Basil harvest

How often can we harvest basil?

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Basil adds a unique flavor to your dishes. It’s also one of the easiest herbs to grow. Yet, it grows at different speeds in different settings. Knowing how often to harvest basil would significantly affect the plant’s health and your dishes.

If you grow basil at home or indoors, you’d follow a simple trick to harvest it. You can leave the first set of leaves from the bottom of every stem and cut the top. But when you grow at a large scale, you need different rules. Often, it would be best if you timed it right.

This post explores the ideal timeframe to harvest basil and the consequences of not doing it right.

Related: How To Prune Basil For A Flavorful, Bushy Plant Forever

The ideal basil harvesting frequency

Basil requires full sun because it evolved in the tropics, where the climate is warmer and sunlight is plentiful. This means the plant should be under direct sunlight for at least six hours daily. Basil, which grows in the shade, slowly puts up leaves.

Basil also loves well-drained soil. Hydroponic growers who grow basil using the Kratky method should choose a medium that drains quickly. Not enough aeration or oxygen around the roots would slow the growth. Also, it can cause root rot.

Given the ideal condition, seed-propagated basil should be ready for harvest in two months. By then, basil would have grown about 6 to 8 inches tall. You can leave the first one or two sets of true leaves and cut the remaining.

Related: Fixing Root Rot in Hydroponic Basil

After the first cut, basil vigorously grew its branches near the remaining roots. These branches reached a harvestable level in two to three weeks.

Pruning basil leaving two sets of leaves and stems

Thus, when all environmental conditions are favorable, basil can be harvested every other week.

What happens when you harvest too late?

Although basil is an annual plant, in most regions, it grows indeterminately. By nature, basil blooms in about four to six months and start producing seeds. This is how basil reproduces itself.

basil flower

It will keep its aroma and flavor until the plant starts to bloom and produce seeds. This prevents herbivores from feeding on them before they reach their full reproductive capabilities. Once the plant has produced seeds, basil will lose its aroma and flavor. The plant’s stems will grow woody.

Related: Why Does Basil’s Stem Turn Woody?

This is not fruitful for people who grow basil for its flavor. The best way to prevent basil from maturing is to pinch the flower buds or harvest it regularly.

Harvesting basil in summer vs in winter

Summer is the ideal condition to grow basil. Gardners propagating basil before their last frost ends tend to harvest more as basil grows throughout summer.

Basil thrives in summer, getting the warmth and sun it needs. If you’re growing basil in an equatorial country, this means little to you. But summer months would yield more if you’re in North America, Europe, or Australia. You could harvest every other week without any issues.

Basil plant under full sun light

In winter, the plant barely survives. Cutting the plant in two weeks would be too soon, so you might have to wait another week. If you’re a large-scale grower, try to get a random sample and see if you have at least one set of leaves you can leave and cut the remaining from most of the stems. Then, you can expand the harvest to the whole farm.

Related: How Much Light Does Basil Need?

Climate control would be beneficial in winter. Home growers can opt for a grow tent or a mini greenhouse to grow indoors.

In summary, basil can be harvested every other week during the summer and in a controlled environment. In colder months, harvests can be once every three or four weeks.

Does hydroponic basil grow faster?

Basil is one of the very successful crops for growing in hydroponics. Many industrial growers grow basil in hydroponics.

One obvious benefit of growing basil hydroponically is its growth rate. Basil tends to grow faster in hydroponics than in soil. One study in 2010 showed that hydroponic cultivation improved the antioxidant activity of both aqueous and lipid extracts, increasing the contents of vitamins C and E, lipoic acid, total phenols, and rosmarinic acid.

Since the nutrients are readily available in hydroponics, basil doesn’t show delays in growth when other environmental factors are favorable. Yet, this doesn’t mean basil grows faster in hydroponics. The growth rate depends on sunlight, temperature, humidity, and CO2 levels.

So, hydroponic basil doesn’t grow faster, but they have other benefits.


Basil grows faster in full sun. Thus, in summer and warmer climates, you can harvest basil every other week. In all other cases, the harvesting cycle can be three or four weeks long. Industrial-scale growers can take a sample before they do a full-scale harvest.

There’s also no evidence that hydroponic basil grows faster. But most people choose hydroponics for other benefits, like stronger-flavored basil leaves.

Nonetheless, not harvesting on time can cause basil to mature and produce bitter-tasting leaves.

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