Want to grow something unusual but easy? Lemon grass is the answer! The swollen base of the Lemon grass stem is used in oriental cooking whilst the leaves can be used for tea. Lemon grass can not tolerate frost and is therefore grown in pots so that it can be moved indoors over the winter.
Sow Lemon grass in March and April in a pot filled with peat-free multi-purpose compost. Water the pot first and then scatter the seeds on top. Do not cover the seeds with compost but if you have some vermiculite you can sprinkle that on top. Press down the seeds slightly to make sure that they have good contact with the soil and water again by misting and putting a plastic dome or cling film on top. Make sure that it has air holes for ventilation! Keep the soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate because if they dry out they will most likely not germinate at all. Having said that, be careful not to overwater. Lemon grass likes it hot, 20-29°C is ideal for germination.
After germination, remove the plastic from the top and grow on ideally at 20-25°C. When the seedlings are big enough to handle, pot them into a small pot filled with peat-free compost. Every time roots show through the drainage holes at the bottom, move them into a slightly bigger pot till you reach a 20cm one.
You can keep the pot in your Sprout Mini Greenhouse until early summer. To acclimatise the plants to outdoor conditions, lift them outside in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot during the day, and put them back in at night. Do this for about two weeks before leaving them out all the time. Gradually increase the time outside, but remember – when growing Lemon grass outside, they must be protected from wind and frost so choose a warm and sheltered spot. When growing in pots it is important to keep the pots well watered and fed throughout the growing season!
In late summer, move the pot back into your Harvst Mini Greenhouse or indoors. In the winter it needs a bright and cool (not lower than 5°C) place and watering should be reduced. When the foliage starts to die, cut it back to 10cm. This can be done earlier if space is restricted. As new growth appears in spring, increase watering and feed plants weekly with a balanced liquid fertiliser.
Stems can be harvested all year round as soon as they are big enough, by cutting the stem right down at the base. Another way is to tip out the plant from its pot and cut through the root ball with a sharp knife, taking as much as you want to use. The remaining plant can then be divided and replanted into smaller containers to create new plants.
Trim off the leaves and use the lower 8–10cm for cooking. The leaves can also be infused to make a lemony tea!
Lemon grass is generally problem free if protected from frost and kept well watered.
Lemon grass is best used fresh, but if you ever happen to buy one in the supermarket that you end up not needing, plant it in a pot and it should start growing into a new plant!
The botanical name of Lemon grass is Cymbopogon and has traditionally been included in the treatment of headache, stomachache, abdominal pain, and muscle pain.