You’ve probably heard about rosemary from cooking shows or for its healing properties. What people don’t hear about is its other numerous uses. Did you know it can be used as a measure of pest control? What about in hair products? In this article, I’ll show you how and why you should grow rosemary at the back of your garden.
What Is Rosemary?
The herb is known for its strong aromatic properties and leaves that look like elongated thorns. Depending on how well you care for it, this plant can grow to a height of about 3 feet and up to 5 feet in some climates.
Ancient texts reveal the plant’s existence in Egypt before spreading to ancient Greece and Rome. It didn’t spread to England and parts of Europe until the 14th century. Over time, it spread to the rest of the world. In ancient Egypt, they used it during burials. The Greeks wore it as crowns on their head. However, most countries used it for its medicinal properties before adding it as an ingredient in food.
Different Types Of Rosemary
There are two major types; creeping and upright, both of which can be used for culinary and decorative foliage.
- Upright rosemary
From its name, we can derive that this variety is in an upright position. It can grow to a height of up to four meters and spread up to three meters wide.
- Creeping rosemary
Despite its different growth habits, it still has the same pungent smell as the upright rosemary. It can be used as ground cover for your garden. You can also find it trailing from raised and terraced beds.
How To Start Growing Rosemary
Rosemary has many species to choose from. Though all achieve the same purpose, they may not taste the same due to different soil compositions and other aspects such as exposure to sunlight, moisture level, and temperatures. So first, select the type of rosemary you would like. Make sure it aligns with the climate in your area, and the soil in your garden allows it to thrive.
When To Plant
This typically depends on whether you’re planting in your garden or indoors in pots. The most favorable time to plant the rosemary is during spring. However, It can be grown during winter as long as the plant receives shelter from the frost.
Where To Plant
Select a location that is spacious enough to allow the plant to grow properly. During winter, as mentioned earlier, shelter the plant from frost, while springtime let the plant grow under plenty of sunlight or at least six to eight hours of it. Also, make sure the soil has excellent drainage as rosemary will not tolerate constantly wet soil. It would be best to ensure that there is enough room for growth due to the plant’s growth pattern.
You can opt to grow rosemary from seeds or cuttings, or divisions.
Growing Rosemary From Seed
- If you’re going to plant from seed, you need to plant three to six months prior to the planting season. Rosemary grows really slowly and can have a poor germination rate, so you’ll need to start out with more seeds than you expect to plant.
- Choose a container. The best container would be one that is in the shape of a tray. It could be plastic or wooden. This will accommodate more seeds.
- Ensure the soil you use has good drainage. You can prepare your own mix with perlite and peat moss. You can also opt to purchase a sterile soilless seed-starting mix. It’s best if you moisten the mix lightly before adding it to the container.
- Add the seeds to the mix, preferably three to four seeds. Cover them just enough to receive sunlight but not too open to overexpose them.
- Using a spray bottle, lightly moisten the surface just enough not to make it soppy wet. This helps the seeds settle more into the mix. Cover the surface with a plastic wrap.
- Store in a sunny and warm location until the first signs of germination. If you’re unable to find any sun or warmth, you may choose to use a heat mat and an indoor full-spectrum light. During the germination period, make sure the surface doesn’t dry up and begin to crack. Keep moistening it lightly using a spray bottle.
- Remove the plastic cover once the seedling begin to appear. Place the seed-starting tray in a shallow water tray and allow the water to seep in through the drainage holes on the seed-starting tray. Ensure the seedlings are placed under direct sunlight.
- Once the seedlings are three to six inches tall, transplant them outside—select ground with compost-rich soil and good drainage. The ground must also be open to direct sunlight each day. You can transplant them on a seedbed, or you may bring the plant indoors if winter has started.
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Growing Rosemary From Cuttings
- Cuttings are a great way of harvesting from rosemary faster than using seeds. From cuttings, the plant matures in a few months and is ready for harvesting.
- Cut from a mature rosemary plant using a sharp pair of scissors. Snip the cutting five to six inches from the tip. Ensure the cutting is from the soft new flexible branches.
- Delicately remove the leaves from the bottom two-thirds of the cutting.
