Roots 'n' Shoots: July 2015

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Lemon Grass: How to Grow - Herb of the Month

Lemon Grass stats/requirements at a glance

Ease of Raising:
5/5 – Very Easy, plant and leave
Water:
4/5 – Daily
Sun:
5/5 – Full sun
Training:
1/5 – Minimal (3Ds: Dead, damaged and diseased)
Fertilise/Feeding:
1/5 – Minimal (at least during the growing season)
Time to Harvest:
2/5 – Soon, 1-2 months after propagation
Frost Hardiness:
2/4 – Very tender (can’t cope with light frost)


Uses:
Culinary & Medicinal
Most Problematic Nemesis:
Eggplant rust or Pearl Millet rust, Puccinia substriata
Container Plant:
Yes

Grasses, Gramineae
Handbuch der Systematischen Botanik
1924
Kurt Stoberts Online Library

Quick intro

The first article on an ‘exotic’ herb features Lemon grass, a popular addition to Asian cuisine. Lemon grass imparts a lovely lemon flavour to any dish without any of the acidity of a lemon. The base of the stems are used in poultry, fish, beef and seafood dishes, whereas the leaves add a wonderful hint of lemon to tea, cool drinks and soups.


History

The main culinary lemon grasses have their origins in the Indo-Malayan ecozone, which includes India, Southeast Asia and southern China. There are many species of lemon grass found in Africa, Australia and the Middle East.


Science Stuff

Lemon grass belongs to the Cymbopogon genus (isn’t that an awesome scientific name!?) from the Poaceae grass family. It is a member of the Andropogoneae or Sorghum tribe of grasses. Several species of lemon grasses are used for culinary purposes, essential oil production and perfumes. The two most popular species include;

West Indian lemon grass,
Cymbopogon citratus

1) Cymbopogon citratus or West Indian lemon grass, is native to Malaysia, Indonesia and southern India. This species is more suitable to cooking.

2) Cymbopogon flexousus or East Indian lemon grass, is native to India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. This species is more suitable for essential oil pressing.


Growing & Pruning Lemon Grass

Lemon grass is a tropical & subtropical perennial that will do very well in areas with hot & wet summers and mild, dry winters. Oil development and flavour depend on recieve a sufficient amount of sunlight. In cool climates, lemon grasses will go dormant, but remains evergreen during winters with temperatures above 10oC (or 50oF). It prefers a lot of water, but will suffer from root-rot if left in standing water for too long.

It does very well in both the garden and as a container plant. It can become a large monster in the garden, yet growth can be managed when it is planted in a container. A container grown plant will be easier to move indoors should very cold weather prevail (below 10oC or 50oF) or if frost threatens. Prolonged temperatures of below -2oC (28.4oF) will kill the plant as it is extremely cold-sensitive.


Other Tips

Always wear gloves when handling lemon grass! It has serrated leaves that do quite a bit of damage to unprotected hands!

Lemon grasses can become scruffy after a year of good growth as intense sunlight can cause the tips of the plant to tinge red, whereas some leaves die back in winter. Before spring arrives, don some gloves and grab a pair of scissors. Simply cut all the green leaves to 30 cm from the base of the plant and remove any dead leaves. Come spring the lemon grass will repay you with lush new growth.

West Indian lemon grass,
Cymbopogon citratus


Lemon grass is susceptible to Pearl Millet or Eggplant rust, Puccinia substriata. It does not affect the growth or flavour of the plant that much, but it may be a source of infection for other plants, such as eggplant. I don’t bother with it as I don’t grow eggplant anymore, but should you wish to treat it organically, I did develop an environmentally-friendly fungicide against it – check out my Eggplant Rust post or Pest Control page.

Pearl Millet or Eggplant rust,
Puccinia substriata,
on lemon grass,  Cymbopogon citratus


Harvesting & Storing

Newly purchased lemon grasses will only have a few clumps. Once it has grown to a decent size, which does not take very long considering it is a grass, you can start harvesting. Clumps are removed by grabbing it at the base of the stem and ripping out with a twisting motion. The leaves and roots are trimmed. The fleshy white part (lower 10 cm) is used for cooking after being bruised with a knife to release its flavour. You can keep the leaves for addition to more ‘liquid’ food preparations, such as teas, soups and cool drinks.

Lemon grass clumps can be stored in the fridge for about 3-5 days in a damped paper towel, but it is best used fresh for maximum flavour. Lemon grass can also be stored as chunks in the freezer.


Seed Saving & Propagation

Lemon grass is rarely raised from seed as it is so easy to propagate from stem cuttings (it is even easier than Basil!!!). When you do your winter pruning you can also reduce the size of your lemon grass by removing a few clumps. You can stick these into pots and they will make enough roots during the rest of winter to be transplanted by summer (if you rip out clumps with root intact it will speed up the process).

Garden and container plants will require splitting after several years of growth. Simply take a spade and split it into halves or quarters to be replanted elsewhere.

Lemon grass does produce flowers, but these are not commonly seen from cultivated specimens.


Something interesting: Lemon grass essential oil

The essential oil obtained from lemon grass has a wide range of uses. Teas made from fresh leaves are used as stomach and gut relaxants, whereas the oil is antiseptic, antifungal and deodorising. Poultices are used to treat arthritis and to ease pain. Rooms or areas treated with (I assume sprayed or smeared) lemon grass essential oil repels insects, such as flies and mosquitoes!



