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Lemon Grass is a tender perennial and easy to grow. This is an east indian strain growing to 20 to 30cm in height. Leaves can be harvest as soon as large enough and will reshoot.
Lemon grass, sometimes known as fever grass, is a tropical herb that is grown for its edible stems. The plant smells distinctly of lemon, hence its name, and is used for flavouring a variety of Asian dishes including curries, soups, fish and sauces.
It is also grown for its many medicinal uses and is well known for its analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties among many others
February - April
Sow lemon grass seeds in pots or seed trays between late January and April in a greenhouse. Use a seed compost, which has been previously dampened, and lightly cover the seeds with finely sifted soil or vermiculite. For germination, a temperature of between 20-25C will be required. Germination is often very slow and can take as long as 20-30 days. When large enough to handle, transplant into pots and then acclimatise them (harden off) in a cold frame, cloche or cold greenhouse for 7-10 days.
Growing in pots
Lemon grass can be grown in large pots or containers but best select the dwarf East Indian strain, which is better suited as it will attain a height of just 20-30cm. Other varieties can grow up to 1.5m in height. Only put the pots outside from the end of May onwards as the plants are not hardy and will be damaged by late frosts. They will need a sheltered sunny position and you will need to keep the pots well watered. Feeding weekly through the summer months is recommended.
Growing in beds
If planting outdoors, ensure the planting beds are in a sunny position and well prepared, incorporating plenty of organic matter. Water the planting area prior to planting lemon grass and ensure the soil is well drained. Remove the plants from their pots and plant at 30cm apart then water them in. After they begin to grow, add a liquid fertiliser to the watering routine every 2-3 weeks.
Remove dead and dying leaves as they appear. Side shoots can be removed and used for culinary purposes as can the stems. Ensure the plants do not dry out and keep them sheltered from strong winds.
Pests and diseases
Rust can be a problem with lemon grass but if all dead and dying foliage is removed and plants are not watered directly overhead, and growth is stimulated by liquid fertiliser then all should be okay. Aphids and whitefly might prove troublesome, especially if growing the plants in a greenhouse. Treatment is best carried out using an insecticidal soap.
Harvesting and storage
Lemon grass can be harvested all through the summer months as and when required. Towards the end of summer, cut the stems down to about 3-5cm. Then trim off the leaves and place the stems in a fridge. You can also freeze the stems for use throughout the winter months. The pots can be brought back indoors and over wintered. New shoots will appear again in the following spring.
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Often used in curries, bread, soup and salad dressings