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Herb Garden Pruning 101: Your Hands-On Guide to Quick and Easy Care

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Herb Garden Pruning 101: Your Hands-On Guide to Quick and Easy Care

Is there a particular part of your garden that gets more attention than others? In my garden the veggies get most of my attention, followed by the flowers. Sadly, my herb garden tends to get ignored. Pruning an herb garden is important because it keeps it looking tidy and encourages future growth.

Pruning basil

When pruning basil, remember that you want to encourage leaf growth. The more you trim back the plant the more you encourage the plant's energy to go towards growing leaves versus seed. Once the plant has gone to seed it is done for the season.

To prune basil look for nodes, which are the points at which side shoots grow off of the stem. Trim just above the nodes which encourages the plant to grow two new stems from that node.

Don't trim your basil plant down to the base. Leave enough foliage so that the plant can continue to photosynthesize.

Pruning cilantro

When pruning cilantro you need to identify your goal. Do you want to harvest the leaves for cooking or let the plant go to seed to harvest coriander? Both are useful, so consider allotting half your crop for cilantro and the other half for coriander.

Where should you cut to harvest cilantro leaves? Start at the top of the stem where leaves are growing. Follow the stem down to where new leaves are growing and pinch just above the new leaf growth. Be careful to pinch--not pull--the stem.

Pruning chives

When pruning chives don't cut all the way down to the root. Leave about a half inch of space between the base of the plant and the stem so that the plant can regenerate.

I like to use scissors to prune my chives because I don't want my hands to smell like onion, but they're not absolutely necessary.

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From the Organic Authority Files

Pruning parsley

First, trim any leaves that are yellow. These yellow leaves don't mean that anything is wrong with your plant, they're simply old growth.

Then, prune from the outside of the plant inward, leaving the center leaves to grow.

Trim off the bigger leaves, and don't be afraid to trim one third of the plant because it will lead to better production. (The leaves will store in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.) Also, parsley requires a lot of sun, so trimming the large leaves allows for better photosynthesis.

Pruning rosemary and tarragon

When I prune these plants I aim to keep any green growth and trim only what's brown. I think of giving these plants a haircut to maintain their circular shape.

Pruning thyme and mint

These plants tend to stay short so I don't prune them as much as others. My primary goal is simply to trim off any brown bits.


My go-to pruning tool is my fingers. I find that I can simply pinch off stems with my finger tips and don't need any fancy tools. However, a knife or garden sheers are also helpful.

Waste not, want not

As you prune you will collect usable herbs that can be dehydrated either in an electric dehydrator or on trays in the sun. Once dried, crumble the herbs in your hand and store in an air tight container to use throughout the winter.

Related on Organic Authority
3 Ideas for What to Plant in August: It's Not Too Late for a Summer Herb Garden
12 Bee-Friendly Plants for an Awesome Herb Garden
Caring for Your Winter Herb Garden: 3 Timeless Tips

Herb garden image via Shutterstock

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