A well-tended herb garden of annual and perennial herbs can last many years. You can plant it near your kitchen and have fresh flavors for your food just a few steps away. Caring for an herb garden might be a little extra work, but it’s well worth the effort. Perennial herbs need regular pruning and cutting back to insure good growth, and annual herbs need to be harvested at just the right time for the best flavors.
Always cut your herbs with very sharp, clean scissors or clippers. This will damage the plant as little as possible and prevent disease from spreading.
Start snipping leaves from annual herbs like basil, cilantro and dill as soon as plant growth is strong. Cut just the leaves, or whole stems from larger plants. Harvest these herbs in the morning just as the dew is drying to get the strongest flavors.
Harvest flowering herbs like basil, sage and thyme before the flowers bloom. Herbs lose their flavor when they flower because all their energy is going into producing blooms. Remove flower buds from annual herbs as soon as you see them to prolong plant life and leaf production.
Cut parsley and chive stems close to the base, about an inch from the soil. New growth should start to appear within the week.
Prune new growth from perennial herbs like rosemary, sage and tarragon every week during the summer. Snip the top 2 inches of all new shoots to encourage a fuller plant with strong root growth. These cuttings can be used fresh in your kitchen or hung to dry in a cool, dark place.
Pull up annual herbs at the end of the season and compost them. Cut back biennial herbs and cover them with mulch.
Remove all dead and dying leaves and stems from perennials in the fall. Make sure they are well-watered and have a good layer of mulch before the first frost. Perennial herbs often have shallow roots, so don’t remove the mulch until the last chance of frost has passed.
Clear away dead and damaged foliage from biennial and perennial herbs in the spring. Encourage lots of new leaves and flowers on perennial plants by cutting them back by about a third to keep them compact and strong.