While I don’t grow large amounts of herbs here this year, in fact what I do have are in pots. Last year the small herb bed I had been using was dug up completely and new compost and manure put in it. I am going to let it “sit” this year and replant it again next year with all new plants. Now in that bed are our pepper plants. This fall I will take them out and add a nice layer of leaf mulch and wait until spring to replant the herbs.
Herbs don’t like overly fertile soil but that bed had grown herbs there for the past 7 years without anything being added to it. The plants that are perennial were showing their age and not growing as well as they had been. Most herbs here in our zone are annual and must be planted every year or dug and grown over winter in the house.
I don’t grow a large variety as we simply don’t use them. Generally I grow sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender, oregano, parsley, dill, mint, lemon balm, and basil.
So back to my little pots full of sage, rosemary, thyme, dill. I trimmed them all back Sat. morning it had stopped raining long enough for them to dry out. A few weeks ago I had trimmed one of the sage plants and set the leaves to dry. It has been so rainy and damp here they never did dry out.
This time I decided to use the microwave to dry them. It’s an easy process:
- Pick herbs early in the morning after they have had a chance to dry from the night dew.
- Check and remove insects, dirt and damaged/chewed leaves.
- Remove leaves from stem (if you only want the leaves)
- Arrange in a single layer on a cotton towel.
- Microwave on high until done. You will know they are dry when they have cooled and the leaves are crunchy. It only takes a couple of seconds for them to cool.
- check them every 30 seconds to be sure they aren’t burning.
You can either leave them whole or do like I did and process them in the blender to chop them up. Store in a glass jar lined with brown paper. Label each jar with the contents and date.
Now I know that this method cooks some of the oils from the herbs and air drying or dehydrating would have been a better choice. I wouldn’t say that this destroys the herb so much as they become useless. In fact I had some mint tea later in the day and it was all that I hoped it would be. Personally I didn’t notice a difference. The herb lady , a friend, down the road as I like to call her would argue that fact with me.
I will continue to harvest and dry the leaves from these potted herbs through out the summer. There are a couple of ways to do this. you can cut the entire plant back to around 3″ from the ground once now and again in early fall to have 2 large harvests. Or you can every few weeks snip and trim the plant leaving it to go to seed.
My perennial herbs, sage, thyme I cut right back to the ground. The annuals, basil, rosemary, I will snip and trim all season, and just before frost cut the entire plant back to the ground.
In years past I would bring the annuals into the house and keep them over winter in the window. They did ok but were slow to catch up to the newly planted plants bought new for the season.
I have grown herbs from seed and to be honest the work and cost involved although not hard was not worth the time for the small amount I need for the garden. I can purchase organic 6-packs of herb plugs for $2.99 in the spring. It is wiser for me to use the growing space and start seeds for veggies that are more expensive to buy as plants or varieties we enjoy that aren’t available as plants. If I had a greenhouse I might think differently.