Growing Potted Herbs: Tips For Harvesting Herbs

By Mary Ellen Ellis | August 9, 2020
by Mary Ellen Ellis
August 9, 2020

I have tried over the years to grow vegetables, with some success and a lot of failures. What I love growing the most, however, is herbs. They’re easier to grow, require less maintenance, have fewer pests, and allow for an ongoing harvest. Here’s how I grow, harvest and store all my favorite herbs.

Growing Herbs in Containers

My herb garden is potted. For some herbs, like mint, this prevents them from growing out of control and taking over beds. For others, like lavender and rosemary, it allows me to move them into the sun as needed, a commodity limited in my yard.

Aside from those Mediterranean herbs, many types will tolerate some shade, which makes growing them a little easier. I simply start with a good, rich potting soil and transplant small herb plants I get from the local nursery. Watering regularly is particularly important with potted herbs, but otherwise these plants don’t need a lot of care.

Harvesting Herbs

One thing I really like about growing herbs as opposed to vegetables is that you can harvest them throughout the growing season. There’s no need to wait for anything to ripen. I use fresh herbs in the kitchen all summer long. Here are some basic rules for doing it right:

  • Harvesting your herbs can be as easy as tearing off a leaf or two, but what you may not realize is that there is an ideal time to do it. The aroma and flavor of an herb comes from its oils. Timing harvest for when these are most concentrated will give you the best flavor. The best time is in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the heat of the day.
  • Only remove up to a third of the plant at a given time so it can regrow, and harvest them before they begin to flower in order to preserve the best taste. You can pick off the tips of flowers as they develop to keep getting tasty leaves (and some of those are edible too).
  • For leafy herbs, like basil, pinch off leaves from the tips of stems. For those with longer stems, like cilantro, parsley, and lavender, cut them off at the base.
  • If harvesting flowers, like chamomile, remove the buds before they fully open.

Storing Harvested Herbs

I like to use herbs fresh as I harvest them but, inevitably, there will be more than you can use at once. Drying herbs is my preferred method for storage, and it’s really easy. I bundle up the herbs, tying the stems together, and put them in brown paper bags to dry.

You can also hang the bundles to dry, but I find they can get dusty. The bag keeps them clean and still allows air to circulate.

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