Growing Cilantro Faster and More Effectively

Last update: April 29, 2020

The easiest way to grow cilantro is by sowing the seeds directly into the ground or into a container. Since cilantro has a short growing season, you’ll want to direct sow seeds every few weeks or so from spring through fall to keep the plant growing. Cilantro isn’t too needy as a plant and will thrive with a few light feedings early on and with a regular supply of water throughout the growing season. When you grow cilantro, you can harvest both the leaves and the seeds for cooking.

Planting Cilantro

You can plant cilantro in your garden from either seeds or transplants. Seeds are often ideal, as you’ll be able to grow multiple plants from them and can even double your harvest, by planting some seeds in the spring and another batch in the fall.

Transplants give you a headstart on growing cilantro, but come with one major caveat. Cilantro is known for bolting quickly, or producing a flower stalk and going to seed. Transplants are more likely to bolt even more quickly than plants grown from seed, meaning you’ll have less time to enjoy the leaves from the plant before it starts producing seeds.

Another reason to start from seeds rather than a transplant is because cilantro just doesn’t like to be transplanted. The plant has a taproot, according to Bonnie Plants, which makes transplanting it tricky.

Starting Cilantro from Seed

Since cilantro has such a short growing period, it’s ideal to start the plant from seed and to plant it in succession throughout the growing season, so that you have a steady crop through the spring, summer and fall. According Vegetable Gardener, some of the cilantro you plant will self-seed, so that you’ll be able to enjoy new growth without much effort.

As the video from the Small Town Gardener shows, you don’t have to particularly precise when planting cilantro from seed. Scatter the seeds over the growing area, cover with soil or not, and water well. You can thin the seedlings as they begin to grow.

Start your first crop by direct sowing the seeds about two weeks before the last frost date in your area. Plant a few more seeds every two to three weeks after that to keep the crop going. If you live in an area with very mild winters, you can sow seeds through the fall. The plants will survive over the winter and begin producing again in the spring.

Caring for Cilantro

Cilantro needs a fair amount of sun, plenty of water, and a decent amount of room to grow well. Thin your seedlings to stand about six inches apart when they are about two inches high.

If you live in an area that doesn’t get too hot in the spring or summer, you can plant cilantro in full sun. A spot that gets a bit of shade can be ideal if you do live in a hot area, as it will keep the cilantro cool and delay bolting for some time.

You want to give cilantro some fertilizer, but not too much. Too much fertilizer, especially a nitrogen based fertilizer, will produce a plant that looks good but that doesn’t have much flavor. Fertilize with fish or seaweed emulsion right after planting, but limit the feeding to just once or twice during the growing season.

Young cilantro needs more water than more established cilantro. During the first few weeks of the plant’s life, give it about an inch of water each week. You can cut back on the water as it grows. Give it enough to keep the soil from drying out, but don’t over saturate the soil.

Growing Cilantro in a Container

Cilantro grows well in a container, either indoors or out. If you grow cilantro indoors, it’s important that you put the container in an spot that gets enough sunlight or put the pot under a grow light. Without adequate light, the cilantro will grow long and lanky, without many leaves.

The trick to getting a full harvest of cilantro from a container is to plant several plants very close together. Instead of thinning each plant to a distance of about six inches, like you would in the ground, you want to grow container cilantro very densely.

A wide, not very deep container is ideal for cilantro. Look for a pot that is about 8 inches deep and about 18 inches in diameter. It should have drainage holes to keep the soil from becoming too moist and soggy.

Fill the pot with container soil, then spritz with water to moisten it. Scatter the seeds across the surface of the soil, then cover with about a 1/4 inch of soil. Water gently.

Harvesting Cilantro

You can harvest cilantro relatively early in the growing season. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends harvesting when the plant is low, before it has produced its flower stalk and gone to seed.

When harvesting the leaves, cut about one third of the plant at a time, leaving the rest intact for a later harvest. Cut the stems about an inch or so above the ground. To get the most from your cilantro, harvest a different area each time. By the time you’ve harvested the third or fourth area of your cilantro planting, the first area will have had time to grow back.

Along with harvesting the leaves of the plant for use in cooking, you can also harvest the seeds from the flower heads. You can either use the seeds, which are called coriander, in cooking or save them for planting in the garden next season.

Wait until the plant has dried out and turned brown to harvest the seed heads. Cut the seed heads off of the plant and put them in a paper bag to finish drying. After a few days in the bag, the seeds will fall off of the heads. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place.

If you can’t get enough of cilantro in your cooking, it pays to grow it in your garden. If you leave some of the seeds on the plant, they’ll fall onto the ground and sow themselves, meaning you’ll have cilantro growing in your garden for many seasons to come.

