Lemon Balm is a perennial herb that has been cultivated for over 2,000 years, originally as a bee plant. Its lemon-scented leaves are very popular for brewing a calming tea. The leaves can also be used to flavor soups, salads, fish dishes and herb vinegars. Dried leaves can be added to homemade potpourri or herb pillows. This plant is very nice for growing along walkways or in patio containers, where the scent can be appreciated. Bees love this plant!
Plant where the scent can be enjoyed. Can be used to replace grated lemon rind in fish and chicken dishes. The dry leaves can be used for tea. Popular for sachets and potpourri. Wash fruits, vegetables and herbs thoroughly before eating.
New plantings should be watered daily for a couple of weeks. After that, depending on the weather and soil type, watering may be adjusted to every two or three days. Clay soils hold moisture longer than sandy soils, so expect to water more frequently in sandy settings.
Different plants have different water needs. Some plants prefer staying on the dry side, others, like to be consistently moist. Refer to the plant label to check a plant’s specific requirements.
Thoroughly soaking the ground up to 8” (20 cm) every few days is better than watering a little bit daily. Deep watering encourages roots to grow further into the ground resulting in a sturdier plant with more drought tolerance.
To check for soil moisture, use your finger or a small trowel to dig in and examine the soil. If the first 2-4” (5-10cm) of soil is dry, it is time to water.
Plants in containers can dry out quickly, depending on the weather, and may need water more frequently than plants in the garden bed. Apply water at the soil level if possible to avoid wetting the foliage. Water the entire soil area until water runs out the base of the pot. This indicates that the soil is thoroughly wet.
Invest in a good, sharp hand pruner or knife for harvesting. Pinching the stems off can cause damage to the main plant.
Herbs can be harvested throughout the growing season to be used fresh, dried, or frozen. It’s best not to prune more than 50% of the foliage at one time. This keeps the plant healthy and producing new growth for continuous harvesting.
Unless you are growing an herb specifically for its flowers (such as lavender), or seed production (such as fennel), it is best to remove flower buds as they appear. This keeps the plant’s energy focused on foliage production instead of blooms and seeds.
Harvest herbs in the morning, when the plant oils are at their peak. Prepare herb cuttings for use by gently washing and drying the foliage. If planning to preserve the herbs, check foliage for insects or eggs as well. Herbs can be dried or frozen for future use. The general rule for use in cooking is: use twice as much fresh or frozen herb as compared to dried herb.
Harvest seeds when the flowers start to fade and turn brown, but before the seeds fall from the plant.
Do not prune plants after September 1st. Pruning stimulates tender new growth that will damage easily when the first frosts arrive. Once plants have died to the ground they are easy to clean up by simply cutting back to about 4” (10cm) above the ground.
Perennial herbs should be dug up and divided every 2-3 years. This stimulates healthy new growth and provides new plants to expand the garden or share with gardening friends.