How to Make Herb-Infused Vinegars and Oils

Make Herb-Infused Vinegars and Oils

Making your own herbal infusions in oils and vinegar is a great way to preserve herb flavors from your garden. Since comparable store-bought bottles can be pricey, you’ll save money and have some delicious artisanal gifts to give to friends and family.

Harvesting and Drying Herbs

Bundles of rosemary, lavender, sage, pineapple mint, and thyme are easy to dry and retail their flavor.

Some herbs can be infused dry; others should be infused fresh. Dill, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage are all suited for dry infusion. Basil, cilantro, chili, and chives have the most flavor when infused fresh.

Harvest herbs from your garden early in the morning using clean, sharp scissors or pruners. If you plan to use fresh herbs, start your infusion immediately after cleaning the stems. To prepare dry herbs, hang them upside down in bundles or lay them in a single layer on trays in a dark, cool area. (Click here for some other drying methods.)

Which Herbs to Infuse

Choose herbs that are fresh from the garden in pleasing combinations that suit your taste.

The herbs you choose are entirely up to you! What are you growing? What’s freshest in the garden and best for your flavor palate? You can make single herb infusions, like basil oil or rosemary vinegar, or you can blend flavors together, like citrus zest, chili, and thyme. Choose a few options, and you’ll have plenty of ways to add spice to your kitchen creations.

Oil Infusion Methods

The stovetop method is one way to infuse herbal oil. A double boiler or saucepan set on low heat also work. Cilantro, garlic, rosemary, and thyme are in this infusion.

Infusing the flavors of herbs in oil is most effective when the oil is warmed. This can be done on the stovetop, in the sun, or a Crockpot. The infused oils will be ready in just a few hours this way. You can also place herbs in oil for a cold infusion as long as you have the time to wait for six weeks to get your finished herbal oil.

Safety notes: When infusing herbs into oil, be sure to use dried herbs for the stovetop and sun-infused methods. Jars and bottles must also be dry and sterile. (Click here to learn how to sterilize jars and bottles.) Clean, dry, chopped or processed fresh herbs can be used for the slow-cooker method, as long as the oil is heated to a temperature just over 140 degrees F, which is hot enough to kill bacteria.

Stovetop Oil Infusion

Slowly heat the oil and herbs in a double boiler. Pack as many herbs as possible into the boiler top. Then, pour the oil over them–enough to fill your jars or bottles. Pour an inch of water into the bottom of the double boiler. Heat the double boiler on medium-high for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to low for a few hours until the oil becomes aromatic. If you do not have a double boiler, you can use a saucepan set on the lowest heat setting.

Sun Oil Infusion

Pack herbs into a large mason jar and pour oil over them, covering the herbs completely. Screw the top onto the jar, and leave it out in the sun for up to eight hours. To avoid overheating the herbs and eliminating some of their benefits, don’t use this infusion process during the height of summer. This method works best during the warm parts of late spring and early fall.

Slow Cooker Oil Infusion

Place the dried herbs into the Crockpot. Cover them with oil. Heat on low (190 degrees F) for a few hours or until the oil becomes fragrant. To create multiple oils at the same time, place the herbs in mason jars, cover with oil, and add a lid to each jar. Fill the Crockpot with a couple of inches of water and heat.

Editor’s note: If using fresh herbs, such as basil, start with a large bunch–maybe six big stems. Clean the stems and pat them dry. Blanche them in boiling water for 5-10 seconds, place them on a towel and lightly pat them dry, then put them in a food processor with a pinch of salt and puree them. Add the puree to a clean 16 oz. canning jar, fill with light olive oil, and cover with a lid. Fill the Crockpot with a couple of inches of water, place the jar in the water, and heat for a couple of hours. Finally, place three layers of cheesecloth over a bowl, pour the mixture through, and squeeze out all of the basil oil. Pour the oil in a fresh, clean jar and store it in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. Another option is to store it in the freezer in a well-sealed plastic freezer container until use. A lidded silicon ice cube tray also makes a good container.

Cold Infusion

Pack dry herbs into a jar, lightly compacting them until filled to the top. Pour olive, canola, or grapeseed oil over them, gently pressing them down with a spoon to release some of the air bubbles. Completely cover the herbs with oil. Set the jar in a cold, dark room for four to six weeks.

Vinegar Infusion Methods

Apple cider vinegar makes lively herbal infusions.