Photo by tlarussa licensed under CC0

Growing Lavender For Your Garden

Last update: April 29, 2020

Lavender plants are best grown from cuttings taken from older, more established plants. The plants prefer well drained soil and a lot of sun. When growing lavender, it’s important not to water the plants too much, otherwise their leaves will turn yellow and the plant will suffer. In areas that don’t get too cold, lavender will return year after year. To keep the plant looking great each year, it’s important to prune back its stems, either in the spring or fall.

Planting Lavender

Lavender is notoriously tricky to grow from seed. For many years, it it was difficult to know what you were going to get from a packet of seeds, according to Burpee. Depending on the variety, lavender grown from seed might not come true and might grow to an unexpected height or be less healthy than you’d hoped.

For that reason, it’s often easiest to grow lavender from already established seedling or from a cutting taken from an established plant.

Plant lavender in your garden in the early spring, after the last frost. Lavender can grow to be quite large, so it’s important to give it enough space in the garden. Bonnie Plants suggests spacing each plant about 12 to 18 inches apart.

In the video above, lavender farmer Sarah Bader walks you through the process of taking a cutting from an existing lavender plant and preparing it so that it can grow in your garden.

Growing Lavender in Containers

If space in your garden is limited or if you live in an area that gets very cold winters, you might prefer to grow lavender in a container. Using a container can also be ideal if you live in an area with heavy, clay soil or in a humid region, since lavender needs well-drained soil and some dryness to thrive.

It’s important to pick the right container for your lavender. Patti O’Neal, a Master Gardener in Colorado, suggests choosing a pot that is about an inch or two wider than the rootball of the lavender you plan on growing. Choosing a container that is slightly larger than the root system will give them some room to grow without the risk of having the soil become too moist and water-logged.

Pick a container that has built in drainage holes or a container that you can easily add holes to yourself. Since lavender does prefer drier conditions, it’s better to pick a container made of clay, which will dry quickly instead of one made of plastic, which will retain moisture.

Choose a container mix that drains well to keep your lavender plant happy. You might consider mixing standard container mix with one made for cactus and palm trees. Another option is to add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the container to improve drainage.

Caring for Lavender

Whether you are growing it in the ground or in a container, lavender has certain needs. One of those needs is well-drained soil, since the plant prefers things on the dry side. It also prefers slightly alkaline soil, with a pH between 6.4 and 8.2, according to Cornell University.

You do want to water lavender from time to time, but make sure the soil has dried out between waterings. If you overwater the plant, the leaves will start to yellow.

You don’t need to fertilize lavender very much. Adding a handful of bonemeal to the soil in the fall, just before the plant goes dormant for the winter, can help it survive the colder temperatures.

Pruning Lavender

Lavender is a woody shrub, meaning you can’t divide it as you would other types of perennials. Instead, you can control its growth and take cuttings from it for propagation by pruning the plant. Pruning the plant also allows you to harvest the purple flowers, which you can use for cooking or for their scent in potpourri.

When you can prune lavender depends on where you live. In areas that get a frost and experience very cold temperatures over the winter, it’s best to leave the pruning until the next spring. If your area’s winters are mild, you can prune in the late fall.

The video from Learn How to Garden shows you step by step how to prune a lavender plant, creating a nice shape to the plant. As the video notes, it’s important not to prune the plant too deeply. If you cut the stems too low, into the woody areas, the plant is not able to grow back. Instead, cut about two thirds of the plant down, leaving several inches of green growth.

Pruning your lavender plant can help improve airflow, as well as the plant’s looks. If your lavender develops brown leaves, it could be a result of a fungal infection. Fungal infections are more likely to occur when the plants are growing in crowded conditions with little room to breathe.

Choosing a Lavender Variety

The variety of lavender you choose to grow will influence how well the plant does in your garden. Some types of lavender perform better in containers, for example, while some varieties are better able to handle colder winters than others.

If you are growing lavender in a container, you might want to pick a dwarf variety, such as “Little Lottie,” which grows to be about a foot tall. “Munstead” is another type of a lavender that is suitable for containers, as it is smaller than other types.

Although lavender is grown as a perennial in zones 5 through 8, some varieties of it aren’t hardy enough to make it through the winter and are grown as an annual in colder regions, such as the midwestern US.

French lavender and Spanish lavender are two examples of more tender lavender varieties. You can grow these in colder regions, but will need to either bring them indoors over the winter or start over with a new plant in the spring.

Lavender is a plant that does best when you don’t pay too much attention to it. Give it a good pruning each year and make sure it has some water and food, but don’t dote on it too much or else it will fail to thrive.

