Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Prune Basil

OK, off the angry cyclist meme and back to the nice Farmer meme.

I am growing some basil, and was reading about pinching or pruning the basil to get it to grow out, not up. There were plenty of descriptions but few pictures. So here are my (crappy) photos.

First, the plant before pruning. 6 leaves. The bottom 2 leaves took some damage early in the plant's life, so I let this plant go to 6 leaves and will prune back to 4. In theory, you want to pinch all but the bottom 2 leaves.

basil - top

Here is the underside view showing the nodes (places where the stem splits).

basil - side

I'm leaving the bottom 2 (not so happy) leaves and the next two. I will be pinching the basil back just above the 3 way split.

basil - pinched

OK, there is the basil post pinch. The theory is that the leaves I left will grow stronger and most importantly, new shoots will come up on either side of the pinched off stem. I didn't really see any good photos on the web of this, or of the end result. But I wanted to try it, and I had a lot of seedlings going with which to try. And I was able to use the leaves I pinched off.

Here is the result from a plant I pinched back last week.

basil - sprout after pinch

There are TWO pairs of leaves on either side of the center of the plant, these came up on either side of the pinched off stem, sprouting from the node below the pinch. There is already a tiny set of next level leaves coming out from each pair, starting a new node. Once the first leaves from the pinch get to a decent size and the second set are up enough that there is a stem to pinch, I will pinch each of these side shoots back, which will prompt ANOTHER split on each side shoot. Eventually I will have a very bushy basil plant, instead of a tall stringy plant that just goes to seed quickly.

You can also see the leftover olive oil from the treat I made using the pinched off leaves. I have 3 decent sized plants going, one will stay in SF and 2 will go to Healdsburg, where they will soon adorn heirloom tomatoes from the rapidly growing tomato plants.

heirloom tomatoes


linda said...

thanks! i've been searching for a picture for this.

Cianoy said...

Hello there! I've been doing a lot of pruning on my sweet basil as well. For a small plant, the one in your picture has really big leaves.