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How to encourage basil growth?

Posted by PoledraDog z8 AZ Tempe (My Page) on
Mon, Jun 6, 05 at 13:34

Last week I bought a small basil plant from the nursery and planted it in a self watering pot.

The plant looks great; I believe I have it getting the right amount of sun, and the self watering pot is keeping it hydrated, but not overwatered. I can't say for sure whether it has put out new leaves or not; I bought quite a few plants and can't remember exactly what they all started out looking like. I do think it has put on new leaves, but am not sure.

My question is, what is the proper way to encourage growth in the plant. I love pesto, but right now to make one batch I'd have to use the entire plant. So, should I harvest leaves/stems here and there anyway to promote growth (sort of like pruning), or should I just let it go? Also, I'm assuming when it gets to the point of flowering I should pinch those off, or should I let it go to get more seeds/plants?

I'm sure these are all basic questions...but I'm a newbie. :)

-Lisa


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I grow basil in Tucson. The plants are small when they are first put into the ground. I usually leave them alone for a couple of weeks to let them get established. Then I'll start snipping off 1/2" to 1 inch of the main stem, which is in the middle. This will encourage the plant to start adding branches and filling out. Eventually each of the branches will start creating a little flower bud. If the plant is just too small I'll only pinch off the bud. However, when the stems are longer I'll usually snip them off to the next set of leaves. When the plants are quite large and shrubby I'll harvest 1/3 of the plant mid-summer for pesto and then again at the end of the summer, while continuing to snip here and there throughout the summer as needed for cooking and to prevent flowering. Because my garden is small I usually allow the plants to flower in early fall as I will be removing them to plant my fall garden. I love the flowers of the purple basils especially. They are lovely and attract pollinators. Sometimes plants will come up in the spring from seed.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

If you want enough basil to make pesto, it's easy to grow basil from seed. I grow it in long planters, like window boxes. I have them on the ground next to my raised tomato bed. I like to start the seeds in a flat and prick them out into a row in the planter. But you could just sprinkle the seed into the planter box, that would work too. If you prick out, dig the seedlings out with a spoon or popsicle stick when they have a set of true leaves, and handle them by the leaves, not the stems. I use Osmocote fertilizer in the planter boxes. Basil likes lots of sun. It's pretty easy. I always have more basil than I can use and end up making pesto.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Each year, I start my basil from seed. My plants end up getting very large, almost bush like. Basil likes lots of sun. It's very easy for me to grow, and always end up with a large quantity that I end up using to make pesto. Last year, I had 20 basil plants and made enough pesto to last me through this spring.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I was just out planting a row of 12 of the genovese. I will let them grow for a couple of weeks and then start pinching to use in omelets. The tomatoes won't be ripe for another six weeks but then the basil will get snipped on a regular basis. I usually get two big crops off it for pesto, making one big batch in late July and another in August. It gets frozen in ice cube trays to use all winter.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

We're in the midst of a heat spell here in zone 5 and the sweet basil couldn't be happier. It was transplanted into containers around May 9th, right before a cold snap where I was quite shure it was all ready to kick the bucket. Now it's going great guns!

I grow my basil in a mix of vermicompost and potting soil, using 12" dia containers. Periodically I'll make a foliar feed with this same compost but as long as it gets plenty of sun it never seems to need much else.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Okay,if I'm understanding corectly pinching back the center set of leaves will prompt my little leggy basil plants to branch out? I hope so, because I just went out and snipped the heads off of all of my sweet basil. MMMM it smells sooooo gooood!!!!! Can't wait for tomato/ basil/ cheese salads and pestos!!!!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Marty, I was just talking to my dad last night, and he was saying how he loves pinching the flower heads off of his basil plants because it makes his hands smell so good. I can so relate (well, my plants are nowhere near having flower buds yet, but I love pinching off the leaves to promote growth...I toss the leaves in a salad for a light dash of flavor!).


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I grow lots of basil for a restauranteur friend to make pesto. Otherwise he has to pay between 9.00 and 15.00 a pint depending on the season. I grow enough for him to use all winter off a couple of dozen plants. This year we are growing it around his outdoor cafe area since it smells so doggone great.

