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Lemon Balm

Jude Jude
30/03/2022 · 6 minutes reading time

Help your March plants grow big and strong!

Here’s what’s ahead:

Getting Started

Important information at a glance:

  • Sowing depth: 0.2 cm, light germinator

  •  Germination temperature: 20-25 °C

  •  Germination period: 14-21 days

  •  Indoor sowing/harvest: March-April/May-August

  •  Outdoor sowing/harvest: May–August/July–August

  •  Row spacing: 40 cm

  •  Plant distance: 40 cm

  •  Root depth: 15 cm

  •  Type: Weak Eater

  •  Location: sunny to semi-shady, sheltered from the wind

  •  Soil: humus, permeable

  •  Plant Family: Lamiaceae

Lemon balm, or ‘Melissa officinalis’ according to its biological nomenclature, is one of our favourite herbs. If you have any friends called Melissa, you may know that the name in Greek means ‘honey bee’. And lemon balm certainly lives up to this name! Not only does lemon balm offer the sweet, refreshing aroma of lemons, but its blossoms provide a playground for all your honeybee friends.

Pre-Sowing

Here’s what you need:

  • Pots or cultivation tray

  • Potting soil, herbal soil

  • Shower ball or watering device

Pre-sowing indoors:

You can sow your lemon balm indoors in March and April. To do this, simply fill the growing pots with growing or herbal soil. Remove the sheet of seed-paper from your calendar, tear the page up into small pieces, and place them face down on the soil. You can include two or three seeds in each pot. Then water everything and place your handiwork in a warm, bright place. Be sure not to let the seed dry out before it has germinated.

Sowing outdoors:

We know, patience is hard. But if you can wait until May, you can just sow the seeds directly in your bed. Make sure you have weed-free space, tear up the seed-paper exactly as instructed above, and lay the paper on the ground. You can sow these seeds more densely to avoid gaps, as some seeds may not open, or may be mistaken as food by birds. Just remember to separate them later, so that there is a distance of 40 cm between each plant. This is important, since your little plants will be much happier with you if you make sure they get enough light, nutrients and water, plus ensure that they are safe from diseases. Let some soil trickle over the seed, then moisten everything with a healthy stream of water.

Transplanting

For transplanting indoors:

As soon as the first proper leaves have unfolded, you can move your mini-lemon balms in new pots. Use herbal soil for this, so that your plants can find enough nutrients at this stage of growth. Your pots should now have a diameter of approximately 11 cm. It is best to only put one plant in each pot, so that it has enough space to grow.

Fill your new pots with new herb soil. Use your finger to poke a hole in each one deep enough to accommodate the lemon balm roots. Carefully lift the lemon balm out of its nursery pot with a pricking stick or thin pencil and place it in its new home. Close the hole and at the end water all the pots.

From pot to bed: 

In mid-May, the time has come: your young plants can go outside! It is best to get them used to the sun for a few days before planting them in the bed. To do this, just place the plants in partial shade for three to four days. Next, give them a few days in the sun. You should always bring them back inside at night so that they don't freeze to death straight away. Then, after about a week, you can plant them in a bed. All you have to do is dig a hole deep enough to hold the lemon balm and the root ball. As always, close the hole in the ground and water it.

From pot to balcony:

If you don't have a garden, or if you just want to have your lemon balm within reach on your balcony, you can plant it in a large pot. Just make sure it is at least 25 cm in diameter and 20 cm deep. That way your plant will feel good, can grow big and bring you all of the lemoney goodness. Here you will also want to use herbal soil and place the lemon balm as deep as it was in the small pot before. Don't forget to water that baby good.

Transplanting outdoors:

If you sow your lemon balms in a bed right away, you will save yourself the trouble of repotting. When growing beds, you just have to make sure that the plants have enough distance from each other. If they have sprouted very close together, pluck out the weaker or sickly ones. You can also prick them and use them elsewhere.

Location

Summer, sun, sunshine – the lemon balm life is basically Ibiza all the time. It loves to be pampered by the sun – but it also thrives well in partial shade, albeit more slowly. In any case, it is an herb that does not give up easily.

The one thing that will spoil your lemon balm’s mood is waterlogging. So do water it regularly, just not too much. Only when the top 2 cm have dried does it need to refuel. When chopping and weeding, be careful not to damage their shallow-growing roots.

Since lemon balm can stay in the same spot for many years, it doesn't hurt to incorporate compost into the soil before planting. This will help it find enough nutrients to develop strong roots and branch out.

Good and bad neighbors

Good: other herbs
Bad: basil, watercress, wasabi

zitronenmelisse nahaufnahme
You'll know that lemon balm is in the room straight away – the moment you rub a leaf between your fingers, you will notice its sweet aroma. A few sprigs will add a tasty dash citrus flavour to any of your favourite drinks.

Care for Your Lemon Balm

  • Prepare the bed with compost

  • Treat loamy soil with sand

  • Winter protection only necessary in harsh areas

  • Lemon balm overwinters while leaves close to the ground remain, all other parts of the plant above ground freeze; in the springtime it will sprout again

  • Water moderately

Harvest and Storage

When the leaves on your lemon balm are still soft, the shoots are best suited for use in the kitchen, since they are very versatile.

If you want to dry your lemon balm out, simply cut it off – including the stem – just before it blooms, and leave it to hang upside-down for a few days. After about a week, you will have a dry lemon balm, which you can store in screw-top jars in a dark cupboard or storage space. However, much of the lemon flavour will dissipate as it dries. You will definitely notice more flavour if you use the herb fresh.

Enjoy

Lemon balm goes well with any dish that would benefit from a dash of lemon. Herb quark, lemonade, Asian food – let your imagination run wild a bit. Just don't cook the lemon balm, otherwise it will lose its aroma.

Of course, tea can also be prepared with lemon balm, as is possible with almost every herb. Just brew your lemon balm tea with hot water exactly as you would do a standard cuppa. 3 teaspoons of chopped leaves are enough for one cup. If you enjoy a cup of lemon balm tea two or three times per day, it will help counteract insomnia and restlessness.