Herbs are one of the essential components of the kitchen, are used in cosmetics and body care and are often planted in the garden or kept in pots on the terrace or balcony. One of the most important grooming steps that some people overlook is the cut. Even if the plants are harvested regularly, the pruning measures should not be forgotten.

Do you need to cut back herbs?

A valid question. Ideally, cutting back herbs is not necessary. However, this assumes that you use the herbs regularly, that is, harvest them. Harvest pruning is sufficient to reap the benefits of a back or rejuvenation pruning, as the plants can then sprout freshly. This increases the vitality of the plants, which has a positive effect on the intensity of the aromatic substances in the herbs. But there are reasons why it becomes necessary to cut herbs regardless of the harvest:

  • lignification
  • pest infestation
  • illness
  • low usage
  • damage

Especially in the case of insufficient use of the herbs, it happens that they more and more resemble their wild form and thus the aroma clearly weakens. At the same time, the health of the herbal plants may weaken. However, this is only the case for perennial herbs that have the following growth criteria:

  • perennials
  • shrubs
  • subshrubs

While perennials lose their plant parts above ground up to a certain point at the end of the year, shrubs and subshrubs are species that do not lose their shoots and leaves over the winter. Compared to annual plants, these can quickly become stunted if you don’t cut them back and care for them in this way. It is therefore worth cutting the herbs at regular intervals and keeping them vital in this way. You can even refresh old plants that will sprout again within a short time after pruning and delight you with intense aromas again.

Note: Especially if you keep herbs for decoration and only use them to a small extent in the kitchen, you have to cut them. Pruning is particularly important if you have planted a large number of herbs in the garden and therefore have an excess of greenery, which quickly becomes lignified and only becomes usable again over time after cutting.

time for cutting

The time to cut back herbs differs significantly from the time of harvest. The reason? Harvesting is when the aroma is at its strongest, while the actual pruning is used to keep the herbs as healthy as possible. Therefore, you must not confuse the actual cut with the time of harvest. Since you can no longer use annual herbs at the end of the season and should have used them up completely by then, no pruning of any kind is necessary here. The cutting time for the perennials among the kitchen herbs such as mint, lemon balm or chives as follows:

  • complete pruning (near the ground): late autumn
  • after first budding: spring

You can find out from the following information when you need to cut back shrubs and subshrubs such as thyme, rosemary, lavender or sage:

  • April to May
  • frost-free days
  • Wait for the ice saints
  • alternative: summer cut

With these, you really have to make sure that there is no chance of frost at night, as this can really damage the plants. So if in doubt, wait for the ice saints in mid-May, as after these you no longer have to be afraid of nights that are too cold. In addition to the timing of the cut, it is just as important to know how the cut works. This differs significantly from the actual harvest.

cut herbs

Before you start cutting the herbs, you need the right tools. Scissors or a knife are sufficient here, which should definitely be sharpened and cleaned. This way you protect your plants from damage and infections that could quickly kill them. Once you have the right tool ready, keep the following points in mind when cutting:

  1. Woody or senile kitchen herbs or species such as thyme, which naturally become woody, are rejuvenated with the cut. To do this, cut back the evergreen shoots by a third.
  2. In the case of subshrubs, you definitely have to wait for the frost. Here a little more of the green shoots is removed. Cut back generously by up to two thirds, depending on the age of the plant and the amount of old wood. Always leave a little green so that the old wood does not dominate.
  3. Cut herbaceous perennials again and again throughout the year. However, you should not remove any shoots, only dead leaves, which can occur even with good care of the plants. These cause an imbalance in nutrients and must therefore be removed.

With these basics, the cutting of the herbs is implemented quickly and effectively.

harvest time

While cutting the herbs maintains vitality, the duck is most important for humans. The leaves, shoot tips or other plant parts that are used in the kitchen or for other purposes are provided via the harvest. The respective harvest time is decisive for the aroma. Not enough aroma substances are formed too early. Too late, usually after flowering, many of the substances are lost. Some plants, such as parsley, even develop toxins after they have been harvested. The harvest time is differentiated between annual and perennial species. While you can usually harvest perennial species again over a period of time, annual herbs are often used in one go.

Annual species

  • Borretsch (bot. Borago officinalis): June to October
  • Basil (bot. Ocimum basilicum): before flowering April to October
  • Dill (bot. Anethum graveolens): Mai bus November
  • Garden cress (bot. Lepidium sativum): April to October (depending on repeated sowing)
  • Chervil (bot. Anthriscus cerefolium): before flowering April to September#
  • Parsley (bot. Petroselinum crispum): May to October, November, December (depending on frost)

You can either harvest all these herbs over the appropriate period of time or cut them completely at a single point in time. In the following year it is necessary to sow again, as the remaining parts of the plant wither and rot.

Perennial species

Of course, the perennial herbs should not be forgotten here. These sprout anew every year or keep their above-ground plant parts. For this reason, the following harvest times should be mentioned:

  • Wild garlic (bot. Allium ursinum): until flowering April to May
  • Mugwort (bot. Artemisia vulgaris): May to July
  • Savory (bot. Satureja hortensis): all year round or during flowering July to September
  • Tarragon (bot. Artemisia dracunculus): April to October
  • Fenchel (bot. Foeniculum vulgare): May
  • Chamomile (bot. Matricaria chamomilla): June to August
  • Coriander (bot. Coriandrum sativum): April to August
  • Lavender (bot. Lavandula): during flowering June to August
  • Lovage (bot. Levisticum officinale): March to June
  • Marjoram (bot. Origanum majorana): during flowering or May to October
  • Mint (bot. Mentha spicata): July to August
  • Oregano (bot. Origanum vulgare): May to October
  • Peppermint (bot. Mentha piperita): March to November
  • Rosemary (bot. Rosmarinus officinalis): all year round
  • Sage (bot. Salvia officinalis): March to September
  • Chives (bot. Allium schoenoprasum): March to November
  • Thyme (bot. Thymus vulgaris): May to September
  • Woodruff (bot. Galium odoratum): until flowering April to June
  • Ysop (bot. Hyssopus officinalis): Juni bis August
  • Lemongrass (bot. Cymbopogon citratus): all year round
  • Lemon balm (bot. Melissa officinalis): before flowering April to October

Depending on what you want to do with the herbs, the harvest time can be adjusted. It is advisable to harvest peppermint before it actually flowers if you want to preserve it or use it for products such as tea. With plants that can be harvested all year round, such as lemon balm or rosemary, only the winter protection has to be right so that you can enjoy them all year round. The harvest time for caraway (bot.) also varies, as you harvest it differently depending on the year. In the first year you can harvest young leaves and fresh shoot tips all year round. From the second year it is the turn of the roots, seeds and flowers from June to October.

Note: Be sure to pick a day with sunny weather for harvesting. This strengthens the essential oils and aromatic substances in the plants. You should also harvest later in the morning. Then there is no more morning dew on the leaves, which would have a negative effect on the quality and taste of the herbs.

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