Summer is at it’s best with fragrant basil in the air. Learn how to keep basil alive until frost so you can find ways to enjoy it for months on end.
Basil is a treat for the senses. We want as much of it as we can get, for as long as we can get it. That’s why we are here revealing the best ways to keep basil alive for months of harvest. The fact that most of us have to wait for a limited growing season to have the very freshest home grown basil makes it all the more important to keep it going strong once it’s finally back in the garden.
Luckily, the process of gathering fresh basil is one of the key methods for how to keep basil alive so that you can enjoy it even longer. Can you imagine my dismay when I learned that for basil to reach it’s greatest potential I’d need to cut it back so far? I was shocked and really hesitant to lose all that good green growth.
I figured my plants were doing great with their branches reaching so high. It's true, they were doing fine but had so much more potential. That summer I learned that even though it seems counterintuitive, it takes a somewhat heavy hand on the clippers to get basil to fill out to its bushy best.
Of course, it turned out great- even though I was bummed to clip down my plants, I had to admit- I was standing there with a beautiful bunch of gorgeous basil in my hands once the cutting was through. And if all were to go well, I could do the same thing just a few short weeks later and have even more to show for it.
I was slowly adapting to the situation.
I crave basil any way I can get it. Each of many varieties of basil is enjoyed for its culinary, aesthetic, or medicinal properties it is famous for. By many, it is considered an herb no kitchen can do without.
The basil plant reacts so generously to frequent pruning that you should try to master this skill quickly! Aside from pruning, basil appreciates particular conditions you can provide in your own garden or window sill.
What You’ll Need
- Basil plants
- Fertilizer of some sort
1. Keep Basil Alive By Pruning
When you are pruning your basil to promote a greater harvest you should look to cut every stem all the way down to the last 2 sets of leaves. Make a clean snip just above the spot where two leaves grow. This will be a big change for the plant, so offer a fertilizer treatment and good soak of water to support regrowth and healing. In less than a week you should see new growth emerging.
The plant will quickly recover and provide more opportunities to multiply stems every few weeks. Always leave one or two sets of leaves on each branch you prune. Before very long your basil will be looking like a dense shrub. This kind of maintenance is ultimately very rewarding with an expected harvest of nearly 20 cups of basil per plant.
If the heat of summer has you off doing fun things with friends and family and perchance you return to flowers forming on your basil, you can still prune and force a longer harvest. Just pinch off the stem of flowers and your season goes on until the first frost. Like all annuals, basil completes its life-cycle, from seed to seed, only one time, all within a single growing season.
2. Keep Basil Alive with
Basil is hardly fussy in the summer garden. It loves the heat and light of full sun exposure. Basil originates from hot dry climates and therefore would rather not be overwatered but instead tolerates drier conditions than it’s vegetable garden neighbors. According to the Herb Society of America, water “when the soil begins to lighten or become flaky,”
With fewer waterings, in fact, basil becomes a more potent herb. Just be sure to provide enough that your basil can establish a healthy root system before you begin to withhold much water.
3. Keep Basil Alive with Nitrogen Rich Soil
When first starting basil seeds or transplants, amend the soil with either worm compost, blood meal, or a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that will boost the growth of green leafy material. The plant will respond with vibrant coloring and vigorous leaf and stem growth.
4. Keep Basil Alive in Full Sun
When conditions are ideal, basil can thrive in either pots or the ground. Basil needs a full 6 or more hours of sunlight each day to do its best.
Consider creating ideal conditions inside your home. Just be sure to place your basil in a south facing window where it can get as much sun as possible.
5. Mother Basil
Another way to ensure vigor and extend the bounty of what a plant can offer is to use it as a mother plant. A mother plant is used to take cuttings from. Luckily basil is very easy to root from cuttings. New free plants can greatly increase your yield in a matter of weeks.
Simply place cuttings into water in a sunny area. Allow the leaves to breathe while the stem is submerged in water. Fine white roots will soon grow and extend into the water. Gently transplant your cuttings and keep moist until established.
What To Look Out For
As a basil plant matures, the main stem and branches become increasingly woody. Ideally, pruning for harvest or to stimulate plant growth, is done before the plant becomes too woody. When pruning is done properly and with the appropriate frequency you can keep a basil alive and vibrant for the entire growing season- even until frost sets in!
To encourage growth even near the end of the growing season, keep an eye on your basil plants to monitor their stage of growth. We know that pruning is best done before the plant becomes woody, but what if it already has!?
Near the end of a basil plant's one-year life cycle, the flowers appear and start the process of reproduction. This is a lovely look for the plant but also signals the shutdown of new leaf growth, which means the end of our chance to enjoy those delectable leaves. When woody stems are rigid and flowers appear, pinch them off. This will encourage new leaf growth once again.
Time To Grow!
Did you enjoy that tutorial? Now you have the 411 about the basil that will blow your mind this summer. Might as well just start making a Pinterest board now with ideas on how to use your basil. It’s about to be ON!
Can’t you just imagine that delicious spicy scent already? Are you excited to get to it? You know what to do! If you think others will love to learn what you’ve learned, share this page with another gardener today and let us know what you think in the comments section below!