Friday, October 2, 2020

Harvesting Herbs by Guest Blogger and Herb Department Manager Jen Kostick


Fall is by far my favorite time of year. The crisp cool air after the heat of summer, apples, spices, pumpkins, and the changing colors of the leaves. My only regret is that another gardening season is ending and it’s time to clean up and cut back.

With the falling temperatures, it is time for the final harvest. It is a bittersweet moment, cutting down the last of the fresh basil, but use this time to preserve your bounty and let your hard work grace your table until you can plant again.


Here are a few tips for harvesting your herbs and putting the garden to bed for the winter:

·         Think about how you will use your herbs over the winter. This makes a big difference. For example, while I’ve made and frozen pesto already this year, I’m much more likely to toss some dried basil in the pot while I’m cooking dinner. 


 

      Most of my basil will be dried this year so that I have it available for just that. Herbs can be frozen, dried, and even turned into herb butter, oil, and vinegar. With the coming holiday season, these make simple but thoughtful gifts!



           What did you wish you grew? What didn’t survive the week-long trip to the beach you finally got to take? There’s still time to plant perennial herbs! Chives, lavender, oregano, sage, and thyme will overwinter beautifully in this area. If you have a dedicated area for mint you can plant that as well, but it can be quite aggressive so be careful where you plant it.

 

·         While I only have a little luck bringing my herbs in for the winter, there are many varieties that will do well inside in a sunny area. They may not look as lush as they did over the summer, but they survive well inside with minimal care and it’s a great way to get a jump start on the season. Scented geraniums, bay, myrtle, rosemary, and even lemongrass survive for me in a southern window. Just remember that while they don’t like the soil to be soaking wet all the time, you do have to water occasionally. Whoops!

 

·         Harvest! Get out there and harvest! Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Offer fresh herbs to friends and co-workers, try adding a new herb to that dinner you’re cooking, or look up new recipes. This year I Googled recipes with lemon verbena. I’ve grown it for years and rarely used it. I’m super excited to try spaghetti with lemon verbena grilled chicken! And remember you can preserve herbs by drying, freezing, and making butters, oils, and vinegars – even in crafts! I make catnip mice for my cats, as well as shoe sachets out of old socks.

 


·         Finally, after a hard frost, remember to get out there and clean up. Cut back the perennial herbs to encourage new, tender growth in the spring. Take out annual herbs and, if they are disease and pest free, add them to the compost pile. Cover the area with straw so that weeds don’t spring up. Cleaning the area now means that come Spring, all you’ll have to do is plant and not deal with last year’s mess. I think we can all agree, we don’t want any part of 2020 in 2021!