You can learn to pick herbs without causing any harm to the plant by identifying the best time and way to harvest each individual plant. Here are seven of the most popular herbs for gardening. These herbs come in many forms, including annuals, perennials, and biennials, and can be harvested in a variety of ways depending on the type you choose.
You need to be familiar with the best harvesting practices for each herb to ensure their continued health and productivity between harvests. There aren’t many distinctions between them, but all gardeners need these tools to grow healthy herbs. Even if you don’t use them, picking herbs is a rewarding activity because it makes your plant stronger and more fruitful in the future.
How To Pick Herbs Without Killing Plant For Beginners
In order to promote continued growth, herbs should typically begin harvesting as soon as they have foliage. Up to three-quarters of the plant’s growth can be harvested before flowering occurs in each season. This will ensure that there is consistent leaf production.
Pinch the stems of the herb at a leaf node to stimulate lateral branching. And if you want a tasty crop, you should pick before the sun gets too high in the sky, which means you should begin your day sometime around midday. Even though the herb’s oil content is high at the moment, you should still only harvest what you’ll actually use.
Make sure you take care of your herbs before and after harvesting to give them the best chance at producing flavorful and abundant leaves. This is made easier and continuous harvest from healthy herb plants is made possible by the greenhouse’s controlled environment.
It’s no surprise that basil is one of the most widely used herbs because it is such a good companion plant. But do you know how basil should be harvested? When it comes to these, basil is the only one that can be harvested by hand without the use of any special equipment.
You’ll pinch off the top of the plant and use that to collect the leaves you’ll soon be eating. On the other hand, the entire basil stalk can be harvested in the fall and stored for use during the winter. Leave about four of the plant’s leaves unpicked so it can recover and produce again.
Early morning harvesting with sterilized, sharp shears is the best time to harvest coriander without damaging the plant. It’s best to begin harvesting just after growth has ceased but before flowering. It’s recommended that you harvest your coriander when the plants are about 8 inches tall.
As opposed to coriander, mint stems are at their peak when the plant is in full bloom. This is essential for gathering mint’s fragrant and tasty oils. After the plant starts flowering, you can cut off the top.
When gathering leaves, you can use scissors or just pinch them. But be cautious not to break the stalk. You can harvest at any time, and if you plan on gathering a lot of mint, you should prune it back to its first set of leaves.
Doing so makes the plant stronger and more fertile for the subsequent harvest. Mint, on the other hand, is more robust and can take more picking than most other herbs.
Oregano should only be harvested from its healthy flowering stems, just above a node, to promote future growth and avoid the common mistake of harvesting from the root. Cut off 12-inch flowering crowns with a knife or shears in the afternoon. It’s important to remember that over-pruning a plant can kill it, so you should never remove more than a third of it at a time.
When harvesting parsley, avoid taking the stems that have only one leaf segment. Instead, it’s best to wait about 90 days after planting before picking. To ensure that the branches you select are fragrant and ready to harvest, you should select those with the most leaves, preferably at least three bundles.
To promote the growth of subsequent stems, cut parsley just below the soil line, close to the plant’s base. Always remember that it is best to harvest from the plant’s outer layers rather than its core.
Stems of young rosemary should be harvested when they reach about 8 inches in height. Shear them off just before the plant blooms for maximum aromatic oil content. Rosemary is extremely resilient and can be harvested frequently without worrying about dying, much like mint, so long as the woody stems are left intact.
Thyme is wonderful because it can be harvested year-round if its root system is protected. If you use kitchen shears or just snip above a clump of thyme leaves, you’ll get the tender new growth as well. Don’t take the rosemary’s woody stems, either.
Harvesting the stems or leaves of a plant
Take no more than 30 percent of a plant at a time.
Leave a few large, healthy leaves on the plant to ensure its continued development.
Keep your plant from reaching full bloom.
There’s no point in letting your plant put all its resources into creating a flower if you’re only going to use the stems or leaves. When the flowers emerge, the stems and leaves undergo a transformation and become poisonous and bitter. If you notice any flower buds forming, pinch them off immediately.
Above, you can see a photo I took of a bud on our enormous dill plant. It’s been about three weeks since I first noticed flower buds on the dill, but I’ve been pinching them off every time I see them. We only harvest our dill for its leaves, but if you want the seeds, you’ll have to let the plant flower, as that’s how the plant produces its offspring. (See below for details.)
When your plants are in full bloom, you should check on them every day to see if any new buds have formed. But you need to water your herbs occasionally, so you can check when you do so.
Leave the larger ones on your plant!
