Get more from your basil through harvesting. It’s simple. The more you pick the more it grows.
Here’s Why Harvesting Basil Grows More Basil
Basil, like most plants, benefits from pruning. Proper pruning encourages growth and makes for a healthier, fuller plant — especially when done correctly.
In terms of biology, the nodes at leaf and branching points are made up of what’s termed meristematic tissue. It holds highly equipped cells responsible for new growth. This is where new stems, leaves, and flowers originate.
This is why it’s important to prune just above the nodes or branching points. For instance, if you prune midway down a stem your opportunity for new growth is lost. This is because the cells in between the nodes are made up of somatic cells and are only programmed to be themselves.
Basically, pruning makes for a more dynamic and robust plant, encouraging the growth of fresh new leaves.
If left to its own devices and not trimmed, pruned or otherwise eaten basil will simply become leggy and go to flower.
So! Keep picking to prolong the leafing stage of your plant.
Here’s How to Prune Basil to Grow More Basil
When you need just a few leaves here and there to add to meals or drinks choose older leaves and pick leaves at the point where they meet the main stem. Take the leaf and leaf stem (petiole) whenever possible.
Take up to a 3rd of the plant by harvesting 2 to 3 nodes down the plant or down each stem of the plant when harvesting for a recipe such as pesto. (See the above image, pick or prune just above the node — the intersection of stem and leaves.) Leave about 1/3 of the plant with each harvest. If conditions are right, you’ll soon have another crop of basil in the making.
More Tips for a Better Basil Harvest
- Hydrate leaves in a bowl of water before use, just like lettuce. This is especially helpful when harvesting at the end of the day when leaves have lost moisture naturally throughout the day.
- If your plant is looking as if it’s going to bolt or go to flower, pinch back the buds. This generally holds off flowering for a short while. However, flowering could also be a sign that conditions in the garden are changing. Evening temperatures may be dropping, the soil needs feeding or its time to bring plants indoors.
- Harvest your plant to the ground before the 1st hard frost.
There’s no such thing as too much basil. 🙂
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*This article was originally published in May of 2016.