Ultimate guide to preserving herbs

There are many ways to preserve fresh herbs and this week I tried them all! As cold weather fast approaches I needed to harvest and preserve all the herbs in my garden quickly before they froze. Of course fresh is the best way to use garden herbs, but I'm not willing to go without herbs all winter....so I went on an herb preserving spree.

Preserved herbs in oil and salt

At this point in time it's ok to harvest as much of the herbs as possible! Frost is just around the corner and anything not preserved will be lost after a good freeze, so go ahead and harvest all you want from perennial herbs. Because of the timing, I kinda went crazy. I ended up with baskets and baskets of basil, parsley, sage, mint, lemon balm, chives and more! 

This week alone I froze herbs in oil, made herb vinegars, compound butters, herb salts, dried herbs and made herb flavored sugars with the herbs left in my garden. That is an amazing array of herbs for later use!

How to clean spilled nail polish in seconds

Today I made a huge mess. I dropped a bottle of nail polish on the hard kitchen floor and not only did the top crack right off, but it starting spinning in circles, spewing purple nail polish in a giant spiral all over the floor! Thankfully spilled nail polish is super easy to clean up and within 3 minutes the floor looked good as new.

To clean spilled nail polish off a hard floor all you need to do is dump sugar on it. Lots of sugar, and do it quickly. Thankfully, I was in the kitchen so the sugar canister was nearby. Yes, I videoed it for you...because honestly, if I had not seen it work I wouldn't have believed a floor with a whole bottle of nail polish spilled on it could get that clean again! 

cleaning spilled nail polish without chemicals

It really did though! The nail polish wiped right up in less than 5 minutes! Unfortunately, because of the need to act fast I didn't get a picture till after I started treating it...but I'm sure you can just picture that part. Here's my lovely purple nail polish spiral covered in sugar. 

Crops you can plant in August

My garden just didn't meet my expectations this year. I tried to get everything planted on time but life got in the way and I literally only got half done. Now it's August and what I planted is doing great...but I didn't plant as much as last year! That's ok, that just means I have enough space to plant a fall garden!

I don't usually plant very much in fall, in fact I'm normally quite burned out by now, so planting the whole garden in August is a brand new adventure for me! I live in zone 5. Actually I'm considered zone 5B. Everything I'm planting in my garden is suitable for zones 5 & 6. Most of these will do well in zones 4 & 7 too, though it gets a little iffy if you get too far away from here!

Food crops to plant in August

When deciding what to plant in August, the first thing you'll want to do is determine your first frost date. This is pretty much the same as when we determined your last frost date, exact you're using the fall frost date instead of the spring frost date.

Since I'm smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh and Erie, I'll need to guess. My first frost should be somewhere between Oct 17 & 29. That gives me at least 60 days.

First frost date for fall garden

Obviously I want to plant things that will mature around 60 days or less, can tolerate cooler temperatures and maybe even some crops that are frost resistant once established.

Crops to plant in August

Kale: I started this list with my favorite as kale is the only cold hardy crop I have planted every single fall since I've started gardening. I affectionately refer to it as 'deer food' since inevitably the deer will find it and pull the covers off it to eat it in the dead of winter. *sigh* Once established many varieties of kale grow well in the cold and even tolerate a bit of snow.

Spinach: Once I learned the trick to quickly germinating spinach seeds I plant it several times a year. Tip: germinate seeds between wet paper towels in the refrigerator! See? Spinach really does prefer cooler temperatures!

Peas: How many times have I said that I love peas? Many, I'm sure! I have a few varieties of peas I plant that start to produce in under two months. (I'm probably most excited about fall peas!)

Beans: I chose bush beans for this year (ok, I lied....it's every year. I've literally been saving seeds from these plants every year for 8 years now, so I always plant the same ones) Bush beans mature in about 50 days so I will get at least one good harvest before the cold sets in. 

Carrots: These are hit or miss as sometimes fall carrots aren't ready in time before the temperatures drop too much. If that happens, just rake a load of dried leaves, straw or other mulch on top of them and let them be. The cooler temperatures make the carrots sweeter and they will continue to grow (slowly). Just part the mulch to harvest.

Click to enlarge image then right click to save.
10 crops to plant in august infographic.

That ends the portion of the garden I planted this week, however you don't have to stop there! There are several more vegetables you can plant in August if you're in my same zone: beets, turnips, radish and kohlrabi will all grow quickly enough to produce before winter.

Lettuce: Practically every common variety of lettuce still has time to produce at least 1 full harvest and luckily the cooler weather keeps it from bolting too fast. Unfortunately many varieties are frost sensitive so that first frost is often the end of lettuce. I have had pretty good luck by covering lettuce with plastic covers to get past the first few frosts.

Arugula growing in the fall garden

The lucky folks in the zone below me can get a decent harvest of cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli in before the cold gets too severe. I actually could have planted these from seed last month and harvested them in fall, but my brain was on summer vacation and I can't find any seedlings around here now!

Not in the same zone as me? Check out this list of what to plant in your fall garden for all zones, 1-10! Happy planting!

Want more posts on gardening in Autumn? Click here for my other posts on Fall gardening!


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Easiest way to preserve hot peppers

Ok, so in reality this is probably the easiest way to preserve any type of pepper, but since I mostly preserve hot peppers every year I'm going to focus on those! Why do I preserve so many hot peppers, you ask? Well, it's because I don't like them...so 'we' certainly can't eat them all during the growing season. 

My husband loves hot peppers though and by preserving them when their growing at their peak in summer, he has plenty for his pastas, pizzas and sandwiches all winter long. Plus, saving our own peppers means we don't have to pay a premium price for fresh peppers in winter! (I love that part!)

preserving peppers by freezing

The easiest way to preserve peppers is to simply clean, chop and freeze them. Not only is it a super simple method for preserving hot peppers, but they hold up great to freezing and do not lose any color or flavor when thawed.

How to dry herbs in the microwave

The herbs have been growing like mad in the garden and they are finally ready to harvest. I have been spending a lot of time harvesting and drying herbs over the last week and started to run out of room. Since my dehydrator was full, I started using my microwave to dry herbs and it is amazing!

I have one of those multi tray dehydrators and I use it all the time. It works really well, except it takes hours to dry each batch of fresh herbs and obviously it can only hold so much. When you use the microwave to dry herbs though, each batch is done in under 2 minutes. So you literally never run out of room since it's only just a minute or so till you can put a new batch of herbs in to dehydrate! 

Fresh herbs, drying in the microwave

Plus it's really great to use the microwave to dry herbs instead of a dehydrator when it's already hot outside and I'm resisting turning on the AC. The microwave doesn't blow out warm air like a regular dehydrator does. When it's running for the 8 hours it takes to dry each batch of fresh herbs, that's a lot of extra heat. 

Drying herbs in the microwave takes much less time than any other herb drying method. Plus, it's easy. It takes about the same amount of effort as using your car as a solar dehydrator...which is not much at all!