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How To Harvest Basil - Tips And Tricks

Take a look at this helpful guide and learn how to harvest basil without damaging the plant!

How To Harvest Basil 101: All About Basil

Basil is an aromatic herb, used in Italian inspired cuisine as a spice. It pairs well with pasta and vegetables. Use it fresh, dried, or in sauces, such as pesto. Besides its culinary uses, basil is also great as an anti-inflammatory and it is good for digestion. It also contains iron and vitamins C and K. The smell is said to relieve stress and headaches too.

You can dry out the leaves on pieces of paper, crush them and store them in jars, freeze fresh stalks or make oil cubes. Simply cut up some basil leaves, put them in an ice cube tray and cover with olive oil. Freeze for easily accessible seasoning. Add rosemary, oregano, thyme, or other spices for a ready-made dressing!

Basil grows fast and bushy, but once it flowers, it will not grow any more leaves and the plant will eventually dry out. It grows great near rosemary, oregano, and thyme, so you can grow your own little herb garden. Check out this guide on how you can do that in a terrarium!

How To Grow Basil

How to grow basil from seeds

Plant the seeds in well-draining soil and cover them with a thin layer of potting mix. Sprinkle or spray with water. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. Place it in a warm, sunlit corner and keep spraying with water. After about a week, small greens should appear. Let them grow until they are about an inch tall and have a couple of strong leaves, then you can replant. Put them in fast-draining pots and use a cactus mix or sandy soil.

How to grow basil from seedlings

You can buy basil seedlings at any florist or gardening store. Bring them home and let them sit in the area where you will keep them. After a few days, they are ready to be replanted. Water well before repotting and remove the seedling from the pot. Air out the roots a bit and plant in well-draining soil. Make sure to keep some of the soil the seedlings came with. Water and place where you want them.

Basil care

Basil needs a lot of light, 6 to 8 hours off direct sunlight. You can compensate with UV lamps and lights. It also prefers warm environments, so a temperature of under 65 F will make it start drooping. Keep your basil plant away from AC, heating vents, or drafty windows.

The soil needs to be well-draining and nutrient-rich, so you can use a fertilized cactus soil or make your own mix, with one part sand or small pebbles and two parts potting mix. Pick your favorite from this handy list! Check that it drains properly, as basil is prone to root rot. Fertilize using organic fertilizer or a houseplant fertilizer at half the recommended concentration.

Water your basil plant regularly. Start with a once a week schedule then adapt it as needed. Basil needs good moisture as well, so if the air in your house is too dry be sure to mist regularly. Or you can use the pebble plate trick I like so much.

How To Harvest Basil

How to harvest basil leaves and branches

As soon as your basil plant is 6 to 8 inches tall, you can start harvesting leaves. Simply snap a few off, or cut them using small scissors. Cut close to the tip to encourage the basil plant to fill out and grow bushy. Cutting off the very tips will have the same effect, but it might encourage the plant to split and grow more branches.

If you need more than a few leaves, you need to wait for your plant to reach 8 inches tall. You need to know how to harvest basil so it keeps growing, so I recommend cutting no less than 4 inches off the ground. This will ensure you have enough stalk for new growth. Use sharp scissors to cut right above where a pair of leaves meets the stalk.

Even if you don’t need leaves, you should still cut your basil back to keep it growing thick and bushy. If left to its own devices, basil will grow tall stalks with few leaves. If you haven’t harvested anything, cut back 3 inches of the top of the plant every 6 to 8 weeks. Dry the cuts out and use them as room odorizer and take a look at these plants if the air in your room could do with a cleanup.

How to harvest basil seeds

Seeds are great if you want to propagate your basil or if you want to give them as presents. But keep in mind that once it flowers, basil will dry out. If you want to keep basil as a small house plant, you have to cut off all flowers before they bloom.

But say you want seeds. When you decide that, wait for a flower to grow, bloom and dry out. As it starts to dry, start trying to shake it in a fine strainer or cover the soil and surrounding area with a fine cheesecloth. Basil seeds are tiny and black so you can easily miss them if they get on the soil. Collect them and put them in a bag or jar that seals well. Freeze for 24 hours to kill any pests and store in a dark place.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found this guide on how to harvest basil easy and useful! How is your basil plant doing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Kate May
About the Author - Kate May

Hello! I’m Kate, your friendly neighbourhood plant parent with a passion for every green leaf under the sun (and some red or purple, why not?). I love gardening, the peace that comes with working in the earth and the joy of growing things. Over the years I gathered knowledge about both domestic and wild plants, how they grow and their uses. Here I combine my passion for writing with my love for gardening and bring you tips, tricks and cool ideas!


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