Growing Basil: Keeping Basil and Other Kitchen Herbs Fresh

Photo: © Utopia

We’ll show you what to look out for when growing basil, chives, parsley etc. and how to harvest your herbs correctly. With the right plant care basil and other store-bought herbs can stay fresh for months.

Hummus topped with a fresh parsley, tomato and mozzarella with basil leaves or potatoes with rosemary – fresh herbs simply taste better than dried spices. Growing basil and other herbs at home paves the way for creative culinary exploration. It also saves us a trip to the store. But not everyone has an herb garden in their backyard. Pre-potted (predominantly plastic) plants can therefore prove pretty practical. If we treat basil etc. correctly.

We often only manage to use a fraction of the fresh herbs as the plants wither relatively quickly. Even when we do use everything, it only takes a couple days until we toss the plastic pot along with the plastic packaging, dirt and roots straight into the trash. But there’s a better way: Here are some simple yet effective tips on how to care for (store-bought and) home-grown plants such as basil, parsley, and chives so they remain fresh and last longer.

Growing Basil: Splitting up and Repotting

Growing Basil splitting and repotting
When growing basil and other garden herbs, repotting leaves them with enough room to grow and larger nutrient base. (Photo: © Utopia / Binford)

If you decide for potted plants such as basil, rosemary, sage, make sure to buy organic. This is the best way to ensure the plants aren’t laden with pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Growing basil plants you bought at the store or caring for homegrown herbs is easy – here’s how to keep them fresh for longer:

Divide the plants up among three to four pots. Pre-potted plants from the supermarket are often densely packed into one single pot. This leaves them with little room to grow and a significantly reduced nutrient base for each plant. Splitting the individual plants up among a number of pots counteracts this.

When repotting, remember to always use flowerpots with a hole in the bottom for drainage. Any loose soil for the new pots works just fine here – no need for any special soil types for herbs or gardening. You can help your chives, parsley, or basil grow by adding compost soil or natural fertilizers every now and then. They contain additional nutrients, which are important for all kinds of kitchen herbs.  Or: Re-use coffee grounds, stale beer, tea (green or black teas at best) or mineral water as fertilizer. Make sure not to over-compost your plants and regularly remove old coffee and tea grounds.

How to Harvest Basil and Other Herbs Correctly

So you’ve repotted your basil, chives and parsley? Now you just need to keep them fresh. Don’t worry: Growing and harvesting basil for months takes no black magic – but the right approach.

Kitchen herbs basil trim keeping fresh
Tip: Harvest the buds with a knife as not to damage the rest of the plant. (Photo: ©

Try to avoid picking individual leaves. Use scissors or a knife to cut the buds off individually. This allows for new branchlets to grow and prevents the basil and other plants from blooming. This is very important because the flowers will hinder  the plant’s growth – even though they may look pretty.

When the plants bloom, they invest all their energy into flower and seed formation and the herbs’ aroma fades away. To ensure steady plant growth, be sure to regularly remove old and withered leaves and stems.

Growing Basil: Watering just the Right Amount

Basil plant care watering
Remember: care for your basil plant by watering approx. 10 percent of pot volume. (Photo: Utopia / Binford)

Your plants should be getting the right amount of light. But avoid direct sunlight, as this can burn holes into the sensitive leaves.

Even more importantly: Water your plants correctly. This way, they’ll stay fresh even longer. A rule of thumb: The right amount of water equals about ten percent of pot volume.

Parsley can take a bit more water and basil does the best when you keep the soil consistently damp. Too much water can lead to molding and too little water will dry out the plants.

How to Prepare Herbs for the Winter

In order to prepare your plants for the winter, you should cut them back completely. You can then either immediately freeze the severed herbs, dry them or use them in a homemade pesto or any other tasty recipe.

Growing basil and other annual herbs such as dill throughout the winter can prove rather difficult. Better options are perennials such as rosemary and sage.

Read more: 

This article was translated from German by Evan Binford. Here’s the original: Mit diesen Tricks bleiben Basilikum & Co. ewig frisch

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