Freshen Your Garden By Growing Peppermint

Last update: April 25, 2020

All varieties of mint are hardy plants, and you can propagate a full, lush plant in a short time. There are many different varieties of mint, such as chocolate mint, apple mint, and pineapple mint.

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) was initially cultivated in London in 1750, a hybrid bred from watermint and spearmint.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, mint plants are vigorous and will thrive with a minimum of care. They do best when planted in late spring or summer, in light mulch, and given plenty of water. They also benefit from frequent pruning.

All types of mint tend to proliferate in your garden, sending horizontal rhizome “runners” everywhere. In the ground, in one year, a small plant can grow to as tall as 4 feet in good conditions. Natural barriers like walkways, or man-made barriers like plastic will stop them from taking over your yard. Planting mint in containers also may curtail their spread, but if the plants get too tall the seeds can escape the container. Pruning is a good idea – see section on pruning, below.

There are many good reasons to grow peppermint or almost any variety of mint:

  • It has an intense flavor and is often used to make teas.
  • Peppermint teas contain menthol, and have been used for centuries to soothe sore throats, loosen phlegm and help coughs and other ailments. (However, for some health condition, such as gallstones, peppermint is not recommended, so it’s important to do your research.)
  • Mint sprouts a purple flower that bees love.
  • If mint gets into your lawn and proliferates, when you mow, the smell of mint will fill the air.
  • Mint is a perennial in zones 3-11 and it grows fast, so if you like to garden and want something that grows quickly, mint is the answer.
  • Because mint grows roots from cuttings so quickly, it’s a good plant to use when teaching kids about gardening.

In the following video you’ll find some convenient tips for growing peppermint

https://youtu.be/lVFaxfz3Ke8

Planting Peppermint

Peppermint is generally not grown from seeds because it’s difficult to germinate. The plants also do not resemble their parents, so trying to grow mint from seed isn’t a good idea.

The best way to propagate any variety of mint is to use cuttings. To harvest some cuttings, cut sprigs of 3-5 inches, pull off some of the lower leaves, and put the cuttings in a clear glass or bowl of water. Adding some dirt in the water encourages the mint to root. Transplant it to soil when you see roots – and you may find roots after just a few days.

Some gardeners don’t bother with the step of rooting the mint springs in water, but put them right into the dirt.

If you plant peppermint in your yard or your garden, be forewarned. Those rhizome roots will spread out and new mint plants will pop up everywhere. If you want that proliferation, you’re in luck. However, if you want to control the number of plants in your yard, you can put plastic or wood edging around as a barrier to the roots spreading, and/or plant it near a natural barrier such as a concrete deck or walkway.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, you should plant cuttings of mint two feet apart in moist soil. Make sure to keep it well watered. Lightly composted soil works best.

If you want to fertilize, use a good standard fertilizer or composted manure for the best results.

Varieties of Peppermint

Peppermint comes in two varieties, black and white. The black variety has leaves tinged with purple and contains more oil. The flowers are pinkish.

The white variety is not really white, but it has large light green leaves and purple flowers. The flavor is more mild than that of black peppermint.

Soil and Sun

All types of mint like sun and rich soil with good drainage. They will also tolerate some shade time during the hot summer days.

Mint isn’t drought hardy. It loves and needs a lot of water. It often grows near streams or ponds where the soil is rich and has a good water supply.

Mint prefers soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. [If you’re unsure of your soil’s pH you can get a test kit online or from a garden store.]

Pruning Peppermint

Peppermint will need to be pruned back regularly to keep it from spreading everywhere. Once the plant has become “leggy” and you find seed pods at the top of the plant, it’s a good idea to trim it back. You can cut it almost down to the ground, just leaving an inch or two, and it will actually grow back fuller and more lush.

In general, pruning will result in new and larger leaves and the plant will look fuller and healthier in the long run.

How to Harvest Peppermint

You can harvest peppermint leaves almost any time, but the serrated edged mint leaves are best when harvested before they get too tall, when the leaves are still fat and have good color, usually in the summer.

If you want to harvest late in the year, when there are already frosts, cover mint plants with a frost blanket.

It’s best to harvest them in the middle of the day, as that is when the essential oils are most potent.

After harvesting, mint can be stored in water for as long as a week. If you like peppermint tea, simply rinse the leaves and pour boiling water over them and let them steep for a few minutes before pulling out the leaves.

Peppermint is a fun plant to grow because it’s not difficult to get a lush, lovely plant in a short time. The essential oils make great teas or infused waters, and there are claims that it has medicinal properties. If you don’t want it to take over your garden, though, use some commonsense tips about planting in a container and/or pruning and you should be able to enjoy it year after year.

Photo by akvalsk licensed under CC0

Growing Vanilla: A Sweet Guide

Last update: April 12, 2021

Vanilla is actually part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae) and it takes some patience, time, and skill to grow it but there are definitely rewards. Typically, it takes 3-5 years to get a mature plant. The flavor comes from the long slender seed pod.

Most vanilla comes from Mexico, where it’s a native plant. The vine will often be found climbing up a tree. For home gardeners, it should be noted that the vanilla vine doesn’t grow quickly, and if it’s being grown indoors it needs a pole or piece of wood or something for the vine to anchor onto and climb.

The vine needs to get around 10 feet tall before it will flower and you can harvest the seeds for making extract, so it needs a large space. A good overview of the growing process is found on the American Orchid Society website.

Purchasing Your Plant

It’s important to purchase a plant from a reputable grower. If you can, try to find a mature plant already at least three years old.

You will also want to find or purchase a way for the vanilla vine to grow. A bamboo pole or piece of wood, or possibly even a lattice, should work well. Some gardeners train the vanilla vine to grow on a fence.

Planting Vanilla

Because vanilla really likes warm temperatures, it’s a good idea to grow it in a pot unless you live in Florida, Mexico, South America, or Hawaii, or somewhere that the nighttime temperatures are not less than the mid 60’s. If this temperature goes below 55 the plant may die.

The vanilla plant likes warmth, high humidity and indirect sun.