The method you use to infuse vinegar depends on whether you are using herbs alone or adding fruit. In either case, the herbs do not need to be dried first. Pick fresh, clean herbs from the garden, and add them to the vinegar of your choice. Keep in mind that better quality vinegar will result in a better final product. White wine, apple cider, and coconut vinegars are lively when infused. If you have a sweet tooth, white balsamic is good for fruity infusions.

Herb and Fruit Vinegars

Herbs such as basil, lemon balm, and mint can make refreshing vinegars.

If you’re infusing vinegar with both herbs and fruit, such as strawberries, choose fruit that is ripe and free of blemishes. Wash it and cut off any stems. Harvest and wash fresh herbs. Bruise them with the back of a knife to release their scent and taste. Pack the fruit and herbs together into a jar. Cover them with vinegar and secure the top of the jar. Place it in a cool, dark room for ten days. Strain the solids out of the vinegar. Stire it in the fridge for up to a month.

Herb and Fruit Vinegar Recipes:

Strawberry Herb Infused Vinegar

Fennel & Citrus Infused Vinegar

Herb Vinegars

Pack washed and bruised herbs into a jar. Cover them completely with vinegar and secure the top. Place it in a cool, dark room for about two weeks. Strain the herbs out of the vinegar. Store the finished vinegar in the fridge.

Herb Vinegar Recipes:

Fresh Herb and Nasturtium Infused Vinegar

Chive Blossom Vinegar and Vinaigrette

Vinegars and oils should be capped and properly stored to enjoy for the months to come. They also make fine gifts for sharing.

Sometimes it looks attractive to leave some of the fruit and herbs in your vinegar jars.

What Medicinal Herbs Grow Well in Central Florida?

What Medicinal Herbs Grow Well in Central Florida?

“What Medicinal Herbs Grow Well in Central Florida? I moved to Florida and I want to know which native medicinal herbs to look for and grow here at my new home.” Question from Susan of St. Pete Beach, Florida

Answer: There are lots of medicinal herbs that will grow well in your Zone 9 garden. I recommend that you read our article titled Grow an Apothecary Garden: Flowers and Herbs for Healing as well as our article about growing an Herbal Tea Garden and one titled Garden Cold and Flu Remedies. Most of the herbs in these articles will grow well in your area. You can even grow your own healing fresh ginger indoors or outdoors in pots in Florida (click here to learn how)! I hope that these resources help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Do I Keep Spreading Herbs in Bounds?

Keep Spreading Herbs in Bounds

“I know a lot of herbs spread on their own. Do I need to put barriers in the ground to keep them from taking over?” Question from Glenda of Sewell, New Jersey

Answer: Barriers are required to keep spreading herbs in bounds. The worst spreading perennial herbs are mints of all kinds and oregano, another member of the mint family. They spread by underground runners and some are so aggressive that they will take over a garden space in no time to noxious proportions. The runners can move their way around rocks and under stone edging to invade further garden spaces or lawns. Sometimes they can even escape from the bottom holes of pots!

Confining Mints

Confine mints in large pots on pavement or within deep collars in herb gardens. If you choose to grow your mints in pots, it is wise to place a piece of window screen across the bottom to keep the roots from escaping. (Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix is a great growing mix for potted herbs.) A collar can be created by cutting the bottom off of a large nursery pot and sinking it in the garden; be sure to keep 2 inches of the lip above ground. Plant the mint in the center. Most herbs grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. (Click here to learn more about growing herbs.)

Confined mints will outgrow pots and collars and need to be divided or thinned every couple of years to keep them happy and healthy.

Happy herb gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Essential Culinary Herbs of the Seasons

Essential culinary herbs are best planted in spring.

Stylish and serviceable herb gardens are a delight through the growing season when they appeal to the eye and senses and provide fresh herbs. In winter, stores of dried and frozen herbs make cooking a pleasure. If you don’t already have a culinary herb garden, you are missing out. And, there’s no reason not to grow one. Essential culinary herbs are the easiest plants in a food gardener’s repertoire.

Every culture relies on essential herbs to flavor their foods. In past blogs, we have written about French herb gardens, Indian herb gardens, herbal tea gardens, herb containers, lemon-scented herbs, and apothecary gardens, but oddly enough, we have never written about growing herbs essential to western cuisine. These are the common (and pricy) herbs that homeowners buy at the grocery store (despite the fact that they grow like weeds). Herbs are yawn and water garden plants unless you want to make a show and create a formal herbary or knot garden.

