Monday, August 21, 2006

Herb Harvesting Tips for mid-August.

August is harvesting time for all herb plants.
Annuals need to be cut back as if this is the last cutting. If they give you another growth that will be a bonus, but most will die and you will want to turn those back into the soil and let them decay for good rich compost soil matter.

Perennials should be cut back to about a third of the plant, this will give the plant time to regrow and become strong again before the winter months set in.

If you cut back too late the frost will kill any new growth and your plants could easily die from the harsh cold on the tender plants.

Your basic perennials(ones that can be harvested all year)are:

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Lavender, and Tarragon.
Of course all of these will have different levels of tolerance, depending on where you are.

Your local farm co-op is a great place to get good solid plant information on weather tolerance.

Once you have harvested your herbs, then you must decide how you wish to keep them.
They can be dried by hanging in small bundles and left to dry at their own speed...doesn't take very long, a few weeks for most.
You will want to hang them in a cool, dry place such as an attic, a clean barn or inside a closet will work.
When I dry using this method, I cover the herbs with a fine piece of netting to keep flying bugs, dust, etc., from settling on them.

My favorite way to dry most things is by using a commercial grade dehydrater.(if you are drying small amounts, then a regular one will be just fine.)
I don't like using a microwave or the oven, and would not suggest that anyone else do so.
After your herbs are dry, store in dark colored glass jars with good fitting lids, away from heat and bright lights, inside a pantry, closet or any cupboard that is used for storage. Don't store over or close to the cook stove.

TIP: If you leave the leaves whole until you get ready to use them they will retain more of the essential oils.

Enjoy your harvesting !

Bea Kunz

Monday, August 07, 2006

August in the Herb Gardens.

August is vacation month for a lot of people. Some things to remember if you are planning to be away for more than a week.

1-Weed your gardens before you go, if you have weeds.
2-Pinch any blooms that are showing to encourage continued growth.
3-Water abundantly, herbs will be fine for a week or longer without water if you give them a good soaking.
4-If you have a problem with any pest, do whatever treatment you are applying before you go away.(and hope for the best when you return) Pest can get out of hand in one day, so a week is a long time to be left to feast.

Now, if you are staying home some things you can be performing in the herb gardens this month are:

Rosemary, Mints and Sage can be propagated now.

As you can see from the rosemary shrubs above they have very long stems.
Lay a stem on the ground as close to the bottom of the plant as you can get, just pull it over and hold it to the ground.(don't break it from the mother plant. Instead, clamp it to the ground with a garden staple( looks like a very large hairpin.) Push it down over the stem and it should be secure to the soil.
Apply a thin layer of good compost to the spot you stapled.
Water and in a day or so add some extra compost and water again.

In a few weeks or so the arm will have rooted. Cut it from the mother plant just above the stapled section. You can now dig up the new plant and re-plant in a new location or pot it and leave for next spring.

Mints can be taken up by the root or simply broken off and rooted in good compost.
Leave your mints in the pot until spring and you will have hardy transplants to start the season with.

If you have already cut your Sage back you are seeing new shoots cropping out by now.
You can break or cut these from the mother plant and pot the same as mint or plant then directly in the ground where you wish them to grow.
Sage is cold hardy and will survive the winter.

Sage is also one of those herbs that tends to get very woody stems after about the second or third year and needs to be replaced for the best results.

All other herbs should still be producing, although they are no doubt starting to flower, herb blooms are edible and look and taste great in salads and vegetables. They can also be dried right along with the leaves.

Don't forget too, they make an awesome summer flower arrangement for the table.

I hope you are saving all your compost material for your fall production. Grass clippings, shredded limbs, dead plants(no diseased ones) vegetable peels and coffee and tea grinds along with your eggshells. ( remember, never put cooked food or any meat products into your compost, it will turn rancid and spoil the entire pile.

Have an Awesome August and happy gardening!

Bea Kunz