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Month: May 2020
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Hyssop is a low-maintenance and robust herb. It also has deterring effects on some pests, which makes it a practical must for every garden.
Hyssop, which bears the botanical name Hyssopus officinalis, belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae). This family includes many popular herbs, such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or thyme (Thymus officinalis). A total of six species belong to the genus Hyssopus. Most of the hyssop species are native to Russia.
Since the hyssop is partially woody in growth, it is a semi-shrub. Therefore, it should be pruned regularly so that it retains its shape. Other than that, this herb is extremely easy to care for and, thanks to its intense aroma, it even repels some garden pests. This is why hyssop proves to be a suitable plant neighbour of other plant species, that are more susceptible to pest infestations. What is more, hyssop blooms in gorgeous blue to violet flowers, which add to its decorative value. The flowering period of hyssop is also extremely long and lasts from June to September.
Growing hyssop: in a garden bed or in a pot?
Hyssop prefers a sunny location on permeable and, if possible, calcareous soil with a good amount of nutrients. It is not recommended to grow hyssop in open areas with strong winds. Before planting this herb, heavy soils should be loosened up with sand to avoid waterlogging. Of course, hyssop can also be cultivated in pots or containers on the terrace or balcony. Always choose a slightly larger pot: smaller pots can quickly become too narrow for this fast-growing herb.
There are several ways to propagate hyssop easily and quickly:
Growing hyssop from seeds
In order to prevent the small seedlings from freezing to death, it is advised to sow hyssop out in the open from the beginning of May onwards. It is also possible to start the young plants from seeds indoors on the windowsill. If the seeds are sown in a seed tray from mid-May, more vigorous young plants can be planted out after the Ice Saints in mid-May.
Propagating hyssop with cuttings
In spring or summer, young shoots of about 5 cm length can be cut off from the mother plant and then placed in special substrate for cutting propagation. It is advantageous if no flowers or flower buds have yet formed, as this costs unnecessary energy and makes rooting of the cuttings more difficult. For the time when the cuttings have not yet taken root, they should be kept in a place with increased humidity – for example in a propagator with a plastic cover.
Propagating hyssop by layering
Since hyssop is a half-shrub, it is not possible to propagate it by division. However, another option for hyssop propagation is the so-called layering. To do this, bend down relatively strong but flexible shoots of the plant and fix them in the ground, for example with a wire. The tip of the shoot should protrude vertically from the ground and soil should be piled up at the point of bending. Roots can then form on the shoot at the point where it is tied down and the newly formed hyssop can be replanted in any place after it has been separated from the mother plant.
Watering and fertilising hyssop
Hyssop plants can even cope with a dry place in the alpine garden. If it is grown in a normal garden bed, it is therefore not necessary to water it. If it is grown in a pot, however, occasional watering is required from time to time. Keep in mind that waterlogging should be avoided at all costs in order not to provoke an infestation with the life-threatening root rot.
Hyssop is truly a low-maintenance plant and that applies even to its nutrient needs. It is sufficient to fertilise your hyssop plant just once a year.
Hyssop is a half-shrub which means that it is partially woody. In order to prevent the plant from losing its shape and the shoots becoming sparse and bare, annual pruning is recommended. The plant can be shortened to a height of 10 cm. However, do not cut into the hard and wooden parts of the plant because the hyssop can no longer sprout from there. Pruning can be done in autumn, but it is even better to do it in spring before new shoots appear. In this way, there is no risk of the winter frost penetrating the vulnerable parts of the plant and possibly causing them to die.
Regardless of whether the hyssop is cut in autumn or only in spring, it should be covered to protect it from winter. The half-shrub is relatively hardy, but long and severe frosts can still have a negative impact on its wellbeing and growth.
Harvesting and storing hyssop
As such, hyssop can be harvested continuously, provided that fresh shoots and leaves are on the plant. However, as with so many other herbs, the herb is most aromatic when harvested just before the long flowering period from June to September. You can pluck off either the leaves or harvest the entire shoots of hyssop.
When it comes to the aroma of hyssop, it remains the strongest if the leaves are used fresh right after harvest. Of course, the harvested hyssop can also be stored and used later, too. Here are some tips on how to store hyssop:
If hyssop is dried at room temperature in a dry place, it can be used as a dried spice for several months. There are two ways to do this. Either whole shoots are harvested or individual leaves are plucked. While the whole shoots can be hung up, the hyssop leaves should be spread out on a towel to dry. It is important to note that there will be a slight loss of aroma as a result of the drying process, though.
Another option is to simply freeze the leaves of hyssop. In this way, the herb is available in a more or less harvest-fresh state and without any significant loss of aroma intensity.
Like almost all Mediterranean herbs, hyssop can also be preserved in oil or vinegar. The shoots must be completely coated in liquid so that the harvested parts of the plant do not start to mould. After about two weeks, the oil or vinegar will have absorbed the hyssop aroma. Then, they can be used in various ways in the kitchen, for example as a spicy tarragon oil or vinegar for cooking, marinating or as salad dressing.
