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How to Harvest Growing Herbs

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Herb GardenLast week, I wrote about how to dry fresh herbs in preparation for when our garden shuts down for the season. Today, I’m going to explain what we do to harvest our growing herbs so we are able to get maximum herbage out of each one (yes, herbage is a real word but when I wrote it I thought I was making up a new word!).

How you harvest the herbs will vary from plant to plan.

No matter the herb, it’s always important to make sharp cuts with a scissor or knife, rather than tearing it off with your fingers. If you don’t have a scissor handy, pinching will work too but it’s less ideal. The time to do the harvesting is in the morning, most herbs are at their peak flavor at that time.

How to Harvest Basil

You can’t go wrong with basil. You can cut leaves from the top to make the plant bushier or cut them from the bottom to make it grow taller and more slender. Go for the leaves that have started to fade as you can still get flavor out of them before they die (or cut them to put them out of their misery).

If you want to take an entire stem, rather than cut individual leaves, you can do so if you follow a simple rule. Take a look at your basil, notice that the basil leaves grow in pairs opposite one another across the main stem. As the leaves grow, the plant will begin growing new stems where the leaves attach to the base stem. Those are new stems, so if you want to trim off an entire piece, you can do so by cutting the base stem above those leaves. This will tell the plant to begin growing the new stems with vigor.

Finally, don’t cut off more than a third of the leaves at any one time or you run the risk of killing it.

How to Harvest Mint

Mint is an herb you want to cut from top to bottom, ideally staying near the top if possible. The more you often you cut, the more often it’ll start to branch out. It has a tendency to grow very quickly so you can harvest it frequently. If you want to take the entire stem, cut the stem about an inch above the soil. It’s a perennial plant, so it’ll keep coming back and back year after year (in theory).

How to Harvest Sage

We don’t have sage growing but harvesting it is easy, just pinch off the leaves as you need them. If you see any flower stems, cut those off after they bloom in order to promote additional leaf growth. In and around early fall, stop harvesting so the sage can harden for the coming winter.

How to Harvest Chives, Oregano, Thyme (Bushy Herbs)

These herbs are all bushy and can be harvested in the same way. Whenever you need it, just trim them at the base and use. Do this before the plant flowers and remove any flowers you may see. Also, with the chives, leave at least two inches to the base to have it regrow.

Again, remember the 1/3rd rule – don’t trim more than a third of the plant or you run the risk of killing it.

Those were the herbs in our garden but most herbs follow the same rules of harvesting. Don’t trim more than a third off at any one time, harvest after the dew has dried but before the sun has dried them out, and trim before they flower and go to seed.

(Photo: katemonkey)

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8 Responses to “How to Harvest Growing Herbs”

  1. I am going to have to forward this onto my wife. We tried growing a few different types of herbs last year because it seemed like a cool idea. Unfortunately, the herbs took over our whole garden and became immensely unwieldy.

    What shocked me though is the fact that they kept growing all winter long. The snow didn’t even seem to get them down!

    Jim, Thanks for sharing.

  2. Shirley says:

    Well, Jim, you have been in my Financial Tips folder for some time and now you’re also in my Gardening folder. Makes me wonder where you’ll show up next… ;-) Thanks for the herb tips.

  3. Elle says:

    Great post today; we have a small herb and veggie garden at our place and we should harvest some of it. We have thyme and basil so I really appreciate the tips!

  4. zapeta says:

    We’ve always wanted to grow herbs. Now that we’ve finished moving we will probably start a garden and these tips will be helpful!

  5. We haven’t had much luck in our garden, but we have gotten some nice basil going. I’ll follow your tips to make sure we get the max amount.

  6. Matt Jabs says:

    Great topic… so far this year we’ve harvested sage, thyme, dill, basil, and cilantro. It’s all hanging from a piece of yarn in our laundry room.

    Besides being healthy for you, and saving you money, growing your own herbs gives you free and natural air freshener. Just hang it up to dry… it makes the whole house smell great.

  7. echidnina says:

    Thanks :) I already grow sage and basil so I know how to harvest them (fresh basil is the best!), and since I started growing herbs I have really started to appreciate them. The more people we can encourage to grow their own herbs, the better – it’s so rewarding, and cheaper than buying them from the store too.

  8. lalah says:

    love the info,thanks. my kiddo cured psorisis with witch hazel and aloh vera plants,(draw a huge bubble bath. )(enjoyed this healing method).also cure for acne, and zillions of things. keep it all in your little garden.keep away from pets and children your all natural healing plants. but for goodness sakes let yourself, your kids family and pets have the plants that they can nibble.. catnip,cat grass, certain herbs mean a long happy life for us and our pets. my cats are bord and dont get enough from there healthy taste of the wild,it just isnt enough, they need there little garden.with both healthy whole foods,and herbs our family and pets will thrive.and you did it! you! made with love,and knowledge.


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