How To Successfully Harvest Herbs For Your Kitchen

July is a perfect time to successfully harvest herbs from your own kitchen. The garden herbs you’ve been so lovingly tending this garden season. Earlier this season, the earwigs had been enjoying my basil but I think they are under control now and I’m really looking forward to some fresh pesto.I’ve taken to adding a bit of pesto to a pita, sprinkling parmesan cheese on top and giving it about 25 seconds in the microwave.I can hardly wait for the seasonally fresh basil version to hit the table.

How To Harvest Annual Herbs

Harvest those annual herbs by cutting the stems and leaves quite heavily. I generally only remove one-third of the top growth at any given time and then allow the plant to regrow before harvesting again.

If you are a little timid or tentative in your harvesting, take the leafy tips from the top two to three inches of plant and allow it to thicken up for the next harvest.

Basil is the perfect example; if you take one-third of the top growth, it will be quite quickly replaced with more growth and another harvest.

I use my trusty pruning shears to harvest herbs but sharp scissors or a sharp knife work equally well. What doesn’t work too well is hand harvesting without a sharp tool. This tends to rip the plant apart and disturb the roots delaying regrowth.

Feeding Annual Herbs Midsummer For Bigger Harvests

It is perfectly acceptable to throw a handful or shovel of compost onto the herb plants after harvest to encourage the plants to produce more leaves.

This is not the same as fertilizing with liquid or chemical fertilizer that tends to produce very quick and soft growth.

You’ll find the quick soft growth produced in this way does not have the flavor of the more naturally produced product. Compost produces a much better product that is not forced. Also, ensure the annual herbs do not suffer from water shortages during the heat of the summer. They will respond with much higher harvests of leaves than if you let them wilt.

Perennial herbs, on the other hand, require no such assistance. Their leaves tend to be more flavourful when allowed to grow with a bit of abuse. It seems the oils are more concentrated when the plant is allowed to grow slowly and naturally without excessive feeding or watering.

Harvesting Perennial Herbs

Perennial herbs such as oregano and mint are harvested exactly the same way as annuals. Do not harvest more than one-third of the plant at any given time or only take the top two to three inches of fresh top growth.

Perennial herbs will tend to absorb more abuse than annuals as they have more energy stored in their roots to send up new shoots so if you do happen to prune too much you won’t kill the plant.

If you are growing a plant like dill for its seeds and using only a few of the leaves, then do not cut off the top growth.

Harvest the leaves from the side shoots and allow the central growth to set flowers and seeds.

Harvest the tops when the seeds are fully formed and just starting to turn brown. When almost dried, the seed heads can be put into a paper bag and the seeds safely knocked off the stalks.

You can get more herb gardening tips here.

19 Free and Easy Herb Garden Ideas

Keep the mint out of the good garden, tuck it next to a garage where any stray invading suckers will be cut off by the lawn mower.  And do your best to use as much of it in summer drinks as possible. 

Here are 19 herb garden ideas and tips on how to use these amazing plants creatively. I’m sure you can come up with even more than this and I invite you to add your thoughts to the comments section at the bottom of this post.

Use lavender as cut flowers and shear the entire plant back by one third every spring to encourage new flowering growth.

Chives can become a weed if you allow the flowers to set seed. Pick the flowers and put a few into a bottle of vinegar. Use the rest as cut flowers (you have to take a long enough stem but plan on using a short vase).

You can take an old wooden table, give it a coat of paint and arrange it in your garden for plants that prefer a bit of shade.

If you don’t have space for an in-ground herb garden, grow all your herbs in large clay flower pots. I grew upwards of six different kinds of herbs in my 12-inch flower pots. Put in the basement for the winter. Prune well in the spring before putting outside again as they’ll be long and leggy.

I’ve written a book that tells you how to grow all of the culinary herbs and you can check it out here

Make forms out of old metal coat hangers (if you can find them or use heavy wire otherwise) and train your rosemary up onto the wires (tie the branches with soft twine and twirl the branch around the wire as it grows so it will hold on by itself)

Mix your annual herbs around your vegetables or flowers. They don’t need a special spot to grow well.

I always use old sealer jars to hold my herb harvests. I can see what’s in there and the glass is far more visually appealing than any other container I’ve seen.

Use herbs as cut flowers and yes if that means adding a dandelion or two for color, what’s the harm?

As garnishes or to add a sense of greenery to fresh vegetables.

As a food source for bees that are at risk from pesticide poisoning.

You can hang your drying herbs together to form artistic looking lines in different colors rather than a single clump of dead stalks hanging in the kitchen.

Plant herbs into your perennial flower gardens where you can appreciate their beauty as well as their utility.  They don’t have to be isolated because somebody called them a “herb”.

Don’t hide your herbs away in cupboards. Treat them as stars of the kitchen.

Herbs can be added to fresh cut flower bouquets for an extra spicy fragrance.

Homemade herb products can both save you money and add a personal touch to gift giving.

Herb gardens create special moments you can share with the special people in your life. Take a child out to the garden and let them taste some of the milder herbs or let them help you harvest them.

No article on herb garden ideas would be complete without mentioning the incredible number of ways you can brew amazing tea drinks using fresh or dried herbs right from your own herb garden.

Last but not least – herbs are a simple touch of nature in the middle of a concrete city.  With their fragrances and tastes, herbs remind us of the finer things in life and a way to be directly in touch with nature.

You can read the other posts about herb gardening right here

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