Hyssop: uses and benefits
What are the best ways to use this spicy herb, which unfortunately finds its way to our gardens all too rarely? Because of its strong aroma with a slightly bitter note, hyssop is great to use in sauces, salads and various meat dishes. The beautiful flowers of the hyssop are also edible and make a stylish addition to your plate. There is a pleasant side effect of hyssop consumption too: just like the closely related sage, hyssop has a soothing effect on inflammation. It is also said to have a calming effect on sensitive areas of the stomach and the intestinal tract. Although hyssop has long been used as a medicinal plant, it is not anymore, as it can trigger cramps (when consumed in higher doses).
Hyssop has one other special property, which makes it a great plant to grow in the garden bed. It can be used as a natural pesticide. Its intense smell and high content of its specific components have a deterring effect on some pests such as caterpillars, snails or aphids. If other plants are susceptible to these pests, it can sometimes help to plant a hyssop in a close proximity to them.
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Jerusalem artichoke is a close relative of the sunflower. Here are some tips on Jerusalem artichoke care from planting, watering to harvesting.
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) was introduced to Europe in the 17th century. It was brought to Europe on the ships of the colonizers from South America. At first, the brown tuber, which (although unrelated) resembles the artichoke in taste a little, was reserved for the rich and aristocratic. Later, however, it spread increasingly among the common people as well. At one point in history (during the Thirty Years’ War in Central Europe, for example), the Jerusalem artichoke became the most important staple food in Europe. However, once people started to rely on the potato more heavily, the Jerusalem artichoke fell into oblivion. In recent years, this fibre-rich tuber has been enjoying some newfound popularity. In many languages, such as French, German or Russian, the Jerusalem artichoke is referred to as ‘tominabur’. Other English common names include the sunroot or earth apple. In this article, we will explain how to plant and grow the Jerusalem artichoke in the comfort of your own garden.
When is the best time to plant Jerusalem artichokes?
The brown tubers of Jerusalem artichoke are usually planted between mid-April and mid-May. Alternatively, you can choose a planting date from late September into November. In such a case, the plants will then sprout next spring but somewhat earlier than the tubers planted in April/May. Unlike potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes are hardy so their planting schedule is more flexible.
Location and care requirements
The right location
Regarding location, the Jerusalem artichoke is not that picky. The best soil to plant the tuber in are light and sandy. Avoid waterlogged soils, tough, as they can impede the growth of the Jerusalem artichoke. The yellow flowering plant thrives best in sunlit places but it can do well in semi-shade too.
Preparing the garden bed
Jerusalem artichoke is not demanding when it comes to soil conditions but you can boost the plant a little by giving it a good start to growth by loosening the soil and removing stones. On nutrient-poor sites (very sandy) or very heavy soils, some compost should be incorporated before planting the tuber. Adding compost can lead to the accumulation of humus and thus improve the nutrient balance in the long term. While sandy soils develop a better water retention capacity with increasing humus content, heavy soils can be loosened up by enriching humus. The humus improved physical properties of the soil are responsible for the improved nutrient balance.
The tubers should be planted at a distance of 30 to 40 cm at a depth of about 10 to 15 cm. After putting the Jerusalem artichoke into the soil, press the soil down slightly. Once the first shoots form, the soil can be heaped around them. The heaped soil warms up quicker which helps new tubers to form. Additionally, it gives the plant more space to develop more tubers.
Summary of location and care requirements:
- Choose a sunny location
- The soil should be loose and airy
- Improve the soil with compost
- Place the tubers at a distance of 30 – 40 cm at a depth of approx. 15 cm
- Press the soil lightly
- After the plants sprout, heap the soil around them
Growing Jerusalem artichokes in a pot
If you don’t have your own garden, but have a sunny balcony, you can also plant Jerusalem artichoke in a flower pot. Make sure that the tub is large enough not to impair the harvest capacity of the tubers. Simply place a tuber in a tub filled with compost and, after budding, heap some soil around the first shoots. For Jerusalem artichokes in pots, the following applies in particular: do not water them too much and avoid stagnant moisture!
Watering and fertilising Jerusalem artichokes
Taking care of Jerusalem artichoke plants is relatively simple. In order to avoid waterlogging, water the plants growing on very light soils regularly but not too frequently. During the main growth phase in summer, however, it is most beneficial for the tubers to keep the soil slightly moist at all times. While fertilising on nutrient-rich soils is not necessary, lighter soils should be enhanced with compost (right when the Jerusalem artichokes are planted to boost the nutrients in the soil).
Tip: Removing flowers can lead to more abundant yields. The energy gained during photosynthesis and the nutrients absorbed through the soil will be used to develop the tubers instead of forming seeds. Similarly, thin out the above-ground green parts of the plant, so that the plant’s energy is conserved.
