Rosemary and lemon balm are two versatile and easy to grow herbs for the home garden. Both are useful in the kitchen, plus they both have medicinal uses. Both of these herbs are easy to grow at home, indoors, or outdoors, and are commonly grown in medicinal herb gardens. Let’s look at how to grow these fragrant and beneficial herbs.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a Mediterranean native that grows well in a full sun location with well-draining soil that remains slightly dry. A rock garden is an ideal location for this herb. You can start rosemary seeds indoors 6 weeks prior to last frost date in your area. Seeds can be sown directly outside in prepared soil after temperature warms to above 70 degrees in the spring.
Prepare soil by tilling it to a depth of 8-10 inches, then work in 2 inches of compost. Scatter seeds on top of prepared soil, lightly cover with 1/4 inch of soil, and then water well. Thin the seedlings after germination to 8 inches apart. Continue to thin plants as you harvest the herb. Allow the soil to become dry to the touch between your waterings.
Rosemary is an evergreen plant that will reach a mature size of about 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Sowing seeds, then thinning plants will ensure a few plants will grow to reach maturity while providing plenty of the herb for your own use. You can prune it often to keep the size down.
In addition to being fragrant, rosemary will produce delicate blue flowers in late spring and early summer. Pollinators, like bees, love the fragrant flowers and will flock to it. Certain species of rosemary will even bloom in November and December.
Rosemary is an ideal companion plant for certain vegetables and will help repel pests and enhance vegetables flavor. Plant rosemary in the vegetable garden near carrots, cabbage, beans and sage.
Growing Lemon Balm
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) also hailing from the same region as rosemary, is not picky about its location and will thrive in full sun or partial shade. This perennial herb is hardy, and related to mint. It does like moist soil and does best when planted in an area that will receive shade from the afternoon sun.
Sow seeds directly ¼ inches deep into prepared soil after all frost danger has passed in the spring. If you are planting in rows, space them about 18-24 inches apart. Lightly cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil, and water them well. The seeds will germinate in 7-10 days. Thin seedlings to 8 inches apart. Keep soil moist throughout the growing season with regular watering. Allow the upper layer of the soil to dry out before watering again to reduce the risk of root rot.
If grown outside, lemon balm propagates via its underground roots. To prevent too much spreading, you can grow it in a container. If you grow lemon balm in a container, you may need to water it every day during the hot, dry season because of its moisture needs. Lemon balm can grow to about 3 feet high and wide unless you keep pruning it. During winter, lemon balm dies back to the ground, but always regrows from the roots in spring.
Harvest lemon balm leaves as needed throughout the summer. The lemon fragrance and flavor will quickly dissipate after leaves are removed from plant. Lemon balm produces white blooms June through August and will attract pollinators, especially bees. So planting it will help the bees too. Just after it has finished blooming is probably a good time to prune it. This herb makes a good companion plant for melons, onions, squash, and tomatoes.
Health Benefits of Rosemary and Lemon Balm
Once harvested, what benefits do these herbs provide you? Well, dry them and turn them into herbal tinctures! Rosemary and lemon balm are both said to improve digestion. Rosemary is often used to relieve indigestion and lemon balm reportedly relieves stomach cramps that accompany a sluggish digestive system.
Both of these easy-to-grow herbs are said to offer brain cell protection and slow down the aging process of the brain. These herbs contain powerful antioxidants that intercept damaging free radicals before they can attack brain cells. Using these herbs in recipes or to make tea can help stave off age-related memory loss and loss of brain function.
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