Momherb has explained it as well as anyone. Pinch off the main head after the plant has established a hardy growth. Then continue to pinch off ALL the flower buds so they don't get much more than an inch long. NEVER let a flower go to seed or the plant will immediately begin to slow down dramatically since it has achieved its natural goal. If you want to save seeds, select the one plant that grows most vigorously and has the finest looking leaves, and let it go to seed.

I grow my basil very close together out of necessity, and grow it around my tomatoes. The basil that gets shaded by the tomatoes does not grow nearly as vigorously as the basil out front of the tomatoes. I use Miracle Grow liberally on the basil until I plant it out in the tomatoes, then I back off and only use MG or a similar product to green-up a lagging plant.

Cinnamon basil appears to be the hardiest for me. By mid summer I can cut a gallon of purple flower buds along with several joints of leaves below each bud about every 2 or 3 days off of a dozen plants. Rafik makes basil out of the leaves and flowers, and that seems to intensify the flavor even more. By pruning the flowers, the plants become extremely bushy, and by September I have to cut off the entire lower branches about halfway up the plant which only stimulates the plants to shoot out more flowers higher up.

The purple flower buds along with say four or six leaves below really pop as garnish on a plate of sliced heirloom tomatoes drizzled with a little EVOO and balsamic vinegar. Rafik's customers go nuts!

As far as using the stems in pesto ... not unless the stems are very tender. The tougher stems just jam up your blender or leave nasty rope-like fibers in the pesto.

At the end of the season, a day or so before the killing frost, I whack the stalks off above the root crown, take the basil into my garage, and hang it upside down to dry for winter use.

I'm trying a new basil this year ... Blue Spike. It doesn't seem as wild and weedy as the Cinnamon basil, but I hope it has some striking flowers.

Did someone ask about recipes?

When I had a very successful pizza shop, I used 1 cup dried basil, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup dried oregano, 1/4 cup onion flakes, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbs ground fennel seed, 1 Tbs garlic powder, 1 Tbs cracked black pepper, 1/2 Tbs salt, and 1 tsp red pepper in 3 #10 cans of high quality tomato puree or commercial California style pizza sauce, then added 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and watered the entire mess down to make 3 gallons pizza sauce.

You can mix the herbs and spices up and simply put them in one of those big metal salt shakers and shake the spice liberally on top of your pizza sauce before applying the cheeze and other toppings. It also make great spaghetti spice.

Regards, Bill


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Wow...now I'm hungry! :)


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Once you get familiar with the growing plant you will find that regular snapping of the "Tender Tips" will be giving you the most usable basil for your pesto and also take the least away from plant growth. Try to snap off the tender top of the stem just above a leaf node and new branches will grow best from that closest node to where you break the stem.

I still will cut bunches of basil for Farmers' Market but less than half of the bunch will be usable because of the fibrous stems, as a Hoosier stated earlier. If you cut at around 4" above a leaf node the plants will be ready to cut again in 2-3 weeks in good summer weather. If you plant thick,as I do, you can use the basil that you thin out first. I direct seed double rows 4" apart and plant around 50 seeds per foot of row so cutting out alternate 4-5" sections of the rows for early harvest (tomarrow for me) won't affect the overall crop very much. Some people think that I plant too close but I have less than a quarter acre of prime basil soil and it is a hot selling herb.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I was doing a search and noticed this. I started a fall garden after I moved back home from the city and decided to grow some basil. Can anyone give me an idea when it's a good idea to start pinching the main stem? My plants about 5 inches tall, but all the growth is on the top inch, and there's only 2-3 sets of leaves. Is it ok to pinch a plant that early or should I wait a bit. It's about 2 1/2 weeks old.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Hi. I am new to planting herbs. I am interested in growing basil at our new home here in Tucson, AZ. Does it die every year and grow back? Is it wise to plant in a large pot and take inside the house over the winter or can it be left outside if covered? Someone told me you can cover basil bushes with a sheet during the frost. Does this work? We just bought a small starter pot, but it is now October and getting colder and I'm wondering how long it will last. We are thinking about just growing it in our kitchen for dishes here and there, but I loooooove basil and think I will want more of it around than just a small window plant. Any advice for a newbie? Thanks!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Ooo ooo ooo! I know this one! :)

Give it all the direct sunlight it can stand. Water it INFREQUENTLY, like a good soaking every week, or the INSTANT the leaves get limp, freferably with a sprinkler (I'm convinced plants know the difference between rain and a water bucket). My sweet basil (Green Gate's an excellenct cultivar from my experience) grows like crazy without any pruning from me, though you've got to pinch the seedheads.