Essential Herbs of Spring

Chives are lightly oniony and very springy. (Image by Jessie Keith)

The first chives of spring are so bright and welcome when added to fresh vegetables and salads, as are the tender leaves of parsley when they begin to unfurl and are at their sweetest. Fine cilantro and dill–both cool-season annuals–are two other spring herbs no garden should be without. In late spring, count on chamomile to produces its sweet daisies that are harvested and dried to make delicious, soothing tea to enjoy year-round. These are the spring herb essentials.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8): Chives put forth tidy clusters of oniony, grassy foliage in spring. Pompons of edible mauve flowers bloom in mid-spring, rising above the upright foliage. Harvest them fresh, when they are most flavorful. In summer, chives wane in the heat but will often perk back up in fall.

Chamomile (Matricaria retutica, Zones 2-8) is a winter annual or short-lived perennial to sow in fall. It will overwinter as a ferny green rosette and then bloom in full glory with a flurry of small white daisies in spring. Harvest the flowers for drying when they just begin to open. Allow some plants to set seed to encourage new fall seedlings.


Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a leafy annual that likes it cool and starts producing stems of white flowers and seeds as the weather heats up. But, that’s a good thing because its seedheads, which dry by summer, are crushed to make the spice coriander. Harvest the leaves while you can for guacamole, salads, and salsas. Also, consider cilantro a fall herb to seed in no later than early September.

Dill (Anethum graveolens) is a true spring annual herb that you only need plant once. Harvest the ferny green leaves to flavor salads, spreads, and pickles, and


let the yellow-green umbel flowerheads dry for flavorful dill seed. Let some seed fall to the ground and sprout for a second dill harvest in fall.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) comes in curly and flat-leaved forms and lends fresh flavor to sauces, salads, and meats. Lush clumps of parsley leaves flourish in the cool spring weather and give way to flowering in the heat of summer, after which the plants die. If you replant parsley in fall, it will often survive through winter.

Essential Herbs of Summer

Oregano continues to stay green and flavorful until frost.

Sweet basil tastes like summer–whether used to flavor sauce, pesto or added to a citrusy summer drink. Mints of all kinds grow rampantly and need containment, but every gardener should have at least one pot of good mint. Thymes, especially lemon thyme, is a summer staple at my home that lends itself well to chicken, fish, salads, and vegetables. Oregano and piney rosemary are necessities for grilled meats and vegetables. These are the summer herb essentials.


Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a warm-season herb that’s grown as an annual. The key to keeping it sweet and flavorful is to clip off the flower heads off as they appear. Grow it in the garden or containers. (See the video below to learn how to care for container-grown basil.), and clip the leaves all summer to keep plants tidy and flavorful. (Click here to learn how to grow basil indoors in winter.)

Mint (Mentha spp.) leaves flavor summer mojitos, tabouli, and fresh mint tea. The plant is so easy to grow you can plunk a stem in a glass of water, and it will root in a week. Its aggressive nature is a mint’s only downfall. One seemingly harmless plant can take over a garden in no time, so plant it in a big pot filled with Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Soil to keep its roots from roaming. When it starts to


outgrow the pot, divide it, and give the spare to a friend (with fair warning).

Oregano (Origanum vulgare, Zones 4-10) has rooting stems that tend to spread, so be sure to give it space to grow. You can also contain oregano in a pot. Clusters of edible purple flowers bloom in midsummer, which attracts bees. Use the leaves to flavor meats, vegetables, and sauces in summer. In fall, dry or freeze the leaves for winter cooking.


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, Zones 8-10) is a drought-tolerant, shrubby, evergreen herb with resinous needle-like leaves that taste great on meats and in sauces. Bees are attracted to its violet-blue flowers that bloom in late spring. The cold-tolerant variety ‘Arp’ (Zones 6-10) is a hardier option for northern gardeners. Dry the leaves for winter use.

Thyme (Thymus spp., Zones 5-9) has small, aromatic leaves that are evergreen. In late spring, the low, spreading, shrubby herb bears small clusters of flowers for bees that may be pink, purplish, or white. Plant it along a patio edge where it can spill across the pavement or in a pot. Harvest the leafy stems any time of year to add to many dishes or dry the leaves for herbal mixes.

Essential Herbs of Fall and Winter

Bayleaf is a great indoor/outdoor potted herb.

