When you know how to harvest basil correctly, your plants will give much longer.
When you know how to harvest basil, your plants will produce for a long time. But, often new gardeners pick leaves the wrong way. And they do this by simply plucking any random leaf off the plant. But when basil is picked this way, the plants may decline fast and give up the ghost early in the season. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to harvest basil the right way.
How to harvest basil when your plants are young:
When your basil plants are young, picking them by “tipping” is ideal. That’s because tip buds of a branch excrete a hormone that tells all the little buds on that branch what to do. So, if you take out that bud by tipping, the little lateral buds at the base of each leaf are released from hormonal shackles. And, those buds open up and form new shoots and leaves.
This is a good way to get plants like basil to keep growing for us even as we harvest from them.
In fact, within about a week after you take out tip shoots from your basil, the buds just below the point where you harvested will open up and form new shoots. That means you’ll have new shoots to tip harvest soon. Plus, the plant will stay fairly compact and very bushy. And, you’ll be able to repeat the process over and over again throughout the season.
But, each time you pinch out a tip, try not to pinch below the point where you pinched last time.
Frequency is also an important part of how to harvest basil.
It is important that you do repeat the pinching back process regularly. That’s because tip buds on basil will eventually try to become flower buds. And, if the plant begins to flower and go to seed, it will lose flavor. Plus, it may become woody and have less resilience for forming new, tasty tender shoots. However, if you pinch out those tip buds even if they’re showing signs of becoming a flower, you can keep that delicious growing cycle growing strong longer.
However, this is a terrible way to prune most plants.
Tipping is a great way to prune basil for maximum harvests. But cutting other plants this way isn’t really ideal. If you’d like to learn more about pruning other herbs and other plants, sign up for the Garden Mentors Gardening Academy!
What if your basil’s big leaves are shading the interior?
Usually it isn’t ideal to pluck leaves individually from basil. However, if your plant does have lots of really big lateral leaves. And if those leaves are shading out the interior of the plant, you might harvest a few of these big leaves.
But don’t take all of them. That’s because plucking a lot of single leaves can put a significant drain on the plant and cause it to decline rapidly.
This kind of big leaf shading happens a lot with lettuce leaf basil.
How to harvest basil late in the growing season:
Basil plants will decline rapidly as shorter days and cooler nights of fall arrive. And, as they decline, their stems become more woody. And, their older leaves begin to yellow and fall off. Plus, if basil gets too cold, the leaves will blacken.
So, before this happens stop pinching your basil and be brutal. And than means cut down the remaining plant to harvest everything. This is important because basil is an annual plant, and it won’t survive the winter outdoors.
But, is it possible to keep growing basil indoors in winter?
It may be possible harvest basil in winter too. But, this will require growing basil indoors. Or, if you have a heated greenhouse with lights, that might do the trick.
If you plan to keep a summer basil plant growing indoors through winter, be sure to bring it indoors well before summer ends. And, place it in a very sunny location. Finally, don’t let it bloom. That’s because once it flowers, your basil plant will probably end its lifecycle no matter where you’re growing it.
Now that you’ve harvested your basil…
Try our dairy-free rosemary basil pesto recipe. It’s great fresh or preserved. And, we’ve included instructions for both.