It'll get a LOT bigger in the ground than a pot, though, if you can give it a square foot.

It can't stand frost, though. Here in NE Ohio, it should really be harvested in September, before it gets into the 40s at night.

It won't grow if brought indoors, but you'll be able to get a good head start on the spring planting by starting over from cuttings rather than seed. Some advise starting cuttings in water until they root... I've had great success rooting cuttings in topsoil and just watering them well every day for 3-6 days (again, water at the first sign of wilting/limp leaves).


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I have been growing basil indoors for years??? I think the key is make sure you have it in a big enough pot and make sure it gets plenty of sun. They grow at my kitchen window..it faces east and gets sun almost all day. I also put it in a brown paper bag when I harvest it...upside down of course. I read somewhere to put it in a bag so I do...it seems to work very well. I have seedlings coming up now in a pot that`s at least 5 gallons..I hope to make alot of pesto!! Thanks to everyone for the info...it has really helped me!! Lissa


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Well, I've got mine under grow lights and in individual 2-gallon pots. No appreciable growth since I brought them inside. They grew like mad in the garden bed, though, and quite well on the porch railing in small pots.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I was looking through my seed packets last night & one of them stated that for the basil to growth, it is recommended that leaves be harvested frequently.

--nancy


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I have trouble getting anything to grow indoors if it`s been outside...lol I always grow basil indoors from seed..for me it does much better that way. Hey is there a purple basil? and has anyone tried it? Maybe I`m thinking of another herb?? Lissa


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Nope, there are several purple basils. Some of the flavors are not as yummy as the Sweet basil in my opinion.

As for basil indoors, I've had a branch of basil in a vase of water all winter. Its rooted...but I've just left it in water because my cats knock houseplants over and do nasty things with the dirt so I'm done with houseplants. The basil in water is just biding its time and looking fine. The cats find it a tasty nibble every now and then. I enjoy adding water, because then my hands smell great.

I grew tons and tons of basil outdoors this summer, and stored plenty as pesto and as frozen basil. To freeze the basil, I washed the branches, picked the blemish-free leaves and spun them dry in my salad spinner. I then packed them tightly in ziplock bags and smooshed all the air out. When I want basil for cooking, I break off a chunk and I swear its just like fresh. It doesn't work for salads, but its just great in cooked foods.

This year I am going to plant a small row from seed, and then I hope to go to the herb festival at the farmer's market in the spring and just buy by the plant of a few varieties that I've been eyeballing but haven't tried.

Have fun!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

OOooooooo naughty cats...only thing my two cats do is nibble on the leaves of whichever plant they can get to...and then getting sick...you`d think they would learn...lol. I have tons of houseplants so I hope they don`t get any other crazzzy ideas...LOL. Thanks for the info...I plant the sweet kind too...awesome smell I agree!!
Just thought the purple would give a splash of color inside. Lissa


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Granite, thanks for the tip on freezing. How about pesto, how do you prepare pesto for freezing? I've got to find a sunnier place for my basil. It gets blackspot in too much shade.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Hi,
I'm from a tropical country (Philippines) and I just tried planting basil from some stems bought from my local grocery. They've grown to more than 24 inches in a span of 3 months(I have 12 of them. 3 of which have flowers)Don't ask me what variety because I really don't know anything about plants. I just started growing them because I love pesto so much. MY PROBLEM IS THIS: my plants are being eaten by grasshoppers. I was wondering how to keep those nasty pests from eating the leaves. What's the best way to kill them (I catched and crushed 5 of them this week. It's kinda hard looking for them BTW) I would appreciate a reply soon since I want to start harvesting them for my first batch of home-grown basil pesto sauce. Thank you.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

weldontx: To prepare pesto for freezing, 1. Make pesto, 2. put individual portions in ziplock bags, and 3. stick it in the freezer.

Birds are always best for eating bugs. A birdbath could attract wild birds to feed, such as doves, thrushes, swallows and rails... Or if there are chickens in the neighborhood, you could let them peck thru your garden.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Thanks for the tip Teryaki.

