I find that I can get most of my herbs dried in May and June. The best time to harvest herbs for drying is when they are lush and just before they flower. If you miss that window, no problem, just remove the dead bits and blooms before you put the herbs in your dehydrator.
I irrigate my garden most mornings, so I wait until late afternoon to harvest herbs that I want to dehydrate. By then, sunshine and warm breezes have dried any excess water from the plant. If you want to wash your herbs before dehydrating, then use a hose to spray them off on the morning of your harvest. It’s also a good way to shoo away any spittle bugs or daddy-long-legs.
I take my dehydrator sheets out to the herb that I’m going to harvest. Then I put a generous amount of cut herb stalks on each dehydrator sheet and stack them up. On these particular oregano plants, I left about 4″ of growth and took all the top growth. If the stalks are too long to fit on my dehydrator sheets, I just snipped them in half and add them to the pile. If the oregano stalks are starting to bloom, I snip those off and leave them in the garden.
I did this at about 3pm in the afternoon, and then laid the sheets out on our covered patio table. This gave me a chance to evenly distribute the herbs on each sheet, and then the warm evening breeze started the wilting and dehydrating process.
Within a few hours the herbs were when on their way to being dried. Nature had started the process for me so it took much less time in the dehydrator to complete the drying. You could hang bundles in an area with good air circulation, and out of direct sunlight, to dry naturally. This works the best in the hot summer months. I’ve found that fall evenings can be too damp for herb drying and can cause mold damage.
The 5 trays of cut oregano went into my dehydrator for approximately 4 hours. Even though it is not recommended by the manufacturer, I use my dehydrator outside on our covered deck. This prevents my house smelling like a pizzeria (true, that’s not necessarily a bad thing).
Once the dehydrator had made the herbs crispy, I removed the trays and began the storage process. I suggest that you do not turn off your dehydrator and leave the herbs for any length of time. In our moist climate, they can re-hydrate in as little as 6 hours and that can cause spoilage.
At this point the beautifully dried herbs are easy to gently strip from the stalk. I use a piece of parchment paper to collect and funnel the dried herbs into jars. I leave the leaves in a natural state, preferring to crush them more just before I add them to soups, sauces or salad dressings. Once the jars are filled, I keep them in a drawer or in my pantry, away from direct sunlight.