Herb of the Month: Lavender (Lavandula sp.) Part 1

March’s herb of the month is lavender.

grosso lavender plants

This growing information is for Grosso lavender (the variety that I planted in my front garden last year), but other lavender should have similar growing requirements. Grosso lavender is hybrid of cold-hardy English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and heat-tolerant Portuguese Lavender (L. latifolia). It is the primary commercial variety for the production of lavender oil.

Grosso Lavender Care

Size: The Grosso variety of lavender can get up to 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall and wide.

Water Requirements: This lavender prefers soil that is kept between dry and moist.

Soil Requirements: Grosso lavender grows best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil that is well drained.

Light Requirements: Grosso lavender does best in full sun.

Temperature Requirements: This lavender grows well in USDA zones 5 to 8, though may not survive the winter if the temperature gets below 0F and there is no snow to insulate the plant.

Nutrient Requirements: Lavender actually prefers a soil with somewhat low fertility.

Pruning: For continued blooming, remove faded flowers. About every three years, prune back to 8 inches (20 cm) tall in the spring.

Pests: This lavender is susceptible to root rot and leaf spot.

Blooms: The blooms of this lavender are lavender in color and very fragrant. Blooms appear from June to August.

Sources

Missouri Botanical Garden
Pantry Garden Herbs – Lavender, Grosso 
Mother Earth News – Herb to Know: Lavender ‘Grosso’ Plant 

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Herb of the Month: Basil (Ocimum basilicum) Part 1

Sweet basil, (Ocimum basilicum) is the most common variety of basil sold in the United States. While there are many other basil varieties, some closely related and some not, I chose to focus on sweet basil since I’m the most familiar with it.

basil cuttings in water

Sweet Basil Information 

Size: Sweet basil can range from 24 – 38 inches (61 – 97 cm) in height depending on conditions.

Water Requirements: A lot of water is required to grow basil. Soil should be kept damp, but not soaked.

Soil Requirements: The soil that sweet basil is planted in should be fertile and well drained. Basil prefers a soil that is very slightly acidic (pH 6.4) but can tolerate a wide pH range.

Light Requirements: Sweet basil likes to be grown in full sun (at least 4-6 hours of direct sun).

Temperature Requirements: Sweet basil does not tolerate cold temperatures well and should be kept above 40°F (4.4°C).

Nutrient Requirements: A fertilizer with equal amounts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium with additional nitrogen supplementation later in the growing season is recommended for sweet basil.

Pruning: Many people who grow basil cut off flower buds, as they believe it causes leaves to become bitter. Nipping off the top set of leaves can encourage the basil plant to become bushier. Regular pruning is recommended.

Pests: Although sweet basil is relatively insect repellent, it can still be bothered by pests such as whiteflies, cutworms, and nematodes as well as fungal and bacterial diseases.

Companion Planting: Basil is often planted along side tomatoes.

Growing Indoors: Basil is well suited to growth in containers, both indoors and outdoors. Pots need to be at least 8 inches (20 cm). The best growing medium is a soilless mix and the light, water, and nutrient requirements are similar to those of an outdoor plant.

 

Sources

Bonnie Plants – A good basic introduction to Sweet Basil. The plant I took the cuttings from was a Bonnie Sweet Basil plant.
National Gardening Association – Basil Plant care guide
Herb Society of America Guide – Basil  In addition to basil, the Herb Society of America has good guides to many other herbs.

Herb of the Month: Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) Part 2

[Please note that this page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.]

Bay leaves in a mason jar with oil being poured over them
Image source: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1479642/infused-bay-oil

Today we’re going to take a brief look at the culinary and medicinal uses of Bay Laurel leaves. 

Medicinally Bay Laurel can be taken as a tea to soothe stomaches and relieve gas. The leaves also have diaphoretic properties and can induce vomiting when taken in large quantities. The oil of bay laurel can al be applied externally as an antiseptic and to treat sprains, bruises, and arthritis.

In the kitchen, bay leaves are typically used dry as fresh leaves contain bitter tasting compounds that drying removes. Leaves are added to soups and stews to flavor the broth and are removed before eating. Leaves may also be used in pickling, marinades, and baking.

Around the home bay leaves are used to make fragrant wreaths and garlands, and to repel insects from the pantry.

Recipes*

Infused Bay Oil 

Bay Leaf Tea–  It’s a little unclear what type of bay she uses, but it looks like any variety will work.

Bay Leaf Tea/ Gripe Water

Braised Bay Leaf Chicken

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Fresh Bites Daily has recipes for bay leaf custard drinks and desserts. I can’t try these because of my food allergies, but they look interesting.

Bay Laurel Pound Cake

Gluten-free Dairy-free Bay Leaf Pound Cake

Blueberry Bay Leaf Quick Jam

* I have not had a chance to try any of these recipes yet. If you do try them, let me know how they go!

Sources

Flower Power: Bay Laurel by Jacqueline Soule on Rodale’s Organic Life

Garden Plant of the Month of October – Bay laurel (Bay Tree) on Agora

Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra

A Modern Herbal Volume II by Mrs. M. Grieve

Herb of the Month: Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis) Part 1

Bay Laurel Leaves
Image Source: http://www.fuf.net/tree/grecian-laurel/

As stated in last week’s introduction, January’s herb of the month is Bay. While there are several plants that are used as the “bay leaf” spice in cooking I’m going to focus on bay laurel (Laurus nobilis). This type of bay is also known as sweet bay. Laurus nobilis originates from the Mediterranean and can be grown outdoors in warmer climates or indoors as a houseplant in colder ones. 

Size: Bay Laurel can grow up to 23 ft (7.5m) tall if not pruned.

Water Requirements: Bay laurel has moderate water requirements. As with most plants overwatering can cause root damage.

Soil Requirements: Bay Laurel prefers well-drained soil

Light Requirements: Bay Laurel grows best in full sun to part shade.

Temperature Requirements: Bay Laurel can be grown outside in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Nutrient Requirements: Bay Laurel grown in containers can benefit from controlled-release fertilizer or a liquid feed every two weeks from mid-spring through late summer.

Pruning: Bay Laurel is well suited to being pruned as a topiary or shrub but they are slow growing and can be slow to recover.

Pests and Problems: Bay is susceptible to bay sucker and both soft and horse chestnut scale. Waterlogged roots can cause leaf spots or yellowing of leaves. Yellowing of leaves can also indicate a nutrient deficiency.

Container Growing: If you want to grow bay laurel as a container plant it is important to use well draining soil. Plants grown in container are also susceptible to freezing when it’s cold outside so make sure to insulate the pot. The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that bay be repotted every two years.

Bay Laurel Bush in a terra cotta pot
Bay Laurel in a pot (Image Source: http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1774/sweet-bay/)

Part two, the culinary and medicinal uses of bay laurel and some recipes, will be coming next week so be on the look out for that.

Sources

Flower Power: Bay Laurel on Rodale’s Organic Life

Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis) on Royal Horticultural Society


As an aside, my classes start back up again this week, so while I have the best intentions to post weekly, we all know how that went last semester. If I disappear for a bit, it’s probably because of schoolwork.