I snipped some of the flowers off my basil. I noticed some black seeds and white seeds. Can I plant them? How many do I plant at a time? Is there any special care for the seeds for them to grow?


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

The white seeds may be too young, the black seeds might be ready for planting. You can just put them in a pot , give them a little water, plenty of sun and warmth, and wait to see if they sprout.

If you want see, let the flowers bloom, then shrivel up. Eventually you'll see the black seeds in there... Hold the flower stalk over a bowl, and give the stake a few good shakes... The seed should fall out and be ready to plant!

BUT... If you cut off the flower stalks when they first appear, it will encourage your basil to grow fuller and with more flavor. So I would not let it flower until after you've harvested leaves for pesto.

You can also get more plants by cutting of a shoot from the center stem of the basil, sticking it in soil, putting it in the sun, and watering it heavily for the next three days. It should take root and give you a new plant.

Good luck!


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Need advice on pruning basil flowers

Hi all. This is my first time growing basil and I noticed it is starting to flower. I read the above postings and I'm still not sure where I should prune to get the best growth. Should I just pinch off these flowers:



Or should I just pinch off these buds when they appear:


Or should I pinch off the whole stem:


Appently the bumblebees like the scent of the basil as well:


Here's his buddy in a yellow squash blossom next to the basil. But he was about 3 times as big:


Any help would be appreciated. I just don't want to cut the wrong part and ruin the plants.

Thanks


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I was hoping someone could answer this question since I was a new basil grower (one plant) over the past 2 years and had the same question. I used to pinch off as soon as I saw the little buds, but inevitably, as the plant grew, I missed them and was pinching off the whole stem and flowers too!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Pinch off anything that looks as though it will develop into a flower, at least to the base of the flower stem, but wait for the bee to leave first. Go as low as you have to, new leaves will sprout and the plant will become bushier where you pinch.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

What is meant by 'pinching'? Can a nice pair of garden clippers be used, or are actual fingers preferred for some reason?
Thx!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Use your fingers, the plants don't bite. You have better control at grabbing the blossom buds.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Really, I'm not scared of my plants! :) I actually have some issue with a couple of my fingers (medical issues, bandages)that force me to wear gloves while gardening. Its a little clumsy pinching with the gloves on, whereas I can grip the clippers more firmly. Thus, I was wondering if I should take the time to do it by hand (which does take me a lot longer than with clippers).
Thx!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Skipphin, I sympathize with your hand problems. Me too, to a certain degree (arthritis). I "pinch" my basil with my kitchen shears, which are fine enough to be neat and precise and strong enough to take off some of the branches I've let get away from me for too long. If you can use your kitchen shears, or any pair of scissors for that matter, with your garden gloves on you might give that a try.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I'm new to gardening and have two basil plants. So far i've just been plucking off the big leaves, but i've heard that you should cut off the stems. A video i watched on youtube showed a man who cut just above the bottom two leaves and harvested 4 times a summer. He said his got very bushy, but i want to harvest mine more often- i LOVE basil/tomato/mozzarella/balsamic salads! One of my plants is sweet basil, but i'm sure the other is another type. Here are pictures of the two:

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c265/StarfireInLove/Photoon2010-07-03at16292.jpg

i like the taste of this one much better. the second seems bitter. perhaps it is because i bought it more recently and i pinched off a good two or three inches of flowers...

http://i29.photobucket.com/albums/c265/StarfireInLove/Photoon2010-07-03at1629.jpg

i also realize this one is rather tall. the base of the stem is brown and looks almost dead. should i stake it? is it too heavy?

Most of all, how do i go about making them produce more leaves ASAP! I love basil :P

is the first pot i have big enough for it to grow big and bushy? how big do i need a pot to be?

thank you! i'm going shopping for dirt today :) i'm worried if i plant in the ground, the mowing company will chop it down.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I can't tell by the pictures what type of basil you have, but one thing I can see is that they are clearly lacking nutrients.

I'm in Zone 5 and the minimum size container I use for basil is 10 inches. Depending on your growing zone, larger would be even better.

Fill it with a mixture of good soil or growing medium and compost or composted manure and add some high nitrogen fertilizer such as 30-0-0.