Sage tastes of turkey stuffing and pairs well with pumpkin. And bean soups never taste quite as good without the complement of winter savory. A big pot of bay leaf should be a winter houseplant for every gardener that cooks. Just be sure to take the pot outdoors in summer to let the Mediterranean tree to enjoy the sunshine. Spicy ginger is another indoor/outdoor tropical herb that will grow well in a sunny window. These are the essential herbs of winter.

Sage in winter

Bayleaf (Laurus nobilis, Zones 8-10) will grow as a 20-30 foot evergreen tree where it is hardy, but if kept pruned in a pot, it will stay compact. Harvest the leaves for soups, sauces, and meats, but keep in mind that new leaves will not be produced until spring, so be sure not to strip the plant of all greenery and kill it. Pot-grown specimens thrive in OMRI Listed®Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix. (Click here to learn more about growing bay leaf.) 

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) grows very well as a potted house plant in a brightly lit spot with good humidity. Its roots can be harvested as the plants grow and used to make sweet and savory dishes. As with bay leaf, bring your potted ginger outdoors in summer to allow it to grow to its fullest. (Click here to learn more about growing ginger.)

Winter savory in summer

Sage (Salvia officinalis, Zones 4-8) has felted, gray-green, evergreen leaves with a pungent flavor. The hardy shrubby perennial bears pretty lavender-blue flowers in summer, which are also edible and attract bees. It is best to harvest and dry leaves in fall for winter cooking, but if you run out, you can always pick off a winter leaf or two without harming the plant.

Winter Savory (Satureja montana, Zones 6-8) The low, semi-evergreen winter savory looks attractive through much of the season. Its peppery leaves add flavor to green beans, soups, and stews. In summer, it has clusters of white or pinkish flowers that attract bees. Plant it along the edge of an herbal border.

Growing Herbs

Perennial herb borders are attractive and have permanence.

To make it easy, all of these essential culinary herbs grow best in full sun and fertile soil with good drainage. Most are not too demanding when it comes to fertilizer, but a little all-purpose plant food at the beginning of season never hurts. Spring is the best time to plant them, aside from tender indoor/outdoor herbs. Before planting, amend your garden soil with good compost, such as OMRI Listed® Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, to encourage good rooting and drainage.

When planning an herb garden, it’s smart to keep your annual and perennial herbs apart. Perennial herb borders are attractive and have permanence. They look right at home in raised beds or even pretty herbal rockeries. Just remember to reserve mints for big patio pots. Annual herbs are nice to plant among complementary vegetables. Dill is right at home planted alongside cucumbers, and almost everybody plants their sweet basil around garden tomatoes. Chamomile looks pretty when planted in a row beside spring greens or cabbages. Then keep your herbs harvested and well-tended to make the most of them all year round. (Click here to learn how to harvest and store herbs.)

What Herbs Have Anti-Viral Properties?

[What are the] best herbs for anti-viral use? Question from Jason of Providence, Rhode Island

Answer: What a timely question. We hesitate to give medicinal advice regarding herbal remedies for viral infections, but we do recommend that you read a useful medical article about “Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines” published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health in 2014. It provides a full review of effective anti-viral herbals at that time. Click here to read it, and check out Table 1. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), dandelion (Taraxicum officinale), and basil (Ocimum basilicum) are among the more common, safe herbal plants mentioned that have extracts with demonstrated anti-viral activity.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

What Herbs Can I Grow in Central Florida?

What are the best herbs for Central Florida? Question from Sherry of Silver Springs, Florida.

Answer: You can grow common, heat-loving herbs well in Florida. These include basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. The only potential caveat is that these popular herbs are Mediterranean and don’t like excessive moisture. For this reason, I would plant them in raised beds or containers, which tend to drain more quickly. Choose a fast-draining garden soil, like Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix, for best results. Another important factor is that common perennial herbs like these require cool or cold winters to survive for years. This means that you will have to plant fresh starts a little more often.

Tropical lemongrass, which loves heat, humidity, and moisture, is an ideal herb for your climate if you like its lemony flavor (click here for a full list of lemony herbs). It should grow year-round for you. (Watch the video below about how to grow lemongrass.)

Here’s a little more about these heat-tolerant herbs.


Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is grown as an annual but will survive for several years where winters are mild. It is one of the best herbs for growing down South. (Watch the video below about growing basil in containers.)


Oregano (Origanum vulgare, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10) needs full sun and has low, rooting stems that spread, so be sure to give it space to grow. I recommend a low, wide pot.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9) is a common herb across Europe with a low, spreading, shrubby habit and pungent evergreen leaves. It requires well-drained soil and a sunny spot.


