By Jennifer Poindexter
Do you struggle with kidney stones? There’s an herb you can grow as a traditional home remedy. Lovage is known historically as a home remedy for kidney stones and also recognized for its diuretic qualities which are thought to help with UTI’s, too.
Even if you don’t need the herb for medicinal purposes, it’s a two-for-one in the kitchen as well. Lovage is known as “false celery” because its flavor profile is so close to celery and parsley.
Is your interest piqued? Here’s what you should know to raise this phenomenal herb:
Growing Conditions for Lovage
Like most other herbs, lovage grows well in full to partial sunlight. It’s a hardy herb that prospers in planting zones three through nine.
Lovage is relatively low-maintenance and only requires well-draining, sandy soil. The soil should be high in nutrients as well.
Though this herb is quite large in comparison to many other well-known herbs, it can still be grown in ground and in containers.
The only catch is the container must be large enough to support the root system. By supplying lovage with a few basic needs, you can have a delicious herb right at your backdoor.
How to Plant Lovage
You have multiple options for growing lovage around your home. The first option is to start the seeds indoors.
Begin the seed-starting process approximately six weeks before the expected final frost date. Fill grow trays with quality soil and place two seeds per cell.
This is an insurance policy in case some seeds fail to germinate. The seedlings should be kept warm indoors and watered consistently.
Once the temperatures warm up, harden the seedlings off before transplanting. At the time of transplant, place the seedlings two feet apart.
Lovage can reach three to six feet in height and requires more room to spread out. Obviously, your plants will bloom sooner if started indoors.
However, if you aren’t someone who enjoys starting seeds indoors, you can direct sow seeds into your gardening space.
The seeds should be planted in later spring, after all threat of frost has passed. The ground must be warmer and workable, too.
Plant the seeds ¼ inch deep and eight inches apart. As the plants sprout, thin them to where there’s two feet of space between plants.
The plants take 90 days to mature, but proper spacing from the beginning will ensure they have adequate room to grow. Once your lovage plants are in the ground, it’s time to understand how to care for them properly.
Caring for Lovage
Lovage has only a few basic needs when it comes to receiving proper care. The first need this plant has is moisture.
The plant needs moist soil surrounding it to enhance its flavor at harvest. Mulching around the plant can help to accommodate for this need.
You can also practice the deep watering method. This method is when you water for longer periods at a time and ensures the roots are watered thoroughly.
If the plant doesn’t receive an adequate amount of water while growing, it causes the harvest to become bitter.
Though the herb desires dampness, it’s vital that the soil is well-draining and not left in a soggy condition.
Another occasional need of lovage is pruning. These plants can grow to be as tall or taller than many humans.
Therefore, pruning can help prevent the plants from becoming unruly. It’s important to never prune over half the plant at one time to help it maintain optimal health.
Even if your lovage plants aren’t becoming unmanageable, they should still be pruned halfway through the grow season. This will increase airflow around the plant. Pruning helps create breathing room to avoid disease.
During this seasonal pruning, you should remove any dead or damaged pieces of the plant. Pruning should happen when signs of bolt appear as well. By cutting the plants back during this time, you can stop them from reseeding.
It’s important to note that lovage does reseed easily but is not known for becoming insidious. By providing minimal care for your lovage plants, they should remain strong and lively throughout the grow season.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Lovage
Lovage can potentially attract certain pests and diseases. By knowing what to expect, it may help you protect your garden from unwelcome intruders.
The first pest you should be mindful of is aphids. Aphids are a common problem in many gardens. These pests will suck the sap from lovage and leave a trail of honeydew behind.
If you notice these pests, honeydew, or that your plants are becoming discolored you must treat the infestation.
The best way to get rid of aphids is to spray the foliage on all sides with soapy water. Be sure to spray the stem as well.
This should dislodge any pests that are making a home on your plant. Repeat this process as frequently as needed.
You can also use insecticidal soap on your plants when attempting to treat aphids. They’re a persistent pest, so be prepared to apply any method used multiple times.
The next pest you should look for is the leaf miner. Leaf miners create tunnels in the leaves of your plant.
They won’t kill your plants on their own, but they do make them susceptible for other pests or diseases to finish the job.
If you begin to see a maze design in the foliage of your plants, use insecticidal soap on them to treat for this pest.
You can also run your thumb and index finger along the tunnel lines to squish the bugs inside the tunnels.
Tarnished plant bugs are the final pest you should be aware of. They, too, feast on your plants. The best way to treat for this pest is by using insecticides or setting sticky traps around your plant to capture them.
These pests are difficult to get rid of which is why prevention is key. End-of-season-clean-up is essential in battling these bugs. By cleaning your garden after the grow season, it can help reduce places for tarnished plant bugs to overwinter.
Though the list of pests has come to an end, we must discuss diseases to watch for. The main diseases which commonly impact lovage are early blight and leaf spot.
Early blight is a fungus that creates dark spots on the foliage of your plant. The fungus will eventually take over if left untreated.
The best way to prevent and treat early blight is by removing any infected parts of the plant. Be sure not to compost these parts as the fungus will travel through your compost pile and infect other plants where used.
You should also focus on keeping the soil around the plant clear of debris. This will increase airflow around the herb which helps deter fungus. By keeping lovage pruned, it should also help with maintaining proper airflow to combat this disease.
Leaf spot is another disease to be on the lookout for. It causes your plant to develop dark spots on the foliage. This disease can be caused by a fungus or bacteria.
If your plant shows signs of leaf spot, remove any damaged parts, and treat with a fungicide. Again, be mindful not to compost the parts removed to protect the quality of your compost pile and future plants.
Giving the plant breathing room is a great way to combat fungus in the garden. You should also try to water from beneath the plant to keep the foliage dry.
If you must overhead water, do so in the morning to allow the foliage time to dry in the sunlight before the temperatures drop at night.
By being mindful of these few pests and diseases, you should be able to protect your lovage and enjoy a gorgeous harvest.
How to Harvest Lovage
Lovage is a perennial herb. It prefers colder temperatures, though it will die back over winter and return in the spring.
Having a perennial plant that loves cold weather is great news. It’s even better news that the entire lovage plant is edible. Be advised, the first year you’ll only be able to harvest the leaves.
However, in every year after, the entire plant can be harvested. Many gardeners use the stems in the place of celery, the leaves for herbal tea, and the root for culinary purposes.
If you choose to harvest the root, wait until October when the plant is full-size. Dig the plant up and carefully remove the desired pieces of the root from the rest of the plant.
Be mindful not to wash the roots because the moisture will cause them to ruin quickly. Dust the dirt off the harvest and store until you’re ready to use. You can also cut the root into smaller chunks to be dehydrated.
The leaves and stalks should be harvested while young. Don’t wash this part of the plant after harvest, either. They can be stored in an air-tight container until you’re ready to use them. Every part of the plant can be dehydrated for later use, and the leaves can even be frozen.
Some gardeners shy away from raising herbs because if you don’t cook with them, many are left to wonder what the point is.
Lovage is a practical herb that can be used to add flavor to your food, make a beneficial herbal tea, and can even replace a common vegetable.
If you need a functional herb that’s easy-to-grow, give lovage a try. You might be pleasantly surprised.