How to Grow and Dry Herbs

Overview

Herbs have been used for thousands of years, so it's no surprise that gardeners still grow them. According to the West Virginia University Extension Service, the Abyssinians stuffed their pillows with celery, Shakespeare mentioned mustard as a condiment in some of his plays, and the ancient Greeks warded off the "evil eye" with mint. Today, herbs are grown primarily for culinary, medicinal and ornamental purposes. Their growth, care and storage is not difficult.

Planting

Step 1

Reserve space in a vegetable garden; create a separate area for an herb garden, or grow the herbs in containers located indoors or outdoors.

Step 2

Sow herb seeds in small, shallow boxes or peat pots filled with a light, well-drained potting soil in late winter.

Step 3

Save anise, coriander, dill and fennel seeds and biennials for sowing directly into the ground in the spring. Work the soil to a fine texture, wet it slightly and shallowly sow the seeds in rows. Firmly cover the rows with no more than 1/8 inch of soil for larger seeds.

Step 4

Cover the rows with wet burlap to keep the soil moist and to promote germination.

Step 5

Provide consistent water as the herb seedlings emerge, and transplant those outdoors in the spring.

Step 6

Transplant the seedlings of more aggressive perennial varieties, like mint, into a No. 10 can or bucket with drainage holes punched in them, or use clay pots or cement blocks. Sink them into the ground to confine the plants.

Care and Drying

Step 1

Provide herbs with consistent water, but not so that the soil remains soggy. Water container plants more often because the soil in those tends to become dry more quickly.

Step 2

Pick herb leaves as soon as there is enough foliage to maintain growth. Harvest the leaves after the dew has dried.

Step 3

Harvest the plants and stems for drying before the flowers start to open, when the herbs are at their peak flavor. Cut the annuals off at ground level and the perennials about 1/3 down the main stems with loppers. Harvest the seed heads when they change color to brown or gray.

Step 4

Wash the plants, stems and seeds in cold running water to remove soil and bugs. Drain them on towels or hang them upside down in the sun until the water evaporates.

Step 5

Dry the herbs thoroughly in the dark by using twine to secure paper bags around them. Hang plants, seed heads and smaller stems upside down in bunches in a well-ventilated spot that remains between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Strip the leaves off the stems in about 1 to 2 weeks, when the leaves feel crumbly. Store those and the seeds that fall into the paper bags in airtight containers.

Things You'll Need

  • Shallow grow boxes or peat pots
  • Potting soil
  • Burlap
  • No. 10 cans or clay pots
  • Loppers
  • Twine
  • Paper bags
  • Airtight containers

References

  • West Virginia University Extension Service: Growing Herbs in the Home Garden
  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Growing Herbs for the Home Gardener
  • University of Missouri Extension: Growing Herbs at Home
Keywords: growing herbs, drying herbs, herb gardening

About this Author

Joy Brown is a newspaper reporter at "The Courier" and www.thecourier.com in Findlay, Ohio. She has been writing professionally since 1995, primarily in Findlay and previously at the "Galion (Ohio) Inquirer" and "Toledo City Paper." Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and history from Miami University.