To grow the plant indoors you will need a large, sunny room or preferably a greenhouse with plenty of area for the long vine.

Choose a pot this isn’t too much bigger than your plant. When re-potting from the store container, do not pull the vanilla out by its stem, which is delicate. Gently pull out the root ball and place it in your container.

The container you use should be filled with a soil suitable for growing orchids, and you might want to use some bark and/or moss. Look for media specifically designed for growing orchids, not just any dirt. Coconut husk, known as coir, makes a good media for growing orchids, and you can find special orchid bark at garden stores.

Start with the pot half-filled with media, then add the pole. Gently add your plant and fill it the rest of the way with media. You will want to wrap the vine around the pole and secure it carefully.

A good method for keeping the vine moist is to train some sphagnum moss around the pole or piece of wood. Another great resource is the American Orchid Society, which features solid recommendations for every aspect of growing orchids, from the right mix of organic and inorganic growing media to containers, poles, and more.

How to Care for Your Vanilla Plant

Water is very important for the health of the vanilla. Make sure there is always plenty of water in the pot and the soil is moist but not dripping. Lightly mist the plant every other day or so.

Fertilizer is critical. You will want to fertilize using orchid fertilizer, in the spring and summer every couple of weeks.

The Pollination Process

Vanilla is harvested from the flower, so the plant must have pollination to produce a flower. Pollination can be a tricky process. Unless you can train a bee to do it, your best bet is to learn how to do it yourself.

The vanilla vine can be pollinated by hand. You can get a better idea of how the pollination process works below.

The vanilla flowers are only open for one day. They will open early in the morning and by afternoon they will close. You will want to pollinate within the first few hours after they have opened. You will need a toothpick.

The reproductive parts of the flower are inside it, so you will need to tear open the flower. When you get it open, look for a flap which covers the female parts. The male part of the flower will be folded down over that flap. The male part has the pollen. Use the toothpick to lift the flap up and push the pollen into contact with the female part of the flower.

Another method for pollinating is to simply use your hands, and this is explained in detail on the American Orchid Society website.

If you have done this correctly the pods will start forming within a week. The pods will begin to swell, forming the beans. The vanilla beans will be ready to harvest in 8-9 months.

Propagating Vanilla Orchids

Propagating vanilla orchids can be a bit tricky. The following clip from Green Garden Guy will be helpful. It’s important not to get the sap on your skin, as it will burn.

Cut a length of the vine. Get a large bucket and fill it with media specific to orchids. Cut off a length 6-8 inches long and put the bottom few inches into the media. Fill the pot with water and put it in a partially shaded area. After about 6 months, empty the pot and look for the roots.

Curing the Vanilla Beans

Once you have successfully pollinated, that’s not the end of the process. The seed pods must be cured before they can be used. One method is to simply let the bean cure while still on the vine.

Another method is to take them from the vine, blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water, then wrap them and store them in a cool dry location at night. In the day, place them in the sun, then re-wrap them and store them in a cool dry place at night. Do that for two months. Then store them in a sealed box for several months.

When the bean is ready, it should be sliced open and the vanilla scraped out for use in recipes. Placing it in alcohol will result in homemade vanilla extract.

Photo by bineshab licensed under CC0

Also Read: Yucca Plant

Growing Shiso: Planting and Harvesting

Last update: April 12, 2021

Shiso can be tricky to get going in your garden, but once it’s growing, it is likely to self-seed and come back year after year. The plant does best in full sun and in well drained soil, but it is really not that picky and is a generally low maintenance plant.

The one thing you’ll want to be diligent about is removing its flowerheads as they appear, or else you are like to end up with many baby shiso plants the next year. Although shiso can grow almost anywhere in the US, it’s considered invasive in the southeast and mid-atlantic areas.

Planting Shiso

You can start shiso, also known as perilla or beefsteak plant, from seed. Although the plant will easily self-seed once established in the garden, sending up hundreds of baby plants at the beginning of the growing season, many gardeners have trouble getting their own plants going from seed.

That’s in part because the seeds tend to be finicky. They will only germinate if fresh and if soaked before planting.

https://youtu.be/CsDfg1MC5fU

Dave’s Garden created the video above demonstrating how to plant shiso seeds after their company got complaints from gardeners who were unable to get a single seed to grow.

If you are going to plant shiso from seed in your garden, soak the seeds in water for at least 24 hours before planting. Gayla Trail of You Grow Girl recommends starting your seeds outdoors, instead of trying to start them inside under grow lights. Plant the seeds on or after the last frost date in your area.

Most importantly, it pays to be patient when growing shiso from seed. It might take days or even weeks for the seeds to germinate, as they not only need moisture, they also need cool temperatures, according to the Washington Post. If you don’t see tiny plants right away, give it some time.

You also want to avoid planting the seeds too deeply, as they need some light to germinate. After you’ve scatter the seeds across the soil, gently press them in, rather than piling soil on top of them.

growing shisoSave

Another option, if you’re impatient, is to plant shiso or perilla seedlings. You can often find perilla at garden centers or nurseries, but it might be kept in the ornamental plant section, rather than with other herbs.

Space the seedlings at least six inches apart in your garden. Keep in mind that shiso grows so quickly that you’re likely to only need one or two plants per household, if you plant on eating the leaves. If you are using the plant as an ornamental, plant as many as you need to cover the area.

Choosing Shiso Varieties

The video above from Byron Herbs in Australia introduces you to the two main types of shiso or perilla. The plant can either be green-leafed or red/purple-leafed, and the green leafed plants tend to have the bigger leaves and to wilt more easily in warmer conditions.

The flavor of the plants depends on the color of their leaves. According to the Master Gardeners of Sacramento County, the green leaves taste a bit like cinnamon and are more popular in cooking. The purple or red leaves tend to be more astrigent and to have a bitter flavor.

Warning About Shiso

If you live in certain areas of the US, you might want to hold off on growing shiso in your garden. According to the National Park Service, the plant is very invasive in certain Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states and should not be planted in gardens in those states. Along with quickly overtaking wild areas and spreading out of control, shiso can be toxic to certain animals, including cattle.

