Many people who want to enjoy the bounties of summer throughout the entire year turn to the art of drying their harvest in order to preserve it. Drying fruit and flowers is a simple process that yields a ready supply of materials that you can use for a variety of craft projects, including fruit garlands, potpourri and floral arrangements. Being patient and allowing the fruit and flowers enough time to fully dry is a key step in successfully drying these items.
Select fresh fruit that is at the peak of ripeness and flavor. Commonly dried fruits include apples, oranges, peaches, grapes and pears. Wash the fruit thoroughly with warm water, discarding any that show signs of bruises or decay.
Pre-treat your fruit to reduce browning during the drying process. Mix lemon juice and water on a 1 to 1 ratio (1 cup of lemon juice for every cup of water) in a bowl that is large enough to contain the fruit you're going to be drying. Mix the fruit into the lemon juice mixture, making sure that the fruit pieces are completely covered by the liquid. If you're working with sliced fruit, plan on slicing it and allowing it to fall directly into the liquid to reduce air exposure.
Soak the fruit for 10 to 12 minutes in the lemon juice solution. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fruit from the bowl, allowing it to drip over the bowl before placing it on a paper towel-lined surface to finish draining.
Create a simple drying rack by spreading a cheese cloth across your oven rack. Position the dried fruit in single layers on the drying rack.
Dry the fruit in a 140-degree Fahrenheit oven. Drying times vary, depending upon the type of fruit you're using, from approximately 6 hours for apple slices to 3 full days for peach halves, according to Colorado State University Cooperative Extension. Monitor the fruit every 2 hours, especially if you're drying thin slices. Check dryness by squeezing a handful of cooled, dried fruit; if your hand is dry afterwards, then the fruit should be fully dried.
Select fresh flowers for drying, choosing well-formed blooms that are not quite fully open; they'll open more during the drying process. Pick the flowers in the evening so they're not damp from dew.
Prepare your desiccant solution. Don rubber gloves and use a spoon to mix borax and white cornmeal on a 1 to 1 ratio (1 cup of borax for every cup of white cornmeal). You should be able to find the cornmeal in the baking aisle and the borax in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store.
Sprinkle a 1-inch layer of the desiccant solution across the bottom of a cardboard box large enough to hold all of your flowers. Lay the flowers on their sides in the box or upside down with the stems resting on the side of the cardboard box. Sprinkle desiccant gently across the flower heads until they are completely submerged in the powder.
Leave the box uncovered and place it in a warm, dry location, such as your kitchen pantry or a spare bedroom. The University of Missouri Cooperative Extension suggests that you allow the flowers to dry for approximately 2 to 3 weeks.