Knowing when to prune or harvest basil is going to be essential if you wish to extend the harvesting period along with making sure that the plant itself is capable of surviving while also throwing out new shoots. However, the good news is that this is not actually something to be afraid of simply because it is going to be easier than you think.
The Timing of Pruning or Harvesting.
First, let us look more specifically at knowing when it is the correct time to prune your basil as you do not want to go ahead and damage the plant.
Keep an eye on the plant for the point where the first six leaves have developed on the seedling. At that point, you need to prune it to the second set of leaves as this does then encourage other growth on the plant.
After the plant has developed and matured, you do need to continue to watch for additional growth. The main part to look out for includes whenever the plant develops a branch that then has anywhere between six to eight leaves. This should then be pruned back to the first set of leaves in order to then encourage additional growth once again.
When it comes to knowing the correct time to harvest your basil, then the advice that comes from professional growers is to do so just before the plant itself starts to develop substantial buds. In other words, before it is able to get to the flowering part of its life cycle.
You should also be aware that it is important to time the pruning and harvest of your basil correctly as it has been shown that the herb is actually at its most aromatic and pungent when it is fresh. In other words, try to time pruning it with when you are going to use it in your cooking as you are going to really benefit from it.
If you are wondering about how much basil you are going to be able to produce with regular pruning and harvesting, then it is estimated that twelve basil plants will be able to produce anywhere between four to six cups of leaves every single week. This in itself is pretty substantial and if you are not going to require as much basil on a regular basis, then you can just take that equation and reduce the quantities to the levels that you would feel comfortable with.
Understanding the Harvesting Methods.
You must also think carefully about the harvesting methods to make sure that you are doing things in the correct manner from the outset. In order to help, there are several tips that you may wish to take advantage of.
One of the main harvesting methods is to make sure that you only remove a small amount of the plant at any given time so we really are just talking about a few leaves. You should avoid cutting off an entire stem at the one time and just remember to do it before the flower buds are really starting to appear as that is the wrong time to harvest your basil.
If you are going to have to harvest large amounts of the herb, then you need to understand the best way to do this. What is recommended is to go ahead and harvest from the very top of the plant and work your way down. If you are wondering about how much you should harvest at any given time, then most people will state that you should not do more than a third of the total height of the plant. However, when it comes to cutting, then you should not cut and leave a stem but rather cut it just above the point where there are two leaf buds. This is going to encourage further growth rather than you effectively stopping the plant in its tracks.
The final tip in this section is how to deal with the final harvest of the plant. This is where you are going to cut the plant for the final time before the first frost and if you are serious about trying to get the plant to grow again in the following year, then you should cut it down to the ground level and make sure that you pick off all of the leaves. This should help to protect the plant and it will throw up new shoots in the following year.
Key Tips on Harvesting.
In addition, there are also a number of key tips when it comes to the actual harvesting and these tips should ultimately make your life so much easier and also help the general health of the plant as well.
There has to be some pre-planning when it comes to harvesting your basil plant and the best advice that you can get is to make sure that you water the plant the night before you plan on taking some of the leaves. This is going to increase the flavor and help the leaves as well as the plant because it is a bit of a shock for it when you go and start pruning parts of it the following day. However, do not deluge the plant either especially if it is going to be a slightly colder evening.
When you are looking at cutting some of the basil off then you have to be very precise with what you do or else you are going to make life difficult for yourself. What the experts say is that you need to cut the stem just above the second set of leaves once you have transplanted the seedling into its permanent home. By doing this, you are then going to really encourage the plant to throw out a number of lateral branches and this, in turn, will increase the number of leaves that you will then be able to harvest during the life of the plant.
Another tip on how to effectively harvest the plant is that if you are just going to remove some leaves, then do so with your finger as no cutting is going to be required. This will also be less traumatic to the plant itself and ultimately you can remove the leaves without too many problems as long as you do not use too much force.
When it comes to general maintenance, then you are recommended to cut off the tips of the branches once a week as this encourages the plant to grow thicker rather than it just trying to reach for the stars. If you are looking at harvesting the plant just once a month, then you do need to take a different approach and that approach is to cut the mature plant back to about half of its size or, if preferred, just above the second set of leaves.
It is important to keep a close eye on your basil plant as it develops because as soon as you set eyes on any flowers appearing on the plant then it is important that you take swift action. If you remove the flowers then it is only going to encourage the plant to start to grow more basil leaves rather than putting its energy into growing flowers. Look out for the buds and remove them before they have the opportunity to develop and you will be rewarded with a far superior plant.
Dealing with the plant over winter is going to be a lot easier if you just follow some simple instructions. You need to cut the plant back to the ground as soon as you see the first signs of frost as this is going to stop the leaves that can still be harvested from going black. This will not only mean that you get the absolute maximum harvest (as long as you then know how to preserve the leaves) but you will also protect the plant.
As you can see, there are a number of very useful tips related to the pruning and harvesting of your basil plant and we strongly recommend that you actually grow more than one if you are serious about using this amazing herb in your cooking on a regular basis. Careful pruning will ultimately lead to you being richly rewarded with a strong plant that throws out a number of branches and leaves on a regular basis and you really will be able to harvest parts of it on a weekly basis or even more often than that if you have a number of the plants at home.
Growing basil is easy and pruning or harvesting it is also easier than you think but just do not be too harsh with it as you will scar the plant and it will then decide not to provide you with its amazing produce.