Care for Shiso

If shiso isn’t invasive in your area and you’ve decided to grow it, you can rest assured that it’s a fairly low maintenance plant. It does best in areas that get full sunlight, at least six to eight hours of light daily.

Although it has a preference for well-drained soil, it is able to survive in poorer soil conditions too. Usually, once you plant shiso in one spot and get its seeds to germinate successfully, you can expect it to keep coming up in the spot year after year, as the plant self-seeds. It might also pop up in other areas of your garden in later years, if you don’t keep an eye on its flower production.

Harvesting Shiso

You can be begin to harvest the leaves from a shiso plant when it it just a few inches high. As the plant is a member of the mint family, you want to harvest the leaves from it as you would any other type of mint.

Cut a sprig of shiso off just above the junction of two leaves on the plant. Cutting the plant above two leaves, instead of picking off leaves one by one will help it develop a bushy growth habit, rather than a long and picked-clean pattern of growth.

To keep the self-seeding to a minimum, you might want to be diligent about cutting off the flower heads as they form. Removing the plant’s flowers will also help prolong its production of leaves. Simply snip off any flowers as they form.

Once the production of flowers outpaces the production of leaves, simply cut all the flowerheads off before they can set seed. The plant will eventually die back once the temperatures in your area cool down. Without any remaining flowers, it will be unable to self-seed for the next growing season.

Growing Shiso Indoors, in Containers

If you live in a state where shiso is considered invasive, you might try to grow it indoors, in a container, to cut down on its invasive nature. The plant will grow in a two gallon pot with a drainage hole.

To make sure it gets enough light indoors, put it by a south facing or other sunny window. Water the soil regularly and don’t let the container dry out completely.

Read also our other guides about growing wasabi, Calathea ornata or ginger.

Photobyanhz27licensed underCC0

Growing Lemon Verbena for Your Garden

Last update: April 26, 2020

For those who aren’t quite sure what Lemon Verbena is, it’s a shrub-like herb that’s native to tropical climates. It’s often used in cooking, teas, and landscaping because of its lemony scent and attractive glossy, flat, green leaves.

Although Lemon Verbena prefers warmer weather, it can be grown in any climate; by planting it as a container plant and bringing it inside during colder months. It’s important to remember when planting lemon verbena that it needs plenty of drainage and room for root growth. You will also want to monitor how much water you provide this plant.

Choosing a Location and Proper Container

Since Lemon Verbena is a hedge type plant, it can get as large as six feet tall, and as wide as eight feet. However, you can control how big your plant gets by regularly trimming back overgrowth, and using a smaller container. Ideally, you should use a container no smaller than twelve inches in diameter though to make sure that your plant’s root system have plenty of room to expand and maintain water drainage.

If you choose to control your plant’s size through regular pruning, you will be able to keep your plant from sprawling, and it will have the appearance of a small tree, but your plant will not yield as many of the sought after leaves.

Because of the Lemon Verbena’s potential to become quite large, it’s important when planting in the ground to choose a location that has plenty of room for expansion to avoid having to transplant it later or having overcrowding issues.

You will want to take your plant’s potential size into account when container planting as well if you live in colder climates since you’ll need to bring it indoors during the cold weather month.

As this is a large container plant that prefers warmer temperatures, it’s a good option for use as an indoor plant or an annual during warmer months. Using Lemon Verbena as a houseplant avoids potential back injuries from moving the large heavy pots, and provides a lemony scented air freshener year round.

Avoid Overwatering Lemon Verbena

According to Bonnie Plants, overwatering is a common way in which gardeners kill Lemon Verbena plants. This tasty little herb requires plenty of water with sufficient drainage, especially when planted in containers to assure that fungus doesn’t begin to grow.

Monrovia Plant Catalog, recommends, watering your Lemon Verbena using the soak and dry method. What this means is to soak the soil so that the roots are saturated thoroughly, and then allow the plant’s soil to dry out before you water it again. You should re-water when the top 3 inches of soil have become dry.

The amount of time that it takes the soil to dry out completely will vary by geographic location due to temperature variances, so be sure to check your plant’s soil regularly.

Mulching for Added Hydration

It is recommended to use mulch to insulate your plant’s soil and root system. Using approximately a 2 to 3-inch thick layer of mulch around the base of your Lemon Verbena will help retain the soil’s moisture, while also providing a weed barrier to minimize invasive weeds that will steal vital nutrients and water from your plant.

A third benefit of using mulch is that it creates a frost barrier for your plant’s roots as the seasons change and frost becomes an issue.

How and When to Fertilize

Over fertilizing will reduce the amount of oils found in the leaves, and give the plant a long scraggly appearance. Since the oils in the leaves are what give the Lemon Verbena plant its lemony scent your plant will not produce as much of the desired fragrance if you over fertilize.

To feed your plant correctly, you should use a water-soluble fertilizer applying it to the growing plant’s moist soil once per month. Do not fertilize dry soil or you’ll scorch your plant’s root system. Fertilization does not need to be done during the plant’s dormant seasons which are fall and winter.

Harvesting and Maintaining for the Best Yield

Harvesting the leaves from your Lemon Verbena plant will initiate growth creating a bushier plant than if left alone. The best time to harvest your leaves is during the growing season in the morning just after the dew dries.

You will want to pinch off the top one inch of stems before the small flowers begin to bud to promote growth. For a larger harvest, Adams Farm recommends cutting the plant back about half way. Below is a video to provide you with a visual aid for the proper way to harvest your Lemon Verbena leaves.

After you harvest your herbs the best way to store them is to either dry them or freeze them in ice cube trays with water. Both of these methods will provide you with fresh herbs for cooking or preparing tea during the plant’s dormant months. Here’s a brief video of how you can make fresh Lemon Verbena Tea at home.

When to Bring your Plants Inside

Seasonal changes will trigger your Lemon Verbena to begin dropping its leaves. As long as this is occurring during the fall or winter, this is an indication that it’s entering its dormant stage. If you see this happening during the growing months, you may have a watering or disease issue that you should investigate.

