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.