Lovage is a sweet tasting herb originating from the Mediterranean region. In appearance it broadly resembles a mix between celery and cilantro with its light green stems and leaves. A prolific and fast-growing plant, every gardener should try growing lovage at least once.
While lovage plants are commonly available from garden centers, growing lovage from seed is not only cheaper but can also be surprisingly simple. Here’s how to do it…
Prepare Your Seed Tray
Lovage seeds are quite small, and are typically planted in shallow seed trays. For the fastest germination rate consider one of the micro propagators with clear plastic lids. However if you’re on a budget it is possible to reuse a range of household waste items such as egg cartons or the plastic trays that some vegetables are sold in.
Having ensured your chosen container has suitable drainage holes, loosely fill it with a rich compost to a depth of at least an inch. Then water the compost thoroughly, which will not only provide the perfect condition for germination will also mean that the compost level drops as it compresses.
Planting Lovage Seeds
Loosely scatter the lovage over the surface of the compost, then add a final covering of supplementary compost. A perfect depth for lovage seed germination is roughly 1 cm.
While fresh lovage seeds can germinate quite quickly, they take time to reach a suitable size for planting out. Consequently, planning ahead in the spring is advisable, so that the seedlings are some 6-8 weeks old before they’re planted out in their final location.
After planting your goal should simply be to maintain the right conditions for your baby lovage plants to thrive. This means good levels of sunlight and warmth, together with frequent watering. It is for these reasons that a small propagator can be handy. Alternatively consider placing the seed trays into clear plastic bags to retain moisture. A sunny south-facing windowsill or a greenhouse make a perfect place for your new plants to grow.
How to Transplant Lovage Seedlings
Once your seedlings have grown into healthy young plants and the risk of frost has passed you can transport them outside to their new home. It’s often a good idea to help the lovage plants become accustomed to their new environment so they don’t go into shock. Start a week or two before their final planting out, by placing the seed trays outdoors during the day, before bringing them back in at night for protection. By this point the seedlings should be able to cope with the outside conditions.
During the time that you’re moving the lovage plants indoors and out you can start to find an appropriate spot to plant them. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just finding a random spot, digging a hole, and planting the plants there where they will soon flourish (although many gardeners wish this were true).
The most crucial elements to consider are that lovage enjoys full sun with just a hint of shade, while moist soil is also highly beneficial. This means that choosing the right position can take a little thought if your plants are to thrive.
Lovage is a surprisingly large plant, and can reach 7 feet or more in height. Each seedling therefore requires suitable space if they are reach their full potential. In light of this eventual size your lovage plants should be positioned about 30 inches apart from each other.
Remember to water each seedling thoroughly after transplanting into the earth to give them a flying start.
Caring for Lovage Plants
Lovage is an easy plant to care for, but it does require your attention at some points. Because this plant needs moist soil you need to make sure to keep it watered. However, this doesn’t mean to dump buckets of water every day on it. This will only lead to root rot. Just keep an eye on the plant and if you start to see it wilting, yellow leaves occurring, or feel that the soil isn’t moist, you want to give it some water.
Like all plants, with proper care your lovage will try to flower and set seed. Sadly this can shorten the life of your plant. Just like many other culinary plants such as basil or onions preventing this process is a key consideration.
If you do neglect to cut your lovage and it ends up going into its flowering and seed stage, you’ll start to see some small clusters of yellow flowers on it. You can wait until these flowers bloom and then clip them off and remove the lovage seeds from inside them. These seeds can then be frozen or dried, ready for use the next year.
While lovage is thankfully pest-free it does have one major nemesis you’ll have to watch out for: aphids. These pesky insects can eat the leaves and reproduce on the plants which can destroy them. If you start to find aphids on your lovage, you can use some organic spray to safely remove them.
When to Harvest Lovage
The right time to harvest lovage is just when it starts to grow big. The leaves will be large and have a beautiful green shade.
Uses for Your Lovage
There are plenty of things you can do with lovage, so if you find that you have more lovage than you know what to do with you don’t have to be overwhelmed with it all.
Besides being a great addition to salads and soups, lovage can also be made into tea.
This herb is also known for being great at relieving allergies and soothing irritated skin. You can make your own essential oils with it to help with this.
If you’re a new gardener looking for something simple to grow or are experienced in gardening and searching for a nice addition to add to your garden, lovage is perfect. Growing lovage from seed is easy and can end up giving you a tasty and bountiful harvest you can enjoy.