When possible, you should still pinch or cut off the stem of a plant a quarter inch above a pair of leaves. Doing so is the surest way to increase the likelihood of your plant producing more than one harvest.
It’s a surefire way to kill your plant if you start ripping off its leaves. Not only will the plant never recover from losing its largest and oldest leaves, but doing so will also kill it. Photosynthesis?)
Cutting the stem above a pair of leaves and then pulling the leaves off the stem will get you just the leaves you need. However, you shouldn’t just rip them off the plant.
Of course, I’m about to go back on what I just said. Ready?
In some cases, you can go ahead and start ripping leaves off your plant without worrying about damaging it.
- You can take a few leaves and some of the stems you’ve carefully severed if your plant is so large that it won’t notice the loss.
- If you’ve already done some light pruning and have a few tiny stem buds ready to grow, but the older, larger leaves are completely shading them out, you can remove them. New shoots benefit greatly from exposure to direct sunlight, but all sun-exposed leaves will contribute to the development of your plant.
Remember that removing a leaf permanently prevents new growth from that spot on the plant.
Gather just as the plant begins to bloom for optimal flavor.
The leaves should be picked just before the plant begins to flower, when the oils responsible for its delicious flavor will be at their highest concentration.
But don’t let the plant bloom! Plucking the flower buds and collecting the stems and leaves at the same time is the optimal strategy.
Harvesting the flowers of a plant
Flowers, not leaves, are what you’re after when cultivating plants like chamomile. The flowers can be picked at any time after they have bloomed, but the ideal time is just before they begin to wilt and die.
If possible, wait until the flowers are completely dry before picking them. Outdoor plants should be watered only after the morning dew has evaporated and after recent rainfall has dried.
Flower harvesting can be done in two ways: either by removing the entire flower from the stem just below the flower’s head, or by removing the entire stem (flower and all) as if you were performing standard pruning.
Benefits can be gained from using either approach. Cutting off the flower head allows you to repeatedly harvest the plant without having to replant it. However, since there won’t be any stems to hang the flowers from, a drying screen (or, in my case, a mesh strainer) will be required.
If you remove the flower and the top two leaves from the stem, two new stems will form and the plant will continue to expand. This method is ideal for early in the season, when you don’t want to prematurely constrain the plant’s growth. Additionally, you can dry flowers by hanging them by their stems. If you need a lot of flowers quickly, the other method is preferable because it does not take as long for the new stems to grow to the point where they will produce flowers again.
Harvesting the seeds of a plant
For the seeds to develop, the plant’s flowers must first bloom, fade, and eventually wither.
When caring for plants, it is common practice to remove any diseased or dying parts. However, when harvesting seeds, it is necessary to leave the flowers on the stem long after they have died. The flower has faded, and a seedpod will soon take its place. Leave the pod on the stem until it is fully ripe before picking. The fact that it has turned brown and dried out, or perhaps even cracked open on its own, is usually an indicator.
If you’re worried that the pod will open on its own, you can catch the seeds as they fall by placing a container over the soil around the plant’s stem at its base. In a process known as self-seeding, the plant will likely re-grow the following year if you simply let the seeds fall to the ground.
Keep in mind that a plant’s lifecycle ends with the production of seeds. Producing seeds is the annual plant’s only means of perpetuation, so once it does so, the plant is no longer considered viable. It will “hibernate” and remain dormant until the following spring if it is a perennial.
When the pods are dry and brown, cut the main stem of the plant off at the base (yes, cut the entire plant down) and shake the plant over a paper plate or into a paper bag to collect the seeds. Pull the pod off the plant and hang it from the stem or lay it flat to continue drying if you need to harvest the seeds before the pod is fully ripe and dried out.
And that, my friends, is all the information I have on gathering your herbs!
Dill, basil, catnip, rosemary, and mint are all being grown for their leaves, and chamomile is being grown for its flowers. Next year, if we decide to grow dill again, we will likely let it flower for a while before harvesting the seeds.
Is there something I should know about gardening that I don’t already know? Tell me about the plants you’re cultivating and how you’ll be using them.
This is the second installment in a series on growing herbs in the home. All of the series’ subsequent entries are collected here.
Herb gardens are commonplace because growing your own herbs is a fun and rewarding experience. Nonetheless, are you familiar with the techniques necessary to harvest herbs without harming the plants? There’s a specific time of year, growth indicator, and method for picking each herb.
If you want your herbs to produce well at the next harvest, then learning these methods is essential. Almost all herbs benefit from being picked, pinched, or cut at the right time, as this stimulates new growth and increases yield. Keep the herb’s roots intact and never cut off the woody stems; these are the most vital parts of the plant.