How to air dry herbs part 1

I still have fresh herbs in my yard and I don’t want them to go to waste. I have decided to dry them so I can use them all winter long. With the holidays right around the corner, I’m also hoping to gift a few jars!

This post part 1 is about preparing the herbs to be dried. I am currently waiting for the herbs to dry. As soon as the herbs have been dried, stay tuned for post part 2 to find out how they turned out and how to store the herbs.dsc_0105

The easiest method for drying herbs is to air dry. This is most effective for herbs that don’t have a lot of moisture, like oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I do have extra sage, however it has higher moisture content. I am still going to try to air dry the sage and will let you know how it turns out in post part 2.

Steps to air dry herbs

  1. Harvest the herbs before they flower. I have to admit, a few have started to flower, but I am still going to use them. This means they are not at their peak flavor, but still do the job. Only use healthy branches.dsc_0099
  2. Dry and clean the herb branches. Shake off the insects and pat dry with paper towel. I laid the herbs out on brown paper bags to dry overnight.
  3. Bundle and tie a few stems together. Make sure there is enough space for some air circulation. dsc_0096
  4. Punch holes in paper bags so that air can circulate through the bags.
  5. Put the herb bundles in the paper bags. Place a bundle or two upside down in each bag. Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle(s) and tie it closed, I used a rubber band. dsc_0097
  6. Keep the bags in a warm, airy room. I am keeping the bags in the basement, which is dry and about 60 Degrees Fahrenheit.
  7. Check on the herbs in two weeks. Keep in the bags until the herbs are dried.

Go cut those herbs before the winter hits hard. Stay tuned in early December for how to store the herbs and prepare them for gifting.

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Meet Hilary – making edible gardening possible for everyone

Do you want to grow food but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you have an edible garden, but like me, still have so many questions. Wherever you are at, one thing holds true, we all need a little guidance, support, and inspiration.

I can’t think of a better way to inspire you than to introduce you to a woman that has motivated and educated me about urban, edible gardening. Meet Hilary Dahl, Co-owner of Seattle Urban Farm Company and Creator of Encyclopedia Botanica Podcast. Not only is she wicked smart about gardening, but she distills the science into an easy guide that makes growing food possible for anyone. Plus, she is a super talented photographer, so don’t forget to follow @SeattleUrbanFarmCo on Instagram to get a daily dose of her amazing photos.hilary-pruning-peas-2

I had the opportunity to ask Hilary a series of questions about how she started her urban farming career, advice and tips for those that want to grow food, and helpful knowledge for those that are already working on their green thumb.  Plus, at the bottom of this post you will find a list of helpful resources from Hilary and Seattle Urban Farm Company and a GIVEAWAY. Enjoy!

Megan: What is your gardening mission?
Hilary: My mission to is make edible gardening accessible for everyone. I try to create content, such as the podcast, blog and social media feed, that help take the mystery out of home food production. Edible gardening is possible for anyone, our goal is to provide resources that empower people to get out there, be successful, and enjoy themselves.summer-harvest

Megan: Why did you decide to start a career in urban farming?
Hilary: I became interested in urban farming while in college. I attended the University of Washington and studied the relationship between environmentalism and urban planning. Urban agriculture seemed like a great tool to connect city dwellers to the natural world, improving their quality of life and providing a tangible way to increase their own environmental sustainability.

Megan: What advice would you give to those who are thinking of trying to grow food?
Hilary: I would encourage beginners to start small and read the instructions. You definitely want to start gardening with a space that you can easily manage, and to be honest with yourself about how much time you can spend in the garden each week. An hour a week is a reasonable amount of time to spend, which means you might want to begin with only a couple of small raised beds. A plant doesn’t have instructions per se, but seed packets and plant tags contain a surprising amount of information, as long as you read it! Beginners who do not heed the advice that accompanies their plants will almost always make mistakes that are easily avoidable! kale

Megan: What is the most difficult part of growing food?
Hilary: It can be challenging for people to accept that, as a farmer, they must deal with the vagaries of nature. Gardening provides a wonderful opportunity to connect to the natural world. However, crops are exposed to a wide range of threats including freezing temperatures, insect pests, fungal diseases, viruses and animals. Therefore, you have to understand that food production will have failures and that to be successful, you simply must persevere and try again!