- Place the cutting in a jar of warm water. Make sure to place the jar in an area that receives warmth and sunlight. Every two to three days, the water must be changed into freshwater. Expect root growth to occur in a few weeks, but it could take longer if you’re in cooler temperatures. Look out for cuttings whose leaves have turned brown. That means the cuttings didn’t survive, and you can throw them away. From the healthy cuttings, once root growth appears, they are ready to be transplanted.
- In a small container, plant each stem cutting and gently fill it up with a sandy soil mix with good drainage. To avoid damaging the new roots, carefully place the new plant into a three-inch hole in the soil. Moisten the soil, but don’t let it get too soggy.
- Care for the plant and ensure it receives enough sunlight and moisture. Look out for new growth. The only way you’d know it’s ready to be transplanted is by giving it a gentle tug. If you feel any resistance, that means the plant’s roots have taken hold of the soil, and you can now transplant.
- Select a location that allows the plant to receive six to eight hours of sunlight and transplant them there. Ensure the soil has good drainage and is compost-rich.
As stated earlier, the herb requires daily sunlight of up to eight hours. Although too much sun is not an issue, getting less of it is. Partial shade will encourage slow growth and if you’re growing it indoors, invest in the purchase of a grow light to ensure a constant supply of sunlight.
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Rosemary doesn’t need too much moisture and will not tolerate soil that holds too much water. Ensure the plant has drier soil around it. To properly control the moisture level, wet the soil once you notice it has become dry. Don’t allow the plant to begin wilting, though.
Cold temperature can result in the herb growing very slowly. Keep the environment around the plant warm to encourage healthy growth.
Rosemary grows very fast in soil that has excellent drainage. You can add worm castings, compost, or all-purpose organic fertilizer to the soil before planting to encourage its growth rate. If the soil happens to be acidic, you can add a neutralizer like garden lime to keep the soil pH alkaline. If you’re growing them in containers, it’s best to use the high-quality soilless mix to ensure the plant grows in soil with good drainage.
Growing Rosemary In Pots When You Can’t Grow It In The Garden
Growing the herb indoors requires special care. The soil used in the container needs to be of excellent quality containing peat moss with vermiculite, fine pine bark, perlite, and many other crucial ingredients.
You must also select a container that allows the roots to grow and expand. With a diameter of twelve inches, the plant should have adequate space. The pot must also have a drainage hole to ensure the soil doesn’t stay soggy, as this will cause the plant to start rotting.
Starting with a seed may be discouraging because it takes so long for it to germinate. If you want faster results, you can use a plant from the nursery or a small plant from a garden center. Plant it with the same depth as it had from the garden. Planting it too deeply might suffocate the plant.
Make sure to place the pot under direct sunlight. However, if there is frost, you should get a grow light to maintain the supply of sunlight. To maintain warmth for the plant, you may use an artificial source of heat.
Keep the surface moistened enough to allow the plant to thrive. If you’re considering fertilizer, you can use a dry fertilizer or a diluted soluble liquid fertilizer. There’s no need to use fertilizer unless the plant looks malnourished or is experiencing stunted growth. Be sure to apply the fertilizer to the soil and not the leaves. It’s crucial to note that too much fertilizer might cause harm to the plant. It’s better to use little fertilizer.
During winter, make sure the plant is in a spot with enough air circulation. Keep the plant in a well-lit room and, as mentioned earlier, keep the room warm. Too much cold can cause stunted growth and may kill the plant.
- Pests and diseases
Like many other plants, rosemary plants also get attacks from various pests, whether outdoors or indoors. Aphids and spider mites can become a menace, especially indoors. An insecticidal soap spray will keep the pests in control. Using five drops of mild liquid soap, a teaspoonful of baking soda, and water, you can make your own.
Powdery mildew is a significant disease for the plant. You can prevent it by making sure there is enough circulation of air around the plant. If you spot the disease, you can quickly treat it by spraying a solution of one part milk and five parts water. You should prune the parts that have been adversely affected and if you’re growing it indoors, place the plant under direct sunlight to activate the milk solution.
- Trimming and pruning
Though regular pruning isn’t compulsory when growing the plant, it is very beneficial. It allows the plant to grow into more branches and controls the shape of the entire rosemary plant. More branches means more harvest for you. In an area that supports all-year-round growth of the plant, constantly pruning it will help keep the plant healthy and rejuvenate it.
