Extending Your Herb Harvest
We gardeners are typically never very happy when the growing season comes to a close, which is why we are always looking for ways to extend the harvest. I'm particularly interested in keeping herbs productive for as long as possible because I use them so often.
For instance, I use cold frames and row covers in early spring to get a jump start on annuals like basil and again in fall to keep herbs going a few weeks after temperatures get frosty.
I also like to feed my herbs every two or three weeks with fish emulsion diluted to half strength. This keeps the plants lush and productive without diminishing any of the flavors as sometimes happens when herbs receive too much fertilizer.
As fall approaches I sometimes dig up a few of my herbs to keep in my greenhouse or on a sunny window over winter.
Here are some season-extending tips to harvest more from three of my favorite herbs.
The relaxing scent of lavender is one that I use throughout the house, especially in the sleeping areas. Pruning helps keep the plants full and bushy, which means more leaves and blooms to harvest. It takes about three years for lavender to reach full size but the plant should be pruned every year immediately after blooming. Remove the flower stalk and cut about a third of the height of the plant. Avoid pruning back into woody stems where there aren't any leaves growing.
Growing several different varieties will extend your harvest. For example 'Munstead' is faster to grow and earlier to bloom than 'Hidcote'. The variety 'Sharon Roberts' and Spanish lavender often gives two flushes of bloom per season.
I like to use pineapple sage's bright red flowers in salads and a sprig of leaves is delicious in a glass of iced tea. Although it likes the sun in regions where summers are hot I find that it holds up better planted in partial shade. If grown in a container, you can cut pineapple sage back in autumn and grow it indoors over winter.
Cilantro is a cool-season herb that grows in spring. Increasing daylight and warmer, sunnier days trigger cilantro to flower, produce seeds and eventually die back. To prolong the cilantro harvest in your garden I recommend planting as early as your climate allows and planting successively every month in spring.
If you have a growing season that extends into fall you can plant cilantro again in autumn.
And don't forget the seeds! Collect cilantro seeds to make homemade coriander.