The leathery, gray, evergreen leaves of sage (Salvia officinalis, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8) are tasty, and this hardy shrubby perennial bears pretty lavender-blue flowers in summer, which are also edible, and attract bees. Give it plenty of sun and soil with good drainage.


Of all the lavenders, I like ‘Provence’ (Lavandula x intermedia ‘Provence’, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9) because it is very fragrant and flowers heavily. It is a vigorous hybrid between English lavender (L. angustifolia) and Portuguese lavender (L. latifolia).  (To learn more about growing lavender, click here.)


In the Mediterranean, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis , USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10) is a favorite in landscapes and edible gardens. This sun and drought-loving herb has needle-like leaves that are resinous and fragrant. I recommend protecting is from excessive rain in Florida (click here to read more).

Happy herb gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

When Are Herbs Ready For Harvest?

“How do you know when herbs are really ready to pick for use?  I never seem to get it right.” Question from Jim of Peoria, Illinois

Answer: By in large, the best time to harvest many herbs is when their leaves are healthy and lush in spring and midsummer. This is particularly the case with chives, chamomile, lemon balm, mint, parsley, and oregano.

In many cases, herbs taste best before they have flowered, although the flowers of some herbs are edible (Click here to learn more about edible herb flowers.). This is especially important with basil. Once the plants have flowered, the leaves turn from sweet, aromatic, and lightly fragrant to strong, pungent, and kind of unpleasant. That’s why gardeners pinch their buds off to keep them from flowering. (See the video below.)

Many evergreen herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and sage, continue to taste great all season and mellow out in the cool weather of fall. This is when I like to harvest them most.

Here are a few other articles about growing herbs:

Can You Help Me to Learn How to Grow Herbs?

Five Lemon-Scented Herbs

Help! I Can’t Keep Herbs Alive.

I hope that this information helps!

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Herb Crafting: Three Herbs to Grow and Ways to Use Them

You don’t need a huge garden to make an abundance of herb crafts to benefit your home, garden, and artistic inclinations. Starting with just a few common and versatile herbs is an easy way to get your hands dirty and feel the magic of plants. I’ve chosen three herbs that are perfect for herb crafting because you can turn them into all sorts of potions, lotions, recipes, and garden crafts. Wait until you see all that you can create with these three familiar garden herbs: lavender, rosemary, and calendula.

English Lavender (Lavandula spp.)

Homemade lavender soap leaves one fragrant and refreshed.

Lavender is my all-time favorite scent. It’s light, floral, and soothing, but even more, it has helpful herbal properties that can be used in your home, garden, on your skin, and also in the kitchen. The scent of lavender has a balance of sweetness and spice that makes it appetizing and appropriate for baking, tea, soda-flavoring, and all kinds of body care recipes. The scent promotes relaxation and exudes cleanliness, which makes it ideal for scentings linens and clothing. And its antiseptic and antibacterial properties make it a perfect aroma to freshen the air, your skin, and your home.


English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8) is native to the Mediterranean, so it loves climates with hot, dry summers and cool winters. It is drought-resistant and thrives in well-drained soil with some organic matter and a neutral to slightly alkaline pH (6.4 to 8.2). Plant English lavender in full sun and prune in both early spring and late summer to keep a neat and productive plant. Cut it back up to one-third while pruning and reserve the unopened flower buds and leaves to use in recipes around the house. (For a more detailed growing guide, read more here.)


Harvest Lavandula angustifolia when it has visible purple buds but before the flowers open.

For dried flowers, harvest Lavandula angustifolia when it has visible purple buds but before the flowers open; buds retain better color and fragrance. Harvest the stems in the morning when the oil content of the leaves and flowers is the highest. Use sharp, clean pruners. (Leave some of the shorter bud stems on the plant for bees.) Gather the harvested stems into a bundle, tie them together with twine, and hang the bundle upside down to dry in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

When dry, roll the stems between your palms over a plate to catch the buds. You can also remove the leaves to infuse the oil, vinegar, and make tea. Store the dried flowers and leaves separately in airtight containers for up to one year.


