How to Harvest Herbs for Growth in Your Garden

Having fresh herbs at your fingertips is every gardener's dream.

But to do that, you first have to learn how to harvest herbs effectively and correctly to allow your herbs life cycle to continue, and to promote robust growth for a bountiful and lengthy harvest season. 

In this blog, we'll explore the right way to harvest herbs for growth in your garden, covering different types of herbs, how to identify them, and the best methods for harvesting them to encourage new growth and maximize flavor.

Harvesting categories

Not all herbs are the same. For harvesting purposes, we will divide them into two categories: annuals and perennials. Remember that annual herbs have a lifespan of one year, completing a full growing cycle within that time, while perennials return year after year. Each category has different needs for harvesting and storing.

1. Leafy annual herbs


Examples: Basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, mint, chives, and tarragon.

Harvest time: Leafy annual herbs are ready to be harvested throughout the growing season, starting when the plants are well-established and continuing until the first frost. For seed-bearing annuals like dill, coriander, fennel, caraway, and sesame, harvest before the seeds mature, drop and disperse.

Harvesting technique: Pluck individual leaves from the outermost stems and above a few leaves from the stem, allowing the inner leaves to continue growing. For seed-bearing annuals clip whole stems just above the base of the plant to encourage continuous flowering.

General rule: Regular pruning is key to encouraging bushy growth and increasing leaf production. Another rule of thumb is to remove any flowers that form to redirect the plant's energy towards leaf production.

Storing tips: Clean your harvest to remove any dirt or debris, then pat them dry with paper towels before storing them in airtight containers in a dark storage area. For seed-bearing annuals, collect seed heads and place them in paper bags to dry before storing the seeds in airtight containers for future propagation. Don't forget to label your containers with the name of the herb and the date of the harvest.

2. Leafy perennial herbs


Examples: Rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, lavender, mint, and chives are herbs that come year after year.

Best time: Early spring and late summer are ideal times for harvesting perennial herbs. In early spring, herbs are coming to life after winter dormancy, while late summer offers mature foliage before the arrival of cooler weather.

Harvesting technique: Use clean scissors or gardening shears to make a precise cut just above a set of leaves, near the base of the stems. Avoid tearing or crushing the plant, as clean cuts promote faster healing and regrowth.

General rule: Adhere to the one-third rule -- Never harvest more than one-third of the plant's foliage at a time. This practice allows the plant to maintain its growing pace and continue producing new growth throughout the season.

Storing tips: Bundle small bunches of harvested herbs together, securing them with a rubber band or twine, and place them in paper bags to dry. Alternatively, you can opt for air-drying by hanging them in a dark space with good ventilation. Each herb requires a different drying time, so it's important to keep an eye on them. Once the herbs are fully dried, store them in airtight containers away from direct sunlight to preserve their flavor and potency.

Tips for harvesting

Timing is key: Harvest herbs in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the heat of the sun reaches its peak hours to lock in the maximum flavor and freshness of the essential oils.

Use the right tools: Thoroughly clean all your tools, whether it's sharp scissors, pruning shears, or herb snips, for clean cuts that promote healthy regrowth.

Be careful: Avoid tearing or pulling at the plants, as this can cause damage at the roots or stress on the stems.

Harvesting for regrowth: When harvesting leafy herbs, cut stems just above a pair of leaves to encourage new growth from the base of the stems. For perennial herbs, prune back woody stems to promote bushy growth and prevent legginess.

Preserving freshness: For immediate use, rinse harvested herbs in cool water and pat them dry with paper towels. For later use, have a storage plan in place for your harvested herbs.

Promoting continued growth: Harvest herbs regularly to prevent them from flowering too soon, which can diminish flavor and shorten the lifespan of the herb.

Final thoughts

Harvesting herbs for growth in your garden is necessary to sustain your herbs and promote steady growth. 

By understanding the different types of herbs, you can ensure a continuous supply of fresh, flavorful herbs for whatever purposes you have planned.





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