Any cook will tell you, fresh is best! When it comes to your herbs and spices, especially growing rosemary, there is nothing better than picking the leaves straight off the plant for use in your dishes.
Even so, a lot of people still rely on store-bought dried herbs, believing it to be difficult and time-consuming to grow their own. While this is true of some herbs, rosemary certainly isn’t one of them, with this plant among the easiest to look after.
How to Grow Rosemary
Whether you are growing rosemary outdoors, or in a pot in the kitchen, the plant has three main requirements. The first one is plenty of sunlight. Ideally, rosemary should be in the sun for between six and eight hours every day, so you need to consider this before you decide where it is going to grow.
Secondly, rosemary requires excellent drainage and will begin to rot if left waterlogged for too long. It is native to the Mediterranean and grows on rocky hillsides which retain very little water. As such, it grows best in sandy ground and only needs watering when the soil is completely dry.
Lastly, you should ensure there is plenty of air-flow around the plant. If the air does not circulate, it becomes too humid, encouraging the growth of mildew and other fungal diseases.
Generally, this is only an issue when growing rosemary indoors, although if it is tucked away in the corner of a garden somewhere, it could still be a problem.
Depending on where you live, frost may be the biggest problem you will encounter. If you are growing rosemary outdoors, and there is a chance of a cold snap, you may want to consider keeping it in a large pot or container. This way, you can bring it in during the worst weather, and then place it back outside when spring arrives.
Another problem you could have is with disease. Fortunately, it is unlikely you will come across anything that can do permanent damage.
However, if you spot anything unusual, then it needs treating. The most common problem is mildew, which appears as a white powder on the leaves when the humidity is too high. If you experience this, use a fungicide to kill the infection, and look at how you can increase the air-flow around the plant.
Pests may also be a problem, particularly in the wintertime when growing rosemary indoors. If you spot any infestations, you want to get on top of them quickly, so spraying with an insecticide as soon as you see anything wrong should solve the problem.
In general, you shouldn’t need to provide rosemary with much fertilizer as it grows. It can be worth spraying with a fish emulsion just before spring to give it a boost going into the warmer period. However, this is usually not essential, and the plant will remain healthy if you choose not to.
Starting a New Plant
Most people will go down the route of buying an established plant, as it can take a few years for young rosemary to mature. However, if you do want to start from scratch, it is advisable to propagate with cuttings rather than planting seeds.
The seeds are notoriously tricky to germinate, and often have different characteristics to their parent, making them unpredictable.
To propagate a cutting, you need to chop off around 2 inches of new growth from an established plant and remove the bottom half of the leaves. Use a little bit of rooting hormone, and place the cut end into some damp starting mixture.
Mist daily, and ensure the soil drains well and the plant remains in direct sunlight for around 2 or 3 weeks while the roots establish. When the roots appear, transplant the rosemary to a pot and look after it how you would a mature plant.
Rosemary is an excellent starter for those venturing into fresh herbs as it does not need regular attention or pruning to remain healthy. Not only that, but it has a fantastic fragrance and tastes good too, making it a great addition in the home or an herb garden. As long as you keep it away from frost, you should have no problems getting more than you need for the kitchen.