Some people choose to wait until the dropping foliage has completed falling before bringing it indoors to avoid having to clean up falling leaves. However, it’s up to you when you bring your container plants inside, as long as you do it before the first frost.

Better Homes and Gardens suggests bringing your herbs indoors before they begin to enter their hibernation stage to extend your plant’s growing season and provide you with fresh off the stem herbs long into the winter. They do say that you should return these plants back to the outdoors once spring returns so that they can continue their growth phase.

Photo by H. Zell licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

Growing Cloves: A Quick Guide

Last update: December 28, 2020

Cloves are dried unopened flower buds that are harvested from the Syzygium aromaticum tree that is native to the Indonesian islands of Maluku. They usually need lots of warm and lots of moisture. They also tend to fare best in the shade.

Uses for Cloves

Because of the strong aromatic feature of cloves, many people use these unopened flower buds when creating decorations for their homes. They are ideal for creating homemade potpourris, wreaths, and holiday decorations.

As a spice, cloves are used in many types of cooking. Their unique pointy nail-like shape gives you the ability to encompass meats allowing their flavors to absorb into the fibers of the meat as it cooks giving it a distinctive flavor.

Ground cloves are often used in desserts, such as pumpkin pie, as well as in chutneys and relishes to give them that earthy flavored that is associated with these dishes.

Medicinal Uses

In addition to their uses in cooking, and as a decoration, cloves have been used in homeopathic medicine for centuries to treat everything from a toothache to more severe illnesses such as Malaria and Cholera.

According to In Depth Info, cloves have been used medicinally as an antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, antispasmodic, and analgesic medication treatment throughout history. The Romans even used cloves to improve digestion and get rid of bad breath. See the video below for more health uses.

https://youtu.be/PnX1TvLDQUw

Natural Purple Dye

When the flowers of Clove Trees are permitted to mature, they will become Clove Fruit and Clove Seeds. These fruits are a purplish color and produce a purple juice that stains anything it touches similar to pomegranates. See the video below for an up-close look at this unusual fruit.

Mosquito Repellent

And if the items listed above aren’t enough reason to want to plant your own Clove Tree, Plant Care Today, lists the Clove Tree in its list of the 13 best plants for repelling mosquitoes.

By planting a few of these mosquito repelling trees in containers, you can bring them in during unsuitable weather, and then relocate them to your patio, balcony, or yard during those months when mosquitoes are most prevalent in your area.

Best Environments to Grow Clove Trees

Clove Trees naturally grow in warm and extremely humid environments and have been known to reach up to 100 feet tall with boughs that span around 15 feet. Their particular preferences to high humidity and warmer weather make them unsuited for regions with colder climates that drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and dry air.

iFood.TV recommends choosing a shady location that keeps seedlings out of direct sunlight when starting the growing process from seeds.

How to Cultivate Cloves

Soil Requirements

Clove Trees require soil that has good drainage, as well as a lot of organic matter to grow to their full potential. You should prepare the soil before planting with organic materials such as:

  • Peat Moss
  • Compost
  • Sand
  • Loam ( soil that is equal parts sand, clay, and silt)

If planting from seeds, you will need to start them in containers making sure to plant the seeds a minimum of 3-cm apart from each other and 2-cm deep for them to germinate without overcrowding seedlings.

Water Requirements

You will need to water your Clove Trees every week assuring that they receive at least an inch and a half of water per week. Also, if you see that the soil is drying out between waterings, you will need to increase either the amount of water or the frequency at which you are watering.

Even though Clove Trees like moist soil, they do not like to have wet soil. Wet soil increases the chances of your tree’s roots developing rot, disease, and fungal issues that are very detrimental to the life of your tree. These potentially harmful illnesses that are caused by overwatering make it is vital to your tree’s health to maintain the proper moisture balance in your soil.

Fertilization of Clove Trees

eHow suggests a progressive fertilization method using their homemade fertilizer mixture that is made up of rock phosphate, urea, muriatic potash, and Epsom salts. (See their link for exact measurements.) It is important to remember when fertilizing your Clove Tree that the soil must be moist and the mixture should be thoroughly blended into the soil.

In addition, the University of Minnesota Tree Fertilization Guide provides you with all of the tools that you need to know when, how, and what to feed your trees to ensure that they receive all of the vital nutrients that they need to prosper and produce healthy buds.

Container Clove Tree Cultivation

Although the Clove Tree can be quite large, it’s possible and in certain geographic locations recommended that containers be used in the early stages of germination. Since these trees are very slow growing and have extremely particular environmental needs, they may spend several years in containers before being large enough and strong enough to handle the transplantation process into your yard.

Their slow growth has been attributed to the Clove Tree’s long life span, as they have the ability to live as long as 100 years or more with the right environmental conditions.

When choosing a container to plant your seedling, you should select a container that is at least 12 inches in diameter to start, so that the tree’s root system has room to develop; as the tree grows you will need to transplant to a larger container to avoid root-bound issues that will obstruct water absorption.

You will want to wait until your seedling has reached about 9 inches tall before transferring it from its sprouting medium to its new container. Waiting until it has reached 9 inches provides the plant with more stability giving it a greater chance of withstanding damage that can occur during the transplant process.

When You Should Expect to Start Seeing Blooms

Global Health Center states that you can expect to wait for up to 20 years to see your Clove Tree blossom if you are starting out with a freshly planted seedling. Other sources site that the propagation or blooming process for Clove Trees takes between 12 and 15 years.

Photo by Prof. Chen Hualin licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0

The Greatest Way of Growing Galangal

Last update: April 12, 2021

Belonging to the same family as ginger; Galangal is a root seasoning that is commonly used in Thai cooking, as well as in ornamental landscaping, and as a medicinal digestive aid.

Galangal requires very specific soil and environmental conditions to grow outdoors but grows easily in large containers. Galangal’s large size when fully grown requires that it have enough space to grow and flourish, making it ideal for privacy screening.

What is Galangal?

