by Jennifer Poindexter
Have you considered growing caraway in your garden? Are you familiar with caraway seeds? They are a spice used in a variety of culinary recipes and are produced by the herb caraway. The plant can be used fresh by enjoying the foliage.
However, you can allow the herb to go to seed and enjoy another one of its products. Having herbs around your home, with a variety of uses, is a wonderful resource. If you’re interested in adding a unique herb to your garden, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how you can grow the caraway plant in your garden.
Growing Conditions for Caraway
Let’s begin by getting a little background on the caraway plant. Its scientific name is carum carvi, and it’s fully edible. You can enjoy its foliage and seeds.
It’s a biennial herb which means it will develop a strong root system during year one. The plant will die off over the winter and regrow during year two. The second year is when the herb will flower and produce seeds.
The caraway plant originated in parts of Europe and Asia. Therefore, it’s accustomed to, and prefers, cooler temperatures.
In the United States, the herb is typically grown during the spring and fall months to accommodate this need.
The caraway plant can thrive in zones three through eleven, depending upon the time of year. It’s also hardy to negative 30-degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you’ve decided this herb is right for you, be sure to provide adequate growing conditions. The herb should be planted in full sun and well-draining soil.
It can be grown in raised beds, containers, or a regular garden plot. Choose the gardening method which works best for providing these growing conditions.
By providing proper soil, light, and adequate temperatures you’re giving this herb a great start. Hopefully, it will thrive under your care.
How to Plant Caraway
Caraway is an easy herb to plant. You can start the herb indoors, approximately six weeks prior to the final frost date.
The herb takes a little over two months to reach full maturity. However, some people like to get a jump on the growing season.
If you choose to start the seeds indoors, be mindful not to disturb caraway while transplanting. You must use a growing container which can be planted with the herb.
Caraway has a long tap root, similar to a carrot, which indicates it doesn’t like to be transplanted. Therefore, using a biodegradable container is the only way to transplant the herb without incident.
Whether transplanting or direct sowing caraway seeds, ensure they’re planted ½ inch deep in the soil. If you direct sow the seeds into their garden plot, you must thin them.
The herb needs one foot of space between each plant to ensure adequate room for growth and airflow. A mature caraway plant can grow to be as tall as three feet in height.
Take all of this into consideration when growing caraway. Remember, the plant should return for a second year.
Ensure where you grow the herb, in its first year, is where you’ll want it the next year as well. Caraway should flower over the spring and summer seasons of the second year.
When the flowering starts, the plant should begin producing hard seeds. This is the much sought after spice, many people enjoy.
Take these tips into consideration when planting caraway. If you don’t plant the herb correctly, it could hinder its overall health.
Caring for Caraway
You get a lot of bang for your buck with the caraway plant. It produces for two years and gives you multiple goods from one plant.
What’s even better is the plant doesn’t require much care from the gardener. If you water the herb correctly, fertilize it adequately, and practice pruning, you should have a healthy and vibrant plant.
Caraway should be watered deeply. It requires consistent moisture to thrive. When watering deeply, you’re encouraging a strong root system which should boost the overall health of your plant.
Practice deep watering by supplying water to the plant, for a longer period of time, fewer days of the week. This ensures the water reaches the root system during the initial watering. It also ensures there’s water to pull from, around the plant, between watering sessions.
It’s wise to mulch around caraway because it helps to retain moisture. Mulch can also help with weed control in your herb garden, and it improves the quality of your soil.
Fertilizing your caraway is also important. You should apply a balanced fertilizer two times during the plant’s growing cycle.
It should be applied when the herb is three inches tall, and you should fertilize it again when the plant begins to produce flowers.
After you water and fertilize your plants, it’s time to practice proper pruning. In the fall, the herb should be cut back.
This will help protect the roots of the plant and ensure it regrows the second year. Provide minimal care to your caraway plants, and you should have a positive growing experience with this herb.
Garden Pests and Diseases that Threaten Caraway
Thankfully, caraway doesn’t have many enemies in the garden. However, you must stay alert to the potential threats it may face.
By catching the issues early, your plants stand a greater chance at surviving any attacks. The only pest which typically attacks caraway is the aphid.
These pests will suck the sap from your plants. This can weaken and add stress to the herb. Beat aphids by spraying them with an insecticide or spraying your plants, forcefully, with soapy water to dislodge the pest.
The main disease to threaten caraway is aster yellows. This disease is known for impacting carrots and the plants related to it.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for aster yellows. When your plants look fuzzy and disfigured, chances are it’s aster yellows.
The disease is most commonly spread through leafhoppers. Keep these pests in check, around your garden, to ensure your caraway plants aren’t impacted by this disease.
One of the best ways to control leafhoppers is with insecticides. Read the label to ensure the insecticide will fight this pest.
By keeping a keen eye on your garden, you’re protecting your efforts and your plants from harm.
How to Harvest Caraway
As mentioned earlier, the entire caraway plant is edible. Therefore, you must understand how to harvest each part of the plant correctly.
You may harvest the foliage of the plant and use it as you would most other fresh herbs. When harvesting, use scissors to snip the foliage from the plant. This should avoid causing any damage during harvest.
Also, be mindful not to harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. You need to leave enough of the herb for it to keep growing and continue establishing itself.
Once the plant begins to produce flowers, it will also produce dark brown seeds. As the flowers turn a rich brown color, it’s time to cut them away from the plant to harvest the seeds.
As you remove the seeds, allow them to dry for a few days. You may also try to dry them in a dehydrator. Once fully dried, they’re ready for use.
When flowering is finished, dig up the entire plant. You can use the tap root in place of any root vegetable in most recipes.
You now know how to properly plant, care for, protect, and harvest the caraway plant. It might take a little work for a spice, but if you like producing your own herbs and spices, it’s worth the effort in my book.
Hopefully, these tips will help you have a positive experience raising caraway. It’s fun to produce unique herbs and be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. There’s nothing better than enjoying each delicious bite of a recipe which comes straight from your garden and into your kitchen.