|Thursday Techniques: Pruning and Maintaining Herbs|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Thursday, 09 February 2012|
We talk about herbs a lot here at The Daily Dirt for a couple of reasons. They are easy for beginning gardeners, they can be grown in containers indoors or out and all year long, and for me at least, thereís nothing better than fresh herbs whether youíre cooking up standard fare or creating something new in the kitchen like these herbal drinks. I just love being able to snip a few sprigs of basil (pictured above), rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and mint whenever I need them. But, like every other plant, herbs have a reproductive cycle. They flower, set seed, and grow taller and produce more leaves. Whatís different about growing most herbs is that we want to encourage leaf production not flowers.
While itís true some herbs are grown for their seeds, dill for instance, most are grown for their leaves. Some, like coriander are grown for both their seeds and their leaves (cilantro). Therefore, itís important to maintain them in a vegetative state. How do we do this? By nipping and snipping, naturally! Nipping the flower buds so they donít flower (when plants begin flower production they cut back on leaf growth) and snipping the shoots and pruning woody branches (if there are any) to encourage bushier plant growth. Be sure to cut the branch at a point just above new leaf growth, which will encourage new leaf growth.
Keep in mind that most plants, herbs included, are what I call ďprogrammed to surviveĒ no matter what you do to them, but that doesnít mean hacking them down to the ground--except in the case of chives, which should be cut down to the ground instead of halfway cutting the shoot. Also, if you plan on using your herbs on a regular basis, snipping here and there should be enough as long as you remember to snip off the buds. Snipping off too many shoots, branches, and leaves probably wonít kill the plant, but it may be a long time before you can use it again.
The Complete Book of Herbs: A Practical Guide to Growing and Using Herbs
The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs
Little Herb Gardens: Simple Secrets for Glorious Gardens--Indoors and Out