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A little while ago I was on the phone with my mom and she was telling me that her basil plants aren’t producing as much as she would like. She has basil, but her tomatoes aren’t ripe yet, and every time she harvests some basil the plant doesn’t really seem to regrow. She’s worried that by the time the tomatoes are ripe the basil will be done for the season…bummer!
So I reminded her of the post I originally wrote about pruning your herbs, which can really help them survive and thrive longer into the season, even as you harvest them. I know she must have missed that post while she was on vacation or something, because she reads my blog every day, right?! Right Mom?
Anyway, I realized that it has been a while since that post went up, and maybe it’s time to update you all on how all the pruning I did back then has turned out.
Check out this catnip plant!!!
It has become nice and big and bushy since I first started pruning it. And since this picture was taken it has gotten twice as big and I have harvested it back down to this size two separate times now! It’s growing like crazy!
I was trying to explain to my mom over the phone how to prune the plant, which stems I pruned and when, and how new stems regrew, and it was all just getting a bit complicated. So I emailed her the photo above and included an explanation.
I’m publishing the email below in the hopes that it helps you guys too! (And if the email is still confusing, there’s a photo below that might help.)
Can you see how I pruned it in the photo?
I cut the main stem off first right above the third pair of leaves, then there were the two stems that grew out of that. Once they had three sets of leaves on each of them I cut them back to just above the first pair of leaves, and two new stems grew from each.
So there were four at the top, and right around that time I started seeing all this extra stuff around the bottom really start to grow. So once the extra bottom stems had a few pairs of leaves I trimmed them back.
And then the four top stems were growing like crazy so this past Monday I cut them back to just above the first pair of leaves as well. And you can see the tiny little eight stems about to grow.
At this point I don’t know whether the bottom stems will grow, or the eight top stems, or both! But my plan is to take any new stem I see with three pairs of leaves or more and cut it back above the first or second pair. That way I can let these newer stems grow and use them for harvesting while leaving the older leaves as a power source for the plant.
Basically you want to cut stems instead of pulling leaves, cuz then the stems regrow. And you can always pull the leaves off of the stems you cut if you don’t want the stems as well.
The only other important thing I know about cutting the plants is that you don’t want to harvest or cut away more than half the plant at one time. That makes sure its alive enough to continue growing after you harvest it.
Hope that all helps keep your basil alive long enough for the tomatoes to ripen!
Just in case you need a little visual to go along with the email, here’s that same photo marked up with where I made the first three cuts. Those are the important ones; if you can get your plant to have eight little growing stems at the top, it will be just fine and start filling itself out on the bottom as well.
There are four growing stems at the top in the photo, but the third cut was made to each of those four stems, so now each one will grow two new stems, bringing the total to eight up top.
Also, if you see any branches, stems, or leaves that are wilting or turning yellow or brown while still on the plant, just get rid of them! In the picture below you can see the chamomile branch on the right was starting to turn yellow, and the one on the left had a couple of little brown, shriveled bits.
You don’t want your plant wasting any of its energy on dead or dying branches, so just clip off anything that isn’t looking it’s best. The plant will be happier in the long run.
How have your plants been doing so far this season? We have tons of basil and catnip, and those plants just keep growing! The mint and rosemary are just starting to get big enough to really prune them back, and the dill and chamomile are doing great!
This post is part of a series about growing herbs indoors. You can see the rest of the posts in the series here.
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