By Jennifer Poindexter
In my earliest days of gardening, I was over the moon to grow anything and everything. Sorrel was one of my earliest experiments, and it gave me the confidence to keep going forward with my gardening efforts.
This herb is easy-to-grow, low-maintenance, and produces a flavorful harvest. Whether you’re new to gardening and looking for a beginner project or have been gardening for years and would like to grow something different, sorrel could be a great option for you.
Here’s what you should know to grow this luscious and tangy herb:
Growing Conditions for Sorrel
Sorrel is a perennial plant in zones five and up. It’s also frequently grown as an annual because of various gardening methods used to raise the herb.
Regardless of gardening method, if you’re going to raise sorrel, it must be grown in well-draining soil that’s slightly acidic. It also should be planted in a sunny spot of your garden and receive full-sun for approximately six hours out of the day.
Sorrel must be planted in nutrient-dense soil. Where the plant is mainly foliage, it requires large quantities of nutrients to become lush and vibrant.
If you can provide a sunny location, proper soil, and adequate nutrients sorrel should fit right into your gardening plot.
How to Plant Sorrel
Sorrel can be started indoors, direct sowed outdoors, or grown as part of a container garden. If you choose to start the plant indoors, begin the process five weeks before the last predicted frost date.
Place the seeds in a grow tray. Be sure to plant two seeds per cell of the tray. This is to insure if one seed fails to produce, you’ll have a back-up to take its place.
Lightly cover the seeds with quality soil and care for them as you would any other seeds being started indoors.
When frost is over and the plants are at a viable stage, move them outdoors to their permanent bed. Since this herb can be a perennial in zones five and higher, it’s a good idea to plant the herb in a perennial bed or location where the plants won’t be disturbed throughout the year.
The herb takes 40 days to reach its infancy stage and takes two months to become fully mature. The 40-day mark should be an adequate timeframe for transplanting the seedlings outdoors.
If starting seeds indoors isn’t an area of interest for you, sorrel can be direct sowed in the garden location of your choice.
This herb is durable and even its seedlings can handle being impacted by a mild frost. For this reason, you can sow the seeds inground outdoors as early as three weeks prior to the last predicted frost date.
The ground should be tilled and ready to accept the seeds. Ensure the rows are two feet apart to allow room for the plants to grow. Once the soil is ready, plant the seeds ½ inch deep and three inches apart.
When the seeds reach two inches in height, thin the plants to where there’s one foot of space between each seedling.
If you don’t have the proper soil for sorrel or adequate grow space, you can also raise this crop in a container.
You’ll plant as you would if you were using the other methods mentioned here. The only difference is making sure that the container is large enough to support the herb. A 12-inch pot would be ideal for most sorrel plants.
Regardless of what method you use to raise sorrel, be sure to plant the right amount. You want to grow enough where everyone can enjoy this crop without being overwhelmed by it.
As a general rule of thumb, you should grow one plant per person in your home. There may be some people who love sorrel, and you should take this into consideration when planting the right amount.
Obviously, you will lessen the amount if you have people in your home who don’t like sorrel or if you have younger family members who won’t eat as much of the harvest.
Raising sorrel can be an enjoyable experience no matter where you live because of the versatile grow methods you can use to produce this crop.
Caring for Sorrel
Sorrel requires basic care to produce a bountiful harvest. To begin, you should ensure each plant receives one inch of water per week.
This can be through your watering efforts or nature’s provision. Be sure to water your plants deeply to provide moisture to the roots and to the ground around them.
By doing this, it will allow the ground to serve as a reservoir. Mulching around the crop is a good idea to help retain moisture as well.
Sorrel doesn’t need to be fertilized regularly, but it will require a dose of fertilizer approximately halfway through the grow season. This will give it the boost of nutrients it needs to continue producing for the rest of the season.
Another part of caring for sorrel is minding the weeds. Keep the weeds down to give the crop room to breathe, lessen the competition for nutrients, and to avoid giving pests a place to hide.
As the grow season moves on, you’ll want to pay attention to the temperatures. Sorrel produces spring through autumn, but during the summer sorrel needs help managing the heat.
You should provide partial shade to your sorrel plants on days with scorching temperatures.
If you grow it in a container, you can move the plant into the shade when needed. If the plants are growing inground, see if you can concoct a way to provide partial shade on steamy days.
By allowing the plant to become too hot, it can cause it to produce a bitter harvest.
When the plants become older, they’ll begin to go to seed. If you’d like to prolong your harvest, remove the side stalk and older leaves from the plant.
The last maintenance task you must perform to grow healthy and productive sorrel is to divide the plants as needed.
Usually, around year four, the plants will begin to look exhausted. Give them a youthful boost by digging up the entire plant.
Use a sharp spade to run down the center of the plant and divide it through the roots. Transplant the newly divided herbs and care for them as their roots become established again.
Sorrel is a plant that requires some maintenance in the garden. By spending a small amount of time caring for this herb, it should produce food for years to come.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Sorrel
The great thing about growing herbs is pests and diseases normally don’t impact them. In fact, there are no diseases that you should be aware of when raising sorrel.
However, you should still be on the lookout for a few pests.
The first pest you should be mindful of is the aphid. They infiltrate a variety of garden settings and are known for wreaking havoc if left unchecked.
Aphids suck the sap from your plants and leave behind a sticky substance, known as honey dew, as they travel along your plant.
Whether you see signs of the color and life being drained from your herbs, or the honeydew covering your plants, be sure to know how to treat for aphids.
The easiest method to ridding your garden of aphids is to spray your plants with soapy water. Be sure to spray the entire plant and both sides of its foliage. This will ensure the aphids are dislodged.
Repeat this process as many times as necessary until you no longer see aphids around your gardening location.
Snails and slugs are another problem you may spot when raising sorrel. They usually come out around dusk to snack on your plant and will leave a slimy substance behind wherever they crawl.
There are a few ways to get rid of a slug or snail problem. If the problem is smaller, you can handpick these pests from your plant.
However, if there are too many or you want to avoid touching them, you can sprinkle coffee grounds or diatomaceous earth around the base of each herb.
Snails and slugs don’t like the caffeine in coffee, and the diatomaceous earth will create a rocky and dangerous terrain for the pests to climb through.
These three basic pests are your biggest dangers when raising sorrel.
How to Harvest Sorrel
If you’ve harvested lettuce, you can handle harvesting sorrel because the process is similar. The prime time for harvesting sorrel is when the leaves are young and fresh.
When the sorrel leaves reach approximately four inches long, you’re nearing harvest time. Use scissors or your thumb and index finger to remove the leaves from the plant.
Once your harvest is complete, clean the leaves, and store them in an airtight container to be used fresh.
Growing sorrel is a great way to add a unique taste to your garden’s flavor profile. It’s easily maintained, safe in your garden, and is simple to harvest. If you need a lower-maintenance herb, sorrel could be what you’ve been seeking.