  • Fill small muslin drawstring bags with dried lavender buds for sweet-smelling sachets. Tuck them into your pillow, linen closet, sock drawer, or anywhere that could use a little refreshing.
  • Make a lavender eye pillow with unpopped popcorn or flax seeds and lavender buds.
  • Add dried lavender to homemade bath salts, homemade soap recipes, bombs, melts, and other tub-time goodies.
  • Infuse simple syrup with lavender and add it to lemonade, soda, or your favorite cocktail.
  • Make a decorative lavender wreath that adds fragrance and beauty to the indoors.
  • Add dried lavender buds to your favorite herbal tea blend for a floral flavor and soothing effect that can help with insomnia. It pairs wonderfully with chamomile and rose.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Homemade rosemary lemon salt is delicious and easy to make.

Rosemary has long been prized for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It is excellent for deodorizing and cleaning; the scent is purported to help focus and memory. In ancient times, scholars wore crowns of rosemary when studying for exams, so imagine how it can help you perk up in the morning shower! Did you know that rosemary is also well known to be THE herb for healthy hair? It stimulates hair growth and adds shine.

Most of all, rosemary is beloved for its delicious flavor in recipes. It ramps up a roast and cooked root vegetables and adds an earthy punch to soups and stews. Whether you are freshening up your home, trying to wake up or adding oomph to hearty recipes. Rosemary can’t be beat!


Rosemary cultivars have variable hardiness. Most overwinter in USDA Hardiness Zones 8-10, but some hardier varieties, like ‘Arp’, may survive in Zones 6 or 7. Otherwise, grow rosemary in a pot that you can bring indoors in fall or grow it as an annual. It likes well-drained soil and full sun. Rosemary does well in dry conditions, so be careful not to overwater it. Overwatering rosemary can commonly lead to root rot.


Cut rosemary springs and dry them as you would lavender.

Cut sprigs of rosemary to use fresh or tie them up in a bundle to dry, the same way you would with lavender. When dry, remove the leaves by pinching the top of the stem with your finger and thumb and running it along the stem to the bottom. The leaves will pop right off. Keep dried rosemary sealed in an airtight container for up to one year.


  • Make rosemary sachets to deodorize any place in your home that needs it, like gym bags and stinky shoes.
  • Add the leaves to homemade soap recipes or a morning salt scrub for exfoliating skin treatment and energizing scent that will help you start the day with a spring in your step.
  • Make a rosemary hair rinse by infusing three fresh new stems of rosemary in one cup of apple cider vinegar for 2-3 weeks. Apply to the scalp, massage in, and rinse thoroughly to add shine and softness. Here are a few more rosemary hair care recipes.
  • Whip up a batch of this rosemary lemon sea salt and sprinkle it on EVERYTHING. Yum.
  • Chew a rosemary leaf for an instant breath-freshener.

Calendula, Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula tea is healthful and effortless to produce and store.

Many people view calendula as an annual garden flower, but with so many healing properties and beneficial uses, herb nerds see it more as a versatile garden herb. It’s been used for thousands of years to help heal minor wounds and inflammations, has a bright and sunny personality that attracts a host of beneficial insects to the garden, and it could not be easier to grow. Include calendula in your herb garden this year for some pops of color and fun herbal crafts.


Calendula is an annual that grows easily from seed either sown directly in the garden or indoors. Begin seeds indoors about eight weeks before transplanting calendula in the garden. Plant your calendula somewhere in the garden with good soil amended with fertilizer-boosted Black Gold Earthworm Castings that gets a lot of light but isn’t extremely hot. Deadhead and harvest the flowers liberally throughout the season, and you’ll have continual blooms to pick from spring to fall.


Harvest calendula flowers when they are freshly open.

Harvest the full flower heads from new blooms and spread them out in a single layer in a drying screen (which can be as simple as using a window screen) or setting them in one layer in a shallow basket. Leave the flowers in a well-ventilated area that is cool, dry, and away from direct sunlight. After a few days, test for dryness. The petals should sound crunchy and not feel cool to the touch. Store the dried flowers in an airtight container for up to one year.


  • Use fresh calendula petals to decorate cakes or other desserts. The bright orange and yellow ray florets are a festive natural way to add color that is appealing on sweet treats.
  • Calendula petals have a mildly spicy taste that pairs with savory foods as well. When entertaining, add them to salads and pizza for a fresh summer presentation that also helps to aid in digestion. They also make a soothing, healing tea.
  • Add dried petals to bath salts for natural colors and a spa-bathing experience amongst floating flowers.
  • Infuse your favorite oil with calendula petals and then add it to any skincare recipe that calls for oil.
  • Make a healing salve for minor cuts, bruises, and scrapes.

