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How to Prune Basil

Are your basil plants looking a little overgrown and in need of a trim? But, wonder How to Prune Basil? 

Pruning basil might seem intimidating if it’s your first time, especially when you want to maintain healthy, thriving plants. 

But there’s no need to worry! 

We are here to guide you. We will provide a guide to pruning your basil plants. With these instructions, you’ll not only keep your plants in good shape but also help them grow more abundantly. 

Keep reading to unlock the secrets of successful basil pruning and see your garden flourish!

What is Basil?

Basil, with its enticing aroma, earthy taste, and lovely aesthetics, is an absolute delight in any summer dish. This is what makes it a beloved herb for many home gardeners. 

Plus, basil is easygoing and acts as a natural pest repellent. So, it’s an excellent choice for beginners as well as experienced gardeners.

But here’s the secret – regular pruning. It helps basil plants stay neat and stimulates fresh growth, leading to a plentiful basil harvest all season long.

Related Post: How to Propagate Basil

Why You Need to Prune?

Trimming is key for several reasons. It boasts new growth and stops the plant from seeding too early, known as bolting. 

So, it’s a vital gardening task for any plant, including basil. Let’s explore the advantages of pruning further.

Pruning Boosts Growth: 

Basil plants tend to grow more and become bushier when they’re trimmed. This results in more leaves. When you snip, it grows more because you’re making room for new growth.

Preventing Early Seeding: 

Trimming can prevent early seeding or bolting. When plants flower, it’s often a sign they’re about to seed. The main goal of any plant is to reproduce, and flowering is the first step.

If you leave it alone, seeds will eventually fall from these flowers, hoping to sprout and produce new plants. But, if you keep harvesting, the plant won’t get the chance to flower. 

Some people believe that basil becomes less flavorful or even slightly bitter after it flowers, which is something to avoid.

Protects Against Diseases: 

Basil plant growing shows how trimming promotes airflow, which protects against diseases. Good airflow can prevent downy mildew, a common disease affecting basil plants, especially in humid, stagnant conditions.

Keeps the Plant Size Manageable: 

If your plant grows tall and spindly but does not produce many leaves, it may need a good trim. Without regular trimming, basil plants tend to grow upwards and don’t branch out.

Basil Growth Rate: 

A healthy basil plant has a thick, woody main stem at the base, helping it withstand winds and rain and absorb water and nutrients. The stems and branches higher up remain thinner and greener.

Pro tip: If you lack outdoor space or live in a colder climate, consider using grow bags for basil. They’re easy to move around and can be kept indoors until the weather allows them to be outside.

When the cold season comes, simply move the grow bag to a warm, sunny spot and enjoy basil all year round. Remember, your plant needs at least 6-8 hours of sunlight daily.

Related Post: How to Grow Basil from Seeds

Steps to Prune Basil

Prune basil is easy. Just follow these steps to get the most from your harvest.

Step 1: Use Clean, Sharp Scissors 

Before you start to trim your basil plants, make sure you have clean, sharp scissors. This helps to keep the plant healthy by reducing the chances of infection.

Pro tip: Try to cut in a way that water can roll off the cut. This helps prevent any infection or rot at the cut site.

Step 2: Start Trimming Early 

You might think it’s odd to start trimming as soon as you’ve planted the basil. But when the plants are 6-8 inches tall and have at least six real leaves, they are strong enough to be trimmed. 

Simply cut the main stem down to the lowest set of real leaves. When you check the plant a week later, new shoots have started growing at this cut.

Starting to trim early helps your plants do well in the long term. It might delay your first big harvest by about two weeks, but it’s worth it.

Related Post: How To Store Basil

Step 3: Harvest from the Top 

Start picking basil leaves from the top. Even if they aren’t the biggest leaves on the plant, this will give the plant more room to grow. The bunches of leaves at the top will also taste the freshest.

Pro tip: Do NOT pick the biggest leaves at the bottom of the plant. These are needed for the plant to carry out photosynthesis and maintain its overall health. These leaves are also considered to be less flavorful, so always harvest from the top down.

Step 4: Encourage Branching 

When you cut a stem at a node, the basil plant will start growing side shoots. This will double the amount of basil you get from the same plant!

Find the little leaves along the main stem. Cut just about an inch above this “node.” The plant will now start growing in both directions from the cut site.

When each new growth site grows to another node, you can use the same trimming technique again. This gives your plant more and more room to grow!

If you keep trimming, the plant will send energy to these new growth sites instead of flowering. If you don’t trim, the plant will start flowering. Remember, the plant’s main job is to reproduce!

Step 5: Trim and Remove Flowers 

Basil is quite good at handling heat, and summer is when it will start flowering if you don’t keep up with the trimming. If your soil is healthy and you water your basil regularly, you should be able to pick some leaves from your plants each week during the summer.

If you’re not using a lot of basil, plan a big trim every 1-2 weeks. This will keep your plants in good shape and stop them from flowering too early.

Related Post: How To Dry Basil

Step 6: Stick to a Regular Trimming 

Schedule Keep trimming your plants even if you don’t need the basil immediately.

You can give these cuttings to a friend, add cut stems to a simple bouquet, or even give them to your backyard chickens, as basil helps with respiratory health. Don’t think of trimming as wasting unused leaves. Instead, think of it as necessary upkeep.

Remember, you should not remove more than ⅓ of your basil plant in one go. If you take too much off, it will hurt the plant.

Closing Note:

If you want a lot of basil, trimming your plants is the key. Just take a few moments to learn how basil grows, and you’ll be ready for a productive year.

This low-maintenance and productive herb is a perfect choice whether you’re a beginner or a long-time gardener. So why not try a new variety this season?

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