A garden is the best alternative therapy.

The gorgeous lavender flowers kept the bees very busy the past couple of weeks, but I noticed that the majority of the blooms had faded and the bees were absent Saturday morning.  According to some sources, lavender flowers should be cut when the flowers first start blooming, in order to have the highest level of oil retained in the dried flowers.  I couldn’t take the lavender away from the bees, though.  So, I waited until most of the flowers were spent, then cut them down in the morning when the oil is at its highest.   I bundled the flower stalks up using some rubber bands, then hung them to dry upside-down so that the oil  drains down from the stem, concentrating in the dried flowers.  All-bloomed-out, they still smelled wonderfully pungent!

Spanish lavender blooming

The above picture was the lavender in bloom just a couple weeks ago – it was such a gorgeous, deep shade of purple.  Each one of the flower stalks run down to the plant, where I cut each one right above the green foliage.  This is what it looks like now:

Lavender after a trim, 4/25

Hopefully this will urge her to send up some more blooms later in the season.  Here’s what the bundles of dried lavender looked like:

In the meantime, the herb garden was just overflowing.  I needed to make room for a couple new plants, but first, I seriously needed to do some harvesting!  If you will remember, last year I had two basil plants in the back.  They produced so much basil that I still have several ziploc bags full of dried leaves.  Basil is best fresh.  It’s OK dried, but it loses a lot of flavor.  I won’t ever eat all of the dried, especially not now until November when this new plant dies.   With two plants, however, we just had too much for the three of us to consume. So, I only bought one this time around …  In the place of where the other plant was last year,  I put a dill transplant.  I saw it at the nursery and thought, why not?  We eat dill at least a few times a month, so that makes sense.  Plus, it attracts butterflies as well.

Herb garden 4.25.10, before its cut

another view ...

Harvesting is a little time-consuming lately!  At least, more so than last fall.   There was so much to cut, it took me two hours to cut, sort and bundle to dry.  The sage was pretty buggy, especially the one that was flowering.  Every one had sugar ants, fire ants, green loopers – that probably took me the longest just to rid the blooms of bugs.  I wanted to hang them upside down and see how they dry.  But yeah – bugs galore.  Obviously everyone is very happy, as the sage didn’t seem to be any worse for the wear.  Needless to say, I didn’t harvest any sage.  That’s okay, too.  I have a large jar full of dried leaves from last fall.  The oregano was probably nearly 12″ tall in some areas.  I cut it back as much as 8-10″ in most places, especially near the back where the chives are trying to get more light.  I had a full bowl of two types of oregano.  They smelled outstanding.  The marjoram was just harvested a couple of weeks ago, so I only cut a small bundle of that.  And, I had the largest thyme harvest I’ve had to date!

one of two bowls (10" wide) of oregano

this gets covered with a bag and hung in a dark closet until dried - 7-10 days

Herb garden 4.25.10 - after!

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Comments on: "Harvesting and Drying Herbs: Lavender, Oregano, Thyme and Marjoram" (8)

  1. Your herbs look marvelous! I bet the smell was wonderful when you harvested all the herbs to dry. Do you keep all your lavender in pots? The swallowtail caterpillars will love the dill you planted. I didn’t know you could get too much basil! We always make pesto with it and freeze to use all winter long. It’s like a touch of summer just when you think winter will never end! Your marjoram looks very nice. I don’t believe I have ever had any. I must look for some the next time I find myself at the nursery.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Ah, yes! The smell was wonderful. Yeah, I only have the one lavender and it seems to do well in a pot. I think this keeps me from overwatering/loving it too much. ;) I would love to get more plants, but it fell off the list of plants I wanted to put in the new beds. It was on there, though! The basil plants were prolific bushes last year. I guess they loved being on the East side of the house and protected from the afternoon sun (2PM+). I literally trimmed an overflowing 10″ bowl every two weeks, which was quite enough for us! I do need to make pesto. I know my sister would enjoy a little tub of it every now and then. Okay, now you made me rethink my decision! :)

      Strangely, like you said, I often find myself at the nursery. How did I get there? Ah, must buy plants … :D

  2. It is great when we do anything that will help our bee population. I read an article last week about the continuing collapse of the bee population. We really need them to continue to pollinate for us.

    For those who are just starting to dry. I wanted to give them a tip that a clothes drying rack works well for hanging up the harvest.

    You have taken some awesome pictures. Thank you for sharing them.

  3. My lavender did not bloom. Can I still harvest the stems and leaves

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Sorry to hear that it didn’t bloom. Lavender can be kind of finicky. Depending upon the variety, it may only bloom in the Spring. Lavender loves good air-circulation, lots of sun and fast-draining, sandy soil. It also prefers a gravel based mulch. If these are not the conditions you have it in right now – and depending upon your locations, perhaps you can transplant it to a more suitable location. I don’t see much use in harvesting the stems and leaves – the highest concentration of oils is in the flowers themselves. If you want, you can prune back your lavender by 1/3 and let it go to rest over the winter. In the spring it should rebound with lots of new growth and blooms. Good luck!

  4. Did you harvest/ dry rosemary?

  5. Once you have bundled and hung your herbs upside down, it is necessary to place them in a bag and put them in a dark place? Why can’t they just hang in your kitchen and dry? Our house is very dry and they look so beautiful hanging there.

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Since some of the herbs take several days if not a couple of weeks to dry thoroughly (again this depends upon the size of bundle you are attempting to dry), the bag is used to keep the herbs from collecting any dust. Also, some herbs like basil actually change colors when exposed to light while drying. I’m not sure if the sunlight affects the essential oils (flavor) of the herbs…

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