Summer Herb Harvest Tips

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Dill seeds come from the flower. Dry the flower to harvest the seeds.

Dill seeds form as the flowers fade. Harvest the seeds after they turn brown and dry.

In summer herb gardeners get a delicious payoff for all our efforts. Oddly enough, this is where some gardeners become timid, unsure what to do next because the plants are so full and beautiful, you hardly want to trim them. However, here is a little advice for clipping with confidence.

Before starting, make sure your plants are well watered and not stressed. Healthy, happy herbs yield the best flavor. A few hours later or the following morning, gather your gloves and cut with sharp clippers so you don’t mangle the stems. Have something to carry the clipped herbs: a bucket, a large basket, or grocery bags. Then snip away.

Summer herbs are plentiful. Make good use of them.

There are always more herbs to harvest than you can hold, so bring a basket or bowl with you to the garden.

Perennial herbs such as oregano, sage, and thyme are the simplest to harvest. Cut about one third to one half of the plant’s height any time during the growing season.

Basil and other annual herbs grown for their leaves need regular harvesting during the summer. By mid summer plants are near their final height. Most annuals need periodic harvesting to keep them from going to seed. Clipping lets them focus on growing leaves.

Harvest edible herb flowers such as dill, lavender, borage, and Texas terragon when the flowers have just opened. The heads will be firm and at maximum flavor. Handle them gently to minimize damage.

Gathering dill, coriander (cilantro), and other seed producers requires more careful timing. Watch for the seeds to plump and turn brown. Clip the heads immediately or you’ll lose your harvest to hungry birds or high winds.

Trim lemon balm and other herbs using scissors.

Use scissors or clippers to trim herbs so you get a sharp cut.

For all your herbs, harvest only parts that are in good condition. Leaves, seeds, or flowers that are damaged or wilted won’t improve after they’re clipped.

To preserve herbs for cooking, lay the stalks in a single layer on an absorbent towel placed on a flat surface. Allow them to air-dry for 6-8 days. Once the leaves become dry and crackly, store them in an airtight container away from light. Basil is okay dried, but doesn’t hold its flavor as well as oregano, dill, and many other herbs.

When drying herbs, it’s important to prevent mold. Each day during the drying, fluff the herb stalks to expose new parts to the air. If you live in a hot humid area, take advantage of the high temperatures in an outbuilding or the trunk of your car (in the sun) for “express drying.””

You can count the rules of herb harvesting on one hand: water before you start, make sharp cuts, keep the herbs clean, dry them quickly, and store away from light and moisture. That’s all there is to it.

10 thoughts on “Summer Herb Harvest Tips

  1. I grow a lot of cilantro for salsa but always use it fresh. I think it would be great to be able to preserve it sehow….can you freeze it? I’ve never seen dried cilantro in salsa.

  2. We didn’t think that chives we a perennial. Two years ago my husband planted a small herb garden and notice the chives regrowing in the spring. What a welcome sight to Spring. :)

  3. Hello. I live in Phoenix AZ. In the summer the temp can reach 115-120. We do have decent summer shade (afternoon). How much sun should I give basil-oregano-mint plants in our summers? Will they survive and grow in our heat? Other suggestions? Thank you!

    • Hello Kevin,
      That is HOT! Most vegetables and herbs will need 6 hours of sun to grow and produce well. Afternoon shade will help with the heat in your area. I would make sure and mulch really well. Not only will this cut down on weeds, but mulch will help mediate the soil temperature – keeping it cooler in the summer heat. Herbs will grow well in Arizona, this is an Arizona Cooperative Extension fact sheet on growing herbs.
      -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

  4. If you cut back the stem of lettuce plants , will they keep growing new leaves. I do take off the outer leaves, but the plant starts to fall over on the ground as it gets too tall.
    Will the stem regrow and produce more lettuce?

    • Hi John, It sounds like your lettuce might be bolting, which happens to this cool-season plant in the summer. This is when it starts stretching taller from the stem and tries to flower. Read our Growing Lettuce page and see a picture of a bolted lettuce plant at the bottom of the Soil, Planting, & Care tab. You can’t cut back the stem and expect more lettuce leaves. If your plant is indeed bolting, you can leave it to flower or you can remove it. I hope this helps! Kelly, Bonnie Plants

  5. For harvesting (basil, rosemary) herbs, do you always cut 1/3 to 1/2 of the stalk or just the leaves?

    • Hi Tina,

      It depends on the herb. For basil, you can clip the leaves often, especially in summer. For rosemary, clip the tips often. For oregano, parsley, and thyme, cut back 1/3 to 1/2. If in doubt about how to harvest a specific herb, use the harvest info in our How to Grow section.

      Happy growing!
      Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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