Herb Guide: Pruning and Harvesting

I have been gardening for the last 3+ years and learn something new every year. During this time, I have learned that pruning (or trimming) your plants is essential to a healthy plant and a good harvest, which is ultimately the goal! Pruning helps keep your plants healthy and allows you to control their growth. However, pruning and harvesting is often different based on the plant so it’s important to know the methods you need to use for each plant.

I find that herbs in particular, need constant pruning to control or promote growth. I decided to create this user-friendly guide to pruning and harvesting as a resource to my followers and out of my necessity as a gardener.

A few key points to remember:

  • When harvesting most herbs and plants, be sure to only harvest 1/3 of the plant at a time and allow time for it to recover. This will encourage continued growth without devastating the plant.
  • Harvest from the top. I know it seems opposite of what you think but trust me, harvesting from the top instead of the bottom helps keep your plant sturdy, but promotes continued growth.
  • Know which tool to use for pruning and harvesting…your fingers or kitchen/garden shears. Some herbs are more delicate than others so it’s important to know the difference.

Annual vs. Perennial: Annual plants grow and live for one growing season. They need to be replanted every spring season. Perennials grow and regrow every spring season. Perennials are less work than annuals because they do not require re-seeding each season.

DILL

Method: Kitchen Shears

Category: Biennial (a mix between an annual and perennial, meaning a single dill plant has the potential to live up to 2 year, but can be very sensitive to frost and freezing).

Pruning:

  • Snip off the flowers at the tops of the stems. Be diligent with pruning the flowers of the dill plant unless you are ready for the dill to go to seed. Once the dill sets to seed, the plant stops producing and starts to dry out (which is fine if it is the end of the season).IMG_6885

Harvesting:

  • Harvest from the top of the dill plant
  • Harvest at the elbow of stems or where leaves meet the main stem (see picture below).
  • If you desire to cut an entire main stem or stock, do so at least 3-4 inches about the ground to promote re-growth.

Recommended uses: Tzatziki, pickling cucumbers and other vegetables, roasted carrots, salmon and lemon, potato or egg salad, fresh pasta-based or green salad paired with feta cheese

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BASIL

Method: Fingers

Category: Annual

Pruning:

  • Wait until the plant is 6 inches tall before pruning
  • Pinch flower buds off to force the plant to focus its’ energy on the actual basil leaves
  • If growing vertically, pinch off leaves from the top (this will encourage lateral growth)

Harvesting:

  • Pinch above where there are 2 large leaves on either side with small leaves with them
  • Pinch 1/4 inch above a node and 3 inches from the base of the plant
  • Don’t be afraid to be a little more aggressive with your basil harvesting. Basil is a rapid-growing herb and can recover well from more aggressive harvests.

Recommended uses: Italian dishes, ramen, pesto, raw green salads, pasta

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ROSEMARY

Method: Garden or kitchen shears

Category: Perennial

Pruning:

  • Prune anytime during spring and summer until 4-6 weeks before the 1st frost
  • Wait to prune rosemary until the plant is 4 inches tall

Harvesting:

  • Trim stems ~4 inches at the end of each stem (see featured image at the top of the page)
  • Avoid the woody parts of the stem

Recommended uses: Roasted vegetables, Gin-based cocktails, herb-flavored olive oil or butter, herbed spreads using mayo or Greek yogurt, added to crackers or pita chips

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MINT

Method: Fingers

*Planting: If possible, mint should be planted in a separate container due to the runners that grow under the ground and have a tendency to invade other herbs.

Category: perennial

Pruning:

  • Wait until 6 inches tall then cut stems 1 inch from the soil to promote better growth.

Harvesting:

  • Harvest around the plant to control the growth.
  • Cut stems 1 inch from the soil
  • Be aggressive, be, be aggressive! Mint is a rapid-growing herb so don’t be afraid to be more aggressive with your pruning and harvesting.

Recommended uses: Mojito, fruit salads, pestos, tabbouleh, mint julep or non-alcoholic spritzer with fresh fruit, homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream

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Please feel free to add comments or suggestions! I am open to all feedback because like I said before, gardening is a constant learning process for me. Stay tuned for my next herb guide on how to best preserve your herbs.

 

-EAW

 

Resources:

http://www.homegrown.org/forum/topics/harvesting-herbs-101-basil-chives-cilantro-coriander-mint-parsley

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/prune-dill-71334.html