Native to Java and commonly used in Thai cuisine, Galangal, which is pronounced guh-LANG-guh, is a root seasoning that is directly related to Ginger. Although these two cousins may look similar in appearance and fall into the same family, they are not interchangeable; since the flavor of the galangal root is much more pungent and spicy than ginger.

Besides having a significantly stronger flavor pallet than ginger, galangal is also much more fibrous, tough, and dense than its look-alike. You can tell the difference between ginger and galangal by the color galangal is more transparent and a shade or two lighter than ginger.

Where to Grow Galangal

Galangal is best suited for planting in shaded open areas in warmer climates as it’s a tropical plant and is extremely sensitive to frost and drought conditions. Besides being sensitive to whether conditions this plant will rot easily when left exposed to cold, wet conditions.

When it reaches maturity, this plant has the potential of reaching between three and six feet tall. You will want to provide enough space between plants to accommodate their height and bushy nature.

Soil Conditions

According to Urban Harvest, it’s important to remember that galangal as with all ginger root varieties requires the proper soil with adequate drainage to prevent them from rotting. That’s why you should wait to plant until the ground temperature has warmed and the soil is moist, but not wet.

Galangal prefers soils that are rich in organic matter such as sandy loam. This type of soil provides the thick roots with space to grow while allowing water to properly drain so that the roots are not left sitting in standing water which promotes root rot.

For the best results use this plant as foliage along landscape ridges or create planting ridges as you plant it to insulate the root ball from external temperature variances.

Depth and Spacing

These large plants grow well when planted along ridges and must be buried 3 to 5-inches below the surface of the soil, with about 12-inches between each plant, according to SFGate Home Guides. Providing enough space for the root ball to develop completely is vital to keeping your plant strong and healthy.

Container Planting

These ornamental plants work well in containers, but you must plant them in large containers to allow the root structure room to grow. Start with root sections that are approximately 3-inches long and then plant them in a container that’s at least 12-inches in diameter and be prepared to transplant them into a larger container once they get fully grown.

One way to manage your container galangal is to regularly prune vegetation, and harvest excessive root growth maintaining the plant’s ability to expand without having to be completely transplanted. Check out the video below for to see how container planted Galangal looks throughout the growing stages.

Watering Galangal

As a tropical native, Galangal requires moist, but not wet soil. Do not let the soil dry out completely for long periods of time. Doing so will cause your plant’s roots to become fiber-ish and tough, inhibiting its growth both above ground and below.

With that said, do not over water these root ball based plants either, as too much standing water will cause rot issues and kill or severely damage your plant.

Harvesting Galangal

To harvest galangal, you will want to use a pitchfork instead of a shovel to avoid damaging the roots. Start by loosening the soil around the root ball, and then position the fork beneath the root ball and lift. Doing this will remove the entire plant. See the below video for a visual guide.

Once you have dug up the plant, carefully separate the root ball into sections. To continue growing, select the healthiest looking sections and replant them into the prepared soil.

For the roots that you plan to harvest, rinse them thoroughly, remove tops and mini-roots, and then store. The best way to store this root is by wrapping it in a damp cheesecloth and then in plastic wrap and sticking it into the freezer. According to the Washington Post, it will store in the freezer for up to three months.

Uses for Galangal

Landscaping and Decorative Planting

The long leaves that get to about 10 to 13 inches long create a look similar to ornamental grass which makes it good for planting in areas that need shade tolerant landscaping features, or as an indoor container plant.

In warmer or more tropical areas, galangal works well as a privacy barrier or fence line hedge due to its large size and bushy appearance.

Cooking

As with its cousin ginger, galangal works well in cooking and is used as the main ingredient in many types of Thai cuisine, especially curries. The more peppery flavor of galangal than its cousin provides a stronger more intense flavor pallet when added to dishes such as stir fry, soups, and curries.

However, the much tougher and dense root structure make galangal inferior to ginger for uses in salads, desserts, and raw cooking options.

Medicinal

According to Natural Remedies, galangal has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine as a remedy for indigestion and nausea as well as a preventative medicine for vomiting.

Cold Climate Winterizing

Even though it is best to harvest your remaining galangal roots during the early winter to prevent rotting, you can leave a few hands, (what the roots are referred to as) in the ground over the winter as long as you heavily mulch the entire area to keep them warm and dry.

To do this, you will want to remove the galangal tops and mark the area where you have planted your winterized galangal roots. Marking the area ensures that you will not damage the roots with shoveling next spring while removing the tops prevents molds and fungus from entering the roots via the stems of the plant.

Photo by Eric Chan W.C. licensed as CC-BY-SA-3.0

Growing Horseradish: A How-to Guide

Last update: April 25, 2020

The most common types of horseradish to grow are common and Bohemian. Both grow best when planted in the spring several weeks before the last frost, and will grow vigorously during cold fall and winter months. To plant horseradish, place the slanted, cut end on a diagonal down into the soil, with a layer of compost on the bottom. Keep horseradish plants controlled by digging up unwanted plants or planting within a bucket in the soil. Keep the plants watered and weed-free. Harvest horseradish by gently digging around the root and pulling up from underneath.

How to Choose the Best Horseradish

The two most common types of horseradish to grow are known as common horseradish and Bohemian horseradish. Common horseradish has wider, and longer, leaves and has the taste most people prefer. However, it can be more prone to disease and pest infestation.

Bohemian horseradish is said to be more pungent in flavor, but has more resistance to common disease and pests. You can distinguish Bohemian horseradish by its narrower leaves.

Both types grow in similar conditions. The type you choose to grow depends on your ability to keep your plants free from disease and pests, and your taste preferences.

You can purchase your root cuttings from the grocery store or a nursery.

When to Grow Horseradish

Horseradish plants don’t require a lot of care, as they are hardy crops that last throughout the winter. It’s best to plant in the spring, so that plants can become established before colder weather begins.

It is recommended to plant horseradish several weeks before the last frost of the season, regardless of the type of horseradish you plan to grow or where you purchased it from. If you aren’t familiar with them, research your region’s weather patterns to ensure the best time to plant, according to your typical frost seasons.