Reference: Baldacchino, F., Tramut, C., Salem, A., Liénard, E., Delétré, E., Franc, M., Martin, T., Duvallet, G. & Jay-Robert, P. 2013: The repellency of lemongrass oil against stable flies, tested using video tracking. Parasite, 20, 21. doi:10.1051/parasite/2013021


My Lemon Grass

I have two plants, each two years old. They produce more than enough lemon grass for our family and have been a joy to keep as they are care-free additions to the edible garden.



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Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆
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Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Shroom's Weather Report 2014/2015

Altocumulus clouds

*Cue music*

… da da da dum dum…

*Serious reporting voice*… Good morning and welcome to The Shroom’s annual weather report for the period of July 2014-2015.

Since the establishment of a mechanical weather monitoring system at The Shroom’s vegetable garden premises during July 2013; several observations of extreme weather have been made and empirical data collected of these events with regards to precipitation (mm), temperature (oC) and humidity (% r.h.).

Mechanical weather monitoring equipment

Weekly temperature and humidity data was collected of maximum daytime temperatures during the peak hours from 11h00 to 13h00 and precipitation was measured in mm, or more accurately, the amount of rainfall in millimetres on a flat surface.

The results were as follows:


*Ahem*


Another year of weather monitoring has passed and now the fun starts! Let us have a look at the weather during our 2014-2015 period as well as do some comparisons to the previous season (2013/14) and I will make some general comments as to happenings in the garden.


We did not as many dramatic weather events as reported last year, such as huge hailstorms or flooding - in fact it was quite the opposite:

1) The rainfall was very late as well as drying up too early.

2) Droughts were prevalent in many regions around South Africa. Although we did not suffer as much, we definitely noticed an increase in the manual watering frequency of the garden.

3) On the 16th of October 2014, many parts of eastern South Africa experienced a ‘Dust Storm’ due to the extremely dry conditions and late summer rains. I was outside busy in the vegetable garden at around 17h00 when it hit. I remember thinking, “Who put out the lights?” LOL! You can read more about it at The Citizen: Sandstorm hits Joburg, Bloem (video).

I have here two tables comparing the total rainfall and average temperatures for our main growing season (which begins in August) for 2013-2015. Data for the rest of July is not in yet, so no comparisons there, but I doubt it would change much…

Rainfall
2013/14
2014/15
Difference from previous  year (+ more, - less)
Aug
5.5
5
-0.5
Sep
3.7
9
+5.3
Oct
109
29.5
-79.5
Nov
89
111.3
+22.3
Dec
173.8
125.5
-48.3
Jan
163
126.5
-36.5
Feb
173
67.5
-105.5
Mar
157
72
-85.0
Apr
0
49.5
+49.5
May
3.5
0
-3.5
June
0
1
+1.0
Jul
0
Data lacking

Total
877.5
596.8
-281

Temperature
2013/14
2014/15
Difference from previous year (+ more, - less)
Aug
15
16
0
Sep
24
23
-1
Oct
22
20
-2
Nov
26
21
-5
Dec
23
26
3
Jan
28
28
0
Feb
25
26
1
Mar
22
23
2
Apr
16
21
5
May
21
20
-1
June
12
12
0
Jul
15
Data lacking



The tables might be a bit difficult to visualise to here are two comparative graphs as well:






Lets take a look at the problem ‘months’ shall we say:

1) October had just about zero rainfall, hence the dust storm. We had to manually water some of the crops that we generally left rain irrigated, such as the Squash and Maize (my new experiment tee, hee!). The near to nothing rainfall had a profound affect on the insect population as well - the chickens went hungry for grub longer and my pest control squad was not up to full strenght until end November.

2) The rain was far less during February and March, with more rain during April. This means that all our plants were drier during their most important cropping stage, which had a huge negative impact on a few of our produce, especially the Sweet Potato harvests as they like a flooding type watering system (lots of water, followed by drying out and then lots of water). Manual watering did not make up entirely for the loss in rainfall.

3) November was 5oC lower than the previous year, although I do not recall a huge difference in the growth of the garden, but the April 5oC warmer scenario has definitely impacted on our winter garden and dormancy signals for deciduous trees/shrubs. I will provide more detail on the winter garden setbacks next month.

4) Our total rainfall is about 68% of last year’s amount and although it is the average rainfall we can expect (~600 mm), the decrease and shift in rainfall had made a huge difference to the total number as well as the weight of produce harvested this year from the summer garden.

Here were the problem months for this year:



I am surely keeping my fingers crossed for more rainfall next year and with a better distribution in the main growing/harvesting months – good thing we added some more rain harvesting tanks to our collection, should this become the norm for the next few years…

Anyways, we went from one really wet year with floods and hailstorms to drought and dust storms the next- what will our crazy and unpredictable weather throw at the backyard gardeners next? Well, you will have to stay tuned for another update next year!


*Serious reporting voice*
…Keep well and good night…



Related Post:

The Shroom's Weather Report 2013/2014




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Click on the image above to donate via a bobBucks Voucher or an Amazon eGift Card to theshroom780@gmail.com Thanx! I really appreciate it! Every little bit makes a difference, even as little as $5 or R10 :)

______________________________________________________________________________

Please share with fellow gardening enthusiasts via the various sharing buttons at the end of posts/pages! Else you can vote for posts through the Google reactions bar at the end of articles. To stay up to date I have provided several reader and social networking platforms with which to subscribe: TwitterPinterestRSS Feed Reader or Email/Follow directly using the Blog Followers widget on the left hand side toolbar. Thank you for reading and please feel free to ask if questions arise - I appreciate comments and ideas too! 😆
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