How to prune & harvest your herbs
Today we're looking at the best ways to prune and harvest your herbs to keep them in tip-top-shape and keep them producing. We'll also talk about how to dry and preserve some of your herbs.
How to harvest your fresh herbs
So, your mini herb planter has put on a lot of growth and you're wondering how much you can prune your plants without harming them.
The good news is that most herb plants are pretty resilient and you can harvest almost half the leaves of an annual herb and it will recover and continue to grow for you. You'll find an explanation as to annual vs perennial herbs here.
Having said you can take half the leaves without causing the plant too much damage, I'd suggest that while you're learning about your herbs, that you keep your pruning/harvesting to one-third of the herb. The one-third rule is also applied to perennial herbs.
Of course, (and as I explain in the video below) if you're harvesting mint, she's pretty indestructible, so you can give her a really good haircut without causing any harm at all.
How do I know when to harvest my herbs?
If you're growing your herbs for their leaves (which is what we're harvesting in our mini herb planter) then you'll want to harvest before the herbs flower. Once herbs flower, sometimes their flavour changes and they can become a little bitter.
Personally, I've not noticed this and I do continue to harvest my herbs for their leaves after they have flowered. I guess you can experiment and see what you prefer.
Is there a best time of the day to harvest your herbs?
Absolutely, the rule of thumb is that you should harvest your herbs after the dew has dried, but before the sun has stressed the herb and caused any of the essential oils to dissipate. This is usually before midday.
What actually happens in our house, is that herbs are harvested in the evening, when we're already half way through cooking something in the kitchen.
How often should you harvest your herbs?
I like to work on the 'little and often' theory when harvesting my herbs. It also comes down to how quickly your herbs are growing as well.
You'll be able to pick more herbs and more often in the growing season and you'll need to slow down your picking in the cooler months.
I have a lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) that I pick from every day. But Melissa's a hardy girl who grows really well and I'd slow down my picking if she wasn't recovering.
If you're coming to the end of the growing season and your herb is an annual (ie it's going to die during the winter) then you'll likely want to harvest all of the herb and preserve it for winter use.
What's a good way to preserve my herbs?
There are lots of way to preserve your herbs (from freezing, to storing in oil) but the easiest way is to dry your herbs.
To dry your herbs, you can hang them in small bunches in an airy place (out of sunlight) or you can simply pop them into a paper bag and give them a good shake every so often.
Before you store them away, make sure that they are completely dry. Give them the 'crunch test'. I talk about drying herbs in this video.
Once your herbs are dry, you can store them in an airtight container (I love preserving jars for this purpose) and they will last until you harvest again next season. If you have any left when you're harvesting your herbs again next year, just put last year's herbs in the compost.
So there you have it. A quick guide to harvesting and preserving the herbs from your mini herb planter.
Don't forget to check out the video below and remember--if you're at the stage where you're harvesting your own herbs--you're doing an amazing job!
Love & lettuce,