How to Plant Horseradish

Before you plant horseradish, ensure that your horseradish roots are cut on a slant at the end. This slanted end is what you will plant downward to form the rooting system.

Horseradish grows best in a moist soil with a neutral pH. Till the bed or garden area to create a depth of between six and eight inches. You should place compost or fertilizer at the bottom of each furrow for optimal nutrition to your horseradish plants. Then, cover the compost or fertilizer with another two inches of soil.

Your roots should be slanted within the soil, at about a 45-degree angle. This will allow the rooting system to grow straight down from the cut end without entangling the roots from other horseradish plants. Each root should have about two feet of space between them.

Ensure that the top of each root is about two inches below the surface of the soil, so you can place another two inches of soil over them. Water the soil thoroughly, and it should begin to grow rapidly.

Growing Horseradish

Horseradish doesn’t require a lot of extra care, but you still need to keep it healthy. In the spring, once you have established plants, GrowOrganic suggests using a high-quality fertilizer on your plants. The ideal fertilizer is one that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus to aid growth and keep the soil at a neutral pH.

Other than this one-time fertilizer boost, you just need to keep your horseradish plants well-watered and weed-free. Some gardeners opt for mowing over the area where their plants are growing for easy weed control, or pull weeds as you see them. Water the soil whenever it begins to dry, but don’t let it get to the point of becoming dry.

Controlling Horseradish Plants

Horseradish is one of the easiest plants to care for. Once you plant it, it requires very little maintenance to grow. However, it does need to be contained once it becomes established, or you will run the risk of it overtaking your garden. Once it begins to grow out of control, it can be difficult to eliminate unwanted horseradish plants.

To control horseradish plants, you may consider:

  • Digging up unwanted plants. If you do this, make sure you dig up the full root system as well, or it may entangle your other horseradish plants. You can choose to transplant the horseradish to a new area or kill off the plant.
  • Prepare the soil before you plant. Consider planting a large bucket in the soil for each of your horseradish plants. This can help keep the roots for each plant contained in a manner that won’t affect the rest of your garden.
  • Camouflage unwanted plants. Mow over the area of unwanted horseradish and plant grass. Your plants will remain, but they won’t overtake your garden.

Harvesting and Storing Horseradish

For best flavor, horseradish should be harvested in cooler months, as cool soil helps to produce its pungent taste. The optimal time to harvest horseradish for most regions is in late fall through early spring. This also gives you a large window in which to harvest your horseradish, so you don’t have to harvest a lot at one time and chance it spoiling.

You’ll know your horseradish is ready when its root is about 1-inch in diameter. You can check one of your roots by gently digging it from the ground. Replant it if it needs some time to grow. Horseradish typically takes a full year after planting to become established enough for harvesting. However, once it’s established, you should continue to have excellent growth each year.

To harvest horseradish, use a digging fork to loosen the soil in a circle around the plant. Then, use your fingers to determine the angle of the root, so you can more easily follow its path to dig around it. Use your fork to help you gently pull up on the root from underneath.

Wash off each root and let them dry completely. You can then store them in the refrigerator in a perforated bag, preferably in the vegetable crisper section, for about 3 months.

Photo by allispossible.org.uk licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Most Effective Means of Growing Parsley

Last update: April 29, 2020

You can grow both flat-leaf or curly-leaf parsley by starting it from seeds indoors or growing it in your garden. Parsley grows best in warmer climates with mild weather patterns. Seeds should be placed at least six inches apart in a moist, cool soil that’s kept steadily watered. You’ll notice growth in about three weeks, and parsley will need about 70 to 90 days for full growth. Use a nutrient-rich fertilizer monthly and mulch around each plant to maintain temperature. Once sprigs have a few inches of growth, use kitchen shears to harvest parsley at ground level.

Flat-Leaf Versus Curly-Leaf Parsley: Which to Grow?

The two types of parsley to grow are known as flat-leaf and curly-leaf. Both provide excellent flavor, but can grow differently in different conditions. Curled parsley tends to look beautiful in a garden, so gardeners who enjoy an aesthetically-pleasing garden may prefer it. However, cooks tend to prefer flat-leaf parsley for its more significant flavor.

Flat-leaf parsley tends to grow better in warmer climates and soil than curly-leaf. You should take into consideration your region’s weather before deciding which type of parsley is best to grow in your garden. If you have mild winters and hot summers, flat-leaf may fare better.

Preparing for Growing Parsley

When to plant parsley largely depends on where you live. Warmer climates tend to grow parsley best during their mild winter months. In the north, however, the best time to grow parsley is from the spring to the winter, during warmer months.

Check your region’s weather to determine when the best time to plant your parsley is. Parsley typically grows best with no frost or extreme weather conditions, so during your region’s period of mild weather is best.

Some gardeners prefer to begin growing their parsley indoors so it can easily be transferred to the garden when the weather is optimal. This leaves less guesswork for predicting when harsh weather conditions will end.

If you choose to begin growing parsley indoors, plant your seeds about 10 to 12 weeks before your usual last spring frost. Some gardeners prefer to soak the seeds overnight before planting to kick-start germination. Keep your pots near a warm and sunny window while you have them indoors.

Prepare the Soil

You should transfer your parsley outdoors about 3 to 4 weeks before the last frost. This gives them time to become established so they can better withstand outdoor conditions, but lets them grow in an optimal outdoor environment.

Soil should be rich in minerals and moist, with a pH between 5.5 and 6.7. For optimal growth, consider a slow-release fertilizer added to the soil before you plant or immediately after planting. Mulch around the plant to keep the soil at optimal temperature, ensuring that you don’t mulch right at the crown to prevent risk of rot.

How to Plant Parsley

Parsley should be planted about six to eight inches apart. Your garden area should be free from weeds so you can easily see when the parsley begins to sprout. It should also get plenty of sunlight for the majority of the day. Parsley grows well when it’s planted near other crops, like tomatoes or corn.