Buying new plants vs. multiplying Jerusalem artichokes yourself
Reproducing Jerusalem artichokes is amazingly easy. Once the growing tuber has been planted, it multiplies by itself via subterranean runners or rhizomes. If you don’t want the Jerusalem artichoke to spread throughout the entire garden, place a rhizome barrier around the area where it is planted.
Conclusion: Once you acquire your very first Jerusalem artichoke (either from the store or from a neighbour), propagation is no longer an issue. The plant multiplies easily through runners or rhizomes.
Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes
Jerusalem artichoke can be harvested all year round. If you want to harvest large tubers, dig in autumn (September/October) because, at this point, the period of the greatest growth is over. The best way to dig the tubers out is to use a standard fork. The use of a spade or a shovel can also do but the risk of damaging the tubers when digging for them is increased. Jerusalem artichokes are hardy, and as long as the soil is not frozen, the tasty tubers can be harvested all year round.
A regular harvest is recommended because it allows the gardener to better control the spread of the tubers. Jerusalem artichoke is very vigorous and spreads underground mainly via rhizomes. If you don’t harvest the tubers regularly, you run the risk that your garden will be swarmed with the sun-yellow flowers.
Storing and preserving Jerusalem artichokes
As mentioned before, Jerusalem artichoke can be harvested all year round. The best way to have fresh Jerusalem artichoke ready at any time of the year is to dig it out when needed.
Good news for all those who find this too exhausting: the shelf life of Jerusalem artichoke in dark, cool and dry conditions is similar to that of potatoes. Experience has shown that cellars without solar radiation are perfect for storing Jerusalem artichokes.
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Rosemary is one of the most popular kitchen herbs. It can easily be propagated from cuttings. You can effortlessly grow the fragrantly scented herb yourself.
Although it is possible to multiply rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) from seeds, it is generally not recommended. It simply takes too long until the seeds germinate and the tender seedlings push themselves out to the substrate surface. Under optimal conditions with high germination temperatures of 25 to 30 °C it takes six to eight weeks until the first seedlings begin to stretch themselves out to the sun’s rays. This approach is therefore more suitable for those who are patient and want to expand their rosemary stock. If you already have a grown rosemary plant available, it can be propagated faster and easier with cuttings. The following instructions will explain how to grow rosemary from cuttings.
Propagating rosemary from cuttings
- Choosing the right season: Spring is usually the best season for propagating cuttings. At this time of year, the plants sprout freshly. The tender young shoots can be rooted particularly well. In addition, the higher light supply in spring favours the propagation of rosemary via cuttings. A bright and warm place on the windowsill is optimal.
- Removing the cuttings: The shoots which serve as cuttings should have a minimum length of 5 cm and a maximum length of 10 cm. It is important to note that the shoots should not be rooted in the lower area of the mother plant – this would unnecessarily complicate rooting and reduce the success of propagation. A sharp knife is preferable for cutting off the shoots. Scissors cause crushing at the cut, which is not conducive to the formation of new roots on the cuttings.
- Choice of substrate: Special substrates are offered for the propagation of plants via cuttings. These substrates are characterised by a low nutrient content. In addition, they have a very loose airy structure, which makes it easier for the delicate newly formed roots of the cuttings. It also provides them with sufficient oxygen. It is best to fill the substrate first into propagation plates or small degradable paper pots. This saves space on the windowsill and you can still repot the small plants into a larger container after the successful rooting.
- Planting the cuttings in the soil: Do not insert the cuttings too deeply into the substrate. Only the first centimetre above the cut should be in the substrate. If necessary, remove the needle-like pointy leaves of rosemary at this point. When they are in the substrate, they can start to mould. After the cuttings have found their way into the substrate, water them well.
- Creating the perfect environment: In addition to a warm and bright place on the windowsill, cuttings require dense air. To achieve this, cover the propagation pots with a transparent cover (like a plastic bag). The special propagation boxes, which are available in different variations and price ranges and consist of a lower part and a removable lid, can be very handy. If you simply insert it into a single pot, you can also put a cut-off plastic bottle over it. Why? Because the cuttings do not yet have the roots with which they can draw water from the substrate. The increased humidity created by the cover prevents excessive evaporation through the rosemary needle leaves and additionally decreases the risk of wilt.
- Weaning the cuttings: After two to three weeks, the first roots form on the rosemary cuttings. Now it is time to slowly remove the pampered young plants from their moist comfort zone. In the long run, fungi threaten to infest rosemary due to the high humidity. It is advised to gently introduce the cuttings to the drier air. At first, remove the lid only at night and leave it on the plants as usual during the day. If you also remove the lid during the day, observe the dainty little plants a little more closely. If the tissue becomes too soft and there is a risk of wilting, it is better to cover them with the transparent lid again. Alternatively, you can wet the rosemary cuttings with a fine spritz of water from a sprayer.
If when deciding to multiply your rosemary, you chose to propagate using cuttings then you will get to enjoy this spicy kitchen herb sooner. If you follow all the above mentioned steps, the rosemary cuttings will definitely feel at home with you and you will be rewarded with more rosemary plants.
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