Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Growing Lemongrass in the UK (and cold climates)

Lemongrass growing in container
Lemongrass growing in a container

So, can you grow lemongrass in colder climates like the UK?  The answer is yes, you can!  A couple of years ago, we embarked upon an experiment to try to grow lemongrass in the UK.  This is the result.

Propagating Lemongrass
We decided that the best way to get our plant started was to propagate from an existing plant.  But since none of our neighbours had one, the only solution was to try to get store bought lemongrass stalks to root - this method is described in one of my ealier posts here.

First stop, was a visit to our local Thai supermarket to pick up some (very) fresh stalks of lemongrass.  In fact, the fresher they are the better.  Do try to avoid any stalks that look completely dried out.  Also do check that the base of each stalk is still in tact.

After a few weeks, our stalks finally started to root.  The success rate can vary, ours was two out of three stalks.  One stalk got mouldy even before it started rooting, and so had to be discarded. 

So as not to waste any of your lemongrass (which can be expensive), you can cut the stalk right down leaving just a short piece of the stem to experiment with.  That way, you can consume most of it, and in the event that the experiment goes wrong, you won't be sending emails of complaint over my way.

Also, the lemongrass stalks will root better in warmer temperatures.     

In the UK, lemongrass seedlings are sometimes also available for sale at local garden centres, although quite expensive for what you get.

Growing Lemongrass
We decided to grow our lemongrass in a pot.  The main reason for this, is so that we can bring it back indoors when it gets too cold.   

It is surprising, but our lemongrass seems to have grown quite well during the hotter months in the UK.  Our plant shown here is the result of just one stalk that we got to root.  Over the months, it has multiplied and the stalks have grown from spindly little things to fatter, juicier looking stems.

When temperatures start to drop in the lead up to winter, you will need to provide it with some protection.  This is unlike our lemongrass plant in Sydney Australia, which survives outdoors and can be harvested throughout the much milder winters.    Ours goes into our Summer house (or small greenhouse), where it is warm and protected from the cold.  This will help it to survive the winter, and being a perennial, it will come back the next year ready to be harvested once again! 

Harvest Lemongrass
Our lemongrass stalks did grow to the desired thickness, but they did seem to be much shorter in length, when compared to the ones we grew in Australia.  They were wonderfully fragrant and lemon-ey, and we are using it in everything from Thai green curry mussels to Vietnamese pork balls.

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