by Jennifer Poindexter
Whether you’re looking for a new plant to cook with or one that will help your soil, you must give fenugreek some consideration.
This is a historical crop that has been used in Indian cuisine for approximately 3,000 years. Whether you want to taste a piece of history, or your garden soil needs help, fenugreek may have a spot in your garden.
If you’re unsure of how to go about using, growing, or harvesting this plant, you’ve found your source. I’m going to walk you through all these details and more!
Here’s what you should know when growing and utilizing fenugreek:
Growing Conditions for Fenugreek
Fenugreek is a beautiful crop. It begins by producing small green leaves that remind me of peas or leaf lettuce.
This plant is part of the legume family and is a tender annual. Therefore, it can’t handle any type of frost.
Fenugreek is grown for a variety of reasons ranging from culinary uses, use as a cover crop, or even for making homemade soap. It’s also important to note that both the foliage and seeds of this plant are edible.
Whatever your reason for growing fenugreek, pick a location which receives full sunlight. If you live in a warmer climate, the location should provide some type of shade in the afternoon.
However, if your climate is cooler, it’s okay for the plant to be in full sun all day long. Fenugreek should also be grown in well-draining soil.
It doesn’t matter if the soil is of good or poor quality as this plant is known for improving soil health wherever it’s planted.
You may also grow this crop using a variety of gardening methods. It’s a great candidate for growing in traditional garden plots, raised beds, or container gardens.
Now that you understand what fenugreek can be used for and what it needs in a growing location, let’s discuss how to grow it.
How to Plant Fenugreek
Planting fenugreek is a simple process that’s pretty much the same regardless of gardening method or purpose for growing the plant.
Fenugreek should always be directly sown because it doesn’t transplant well. You should also plant it in the spring through the summer but wait until all threat of frost is over before sowing seed.
If using poor-quality soil, it’s wise to add fertilizer prior to planting.
When growing fenugreek in rows, ensure the seeds are sown a half-inch deep and two inches apart. Once sprouted, space the seeds to six inches apart. There should be a half-foot between each row.
You should also ensure that the planting location can handle fenugreek at its full size. Mature fenugreek grows to be around two feet tall.
Now, it’s time to consider the different planting rules depending upon your reason for growing fenugreek.
If you’re growing fenugreek in a container, ensure you pick a planter that’s a foot deep. It should also drain adequately.
The seeds should still be planted a half-inch deep and covered with ¼ inch of soil.
If you’re growing fenugreek for its seeds, be sure to plant in spring after all threat of frost is over, to give the plant time to produce seed pods.
Finally, when growing fenugreek as a cover crop, you may plant it any time in spring or summer as it doesn’t require much time to sprout and serve its purpose in this capacity.
You now know the different times for planting fenugreek and the universal method for sowing the seeds in any type of garden. Let’s move on to learn more about this unique crop.
Caring for Fenugreek
Fenugreek is not only useful in the kitchen and the garden, it’s also low-maintenance. Let’s cover the few things you should do to keep this plant happy and healthy around your home.
The first thing you must do to care for fenugreek is keep it watered consistently. I typically recommend the deep watering method as this encourages healthier plants and requires less work of the gardener.
To deep water fenugreek, you should apply moisture to the plant for a longer period of time, fewer days of the week.
During the watering session, the plant’s roots should be saturated along with the ground around it. As the days progress, and the plant needs more water, it will dig down into the soil to retrieve it.
Not only does this keep your plants watered, but the plant forms strong roots in the process. Don’t apply any more water without testing the soil.
Insert your finger into the dirt to see how much moisture remains. If it’s dry to your first knuckle, have another deep watering session.
If not, wait a day or two before testing the soil again. Repeat this process to ensure your plant receives the adequate amount of water.
The only other thing fenugreek needs from you is pruning. If you’re growing the plant for its leaves, you should prune the top six inches from the plant on a regular basis. This will encourage greater growth and discourage seed pods from forming.
If you’re growing fenugreek for the seeds, only prune three inches from the plant on a regular basis. This will keep the plant healthy and vibrant but still encourage it to go to seed.
Now that you understand what fenugreek needs from you, let’s discuss what it can do for you as well. Fenugreek is known as a nitrogen-fixer.
What this means is bacteria attaches to the roots of the plant. This starts a process which allows the plant to suck nitrogen from the air, process it in a way that the plant can use it, and also add more nitrogen to the soil.
Almost all soil needs more nitrogen because so many plants require it. Therefore, by adding fenugreek to your garden, it can help fix the nitrogen levels in your soil.
Now that you understand how you can care for fenugreek and how fenugreek will in turn care for your garden, let’s discuss a few things it might need protection from.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Can Impact Fenugreek
Every plant has an enemy in the garden. These enemies typically come in the form of pests and diseases. Unfortunately, fenugreek is not immune to this problem.
The main things which threaten this plant are aphids, root rot, and powdery mildew. Aphids are a common pest in most gardens.
They suck the sap from plants and leave a sticky substance behind on the leaves. At times, this substance will invite even more pests.
If you suspect a problem with aphids, treat the plants with an insecticide. You can also spray the fenugreek with soapy water to remove the pests and the sticky residue they leave behind.
Root rot and powdery mildew are both fungal diseases. These issues occur when fenugreek is grown in ill-fitting conditions.
If you grow fenugreek in soil that doesn’t drain adequately, root rot can occur. This happens because the roots become oversaturated.
Powdery mildew occurs when the plants are too close together and are planted in soil that doesn’t drain properly.
By planting fenugreek in an area with proper drainage, adequate spacing between plants, and where it receives ample sunlight you reduce the risk of fungal issues.
The reason being is that fungal diseases form in cold, wet soil. With proper drainage and sunlight, you can eliminate these two threats. Adequate spacing between plants provides better airflow which allows the plants to dry out easier when water is applied.
Stay alert to any of these issues. If any problems appear, the earlier you catch them, the easier they are to correct. This also provides your plant with the greatest chance of thriving after treatment.
How to Harvest Fenugreek
Our last stop in our tour of growing fenugreek is harvesting. You’ll harvest this plant differently depending upon the reason you’re growing it.
When growing fenugreek as a cover crop, once it has reached maturity, you should mow it down.
From there, you can either till it into the soil (if you don’t need to plant in the growing space right away) or pull the plants up and compost them. Then you can grow in the garden space immediately.
If growing fenugreek for the leaves, they should be ready to harvest in the first 30 days. Use scissors to cut 1/3 of the stem.
This leaves enough of the stem for the plant to regrow in approximately 15 days. Continue to harvest the leaves until the plant begins to flower. At this point, the leaves become bitter.
Once you’ve harvested the leaves, place them in a damp paper towel and in an airtight container. Store the container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use the leaves. They should last approximately one week.
If you can’t use the leaves during this time frame, you may also dry them or freeze them. The leaves are good for up to ten months in the freezer.
When harvesting fenugreek seeds, it should take approximately four months after the time of planting. After the plant produces flowers, dies back, and turns yellow, seed pods will form.
Pluck the seed pods from the plant and peel them open. The seeds should be inside, so be mindful not to drop them as they’ll reseed.
Store the seeds in an airtight container. The container should be placed in a cool, dry location. If stored properly, the seeds should be good for two years.
If using the seeds for culinary purposes, it’s a good idea to roast them prior to use.
This concludes our discussion on growing, caring for, and harvesting fenugreek. As you can tell, this plant is extremely versatile.
Hopefully, this information will help you to grow this plant for the purpose that best suits your needs. Use these tips to begin growing a new plant in your garden and enjoy its many benefits.