Once planted, snip off the tips of each of your plants. We want to encourage the growth of as many nice green leaves as possible to replace those yellowish leaves. Don't worry about them, they'll eventually shrivel up and die.

Place your containers in full sunlight and keep well watered, providing good drainage.

Fertilize your plant weekly at the dose recommended. Don't use fertilizer with a high middle number (phosphorus) as this will encourage the basil to send up a flower spike and we want to delay this as long as possible in order to grow as many leaves and as large a plant as possible.

If you see a flower spike emerging, just snip it off, but don't discard it. It can be used to flavor your meats or sauces and is even more fragrant than the leaves. Just be sure to remove it before serving.

Good luck. It would be nice to see pictures in about a month or to see how the plants are doing.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Keep pinching 4 inches of growth off the plants all summer and they will keep giving you more basil without them going to seed. I have about 12 bags of pest frozen, just from 30 plants


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

The main problem I see with making so much pesto is price of pine nuts, locally here in NYC, vary from $38-$60 per lb, I've substituted walnuts, but it is just not the same.

Also this thread is full of a lot of good information, basil is easy and fun to grow, usually stash some flowers in my kitchen bag, and my subway ride to work is always more fragrant.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

I have found pine nuts at Oriental grocery stores having the best prices as compared to Walmarts, etc. A pound container was around 15 dollars.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

We purchase our pine nuts at Sam's Club - they usually sell 1 or 2 pound bags priced between $9 and $15 ($9 for the one pound and $15 when they carry the 2 pound bags).


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Arizona is so hot right now that Basil must be covered with a light covering to save it from being burned. No one mentioned this in any of the articles. How do you get the seeds from the plant? Do you just wait until they dry out when you pinch them off? I have had problems with a bug that was eating at them and the seeds i believe until I sprayed them. Does anyone know what that bug is? Small little red and black body. Fly s around? Please advise.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Arizona is so hot right now that Basil must be covered with a light covering to save it from being burned. No one mentioned this in any of the articles. How do you get the seeds from the plant? Do you just wait until they dry out when you pinch them off? I have had problems with a bug that was eating at them and the seeds i believe until I sprayed them. Does anyone know what that bug is? Small little red and black body. Fly s around? Please advise.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Hi there! I'm a first-time herb grower and have a question about my sweet basil plant. I'm growing it inside by my kitchen window (plenty of sunshine!) in a container. It grew a lot really quickly in the past few months up to about a foot tall. I decided to cut a bit off and give it to a friend so she could have some and so I cut about halfway down one of the two main stems to give her a fairly large portion. This was about a month ago and that cut portion has not produced any more growth. It actually looks like it's dying (the stem near the cut turned hard and brown). The rest of the plant is healthy and I water it regularly, but I'm afraid to cut anything more off of it because this section hasn't grown back. Did I cut the wrong area? Should I have just picked off the leaves instead of cutting the stem? I don't want to kill this plant. I really want to use it. Any insight you all may have will help. Thanks!


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 12, 12 at 15:54

Plants aren't regenerative organisms like animals. IOW, they don't regrow tissues in the same spatial planes, so once a branch/stem is terminated by removing its growing tip (apical meristem) it will never grow longer or regrow. A new branch might appear to take its place from a point somewhere behind where you pruned it .... or it might not. There are many factors that determine how a plant responds to pruning, but by far the most significant is genetics.

What you did will have little effect on how quickly the plant will increase in mass, and it certainly won't hurt the plant, but it may have a significant impact on appearance; so, while utility remains largely unaffected by how you prune, how you prune can make a big difference in what you're left to look at.

Al


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Thanks, tapla. What should I do now though? I want it to keep growing, but it seems to have stopped. I'm confused about how to prune it properly - even after reading about how to do it.


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 12, 12 at 17:48

If growth has stalled, it's because of something other than the pruning. How about a picture so we can see what you have to work with?

Assuming there no insect infestations or disease apparent, the three likely reasons for lack of growth are tight roots, nutritional deficiency, poor root health due to compaction or over-watering. At this time of year, high root temperature is also a candidate.

Al


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RE: How to encourage basil growth?

Thanks again! After taking your thoughts into account, I think I may have to move it to a bigger container and see how it does from there. You have been very helpful!


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