.

Add your chosen growing medium to the net pots and insert the pots into a rigid frame anchored over the reservoir. 

Place an air stone attached to an air pump inside to oxygenate the solution. Monitor and maintain your reservoir’s EC, pH, and water level as the plants uptake nutrients.

With diligent care of these key aspects, you’ll be rewarded with abundant harvests of fresh herbs grown year-round using the versatile DWC technique

Try it for yourself – you’ll see why hydroponic gardeners appreciate its simplicity and results.

Why DWC is Great for Growing Basil

After many seasons of cultivating herbs hydroponically, I’ve found that DWC produces excellent results for growing basil

When set up properly, this technique enables basil to thrive and produce multiple harvests throughout the year.

Benefits of using DWC for basil include:

Fast growthWith roots suspended in rich water solutions, basil grows vigorously thanks to constant access to oxygen, water, and nutrients.
Increased yieldsMore fresh basil can be cropped per plant life cycle from optimized growing conditions.
Pest resistanceMaintaining ideal pH and balanced nutrition helps prevent issues without using pesticides.
Year-round harvestsBy controlling environmental factors, successive basil grows are possible regardless of season.
Low maintenanceBeyond routine solution changes, DWC requires minimal care—perfect for busy home gardeners.
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Credit : Epic Gardening

Tips for Growing Hydroponic Basil with DWC

Deep water culture basil

After cultivating basil hydroponically for several seasons, I’ve identified key practices that deliver great results using a DWC system. Carefully following these steps leads to bountiful harvests.


Starter plugs/net cupsSupport delicate root systems as basil seedlings develop.
Transplant to DWC at full root massShift to permanent floating raft or individual net pots once roots can support the plant.

Nutrients and pH

Tailored hydroponic fertilizerSpecialized mineral blends provide balanced nutrition throughout basil’s growth cycles.
Maintain pH 5.5-6.5Ensures optimal availability of minerals to the plants immersed in the nutrient solution.

Environmental Factors

Warm 65-75°F temperaturesWithin this range facilitates rapid vegetative growth and development.
18/6 light cycle under strong LEDsAdequate photons maximize growth rates and productivity for successive harvests.


Cut stems above leaf nodesThis promotes bushy, multidirectional regrowth ideal for hydroponic basil.
Harvest regularly in type of basilRemoving leaves triggers new vegetative flushes critical for continuous production.

Maximizing these cultivation practices takes full advantage of DWC’s ease for reliable herb production under optimal conditions year-round. Adjust individual factors based on your system.


How do I start basil seeds in a net pot?

When starting basil seeds in a DWC system, it’s important to use net pots as the growing medium. 

Net pots allow the roots to be suspended in nutrient-rich water while providing anchorage for the young seedlings. 

Fill the net pot slightly above the rim with an inert medium like expanded clay pellets or perlite. Press 1-2 basil seeds lightly into the medium, covering them with just a dusting of vermiculite or perlite. 

Keep the net pot in a tray with water to maintain high humidity levels ideal for germination. Within 7-10 days the basil seeds should sprout roots and leaves small enough for transplanting to the DWC setup.

What is the ideal pH level for growing basil in DWC?

Most hydroponic plants, including basil, grow best when the pH of the nutrient solution is between 5.5-6.5 (2). 

In this mildly acidic range, all the necessary minerals remain readily available to the roots. Test the pH daily until you learn how it fluctuates in your individual system. 

Then adjust as needed with small doses of pH up or down solution to avoid nutrient lockouts that can stunt growth. Proper pH is crucial for healthy plant development in DWC.

How do I prevent root rot in my DWC system?

Keeping the roots submerged in oxygenated water is key to avoiding root rot in DWC basil. Use an air pump and air stones to maintain dissolved oxygen levels above 5 ppm. 

Also monitor EC and pH levels, which can allow pathogens to take hold if out of range. Pay attention to water temperature – most roots prefer 65-75°F. 

Limit organic material in the system and control algae growth with beneficial bacteria. Finally, replace nutrient solution on a schedule before it becomes stale. 

Taking care of oxygen, minerals, and cleanliness is the basil in hydroponics best root rot prevention.

How do I control EC levels for DWC basil?

When providing optimal hydroponic nutrients to basil, it’s important to monitor electrical conductivity (EC) levels. 

EC reflects the total dissolved mineral content in the solution. For DWC basil, an EC range between 1.2-1.5 mS/cm is ideal for healthy growth (3). 

Use a digital EC meter daily to check levels. If EC rises above 1.5, perform a partial water change to dilute it. 

If EC drops below 1.2, add small amounts of hydroponic fertilizer until reaching the target zone. Balancing the nutrient levels supports vigorous basil growth while deterring issues like nutrient burn.

What types of basil can I grow with DWC?

Some popular basil varieties suited to the DWC method include sweet Genovese basil, lemon basil, and purple basil. 

Genovese is best for pesto or salads due to its classic basil flavor. Lemon basil offers a bright citrus twist that adds zing to seafood or chicken dishes. 

And purple basil turns green recipes vivid with antioxidants. DWC also lets you experiment with less common types like clove basil, cinnamon basil, and Thai basil. 

Just be sure to select varieties bred for indoor culinary use rather than ornamental basils. Most perform well with the method’s simple nutrient delivery.

How do I ensure good air stone placement in my DWC system?

Proper air stone placement within the DWC reservoir is vital to oxygenating the roots. aim to position air stones near the base of plant rafts or net pots where roots are densest. 

Stones tucked along the perimeter work well for individual plants. The goal is to generate a continuous flow of microbubbles reaching throughout the root zone. 

Test distribution by agitating the solution – it should remain in motion for at least 30 seconds after stopping the air pump. 

You may need multiple small stones rather than one large one depending on your system size. Adjust placement as needed for full coverage.

How often should I replace my DWC nutrient solution?

Most hydroponic growers replace 25-50% of the full nutrient solution each week or two for DWC basil. 

As plants continuously uptake minerals, the ion concentration in the recycled solution slowly rises, harming roots if taken too high over time. 

Replenishing with fresh water and nutrients refreshes the system. As root growth expands the demand, replace solution more frequently – every 5-7 days for seedlings or every 3-4 days for mature plants. 

Always maintain optimal pH and EC while avoiding rapid solution swings that could trigger deficiencies.

How can I store freshly harvested basil?

After collecting your DWC basil harvest, it’s best to properly store and preserve the flavorful leaves. 

The fridge crisper drawer lined with a damp paper towel is ideal, keeping basil fresh for 5-7 days. You can also try drying some leaves. 

Tightly bundle small batches stem-down and hang them in a dark place with good airflow like a pantry. Once crumbly and brittle, gently crumble into jars or zip bags for storage. Both fresh and dried basil retain nutrients for use in recipes through the months ahead. Proper cooling or drying helps retain the sweet basil flavor.


After growing basil using DWC over many seasons, I’ve found it to be a truly wonderful way of cultivating this herb. 

Not only have I enjoyed an abundance of fresh basil harvested regularly throughout the year, but sharing techniques with others has been rewarding. 

The process of maintaining the essential factors like pH, nutrients, oxygen, and environment has taught me much about plant health. 

With diligent care of these key aspects of the system, any gardener can thrive growing basil and achieving impressive results. 

I hope readers may be inspired to start their own DWC garden to discover the joys of hydroponic herb production. 

Please feel free to share any experiences or questions you may have – I’d love connect with other growers.



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