Whether you forage from fields, forests, or gardens, drying is one of the best ways to preserve herbs and flowers. This forager’s drying rack was inspired by Clay to Canopy. Its simple design won me over and I love that it’s stackable and affordable.
I had so much fun with this project. Here’s a summary of the process, along with some tips for gathering and storing your herbs and flowers. If you end up building this, head over to Clay to Canopy’s YouTube channel and give her a follow!
Cost and Materials
This project cost me around $40 for lumber, screws, staples, and wire screening. I’m not counting the cost of some basic tools that I already had on hand (a handsaw, drill, measuring tape, and staple gun). If you know someone with a workshop, you could borrow tools and maybe even make this project with off-cuts or repurposed wood.
I used cheap 1×2″ and 1×4″ pine strapping for the frames and picked up some replacement screen mesh from my local hardware store. Most hardware stores will cut screening to whatever size you need, or you can buy it in rolls. The screws used to secure the frames are 1 1/4” and the staples are 5/16″.
This project requires no real carpentry skills. You are simply building some wood frames and attaching mesh screening to the bottom of them. You can build the frames as big or small as you want. I cut my wood pieces to 11 and 14 inches, as suggested by Clay to Canopy. If you build your frames much larger, I would add some extra support.
Once you have everything cut, assemble the frames using 1 1/4” screws. You’ll split the wood unless you pre-drill your holes, so don’t forget that step! After the frames are built and sanded, all you need to do is staple the mesh screening to the bottoms.
For more detailed instructions check out Clay to Canopy’s YouTube video. She shows you how to build this project step by step and her version is more elaborate making your drying rack more beautiful.
What I Would Do Differently
There are a few things I’d do differently for this project. First, I’d use a stronger wood for more durability. Pine is very soft and cheap, and therefore susceptible to damage. That said, this drying rack should last for many seasons.
Second, I used a traditional handsaw to cut my boards. I had trouble getting precise cuts this way and this made my frames a bit wonky. Learn from my mistake and use a miter saw box if you are relying on a handsaw.
Lastly, I made an extra frame from 1×4″ strapping. In retrospect, I don’t anticipate having to dry anything that would require that depth. If I were to do it over, I’d create two shallower frames using the 1×2″ wood.
If this project seems daunting or you don’t have the tools to build it, you could recreate something similar with repurposed shadow boxes. All you would have to do is remove the glass and add the mesh screening.
Helpful Tips for Harvesting and Drying Herbs and Flowers
Now that your drying rack is finished, here are some helpful tips for harvesting and drying.
Herbs and flowers derive their flavour and smell from plant oils. Lucky for us, drying them in open air or in a low temperature oven will preserve much of these oils.1 To ensure the best quality, you want the oils to be released when you are ready to use the plant and not during harvesting and storage.1
There are a few strategies you can use to help maximize the potency of your herbs and flowers. That said, even “well-kept herbs lose much of their potency after about six months.”1 Use them before that if you can, but they’ll still be useful afterwards.
When to Harvest
Most herbs should be harvested before they go to flower to preserve the best flavour.2 Flowers are best picked before they fully open up.2 Harvest in the early morning after the dew has dried off, but before the heat of the afternoon sun.1
Never cut more than a third of a plant to avoid weakening and killing it. Also, avoid harvesting perennials a month before frost so that they have the best chance of surviving winter.3
Drying and Storage
Try not to wash herbs and flowers before drying them. I don’t always follow this advice, but it does help preserve the highest quality oils. Briefly submerging cuttings in water will rid them of bugs and dirt.
You can dry herbs by hanging them or laying them flat on a single layer. Try to keep them in whole pieces until you plan to use them. Cutting them prematurely will release all those lovely oils1 and so will exposure to air, heat, and light. Store your dried plants in airtight jars in a cool, dark, and dry place.
It usually takes 5-10 days for plants to dry. Drying times will vary depending on the moisture in the air. If you can crumple the plants easily between your fingers, you’ll know they are dry.
Other Posts You May Enjoy
1 Himkamp. 1998. “Getting the Most Out of Your Herbs.” Utah State University.
2 Davis. 2019. “Harvesting and Preserving Herbs for the Home Gardener.” NC State Extension Publications.
3 Whittinghill. 2018. “Harvesting and Using Herbs.” Kentucky State University.
Clay to Canopy. 2021. “DIY Herb & Flower Drying Rack: Beginning Woodworking Tutorial.” YouTube.