Top Four Tips for Harvesting and Storing Fresh Herbs

Growing herbs or buying them fresh is a healthful and tasty way to use these plants. But harvesting and storing them at the correct times and using the best methods is important for success.

Here are four tips for harvesting and storing fresh herbs.

1. Timing Is Everything

When it comes to harvesting herbs, timing is important. With some herbs, like lemon balm, you can get several harvests out of them. Other herbs, like basil, like to be cut back frequently all summer. Here are some general rules for timing:

  • Herbs that grow quickly, like mints, can be harvested in early summer, mid-summer, and again in early fall.
  • Slower-growing herbs may be harvested in mid-summer. They need time to recover and put out new leaves before frost, so if you harvest them too late in the year they may be killed by the frost (even if they are perennial).
  • Harvest in the mid to late morning, right after the dew has dried on the leaves.
  • If herbs are woody or turning bronze or yellow, you may get bitter or unpleasant flavors.
  • Flowering herbs can be harvested right after the first bloom to give the foliage a chance to grow back.
  • For cooking with fresh herbs, you can snip off what you need as you are preparing your meal – any time of year.

2. Not too Close

When you cut herbs during the growing season, don’t cut them down to the ground. Leave some of the stem and at least a few leaves so the plant can regrow.

3. Storing Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs need moisture, cool temperatures, and air circulation to stay fresh for a few days after being cut. One of the most effective methods is to cut the bottom of the stems and set the herbs upright in a plastic tub or glass jar. Pour in a quarter inch or so of water. Then loosely cover the top of the herbs with a plastic bag and refrigerate.

4. Long-Term Storage

You can freeze or dry herbs for long-term storage. Some dry better than others. Basil and chives, for instance, are better frozen; when dried they tend to lose flavor. But sage and mint are perfect for drying. To freeze, lay herbs on a sheet of wax paper that’s approximately twice as long as a zip-top plastic bag. Lay the herbs on half the wax paper, and then fold the other half over the herbs. Slip the package into the plastic bag, suck out the air, seal, and freeze.

To dry herbs, hang them by the stems upside-down for several days in a warm, dry area. Attics are great for this. After a few days, lay out sheets of newspaper and strip the crisp dried leaves from the stems. Store the leaves in jars or zip-top bags.

Herbs are wonderful medicinal and culinary additions to your diet and home healthcare arsenal. These tips should help you get the most out of them.

Early Spring Pest Control in Your Garden

During the first warm days of spring, bugs are not always the first thing on your mind. They haven’t yet made the forceful appearance they’ll make in the summer, so it’s easy to get a false sense of security about these little pests. But don’t be fooled – they’re coming, and it’s a good idea to be prepared.

Here are some tips and ideas for early spring pest control in your garden.

1. Cutworms

One of the primary ways these chubby, hairless bugs make their way into the garden is by coming up out of the soil where they spent the winter. They are moths as adults, so these larvae are ready to eat early in spring. To keep cutworms from feasting on your tender young plants, you can make a protective collar out of plastic cups or cardboard. Push it about an inch into the soil all around the plant, and make sure it’s about 3 inches high. This acts as a barrier and foils the cutworm.

2. Leaf Miners

The evidence of leaf miners is obvious – thin, curved, winding tunnels going through the leaves. These tunnels contain the tiny white larvae. Leaf miners come up from the soil as flies, and they lay their eggs on leaves. To help deter these critters, make sure your garden is free of weeds – leaf miners love certain weeds such as chickweed, and the presence of weeds will attract them.

If you’re early enough in the season, you can cover your plants with specially made covers that will keep the flies from laying their eggs on your plants. You only have to keep these covers in place during the early weeks when the flies are active.

3. Slugs and Snails

Dusting your garden with diatomaceous earth can help deter slugs and snails. And there are also several commercial brands of slug and snail control. Iron phosphate is said to be the best active ingredient in such products, and many are safe to have around pets and kids.

4. Rotate Your Crops

One of the things that happen when you plant the same things year after year is, word gets around. Pests learn what and where the goodies are, and they line up to munch! Changing crops year to year keeps pests guessing a bit.

5. Chickens

If you have ever thought about keeping chickens and it’s allowed in your area, now is the time! Chickens are a great way to control pests in the garden in early spring, when they can join you while you turn the soil and expose the pests. In addition, they help fertilize the soil. You could borrow a neighbor’s chickens if you can’t keep your own. You will need to have a fence later in the year, though, because chickens will also damage your plantings and vegetables.

Taking some measures to control pests in early spring can save a lot of trouble and headache later on.