When To Prune and How To Prune
Pruning can be done anytime during spring and summer, four to six weeks before the first frost. Pruning after this stipulated time will force the plant to focus on growing a new, which is tender growth instead of hardening and protecting the growth it already has. This will render it susceptible to the harsh winter conditions and damage, which will kill the plant.
Make sure your pruning shears are sharp and clean. Blunt and dirty pruning can further damage the plant by leaving it vulnerable to pest attacks and bacterial infections.
Trim the plant according to your needs. If you’re trimming to shape the plant, hold a mental picture of how you’d like the plant to look like and trim the branches that fall outside the outline. If your shaping requires you to cut more than a third of any branch, you’ll have to do it in stages. Remember to give the plant time to recover before pruning again.
To increase the plant’s branches and create a bushier plant, you can remove the tips one to two inches from the stem. In turn, this will cause the plant to split and create more branches. This technique is handy if you’re growing rosemary for cooking.
If the plant has grown out of control and is invading surrounding plants, pruning is a great way to tame the wild growth. Lightly pruning only works when trying to reshape the plant; however, you’ll soon discover that the plant responds well to heavy pruning. Heavy pruning is cutting not just the tips but woody parts of the plant stem as well. When the plant is more likely dormant during winter, that’s the best time to conduct the hard pruning process. By spring, the plant will have grown back into a much healthier plant.
Rosemary doesn’t need heavy use of fertilizer. That doesn’t mean the plant doesn’t benefit from its use, especially when grown in a container. You can apply a granular herb fertilizer to the soil or use liquid fertilizer such as compost tea or fish emulsion. You can also make your own tea fertilizer if you have a compost pile.
Harvesting rosemary is as easy as growing the plant. The best time to harvest is once the plant starts blooming during the spring or summer. However, if you live in an area where it’s relatively warm throughout the entire year, harvesting can be done whenever. You can do this throughout the whole year without forgetting to give the plant regular breaks to rejuvenate. All you have to do is snip off the stems that you need using a sharp and clean pair of shears. Remember to discard the woody stems before use since it’s the oils present in the leaves that are most useful.
If you want a much more fresh taste, you can opt to harvest the younger leaves and stems. Harvesting early in the morning when the plant’s essential oils are at their peak. If it’s for home use, cut only what you need and dry the harvest.
Before storing the leaves, it’s essential to leave the harvested leaves in an open room with adequate air circulation to dry. Lay the branches on a surface away from the sun. Under sunlight, the leaves lose their quality. The shade helps maintain it and dry the plant faster. You may then proceed to store the dried leaves in an airtight container of your choice or hang them for frequent use.
Benefits Of Growing Rosemary
Rosemary is perfect for so many dishes. It’s mainly used as a seasoning in soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. It’s also ideal when used with chicken and other poultry game, steak, lamb, pork, and oily fish. It also goes well with potatoes, mushrooms, onions, and so forth. You can check out recipes online to know exactly when you use the leaves to bring out the desired flavors. Take note that rosemary should be used sparingly. Using it in plenty may overpower other flavors present in the dish.
- Medicinal properties
Rosemary is believed to have medicinal properties regardless of how you consume it. Some people prefer taking it in tea, while others prefer consuming it externally and applying it as an oil.
Adding the herb to tea isn’t just for its flavor. It has a soothing aroma and several health benefits. Its key health benefits are; it supports brain health, improves mood and memory, acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflamary, lowers blood sugar, protects vision and eye health, and promotes digestion.
- Essential oils
To some, rosemary essential oil is more than a soothing balm. It poses more medicinal properties. It supports brain function, stimulates hair growth, is an alternative to pesticides due to its pungent smell. Breathing in its aroma helps relieve stress and slow down the heartbeat, among many other medicinal uses. All you simply have to do is inhale or apply it. Naturally, the oil is very concentrated, so a few drops should suffice.
- Garden benefits
Rosemary is a great companion for other plants in the garden. Its powerful scented oils act as a repellant to some pests. Some gardeners attest to this herb improving the flavor of sage when planted within proximity. Cabbage carrots, beans, cauliflower, and broccoli are among plants that can benefit from being planted next to rosemary.
This popular herb is more than just a pretty addition to your garden. It has various uses and growing it is pretty easy. Whichever way you look at it, you can never go wrong with rosemary.
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