Preserving Herbs in a Home Herb Garden

Congratulations! You have a wonderful home herb garden filled with beautiful, thriving plants, and you have been picking leaves here and there for your culinary delight. Problem is, you have grown so many wonderful herbs out there that not using more seems such a waste. Is there a way to give out herbs to family and friends in nice packages, or even store them for winter use?

Yes, of course. Preserving herbs has been a common practice since ancient times, and the process is an art and science in and of itself.

The following is a step-by-step guide to show you exactly what you’ll need to do…


First of all, you will need to determine when and how much herbs to be harvested. As a general rule, do not pick more than one third of the foliage from each plant to ensure continual healthy growth of the herb itself. And there is one good tip for you: during the harvesting process, you are strongly encouraged to inspect the herbs for any signs of pests and damaged leaves; and if found, remove them promptly. Also, this is common sense, but don’t preserve infected leaves even if it is the largest, nicest looking leaf you have ever grown. Keeping and mixing it with the rest will ruin the entire harvest!  To avoid contamination it’s suggested that you look at bamboo fencing as an enclosure, this will give a more organic harvesting procedure.

In terms of timing, the grandmothers might have suggested to pick the leaves on the night of a full moon… Well, modern-day studies have shown that harvesting the leaves early in the morning – right after the dew has dried up by the morning sun — is the perfect time because the essential oil found in the leaves is the most concentrated at this hour. During the day, the heat from the sun as well as occasional wind will disperse much of this oil, the source of the wonderful flavor and herbal power. If you need to convince yourself, try picking a leaf at different time of the day and smell it. You will find that the flavour is the strongest in the morning!

Now, which season is the best for harvesting your home herb garden? For most herbs this will be the time when the flower is about to blossom, because the leaves are fully packed with essential oil at this stage of the plant’s life cycle.


Rinse the harvested fresh leaves in cool water. An efficient way to remove bugs and pests is to add a bit of salt (roughly 2 tbsp) to a basin of water, and throw in the herbs to soak. A gentle reminder on the soaking: it’s better to soak only briefly to minimize the loss of essential oil and minerals in the leaves. After washing, dry the leaves with a salad spinner, or simply by patting with a piece clean cloth.


Harvest a few stems, about 6-12 branches, with leaves at the bottom of the stems removed. This bundle is then tied up with a string and hanged up-side-down in a cool, airy location. Although you may be tempted to dry it out under the sun, it is much preferred to dry it away from direct sunlight. Alternatively, the herbs can be dried as individual leaves. Clean the leaves and put them on a screen or rack to dry. Please remember to turn them often for proper and complete drying. If the weather is humid, you might want to speed up the process by using appliances such as a dehydrator, an oven or a microwave (but there are drawbacks – can take my free email course to find out). The faster the drying process, the more the essential oil can be sealed in the leaves.


This is another great idea for using herbs from your home herb garden. Place the leaves in baking sheet lined with wax paper. If the leaves are too large, you can cut them into roughly 1/4 inches long, but cutting should be minimized to avoid, again, the dispersement of essential oil. Then, put them to bed in a zip-lock in the freezer. It’s that easy!

Preservation in Medium

Preserving herbs can also be done using salt, vinegar and oil as well! The making of flavoured salt is simple and fun, and a fantastic parent-child activity! You can start by adding a layer of herbal leaves and pour in salt. Then, alternate the layering until the container is filled. After a while, you can remove the dried, brown leaves and keep the flavoured salt in an air-tight container. They add amazing flavour to congee, noodles and other staple food. For preserving herbs in vinegar, simply chop the herbs and put into vinegar (the chopping should only be done immediately before the preservation). The picked herbs can stay good for several months.

I hope you have enjoyed reading through the various method of preserving herbs, as well as how to harvest the plants in their best condition from your home herb garden…

Top Tomato Gardening Tips

Tomatoes. Salads, hamburgers, and spaghetti sauce wouldn’t be the same without them, and no one can deny that fresh, homegrown tomatoes are superior to those that are bought at the grocery store. Many people are intimidated by the prospect of growing their own tomatoes, but by learning a few tried and true tips, anyone can grow bountiful tomato plants.

To grow your best tomatoes ever, follow these tips:

1. Soil Preparation: Prepare the soil in a place that gets plenty of sun and drains well. The soil should be rich in organic material and can be soaked with compost tea, a liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms. Before planting either a seedling or a seed, test the soil with a ph test kit, which can be found at most gardening stores. The soil should be between 5.5 to 5.8 on the ph scale.

2. Plant the Seedlings Deep: Plant the seedling deep in the soil, deeper than the pot it came in, so that roots will grow all along the stem which will make the plant stronger. Tomato plants are a vine, so grow the tomato plant up, using a tomato cage to prevent the plants from sprawling on the ground and becoming more susceptible to pests and diseases. Place the cage over the plant after planting so that it can provide support as the plant grows.

3. Grow from Seeds Indoors First: If you wish to grow tomatoes from the seed, sow them indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost. Then, follow tip two for planting seedlings after the threat of frost has passed.

4. Use a Tomato Cage: Tomato plants are actually vines, so grow the tomato plant up, using a tomato cage to prevent the plants from sprawling on the ground and becoming more susceptible to pests and diseases. Place the cage over the plant after planting so that it can provide support as the plant grows. You will probably have to adjust the stems to direct them in and out of the cage rungs as the plant grows.

5. Water Correctly: Water near the base of the plant regularly, making sure not to miss a watering because this can lead to end blossom and end rot. Tomato plants need at least one inch of water each week and more during drought-like conditions.

6. Protect from predators: enclose the garden with a fence, to stop hedgehogs and foxes prying on your vegtables, we recommend any from this Bristol fencing company.

7. Feed Your Plant: Use organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion and organic tea to feed nutrients to your tomato plants throughout the growing season. Compost tea is a liquid extract of compost that contains plant growth compounds and beneficial microorganisms. Compost tea can be sprayed on plants or on the soil at the base of the plant once every three weeks. Fish emulsion is a fertilizer that is the liquid extract of processed fish. To apply fish emulsion, dilute with water per the packaging directions and spray on the plants in small doses approximately once every three weeks.

8. Mulch: Only begin to mulch around the base of your plant after the soil has had a chance to warm up. Mulch helps the soil to retain moisture and prevent soil and soil borne diseases from splashing up on the plant.

9. Prune Often: Pinch out any new sprouts that start to grow in the crook of two stems because these stems will not produce fruit, but will take energy away from the plant. Also, when the tomato plant is about three feet tall, prune the leaves off of the bottom one foot of the plant. These are the oldest leaves that would be the first to develop fungus problems because as the tomato plant grows, these are the leaves that will get the least amount of sunlight and air circulation. Finally, pluck off the first flowers to that the plant does not devote too much energy to growing fruit before the roots are fully established.