Petal Heads: Flowers to Grow for Colorful Dried Petals

Cornflower and pot marigold petals are some of the best and brightest for drying.

Flowers are gorgeous in the garden and freshly cut for indoor arrangments, but their benefits go beyond the beauty of the fresh bloom. Dried petals are a wonderful material to have on hand for craft projects and homemade skincare recipes.

I keep a whole collection of jars of different dried petals on hand in my home apothecary to use throughout the year. You can use them to make pretty greeting cards, frame them to create wall art, sew them into fragrant sachets, mix edible petals into herbal teas for a custom blend, or—my favorite thing to do—add them to your own natural skincare recipes! They bring gorgeous color and healing properties to bath salts, bombs, or infuse the oil to add beauty, and sometimes fragrance, to recipes.

How to Dry Petals

For all petals used for craft projects, especially in skincare recipes and teas, be sure that the flowers come from an organic source and have not been sprayed. Many florist’s blooms are heavily chemically treated, so you are much better off growing and harvesting flowers from your home garden or buying them from an organic flower farmer at the local market.

For petals used for paper-crafting purposes, press them between the pages of a large book or in a wooden flower press. If phone books are still being distributed in your town, pressing flower petals is a perfect way to reuse them. You can fit quite a few petals between the pages, and then top them with some heavy books to press.

When you don’t need the petals to be flat, you can spread them out on a large flat screen like a window screen. Space the petals out so they are not piled up on top of each other and have good air circulation. Leave them in a dry area away from direct sunlight. It can be tempting to dry them in the sun, but this will cause their color to fade and leave you with a less-than-impressive end product. When they are completely dry (they will feel crispy), store them in an airtight container away from direct sunlight.

Which Petals to Dry

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Bon Bon Yellow Pot Marigold (Image by Jessie Keith)

These flowers with their striking orange, yellow, or deep golden petals are more than just a pretty face; they have also been prized for centuries for their healing properties. I love to add the petals straight into my favorite summer lotion bars, infuse the oil with calendula petals, and use it to make healing salves and balms for minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises.

Roses (Rosa spp.)

Improved Lafayette Rose (Image by Jessie Keith)

Deep-colored rose petals look beautiful when added to craft projects or floating in a bathtub. I choose red, pink, and coral petals to dry because the pale lavender, white, and yellow ones fade and brown too much. Also, look for fragrant varieties as they will impart scent in the projects. The petals are wonderful in tea, bath salts, and bath bombs where they are presented dried and used submerged in water. Rose petals will not hold color in soap projects but they can be used to decorate the top of soaps. (Click here to learn how to make your own fragrant rose water.)

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

Cornflower Mix

Cornflower petals hold their bright blue, pink, and purple colors beautifully and have a lovely delicate shape. I like to add them to bottles of homemade perfume to give them a pretty botanical look. My favorite mix to grow is the Classic Artists’ Mix (which can be seen in the Garden Therapy’s Natural Beauty Seed Collection). With a seed blend, you get a huge variety of colorful petals that range from deep tones to pastels in blue, purple, and pink.

Goldy Double Sunflower (Helianthus annuus ‘Goldy’)

Goldy Double Sunflower (Image by Stephanie Rose)

Sunflower petals are just gorgeous in rich yellow, gold, or russet colors that remind me of the late summer sun. They smell faintly of sunflower seeds, but their value is mostly in their bright hues. Use them for adding natural color to bath salts, adorn homemade bath bombs, or soap. Add them to anything that needs a pop of color. Look for those varieties with fully double blooms for the most petals. I love to grow ‘Goldy Double’ or ‘Teddy Bear’ double varieties.

Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma)

Scarlet Beebalm

Grow and harvest scarlet beebalm for the bees, but also leave plenty of bright-red petals to harvest and dry for craft projects. The petals have an almost minty fragrance (the plants are in the mint family) and hold their color well when dried, although they become quite small and thread-like. They look wonderful in a mix of other dried mints for homemade tea blends, bath salts, and a fragrant, relaxing foot soak.

Peonies (Paeonia spp.)

Rosy Pink Peony

The large, colorful petals of peonies are perfect for making wreaths, wall art, greeting cards, and other pretty crafts. Collect and dry them from the flowers just as they are falling to the ground but before they start to turn brown. You will get to enjoy the bloom in the garden and save the mess that they create. Darker flowers yield prettier dried petals. Dried peony petals set in a dish make for a fragrant and decorative air freshener.

