Mid-summer is a great time for herb gardening from seeds and to harvest what you already have.
Everything is flourishing as this is the peak harvesting season with intense new growth everywhere.
There is still time to sow annual herbs now and enjoy them this season.
Fast growing plants like basil, dill, cilantro (aka coriander), nasturtium and borage will come up quickly providing plenty of leaves to harvest.
These herbs should provide a nice harvesting window before the first frost hits in autumn.
Some herbs are biennials, which means they develop leaves and sometimes flowers during the first year, go dormant in the fall and winter, and flower again the next year before dying.
These include parsley, chervil, Angelica, caraway, clary and watercress.
Direct sow in a sheltered spot so there is a supply of fresh leaves during the winter months. Check the zone you are in for winter hardiness.
Now is a great time to harvest the leaves of herbs from mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savoury, basil, parsley, coriander, chervil, fennel and bay.
Harvest the flowers of calendula, chamomile, St.John’s Wort and lavender and mallow. The delicate blue star-shaped flowers of borage can be added to salads, used to decorate cakes or to make pretty ice cubes.
When herbs like lemon balm start to flower, its’ aromatic properties are less noticeable. You can pinch the flowers back to encourage new leaf growth, or let it flower and stop harvesting. The plant has done its job and will now go to seed.
Prune established herbs like lovage and sage after harvesting to keep them tidy and encourage new growth.
This is a good time to forage for herbs like yarrow, mugwort and meadowsweet.
The easiest way to preserve herbs is to dry them upside down in bunches in a cool, dark place well away from heat and light. Strip leaves when herbs are crispy dry and store in dark containers, away from the stove.
July temperatures are very hot so make sure herbs are well watered. This will keep the plant strong and producing and prevent it from bolting and less likely to be attacked by pests or disease.
This is especially important for herbs in containers, as they can dry out much faster in hot weather. An easy way to keep enough water handy is to place the pot in a container that holds water so it can soak it up from below.
What to Make with Herbs
One of the best parts about growing herbs is using them. Make ice teas, cordials, oils and herbal vinegars.
Herbal vinegars are one of the easiest things to make. Use the herb or herbs of your choice and put several fresh sprigs in the vinegar. Put it on the counter and be sure to shake it a couple times a day. It should take about 2-3 weeks for the flavors to blend.
You can speed up the process a bit by heating up the vinegar and pouring it over the herbs.
Combine the herbal vinegar with olive oil to make a dressing.
This article is an excerpt from the Herbal Collective July 2021 issue. Each issue of the Herbal Collective features an article on herb gardening. To read a free sample or subscribe, go to www.herbalcollective.news/magazine.