To plant parsley from seeds in your garden, dig small holes and place a seed in each. You’ll need to cover each seed with only about a ½ inch of soil, so you don’t have to plant them very far down. If you’re planting parsley that you began indoors, wait until they have about three inches of growth. Dig small holes and place each plant about six inches apart.

After you plant, water your parsley thoroughly.

Caring for Parsley

Parsley should get a deep watering at least once per week, possibly more depending on your region’s weather. If you aren’t able to frequently check the moistness of your parsley soil, you may want to consider using an automated drip system.

Steady and even watering is especially important for parsley plants, particularly as the seeds germinate and during warmer months, as they can dry out quickly.

Since parsley can easily look like weeds in your garden, it’s important to keep your garden bed free of weeds as parsley grows. Mulching around your parsley plants helps keep weeds from growing in the area.

You can fertilize your parsley plants about once per month for optimal growth.

Preventing Pest Infestation

Parsley worm caterpillars are one of parsley’s worst enemies. They feed vigorously on parsley plants, essentially ruining them if they are not controlled. You’ll be able to spot them with their green bodies and tell-tale black and yellow bands.

You can use row covers over your parsley to keep them away from your plants, or use an organic insecticide to kill them off.

Aphids, small insects that gather and feed on the underside of several types of plant leaves, are also known to disturb parsley. Aphids can be difficult to detect until they have taken over your parsley plants, since they hide underneath the leaves.

You can use an insecticidal soap or oil, like canola oil, to coat your parsley and prevent further infestation from aphids.

Harvesting and Storing Parsley

Parsley typically takes between 70 and 90 days from planting to be ready to harvest. You’ll notice its bright green leaves and a few inches of growth. It’s best to harvest the younger parsley plants for the most flavor. These will typically be a bit more thinned out than more established sprigs.

The best way to harvest your parsley is to snip sprigs at ground level with kitchen shears. This allows them to continue to grow after they’re harvested. Only snip what you’ll need to use soon, starting from the outside of the plant and working inward.

Use your parsley immediately for cooking, or place your sprigs in water and store them in the refrigerator for a few days. You can also dry your parsley thoroughly, remove the leaves, and store them in an airtight container. Or, freeze the leaves you cut in an airtight container for longer storage.

Photo by baakk licensed under CC0

Keep Your Herb Garden Hot by Growing Cayenne Pepper

Last update: April 12, 2021

Cayenne pepper grows best in warm climates with plenty of sun year-round. If you don’t live in a warm climate, consider starting seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost in your region. Place seeds in grow packs or spaced in containers covered with plastic wrap.

Store in a sunny location and keep watered for 6 to 8 weeks. Transplant into the garden when temperatures reach a consistent 60 degrees. Keep seedlings watered and consider mulching and using row covers. Harvest when peppers turn color and are a few inches long. Harvest cayenne peppers frequently for maximum yield.

Why Grow Cayenne Pepper?

Cayenne pepper is considered one of the best hot peppers because of its versatility. You can dry it to use for pepper flakes or powder or use it as a colorful and spicy addition to dishes. Some gardeners enjoy growing them because of the bright colors and unique look they bring to the garden.

Cayenne peppers do best in warmer climates with plenty of sun year-round, but they grow fairly well with little maintenance. They also are resistant to several diseases that affect other types of commonly-grown peppers.

Prepare for Growing Cayenne Pepper

If you don’t live in a warm-climate area, it’s best to start your seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost, since frost and cold can keep them from germinating. You may also want to grow them permanently in containers, rather than your garden, so you can bring them inside during colder temperatures.

If you choose to grow cayenne pepper in containers, choose wide containers with drainage holes. Cayenne pepper roots will need plenty of space to spread.

Or, prepare your garden area by tilling the ground and adding in a compost for nutrients. Your soil should be slightly acidic for optimal growth and health. Dig holes about two feet apart for your seedlings to be transplanted when ready. Ensure that your garden area received plenty of sunlight and has well-draining soil.

To prepare seeds indoors, allow them to soak in clean water for about 8 hours, so overnight is a good time. Place a few seeds into each cell of a grow pack or in small holes in containers, spaced several inches apart. Cover slightly with potting mix and moisten the soil with water.

Cover your grow pack or container with plastic wrap and set on a sunny windowsill. Keep the soil moist throughout the germination process. Thin out seedlings by snipping the weakest seedling when they receive their first leaves. Once they get two sets of leaves, choose the best seedlings and snip the others.

Mick Zoller provides an interesting time-lapse video to show what cayenne pepper seedlings look like as they grow:

Planting Cayenne Pepper Seedlings in the Garden

In about 6 to 8 weeks, your seedlings should be ready to transplant to your garden, but make sure all threat of frost has passed in your region. Ideally, your garden area should be reaching a consistent temperature of about 60 degrees before you plant cayenne pepper seedlings.

PlantVillage recommends setting your seedlings outside for about 7 to 10 days to harden off. This allows them time to acclimate to the new weather conditions so they don’t end up in shock when they’re transplanted into the soil.

Plant one seedling per hole spaced two feet apart. Gently move soil back around each stem and water the soil thoroughly. If you’re afraid of weather conditions ruining your plants, keep them protected with row covers after you transplant seedlings.

Caring for Cayenne Pepper

You need to keep your plants’ soil moist, but not wet. Overwatering can lead to fungal diseases within the soil that can ruin your plants. The best care for cayenne pepper is to mulch around your plants, which will both help keep the soil moist and retain a consistent temperature. You typically only have to fertilize cayenne pepper plants if your soil is not rich in nutrients.

If you live in windy conditions, stake your cayenne pepper plants, as they can get top-heavy with their height and skinny branches. Use wooden rods and gently tie string around the rods and branches where the plants need extra support.

Prune cayenne pepper as needed to keep them from spreading too far into your garden and allow optimal yield of peppers.

Preventing Pest Infestation

Although cayenne peppers do not usually get infected by disease, they are prone to a few pest infestations if gardeners aren’t careful to take precautions.

Aphids and flea beetles are two common pests that affect cayenne pepper. Aphids hide on the underside of leaves and can cause mold on your plants. If you notice aphids, prune the plant on the areas they’re hiding or, for larger infestations, spray the plant with water. Use an insecticidal soap to prevent further problems with aphids.