Pansies and Violets (Viola spp.)

Johnny Jump Up Pansies

These sweet little flowers are best preserved by pressing. Try to keep the whole flower intact by keeping a bit of the stem in place. When they are completely dry, they will hold their colors well for many years. They look lovely adorning homemade greeting cards or pressed into bath bombs as decoration.

Lavenders (Lavandula spp.)

English Lavender

One of the easiest and popular flowers to dry, lavender has the most heavenly scent that lasts long after it is dried. Make lavender sachets to keep linens fresh. The scent will also help to promote a night of relaxing sleep. The floral stems can be made into wreaths, dried flower arrangements, or used to decorate homemade candles. If you want your lavender buds to retain their purple color when dry, choose a dark-colored variety like Lavendula angustifolia ‘Thumbelina Leigh’,  which keeps the deep purple buds many years after harvest. Harvest the stems when the buds have formed but before the flowers have opened. Bundle the stems and hang them in a dry, cool location.

All of these flowers need fertile to average soil with good drainage. Black Gold®Garden Soil is high in organic matter for increased fertility and has the added bonus of fertilizer to ensure good establishment. Fortify your petal garden soil, and your flowers will shine!

(Want to learn more about the best edible garden flowers? Watch this video!)

What are the Best Raised Bed Plants for High Desert Gardens?

What are the best plants to grow in a raised bed garden in high desert regions?” Question from Jill of Greybull, Wyoming

Answer: With the dry, scorching highs of the day and cool nights, you are certainly limited in what you can grow in the high desert unless you create an enclosed garden conducive to vegetable, herb, and flower gardening. It’s all about enriching the soil (compost and coir are good, water-holding amendments), watering well, and protecting plants from the worst midday sun as well as heat, winds, and hungry wildlife. (Click here to learn more about protective vegetable gardening in the high desert.)

Here is a good list of vegetables and herbs that can take the hot sun, dry heat, and cooler nights.


Artichokes: Artichokes are from dry Mediterranean areas and develop deep tap roots for good water uptake. Their leaves are large, so be sure to protect them from drying winds to the best of your ability. They are perennial and generally produce one to two good crops of chokes per season.

Beans: The pole bean ‘Hopi Purple‘ string bean is a reliable grower in dry regions. For dry beans, ‘Mountain Pima Pinto‘ is delicious and perfectly suited for your area.

Corn: Western dry corn varieties are the easiest to grow in the high desert. Try the beautiful popcorn variety ‘Navajo Copper‘ or the beautiful ‘Glass Gem‘. If sweet corn is your favorite, grow the super sweet, bicolored ‘Trinity‘, which is shorter (5’) and very early to produce.

Peppers: All small-fruited hot chile peppers will grow well in hot, dry areas. Mild chiles, like poblanos, are also excellent in addition to the super flavorful and prolific frying/mole pepper ‘Holy Moly’. If you like sweets, try the small-sized Lunchbox mini bell peppers, which demand less water than those with large, blocky fruits.

Okra: Okra can take the heat and some drought. I would choose a more compact variety, like ‘Jambalaya‘, which is very small but produces early and well with lots of green okra pods.

Summer Squash: Mediterranean bush squashes are good choices for high-desert growing. The compact ‘Clarimore‘ has pale green, thin-skinned squash that tastes great.

Tomatoes: There are loads of tomatoes that are specially bred to grow well in high heat, and if provided good irrigation and fertilizer they grow well in the high desert, too. These include the hybrids Heatwave II and ‘Summer Set‘. Both are classic red tomatoes with good flavor. The heirloom, red-fruited ‘Arkansas Traveler‘ is another with excellent heat resistance in addition to the flavorful ‘Eva Purple Ball‘. A good red cherry is ‘Texas Wild Cherry‘. Tomatillos are also reliable in the west.

Winter Squash: Native American western winter squashes are the best for dryland growing. The rustic fruits of ‘Navajo Hubbard‘ and ‘Seminole‘ pumpkins grow well, but the vines require lots of space. For smaller vines, try the compact, bush ‘Delicata‘, which has some of the sweetest squash around.


Many herbs will grow reliably in your area with adequate irrigation. The best include Thai basil, rosemary, sage, Mexican oregano, and creeping thyme.

Native American Seeds has many more varieties ideal for western raised beds.

I hope that these tips help! If you are interested in bedding and basket flowers and ornamentals for your region, you might also read our list for the high desert.

Happy raised bed growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist