If you want your herb garden to grow into its most luscious, abundant self, then you need to know how to prune. Pruning is essentially snipping off leaves and some parts of stems of your plants, which will prompt them to continue to grow.
In doing so, you can control the shape of your garden, as well as its size! Here are some top tips on pruning your herbs.
General rule of thumb for your green thumb
Pruning is good for your plants. For most plants, you want to prune early, and prune often. By pruning early, this means when your plants are still in their infant stages.
Not only will you be able to ensure optimal growth and a fuller, nicer shape when you prune regularly, but in spending more time on your plants, you'll be able to identify any disease or insect problems your plants may have right from the get-go.
Never, at any given time, prune away more than one-third of the plant. Anymore than one-third, then, well, you won’t have much plant left!
For most herbs, make sure that you stop pruning at least eight weeks before winter’s first frost. This way, you’ll give any new growth time to harden off before spring comes around again.
For those unfamiliar with the term, hardening is the process of preparing your indoor herbs to become outdoor herbs; that is, you’re readying them for the pending climate change.
If you don’t harden your plants, they may not survive the sudden shock. After all, they’re delicate little things!
Know what type of herb you are dealing with
There are two broad types of herbs: herbaceous and evergreen. The first thing to know is what type of herb you’re about to prune.
Herbaceous herbs—which include oregano, chives, sweet fennel, savory, tarragon, bee balm, and mint—generally wilt in the winter, unable to withstand those cold, harsh frosts. There’s good news here, though. You won’t have to be too thoughtful about pruning—no measuring out how much you’d like to prune, no fancy equipment.
Any time that you need to harvest or remove the blossoming flowers from these plants, that’s a good to prune.
When it comes to evergreen herbs, which include rosemary, thyme, and sage, you only need to prune about once a year, either in early spring or fall.
The three fastest growing herbs are mint, basil, and dill.
Know what to use and how to use them
You can use your fingers and pinch off leaves and stems for most plants, and scissors for others. Fingers should be used for delicate plants, and make sure to pinch tightly and cleanly, right through the stem of the leaf. Heavy-duty garden clippers are generally not needed for herbs.
The most important thing is to not tear or rip off stems of plants, as it may lead to some terrible diseases.
Identify what type of attention your herbs need
Leafier plants like basil can die quickly after blossoming, so pruning is particularly important for such plants. When pruning these types of plants, cut them right where the leaf meets the stem.
Woodier herbs, like rosemary and thyme, should be trimmed so that they don't become too woody (as they generally do with age), as no new leaves will grow. As soon as you start to see new growth, pinch some of the leaves back.
Start from the top, not at the bottom
Counterintuitive, but the best thing to do is to prune the leaves at the top, not the bottom. The big leaves on the bottom act as a sturdy base.
Take basil for example. When they are only a few inches tall, you want to prune, or “pinch” off the newest leaves at the top from the stem. It may seem counterintuitive, leaving the big, full leaves to grow at the bottom. But you need them to act as the basis of your plants, your big solar panels for your plants to absorb up all that sun.
Plus, the leaves at the top are tender and delicious!
Let it grow
If you prune properly, your plant will grow into an abundant, bushy plant. One useful technique called "tipping" helps you achieve that.
Remove the end 1-2 inches of your plant's stem. That exposed end will split and grow into two separate branches. Once you get into the habit of doing that, your plant will become bushier, creating more foliage.
By following the above tips, you'll be giving your plants the absolute best care. With an Urban Cultivator unit, a lot of your work is reduced, but a little bit of pruning will help your crop grow more abundantly!