After pinching basil to increase growth

How To Harvest Basil To Increase Yields

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Many people wait to harvest their basil plants until they are large. Waiting to harvest will give you more at one time, but harvesting early and often actually increases growth and allows your plant to produce much more overall.

When Should Basil Be Harvested?

Basil can be harvested at just about any time. Instead of harvesting a whole basil plant at one time, it’s best to harvest on an as-needed basis. The first several harvests start off small, so we typically use them as garnish. Over time you will be able to harvest enough to make things like pesto.

How To Harvest Basil To Promote Growth

Aquaponic Basil Plant
The before and after of a pruned basil plant.

When it comes to basil, harvesting, and pruning are going to be pretty much the same thing.  First, allow your plant to produce at least 2 sets of leaves. Next, clip the plant’s stem just above the 2nd set. I typically allow my basil to grow a little so I can at least have a small harvest. Below are some pictures of basil I’ve started in an easy-to-build mason jar aquaponic herb garden.

Cutting the stem this way will cause the sets of leaves to shoot out like they are the new tops of the plants. Allow them to grow and cut those as well, repeating the process over and over again.

When it comes to harvesting the actual leaves of the basil, you can either pinch them or use clippers to clip them away from the stem.

With each leaf you clip or shoot that you top off, it will produce more new growth from your basil. Be cautious not to over-harvest.  To prevent the plant from dying after harvesting or pruning, leave about a 3rd of the plant growth, so the plant can create energy for new growth.


Harvesting your basil in small amounts over time will promote new fuller growth, resulting in your plant producing more in the long run. Pinch off a few leaves and throw them in your meals as needed to add some extra zest!

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