Basil is one of the most popular kitchen herbs in the summer and should not be missing from any herb garden. Would you like to have a healthy, bushy plant that always provides delicious large leaves for your homemade dishes, pestos and salads? Then it’s important to know how and when to prune and harvest your basil. With the right pruning at the appropriate time, your plant will keep growing back and producing tasty leaves.
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The basil has grown – when do I need to cut it?
The question of when to cut basil plants, many of us wonder. The answer is simple – when the young plant reaches a height of 15-20 cm, it should be cut back. Since these herbaceous plants grow quickly, you should cut them at least once every two weeks during the summer growing season. For the big harvest cut, the time just before flowering is best. Annual basil should also be cut back completely before the first frost in winter. Perennial varieties can be overwintered indoors and cultivated as kitchen plants.
Tip: Check out this article for great ideas and tips on how to preserve harvested basil.
How to cut basil properly
If you’ve bought basil from the supermarket several times or grown it from seed only to have it wilt and die or grow unhealthy and sparse, you’re probably making a mistake in pruning. It is an important task in caring for basil, so you need to familiarize yourself with it.
Dos and Don’ts.
You shouldn’t cut off the largest leaves at the bottom of the plant, as these absorb the most sunlight, encouraging the plant to grow.
You should still remove the leaves that grow at the top of the plant – even if they are not that large. By doing this, you allow the plant to form new shoots that grow outward, so it grows dense and bushy rather than tall.
Prune basil to stimulate new growth.
Regularly harvesting basil will keep the plant growing back and producing new tasty leaves. To get large, bushy plants, cut the top 2 inches off immature plants just above a leaf branch when they are about 15 inches tall. This will encourage them to branch out and become bushier instead of tall and thin. You can do this again and again as the plant forms new shoots. You can pick the leaves off the cut shoots, of course, and use them to enhance various recipes.
Note: You can cut basil with pruning shears as well as pinch it off with your fingernails.
Tips for a bushy plant
To make your basil plant bushy, remove the shoot tips regularly. By doing this, you will encourage the continuous production of tender new leaves and prevent the plant from flowering and producing seeds . Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Cut off the leaves at the shoot tips to help the plant branch out and produce more leaves.
- Lightly cut back basil once a week or every two weeks during the summer, depending on how fast it grows.
- Find the spot on the shoot where new small leaves are forming and cut about 5 millimeters above it.
- Repeat this with all young shoots where small leaves have formed.
- Pruning doubles the number of leaves growing on that shoot of basil.
- Do not cut back the basil by more than a third.
- Never cut the woody part of the plant near the base or the basil will not regrow.
Can a basil grow back forever?
Unfortunately, you can’t cut basil to grow forever – it will eventually die. But by regularly harvesting and pruning the plant, you will prolong its life and improve its vigor so that the basil stays in the leaf stage as long as possible. So for lush growth, cut off the shoot tips even if you don’t use the leaves.
Once flower buds appear, you should remove them to preserve the flavor of the leaves. But don’t worry if the basil is in bloom – the flowers are also edible and work well in salads and other recipes. But: when the plant starts to flower and form seeds, it slows down its growth and stops forming leaves.
Harvesting basil: which is better – cutting or plucking?
If you are harvesting basil to make a delicious pesto or dress tomato-mozzarella salad, you may pluck or break off the leaves in a hurry. However, this is a mistake that can lead to stunted shoots and a weak plant. Instead, cut off the shoot tips first and only then pluck off the leaves attached to them.
Did you know that the stems can also be eaten? Their spicy flavor makes basil pesto even more aromatic.
Idea: You can use the shoots cut off during pruning to propagate basil. To do this, put them in a jar with water and even after a few weeks the first roots appear.