Gardening > Pinching Out

An article on pinching out:

Question

My question is: what does it mean to "pinch out" an herb? I know that I'm supposed to pinch flower buds on rosemary and shoots on basil, but how do I get the basil plants to grow nice and full? I want to make sure I'm pinching back the right part of the plant. Thanks.


The Green Chronicle replies...

The term "pinch out" refers to a manual technique rather than to a specific type of cultural practice in all herbs. In other words, pinching out is removing the top of a stem (or possibly the whole of an unwanted stem, in tomatoes for example) by pinching it between your fingers and taking it off the plant. With regard to a couple of specific herbs that you mention, I would pretty much let rosemary do its own thing; harvesting soft stems with a pair of scissors. Basil should be harvested by pinching, or cutting, shoots continually. Your aim should be a nice bushy plant, this after all will produce the best harvest. Therefore, once the plant is well established, take the leading shoot off and continue to harvest for bushiness thereafter. remember wherever you pick, the plant will produce side shoots, more leaves for later picking. Keep you basil well watered by the way: warmth and water are the main limiting factors for basil, not poor pinching out! Every herb is different in growth habit, and harvesting technique. Of course all aspects of care vary from plant to plant. My general advice is, if at all in doubt about pinching anything out then don't, unless of course you want to store it or use it in the kitchen right away, in which case carefully harvest it, and let the plant worry about how to respond. Keep the plants weed free; watered where necessary; look out for pests and the cold; produce regular replacements from seed or cuttings (basil for example can be sown successionally throughout the growing season), and your herb growing will be immensely satisfying. You will also get better at it all the time. Good luck.