Megan: What is your greatest learning from helping hundreds of people to start their own gardens?
Hilary: Growing food can be easy. However, it has been remarkable to see how many people make the same mistakes when they are getting started. Honestly, I think people just need to take a little bit of time before they get started to understand the basics. They should take a workshop, read one of our books or spend a few days helping out a friend who is already a gardener. There is a wealth of gardening knowledge out there waiting to be accessed, so get involved in your local community. hilarys-garden

Megan: If you were given a few more hours in the day, what would you choose to do?
Hilary: I could always spend more time taking photographs of the garden. I love being out with the plants first thing in the morning, and a mid-day and in the evening. It is amazing how much can change during the course of a day, and I’d love to have even more opportunities to capture everything that is happening out there.

Megan: What are the top 4 things someone should consider before starting their own garden?
Hilary: A few keys to getting the garden started properly: first, make sure your garden gets great sun exposure (at least 6 to 8 hours). Second, start with a space that is easy to manage (perhaps only a couple of raised beds). Third, use good quality soil and add organic fertilizers to your beds before planting. Lastly, always follow the plant spacing guidelines for each crop and make sure to water your crops regularly! If you do those things, you will almost certainly have a great first gardening season.

Megan: Do you think everyone should grow food?
Hilary: I think that growing food is good for people. Just about everyone would benefit from spending more time outside, getting their hands in the soil and eating more vegetables. Having a garden makes all of these things inevitable, so it’s a very healthy habithilary-and-bush-beans

Megan: If someone can only grow 3 plants? Which ones should they grow and why?
Hilary: Choosing only three plants would be challenging. I think the crops might be different for everyone. One of the things we have learned from working with lots of different gardeners, is that each person has their own tastes and preferences. Some people might only want to plant tomatoes, while another might only want salad greens. If I had to choose only three crops, they would be beets, kale and beans. I’d grow beets simply because they are my favorite vegetable to eat; kale because it has a long season, produces a ton of food from each plant and is very nutrient dense; green beans are also big producers and are easy to store by canning, drying or freezing, so you can eat them year-round. beets

Megan: A lot of people don’t have yards; can they grow edible food on a deck or in pots?
Hilary: You can definitely create an edible garden on a deck or in pots anywhere you have room. Make sure the space gets at least 6 hours of sunlight, make sure you can easily get water to the space so you can irrigate your plants (pots dry out really fast), and make sure to use a potting soil in the containers. Potting soil is essential, because regular garden soil will become compacted and too dense in a container for crops to grow well. There is no such thing as a space that is too small, even growing one pot of basil is a fun gardening project! container-garden

Megan: What is your most favorite edible plant to grow and why?
Hilary: I have too many favorites to choose only one, but I really like growing lettuce. Because lettuce grows really quickly, you can keep replanting it all season long. I plant 3-4 heads of lettuce in the garden every week or two and this means that I can have a salad pretty much any day of the year. Lettuce is a great crop because it is easy to grow, it matures quickly and pretty much every meal benefits from the addition of a salad. salad-greens-in-a-pot

Megan: What is next for you?
Hilary: I am really hoping that our new podcast, Encyclopedia Botanica, will find a nationwide audience. I think there is a need for a down-to-earth edible gardening resource and I love the podcast medium. Podcasts are such an easy way for people to learn and I am just trying to get the word out there so that everyone knows what we are up to.

Helpful gardening resources from Hilary and Seattle Urban Farm Company:

Podcast
Encyclopedia Botanica

Books
Food Grown Right in Your Backyard – a must-have!

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening

Blog 
Seattle Urban Farm Company Blog

Instagram
SeattleUrbanFarmCo

GIVEAWAY!

Last but not least, Hilary and I have teamed up to give away a copy of the must-have book “Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard” by Seattle Urban Farm Company’s Co-Founders!

Giveaway begins Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Check Instagram on Tuesday for details! 
 
To enter for the chance to win:

  1. Follow both SeattleUrbanFarmCo and SeedSproutGarden on Instagram
  2. Leave a comment and tag a friend sharing why you love gardening
  3. Chance to enter giveaway ends Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 11:59pm PST
  4. Winner will be announced on both SeattleUrbanFarmCo and SeedSproutGarden Instagram accounts on Friday, November 18, 2016megan-8

Good luck! While your waiting, listen to the latest episode of Encyclopedia Botanica.

Photography by Hilary Dahl