Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), renowned for its tangy flavor, is a herbaceous plant of the family of Poaceae. It’s about a grass. Easy to cultivate, this aromatic of tropical origin can be planted in the ground or in pots, depending on the region because it is very cold and does not support low temperatures under any circumstances. Let’s take stock of the cultivation and harvest of what is also called Lemongrass or Verbena from India, Lemongrass from Java and Lemongrass from Madagascar.
Plant real lemongrass
We buy Verbena from India in bucket in his favorite garden center. Even if in this form, it is agreed that it can be planted at any time, it is still preferable to transplant its Citronella. between the month of May and the end of August.
The method of pot planting is as follows:
- Choose a pot of at least 30 cm in diameter or a container with a capacity of around ten liters,
- Make sure the container is fully drilled,
- Fill the pot with a mixture consisting of:
- 80% potting soil,
- 10% sand,
- 10% clay garden soil, which tends to retain water.
- Dig a hole in this substrate,
- Take the Lemongrass plant out of the bucket after soaking it for 10 minutes in water, then install it in the planting hole,
- Fill in the earth by compacting all around the foot,
- Water copiously.
Then continue to monitor the substrate which should always stay wet. Water as soon as necessary.
Planting in the ground is the same as in pots. Care should be taken to dig a hole of about 40 cm on the side and as much depth.
The real Lemongrass loves sunny exposures, sheltered from cold winds because she absolutely needs heat. She appreciates the moist, sandy, nutrient-rich and fresh soils. It is absolutely necessary that it benefits from enough space in the soil allowing its root system to develop well and out of the soil since it can grow.
Admittedly, it is very well cultivated in pots, but we benefit from a much more abundant harvest if the Indian Verbena is planted in the ground. However, its establishment in the vegetable or aromatic garden is only possible in mediterranean regions because due to the mild climate, this grass can spend the winter outside. The installation of a mulch is still useful because even moderate frosts are possible. Everywhere else, we must cultivate Lemongrass in pots.
Caring for Lemongrass
Apart from his lack of hardiness and therefore its vulnerability as soon as the thermometer goes down below 10 ° C, the real Lemongrass has no particular drawbacks. It can therefore be cultivated by amateur gardeners without experience provided that they respect the only big requirement of this plant, namely waterings supported.
Waterings should be regular and copious, more so in summer when temperatures are high and summer rains are scarce. This aromatic plant needs a lot of water throughout the vegetative period, which begins in May and ends in October.
During the rest period, that is to say from November to the end of April, you have to think drastically reduce watering to prevent dieback of the plant.
Indian Verbena cannot be pruned. On the other hand, it is strongly recommended toremove the stems as soon as they dry so as not to tire the foot unnecessarily, as is the case for the vast majority of plants.
This grass, which grows rapidly, gains even more vigor if you think of giving it nettle manure or even comfrey manure. In good conditions, its stems happily reach 150 cm high. But we can quite simply put a little ripe compost and a bed of dead leaves on the surface of the substrate in autumn to meet the nutrient needs of this beautiful aromatic.
Divide the stump
After some time, Lemongrass gains momentum. Thus, it is possible to multiply the plants by dividing the clump in the middle of spring. Be careful, however: in order not to risk making a skin reaction due to contact with his Essential oil which is found in the leaves, it is prudent to wear pants rather than shorts as well as long sleeves and gardening gloves before handling this aromatic plant. Its essential oil is not toxic, but you just have to know that many people are sensitive to it.
After good care, the Verbena of the Indies will end up feeling cramped in its container. We know it’s time to repot it when its roots come out of the pot. It is in any case useless to plant a whole field of Verbena of the Indies if one does not wish to sell its harvest on the market, because only one foot of this condiment plant is enough to meet the needs of a family.
This subtropical plant is very cold. Not at all rustic, it must be protected as soon as the temperature drops below 8 or 10 ° C. Below this, it may suffer, and below 0 ° C, it will not resist. So it’s good before the frost arrives that we have to think about bring in the Lemongrass grown in a pot to place it in a greenhouse, in the veranda or in the kitchen (provided you have a very large room!).
That cultivated in the ground, must be the object of all the attentions. We protect our roots with a thick carpet of fallen leaves and we wrap it in a wintering veil. It can be discovered in the spring, when the risk of late frost is no longer to be feared.
Parasites and diseases
Citronella is not the target of any particular parasite. As for diseases, they fortunately rarely strike this aromatic. At most, we can see on a confined Lemongrass foot the presence ofpowdery mildew or from rust. These two cryptogamic diseases disappear spontaneously, without any treatment, as soon as the plant is placed in a ventilated situation. If it is installed indoors, the room must be well ventilated so that everything is in order in just a few days.
Harvest Indian Verbena or Lemongrass
Harvesting Lemongrass can be done after three or four years of cultivation. It occurs from May until autumn, as and when required. We do not pull the stems out in handfuls but one by one by cutting low enough without cutting too close to the neck in order to give new shoots the chance to develop later.
Of frequent pickings do not risk impoverishing the foot on the contrary, it allows the leaves to gain in volume and to be even more tender. And we stop all picking three weeks before wintering the Citronella in the vat because it must have very abundant foliage to be able to spend the winter indoors.