Capturing the colours of summer: harvesting and drying flowers

 Pot marigold,  Calendula officinalis

Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis

It's prime time herb harvesting at this point in the summer, so we thought we'd share with you some tips on harvesting and drying flowers. For a lot of herbs we cut the flowers from the plants without their stems, which means you can't hang them up to dry! So instead, we lay out flowers on drying racks or well ventilated surfaces. Read on for a guide on how to do this and some of our top tips. 

 Floral roses - use a clean container to collect your flowers as you harvest them

Floral roses - use a clean container to collect your flowers as you harvest them

1. Harvest on a dry day in the morning, once any dew has evaporated 

2. Select the best looking flowers. Avoid ones that are already fading or have been eaten by insects.

3. Use sharp garden scissors or secateurs to remove flowers. Remember to prune back to a leaf on plants like roses and marigolds to keep them tidy and promote more flowers. 

4. While you harvest you can also deadhead flowers that have gone over and remove tarnished leaves to keep your plants in check. Compost these bits.

5. Once harvested, spread the flowers out on your drying surface. Ensure that they are nicely spread to allow good airflow to the flowers. It's ok if they overlap a bit, just avoid them being piled up on top of each other.

 Laying flowers out to dry on sheets of muslin cloth

Laying flowers out to dry on sheets of muslin cloth

6. Dry away from direct sunlight as this will deteriorate the flowers and encourage volatile oils (which hold a lot of herbal goodness) to evaporate and be lost.

7. Check on your flowers every few days and gently turn them to ensure air is reaching all parts of the leaves.

 Vibrant colours of dried Rose petals; bright colours imply a good quality dried herb

Vibrant colours of dried Rose petals; bright colours imply a good quality dried herb

You know that the flowers are ready if they crumble easily. If you are drying flowers or herbs for the first time it's a good idea to experiment with different areas in your home to find where the driest and best ventilated areas are!  Once they are dry you can store them in an airtight container, in a cupboard where there is no chance of them being in contact with moisture. Brown paper bags inside airtight containers or recycled jam jars work well.

Happy harvesting!

Psst. If you need some help with growing herbs or want to get started come along to our next workshop, City Gardening: Growing your own herbs on Thursday 27th July at the Bee Garden in Dalston.