harvesting basil plants?

leslie_cJune 6, 2007

I have 2 basil plants in containers in my backyard. They are about 8 inches tall each. I wanted to ask if someone can tell me when and how I can start harvesting my plants? Should I pick leaves from the bottom of the plant or the top?

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herboholic

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! It will encourage them to branch out and provide you with even more basil....more importantly, before they flower. Never take more than 1/3 of the plant, though.

Harvesting from the bottom is OK, but picking from the top encourages the plants to put out new shoots and produces a lush basil "bush".

At 8" tall, they could have a ways to go, depending on the pot you have them in. Basil will get quite big given enough space.

Just in my experience.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 10:53AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Some of my basil was over 4 feet tall and quite bushy too.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 2:30PM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

You can harvest basil any time you want, from its infancy. Just remember never to take more than one-third of total growth at any one time, then allow the plant time to regenerate before harvesting again.

If one leaf is one-third of the plant, then that's fine to take!

Chop off its head, and you'll encourage a fat, rounder shape. Trim from the bottom or the sides, and you'll encourage a tall, skinny plant.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 5:40PM
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leslie_c

Thank you very much. That helps alot. Just one more thing though.....for basil plants in a container, which is the better shape to go for,tall and skinny or fat and bushy??

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:03AM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

Basil is best fat! You don't really want a visible 'trunk'. But it doesn't really matter, does it?

The pic at the link below is of a half-grown basil plant in a pot. Mine get MUCH bigger than that! (I can just about see over the top of it, and I'm tall for a woman) and no way could I circle my arms around it, even if I squashed its ribs!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:38AM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

Here's a pic of a basil plant in the garden. It's about as wide as mine gets, but still much shorter.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:39AM
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leslie_c

That picture was cool!! I'm new at this so sorry for the questions! :) How old is that plant in the container? Also how big was the container? Does the size of the container determine the size of the plant? What zone are you in BTW?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:44AM
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barrie2m_

I will start cutting basil for farmers' market tomarrow. Other comments are good but I always just left 2 bottom nodes (~4") to regrow when cutting basil bunches. New growth will result with up to 4 new stems which I usually cut for more bunches, slightly higher, in another 2-3 weeks.

If you are harvesting from a potted plant your first objective is to keep the plant attractive. Otherwise I'd just keep pinching out tender new growth for your own use. The lower stem will be woody(unusable) and leaves usually add very little weight in proportion to stem and unopened buds.

If you allow buds to open into flowers than that tip is wasted for use (it will all be woody except for leaves))and you should trim all those branches back, leaving only a node or two beyond the stem for new, lush regrowth.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 9:52AM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

Those pix were found on a google.images search. They aren't mine. I don't have a camera, unfortunately, to photograph my own plants.

Yes the size of the pot does matter. The smaller the pot, the less room the roots have to spread, and the more stunted the whole plant will be as a result. Most plants are stunted in pots anyway, regardless of size. That's mainly because nutrients leach out quickly from pots, whereas conditions are more balanced in the garden. Basil really likes a bit of room to itself. In optimum conditions, it can become quite a large plant.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2007 at 8:33PM
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herboholic

I have my sweet basil and perpetuo pesto planted one per container in 16" pots. They really get BIG. It's only been a little over a month since they were small, and they are quite large right now. I wish you could smell the pesto perpetuo. It's fabulous! And such a dense, lush bush of a plant. I'm going to have to trim it back, and it will just keep getting bigger and bigger. I love it!!!! I recommend it to anyone who loves basil.

Of course, they get about 8 hours of sunlight per day, so they are thriving in the garden.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 1:56AM
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Daisyduckworth(Aust)

I would be cruel to my babies if I tried to squeeze them into a 16" pot. Poor little loves.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 2:47AM
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herboholic

I'd hardly call squeezing a single basil plant in a 16" pot cruel. An 8" pot yes. Besides, if they were suffering, I'd know it. Instead, they are thriving and quite large, with leaves as big as your hand. And thanks to pinching them back early, they've bushed out nicely too.

I do know one thing, they wouldn't be half that size if I put them in the dirt in the backyard. Too rocky and too much clay and they would get half the sun they now get by being on the deck. They'd just be stunted. Nope, they do fine and produce great amounts of basil right where they are, providing me with more than enough to cook with for the season, and enough to share and then some to put up.

And the five pesto perpetuos (HUGE now).....well, they'll come in during the winter and do fine, so I'll have year-round basil. :-) Oh, they smell and taste incredible!

And if 16" is good enough for my citrus, then it certainly is good enough for basil.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 9:15AM
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jannie(z7 LI NY)

Thin them out and eat what you pull out. Even the roots are "sprouts" and can go in salad.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2007 at 9:25AM
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matej

What is a "node?" I'm a gardening new-bee. My basil is about 10" tall, and today was my first harvest. I think I made a boo-boo, because I clipped an entire stem. Hopefully, it'll grow out again.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 12:30AM
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barrie2m_

Matej, the nodes are the leaf or branch junctions along a stem. With basil a branch will grow from the upper junction of the leaf and stem. One problem with older plants is that the lower nodes fail to develop from a woody bottom stem sections. If you have healthy lower leaves then the plant should send out bronches just at the upper point of leaf attachment.

Even if you trimmed your basil low to the ground it may still come back with growth so don't give up on it immediately. I've alteady taken a weed whacker to my basil rows to reestablish new growth and less flowering on well established rows of plants.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 10:25AM
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madferret(UK 8b-9a)

If I pick all the leaves of a baby shoot from the bottom of the plant will the shoot die, or will it just regrow?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 3:46AM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Is the plant a mature, established plant? And you are picking all the leaves off of one shoot of the mature plant, correct?

I just want to make sure I understand what you are asking about.

FataMorgana

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 8:08AM
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madferret(UK 8b-9a)

Its a young plant approx 8in high, plenty of leaves on the top, and some buds/shoots starting on the trunk. The shoot in question, is right at the bottom, branching into 3, but only an inch in length total, 1 (v small) new leaf is left.

It's still looking healthy, so not too worried, just wondering wether I should just trim it right down and let it start again, or leave it as it is.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 12:39PM
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