How To Grow Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Average Days To Maturity: 70 days

Distance Between Rows: 24 inches

Spacing Between Plants: 12-20 inches apart

When To Plant: Charley recommends planting Lemon Balm in mid to late April or after last frost, but experienced gardeners can plant earlier and protect the young plants with buckets and milk jugs or start them out in a cold frame or small greenhouse.

Planting Tip: When growing Lemon Balm in a pot or container, make sure there is good drainage. This can be achieved by putting a layer of gravel or small rocks in before the dirt.  If planting in the ground, keep the soil free of weeds and water it a bit so that it is moist when you plant.

If given a chance, Lemon Balm can become a bit invasive.  It is considered a perennial.  It will die back in the winter but come back in the spring and most likely will bring friends so give it plenty of room.  It can self-sow so you may want to deadhead spent flowers.  In the spring or fall you can dig up lemon balm and divide it making sure to leave at least 6 shoots in each division.

Preparation and Care: Lemon Balm grows well in sandy soil that has good drainage.  If the soil that you are planting in is poor, then work some compost into the soil.  You can also apply an all-purpose fertilizer and work it in with the compost.  As with most herbs, too much fertilizer may lessen the fragrance or flavor of the plant.

In hot, dry locations, Lemon Balm may benefit from more shade than some other herbs.  It is drought tolerant and can be used in xeriscapes.

Make sure there is plenty of air flow around the plants to prevent rot and disease.

Watering: It is recommended that you water Lemon Balm with drip irrigation.  Overhead watering can cause disease.  If you must water from the top, then do so early in the morning so the plant will dry out during the day or early enough in the evening that it will be dry before night.  Lemon Balm can withstand dry conditions but if there is a drought you might irrigate a little more frequently.  The soil needs to have proper drainage but make sure that it retains enough water to stay moist and not soggy.

Water your garden (tomatoes and everything else) once a week with a 8-12 hour soaking. This will allow the soil to absorb an adequate amount of water and also limit the time you spend each week watering.  If you use a sprinkler to water, do this during the day so that the plants will have some time in the evening to dry out before dark. This will limit the chances of disease. If you use a soaker hose, you can water at night. Watering with a soaker hose at night is best as it limits the amount of water lost to evaporation and keeps the plants dry which limits the chances of disease. During dry periods you may need to water more often (every 4-5 days), and watering at night is important in water conservation during droughts.

Fertilizing:  Work compost and all-purpose fertilizer into the soil before planting.  Too much fertilizer will produce lots of greenery but will hinder the flavor and aroma of the herb so additional applications are not necessary.

Harvesting:  Lemon Balm can be harvested frequently once the plant is established and the shoots are about 1 foot long.  In fact, the more you cut, the more compact and bushy the plant will be.  If the plant starts to look bad, cut it back and it will come back out and look healthy again.

After you harvest, hang Lemon Balm in bunches in a warm dry place where there is little to no humidity.  You can also dry them in the oven on screens.  Store the dried leaves in an airtight container.

Common Insect Problems

Lemon Balm is not bothered by many insects.

Common Disease Problems

Lemon Balm has few disease problems.  Watering from above and lack of air flow could cause powdery mildew.

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