Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an aromatic plant of the grass family that’s used to season foods to create an appealing taste and aroma. In the Asian countries especially the Philippines where the native lechon is mostly served, lemon grass is placed inside the pig’s stomach before cooking to smell an aroma to increase the taste of the lechon meat.
Because of its strong aroma, lemon grass is also good as a companion crop to your vegetable garden since it ward off some common insect pests. Some insects don’t like the smell of this plant hence, lemon grass is also used as an insect repellent for home gardeners.
Ways to plant lemon grass
1. Prepare the planting materials. Prior to planting you’ve to prepare the seed pieces to produce roots for success in planting. Cut the plant stalk about 5 inches long from the bulb end portion. Separate the bulbs individually and place them in a container filled with water for around 2 – 3 weeks to produce their roots. Change the water every week to make it fresh always to hasten root development.
2. Prepare the planting area. While waiting for the seed pieces to establish its root system in the germinating box, you’ve to prepare the place where you’ll plant lemon grass. First, see to it that the planting area has at least 5 – 6 hours of direct full sunlight the whole day.
Dig the soil making the hole 6 inches deep and 4inches wide square. Fill the hole with compost and leave them until the seed pieces are ready for planting.
3. Plant the germinated seed pieces. In the prepared holes filled with compost plant 2 – 3 rooted seed pieces in every hole and fill the remaining space with soil up to the top level of the plant base.
4. Water the new plants. After planting them in the prepared holes, water immediately around the base of the plants and put some mulch materials to retain the soil moisture while the plants are in their recovery state.
After several weeks, the plants will start to produce long thin green knife-leaf blades. You need to monitor the plant’s growth development until they’re ready for harvest.
Lemon grass is a tropical perennial grass plant that doesn’t tolerates cold winter temperatures. If you’re in a cold winter location, try to “winterize” them by uprooting them, cut the top leaves down to the stalks and place them in planting pots. Place them in indoors with sunlight available in the day and water sparingly during the winter months. You can use the cut leaves for delicious Asian cuisines and brewing teas.
Harvesting and storing
With the use of a spading fork get through the plant base deep enough to reach the ground to penetrate the root system loosen the soil for easy pulling of the whole clustered plant.
Cut all the leaves at least 8 – 12 inches from the root base with the use of a sharp knife or pruning shear. Collect all the cut grass blades and tie them together the size of around 2 inches diameter and 6 – 8 inches long. Place the tied bunches in a plastic freezer bags and store in the freezer or refrigerator.