I've just learned that basil can ward off horn worms from tomato plants. So if you're growing tomatoes, go ahead and plant a basil plant, too. Extra bonus, tomato and basil go great together. It's a win-win.
I live in a Mediterranean climate, much like the one where basil originates from. So, the care of my plant is pretty simple. It just needs adequate watering, 2-3 times a week, pruning, and plenty of sunshine. Today, I'm talking mostly about pruning basil. I'm definitely guilty of plucking leaves off my basil as need be. I'll just pull a few off here and there whenever I need them.
There's definitely a healthier way to prune basil that will actually encourage the plant to grow. It's also really simple. You can pinch off the stems with your fingers or use scissors, if you have denser stems. I talked a little about basil maintenance in this post, but since so many people struggle with their basil, I thought I'd get more specific.
Here's what you'll need:
- Mature basil plant - at least 1/2 foot tall.
- Once your basil plant has matured and is ready to be pruned. Take your scissors and cut the middle stem. You may have more than one middle stem. In this case you can make several cuts. To spot this check for a stem growing up between two larger leaves like the picture above. Make your cut above the set of two leaves.
- Those two leaves will go on to branch out to larger stems. When this happens you will have a basil plant that grows larger and larger as you prune.
It's safe to prune your basil plant as often as you like. The pruning, when done correctly, encourages new growth. Like I said, I definitely pull a few leaves off here and there as needed, but make sure to give it a good pruning whenever needed.
My basil hasn't started flowering, but if yours is, make sure to cut off the buds. They're edible, so you can add them to a salad or put them on a pizza. The reason you want to get rid of the flowers is because they will take much needed energy away from growing new leaves and put it into growing flowers. These flowers will eventually drain your plant.
Maintaining basil is easy as long as it gets the 6-8 hours of sunlight it needs, plenty of water, and you make sure to use good pruning techniques (at least some of the time).
I have a bunch of basil lying around. I've taken to just eating the leaves on their own, which is great for fresh breath, digestion, and is said to have a calming effect.