Get more from your basil through harvesting. It’s simple — the more you pick the more it grows.
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. That’s why it’s important to prune just above the nodes or branching points. If you prune midway down a stem for instance, that’s it, the opportunity for new growth is lost — because the cells in between the nodes (made up of somatic cells) are only programmed to be themselves.
Basically, pruning makes for a more dynamic and robust plant — encouraging the growth of fresh new leaves.
I’m sure you’ve noted, if left to it’s 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.
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, taking the leaf and leaf stem (petiole).
For a bigger harvest, for pesto for instance, take up to a 3rd of the plant by harvesting 2 to 3 nodes down the plant or down each stem of the plant. (See the above image, pick or prune just above the node — the intersection of stem and leaves.) Don’t take more than a 1/3 of the plant at one time. If conditions are right, you’ll soon have another crop of basil in the making.
You’ll also end up with a better product if your plant is well watered before picking. If you forget leaves can be hydrated in a bowl of water before use, just like lettuce.
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 weather in general isn’t optimal.
Harvest your plant to the ground before the 1st hard frost.
There’s no such thing as too much basil. #GrowWhatYouLove
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