Photo by Hans licensed under CC0

Efficiently Growing Rosemary In Your Herb Garden

Last update: April 29, 2020

To grow rosemary in your garden, start with a seedling from a garden center or a cutting taken from another plant. You can grow rosemary outdoors year round in zone 8 or above. In zones 7 or lower, you’ll want to bring the plant inside for the winter. You can also grow rosemary indoors all year round, but making sure it gets enough light inside can be tricky. To thrive, rosemary needs adequate moisture and regular pruning to keep its growth under control.

Planting Rosemary

You can grow rosemary from seed or by taking cuttings of an existing plant. You can also purchase seedlings at a garden center to transplant into your garden or a larger container.

Usually, the recommended way to plant rosemary is from a cutting or transplant. Plants grown from seed might not come to variety, according to Fine Gardening. Plus, rosemary seeds have a reputation for not germinating.

When you can plant rosemary depends on where you live. If you are in zone 7 or lower, it’s best to plant rosemary in the spring. In zone 8 or higher, you can also plant in the fall, as rosemary will be able to survive the mild winters in those zones.

Give your rosemary plants enough space in the garden when planting. Ideally, each plant will be about two feet apart. Under the right conditions, a rosemary shrub can grow up to four feet across and up to four feet high.

The video from Home Handy Hints shows you how to get a small rosemary plant established in your garden and offers tips for caring for the plant once it’s in the ground.

Taking Rosemary Cuttings

One way to make a new rosemary plant is to take a small cutting from an existing plant. If you have friends or relatives who grow rosemary, you can ask them to give you a cutting. Once you’ve gotten the cutting, strip all but the top few leaves from the stem.

In the video, gardener Victoria Mellia takes you through the process of preparing rosemary cuttings using honey. The honey helps the cuttings produce roots by sealing off the wounds produced when you cut the plant and tore of its leaves, so that there’s a lower risk for infection.

Once you have the cuttings ready to go, you can either place them in compost or a small jar of water. Either option will encourage the growth of roots. It usually takes up to three weeks for the cuttings to root. At that point, you can transplant them to a small pot before finally transplanting them to the garden.

Growing Rosemary in a Container

You can grow rosemary in a pot. Actually, growing rosemary in a container can be ideal if you’re in a colder area, as you can bring the container indoors once the temperature starts to drop.

Choose a container that’s not too large and that has a drainage hole. As a plant from the Mediterranean, rosemary doesn’t do well when the soil is wet and soggy. If the container is too large for the size of the plant, the roots are likely to rot when the excess soil stays wet.

It’s a good idea to trim the plant’s roots and refresh its container soil each year, to keep container grown rosemary healthy. Doing so will keep the rosemary from becoming pot bound and will give it more fertilizer from the fresh potting mix.

The video from Arbor Gate shows you how to prune the roots from any type of plant to keep it in the same container year after year. You’ll need a sharp knife to slice the roots away.

Growing Rosemary Indoors

Gardeners often face a number of problems when trying to grow rosemary indoors, whether they are overwintering the plant inside or growing it inside all year around. One major problem is a lack of light in the house.

Rosemary needs plenty of light, even in the winter, to continue to survive. The plant can’t go from getting six or more hours of sunlight a day to get just a couple of hours of light or very filtered light and still do well.

If you are bringing rosemary inside for the winter, you want to help it acclimate to lower light conditions, before bringing it in full-time. To do that, move the plant to more shaded area of the garden for a few hours, then for a full day. Let the plant sit in the shaded area for a few weeks before you bring it indoors.

Once the plant’s inside, find the sunniest spot for it, either in a south or west-facing window. You can also place the rosemary under a grow light to supplement its lighting needs.

Caring for Rosemary

Whether rosemary is outdoors or indoors, another problem gardeners often face is giving the plant either too much or too little water. Too much water can rot the plant’s roots and make it more susceptible to mildew and disease. Too little water will cause the plant to wilt and dry out.

Keep the soil evenly moist around your rosemary plants. The top layer of soil should dry out between waterings, but you don’t want to soil in the container or around the plant to fully dry out. Adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil will help insulate the plant in winter and will trap in some moisture during the heat of summer.

Harvesting and Pruning Rosemary

Rosemary needs to be pruned to help them retain their shape and to increase air circulation, reducing the risk for fungal infections and other diseases. To prune the plant, simply cut away any woody areas or excess growth. You can shape the plant as you prune, by cutting it into a rounded or conical shape.

You can harvest rosemary leaves and stems for use in the kitchen pretty much any time throughout its growing season. To harvest the leaves, simple cut off a stem near the base of the plant.