Flea beetles don’t typically do much harm to established plants, but can kill off younger ones. These pests chew through leaves on your plants, leaving small holes. Usually, using row covers for your cayenne pepper plants can keep flea beetles away.

Harvesting and Storing Cayenne Pepper

You can usually harvest cayenne peppers once they reach their final color and size, a few inches long. Use protective gloves, since the pepper is hot enough to burn your skin, especially if some juices escape during harvesting. You may also consider protective eyewear, just in case.

Be careful to pull off each pepper upwards, the opposite way of which it hangs down from the plant. This will cause less harm to the plant, helping to avoid breaking the branches. Or, use scissors to snip them from the branch instead.

The more you harvest, the more peppers you’ll have through the season.

You can refrigerate cayenne pepper for several weeks after harvesting. Or, hang them to dry in a warm and sunny area of your home, which doubles as a colorful decoration. You can also pickle them for long-term storage.

Photo by Maja Dumat licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Growing Lemongrass to Freshen Up Your Herb Garden

Last update: April 29, 2020

Root lemongrass stalks by placing them in a container with about an inch of water. Once roots are established, transfer to a well-draining, fertile soil in a pot at least 12-inches wide. Place one bulb in each container. Keep soil moistened and move containers to a sunny location for at least 6 hours per day. Harvest when lemongrass plants are about a foot high by pulling stalks from the base.

Why Grow Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is a general term for about 55 varieties of related species. It’s known for its wide variety of uses, from cooking, teas, aromatherapy, and even cosmetics. Its citrus scent and taste are perfect for adding some zing to your favorite dishes, like chicken or rice. Or, flavor teas for a lemony taste by brewing with dried lemongrass leaves. Asian dishes often use lemongrass.

Lemongrass oil extracted from the plant has several uses. It’s most known for its pest-repellent properties, keeping away pesky mosquitos or flies with its citronella content. Additionally, lemongrass has insecticidal properties that can kill ticks, dust mites, and more.

If you grow lemongrass in containers indoors or on your patio, you may notice a subtle lemongrass scent from the plants alone. Even when the strong oil is still contained in the plants, lemongrass acts as a natural pest repellent for your home.

Buying and Preparing Lemongrass

The easiest way to grow lemongrass is by growing it from stalks you purchase at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Choose stalks that still have the root end attached, which looks similar to an onion. The best stalks for growing are as green as possible to ensure freshness.

Trim the top ends of the lemongrass and pull away anything that’s browning or wilting, keeping only the fresh, green parts. You can then start rooting your lemongrass in water for easy transplanting to soil.

Take your trimmed lemongrass and put them in a glass or plastic container with about an inch of water at the bottom. Store the container by a sunny window. In a few weeks, roots will appear. Once they become a couple of inches long to ensure maturity, they are ready to plant in containers with soil.

Lemongrass containers should be at least 12-inches wide to allow the plants to spread. A container with some height is best, as lemongrass can grow 3 to 5 feet tall. Also, make sure there are adequate drainage holes so water doesn’t pool in the container.

Your soil needs to be fertile and well-draining. A potting mix will work well, but find a nitrogen additive, as it will help your lemongrass plants thrive. Mix some water in with the soil before you plant lemongrass to keep it thoroughly moistened.

Planting Lemongrass in Containers

Use one container per bulb of lemongrass. Dig a hole in the center of the container big enough for the rooted bulb to fit in. Place the bulb in the hole so that it will be slightly covered by soil. Firm the soil back around the bulb.

Place the lemongrass containers in a sunny spot in your garden through the day, or, if you have room in your home for the large containers, by a sunny window. Your lemongrass should get plenty of natural light and warmth each day.

Caring for Lemongrass

Lemongrass needs to grow in a consistently moist soil, so check your containers frequently and water when needed. Maintain a schedule of at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, optimally outdoors. Indoor plants typically produce less stalks because they don’t get adequate amounts of sunlight.

Fertilize lemongrass with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer if you don’t have a nitrogen-rich soil. Plants can be fertilized every couple of weeks, if desired.

Sometimes, lemongrass will thrive so well that it outgrows its containers. This doesn’t typically happen with indoor plants, but if you keep your lemongrass mostly outdoors, it’s possible. If this happens, you can separate off some stalks to prune back your plants.

Keep lemongrass away from pets, if you have them. Cats, especially, are drawn to the scent and will chew the grass.

Common Diseases to Affect Lemongrass

Since lemongrass is a natural pest repellent, the plants rarely suffer from pest infestations. However, disease can still be a problem, even with indoor plants, especially if your plants are overwatered or not getting enough sun or heat.

Lemongrass is especially prone to rust, which occurs when lemongrass plants aren’t grown in the proper conditions and don’t grow as vigorously as they should. You’ll notice yellow or brown spots or streaks on the lemongrass stalks. Prevent rust by ensuring the plant grows vigorously with proper watering, sunlight, and fertilizer.

Leaf blight, a fungal disease caused by contaminated soil, may also turn your lemongrass brown, or produce reddish brown spots. If you suspect leaf blight, prune the infected leaves and treat with a fungicide. Check your other lemongrass frequently if you used the same soil in your other containers.

Propagating, Harvesting, and Storing Lemongrass

Lemongrass grows best when it’s harvested frequently once plants become established. When you harvest leaves, it encourages the plant to produce more, creating a fuller, more productive lemongrass plant.

You can propagate lemongrass to create new plants from old plants by gently pulling off a few stalks by the base of the plant. You should have a small, white part on the bottom, which you can root in water the same way as you did your store-bought lemongrass to grow new plants.

You’ll harvest your lemongrass stalks the same way, once plants are about a foot high and stalk bases are at least ½-inch thick.

The part you’ll use for cooking is the bottom part of the stalk. You can peel it open, almost like an onion, and remove the white, reed-like part. You can chop or slice this part and store what you aren’t using immediately in an airtight container in the freezer.

Photo by Iqbal Osman licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0