Photo by Hans licensed under CC0

How to Start Growing Mint

Last update: April 29, 2020

Whether you pick peppermint, spearmint or a flavored mint variety, mint can quickly take over your entire garden. To keep its growth in check, it’s best to plant mint in a container. You can sink the container into the soil, where it will prevent the plant from spreading out too much. Mint is easy to grow from a cutting or transplant and trickier to grow from seed. Once the plant is in the garden, it needs part to full sun as well as consistent moisture to stay healthy throughout the season.

Choosing Mint Varieties

When it comes to growing mint, you have much more to choose from than simply peppermint or spearmint. According to Harvest to Table, there are around two dozen different types of mint that you can grow in the garden.

Since most mint plants tend to be quite prolific and you’ll only need one or two to take care of your mint needs, choose the variety you’ll get the most use out of in cooking. The flavors of some types of mint mimic other foods.

For example, apple mint tastes like apples (and mint), basil mint has a hint of basil and chocolate mint tastes like a York peppermint patty, but in plant form.

Some mints are better suited for use as a tea, such as Moroccan mint and Japanese mint, both of which have a milder flavor than other mint varieties. Varieties such as pennyroyal have a very strong flavor and are often used for medicinal purposes, rather than for cooking.

No matter which type of mint you grow, most have the same growing requirements. As a perennial plant, mint is hardy in zones 3 through 8, which means it can survive the winter in those areas. All varieties of mint tend to be very fast growers and will quickly fill in an area of the garden, and then some.

How to Plant Mint

You can grow mint from seed, but not all varieties will come true when planted from seed. For example, hybrid varieties, which include flavored mints like chocolate mint and apple mint, won’t necessarily produce the same variety of mint when grown from seed. They should always be started from transplants or cuttings.

But if you have time, you can start peppermint or spearmint from seed. The plants take up to two weeks to germinate and usually have a slow start when grown from seed, but after a few months, they develop the rapid growth habit mint is known for.

In the above video, gardener Gary Pilarchik takes you through the process of planting mint seeds, starting the seeds in special grow cups. After a few weeks, he transplants the baby seedlings into slightly bigger cups before finally planting in the garden.

Planting Mint Cuttings

If you know someone who is growing mint, you can take a cutting from his or her plant and use that cutting to start mint in your own garden.

The video above shows you how to successfully take cuttings from an existing plant and prepare them for planting in your own garden. After a few weeks in a cup of water, the stem of the mint cutting will produce roots and will eventually turn into a full mint plant if you put in the garden.

Transplanting Mint

Whether you’re planting homegrown seedlings, a cutting or a transplant, choose the spot for your mint carefully. Mint actually prefers a bit of shade, so you don’t need to find a fully sunny spot in your garden. It needs fertile, moist soil, so it’s a good idea to mix some compost into the soil before planting.

When you do plant the mint, space each cutting or seedling about 18 inches apart, so that the plants have adequate space to grow and spread. Adding a layer of mulch on the top of the soil will help conserve moisture and will keep your mint happy through the growing season.

Why Plant Mint in a Container

Mint is known as an invasive and aggressive plant. It reproduced by putting out runners, both above and below ground. Even if you have plenty of room in your garden, it’s often recommended that you plant mint in a container, so that you have some control over its growth and so that it doesn’t try to crowd out the other plants in your garden.

One option is to plant mint in a container that’s about 18 inches wide and deep, then dig a hole in your garden large enough for the container and sink the mint and container into the hole. The pot around the mint controls its roots somewhat, but the mint still has the benefit of being grown in the ground.

The video from the University of Illinois Extension gives you an idea of what it looks like to grow mint in pots in the ground and further explains the benefits of doing so.

Caring for Mint

Mint can be a relatively hands-off plant. If you plant it in fertile soil and make sure it gets enough water, it will grow and grow through the spring, summer and fall. Your main focus when caring for mint is often pruning it and pulling it up to keep it from overtaking the rest of the garden.

Pruning Mint

You can harvest mint leaves through the season. Regularly cutting the stems and leaves from the plant will not only control its growth, but will also give you tastier mint leaves. The flavor of young mint leaves is stronger than the flavor of older leaves.

You can multiply your mint harvest by regularly pruning the plant. When mint starts to produce flowers, cut back all the stems to about an inch high. The plant will continue to grow, giving you a second and even third harvest.

Mint can be a deceptively easy plant to grow. It doesn’t need much attention from you. But you need to pay attention to it or else it will quickly overtake the rest of your garden.

Photo by strecosa licensed under CC0