Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is an herbaceous, perennial plant. Native of the Mediterranean region, lovage grows wild in the mountainous districts in the south of France, in northern Greece and in the Balkans. Growing tall, the stems and leaves are a shiny green, has a hint of celery flavor and also a smell of lime when the herb is crushed. Cultivated as a sweet herb, with its roots used for medicinal purposes, its leaves can be used in salads, or to make soup of broths. The bottom of the stems can be blanched and eaten the same as celery.

This article will explain how to correctly sow lovage by means of soil propagation and hydroponically.

Growing Lovage in Soil:

Preparation:

Traditionally, out in the garden, the hardy lovage herb prefers rich, damp soil and a shady site. Before planting, it is important to consider how much space a gardener would devote to growing this herb. Lovage can grow very tall, with adult plants reaching 4-6 feet high. One large lovage plant is enough to keep a family sufficiently supplied with its fragrant leaves throughout the year while many plants create the perfect backdrop for a garden in the ground or set in planter pots.

Propagation:

Lovage grows well from seed. Start indoors 6-8 weeks before planting out at a depth of 2.5 cms in small peat pots. Seeds require on average 10-20 days for germination. Transplant after the danger of frost has passed. It is advised to transplant the seedlings again in autumn or spring to positions 2 feet (60 cms) apart. By the time the seedlings are four years old; they will have most likely reached their full size and should be spaced about 4 feet (1.2 m) apart.

Harvesting:

Lovage may be harvested after the first growing season if the plant is growing healthily. If very large, aromatic leaves are desired for flavoring, the plants must be watered especially well throughout the course of its life. If the lovage plant has enough water, plentiful cuttings can be taken from the plant a few times a year. As with most culinary herbs, the best time to do cuttings are in the morning after the morning dew has dried. Best used fresh, lovage can, however, be stored frozen in plastic bags or even dried. If only the leaves of the plant are desired, then the plant should be kept from flowering and seeding.

Lovage can successfully be dried in a cool oven, at a temperature of a little less than 200ºF (94ºC with the door left a little ajar). It is important to check the leaves often to prevent burning. Lovage can also be dried by tying cuttings in small bunches and hanging them upside down in a well-ventilated, dark room.

Lovage has also been noted as having a high amount of quercetin, a plant flavanoid said to have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The plant has been used medicinally for generations as it can relieve abdominal pains due to gastrointestinal gas. When consumed as a tea, lovage is also said to decrease flatulence.

Insects and Disease:

Lovage, like many leafy vegetables and herbs, is sometimes the target of leaf mining insects such as burrowing worms. Unfortunately, control of these leaf miners, even with pesticides, isn't very effective. The only thing that can be done is manually pick the affected leaves as soon as they are spotted. If the problem becomes widespread, then a cover over the crop is a good option in order to limit the flying leaf miners from leaving its eggs inside the lovage leaves.

Seed Saving Instructions:

The plant produces huge flower heads of seed. To properly dry for storage, allow the flower heads to dry on the plant. Once dried, collect the seeds and store in a cool dark place. Seed heads may also be bagged to capture ripening seed. Dry seed head can be brittle, so collect over a bowl, basket, bag or other container to collect all seeds.

Growing Lovage Hydroponically

Hydroponics and Growing Lovage

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants, like vegetables and herbs, without the use of any kind of soil. All the nutrients a plant needs while growing primarily in water are provided from a water-based nutrient solution. Anchors such as rockwool, pumice, sand or perlite are desired, so that the seedling can keep itself anchored.

The advantage of hydroponics over conventionally planning in soil is that when gardening with this method, plants can be placed close together. This in turn increases the yield in the space being used. There are also no weeds in hydroponics and normally no pests. Hydroponics, however, does more often than not cost more for the needed equipment as well as taking a little more training to learn the process as compared to the standard soil gardening technique.

Lovage can be grown hydroponically and has been noted to grow much more quickly in water than in soil. To grow lovage in this way, large amounts of equipment needn't be purchased as a small DIY hydroponic garden can easily be set up with reusable materials. This method of hydroponics is called hydroponic organics, and is currently one of the most popular methods of hydroponic growing. It allows the gardener, no matter the level of expertise, the freedom and flexibility of choosing their plant’s container, organic solution, and fertilizer (if desired) as they water the plants directly without the use of an automatic water on a timer. Hydroponics, although having the image of being a complex operation is in fact a moderately simple and inexpensive process when done on a small scale.

DIY Hydroponic Organics

  • One 2-liter soda bottle, emptied and cleaned
  • A pair of scissors
  • Heavy tape (duct tape is a good choice)
  • A Styrofoam cup
  • A pencil or screwdriver
  • Perlite
  • A lovage seedling with the soil gently cleaned from its roots
  • Hydroponic nutrient solution

Instructions

  1. Cut the top from the soda bottle. The hole should be large enough to hold the styrofoam cup. Make the cut level so that the Styrofoam cup will sit evenly in the hole.
  2. Cover the cut top of the bottle with the heavy tape. This is to keep both the styrofoam cup in place while hiding sharp edges of the plastic bottle.
  3. Using the pencil or screwdriver, poke several holes into the bottom of the cup. The holes should be large enough that the roots of the lovage plant will have a way grow through to reach the water, while the pieces of perlite do not fall through.
  4. If the seedling was started in soil, wash the roots gently before planting the seedling in the perlite. Make sure that there is no soil on the roots of the seedling. With clean roots, plant the lovage seedling into the perlite. Put enough perlite in the cup to fill it almost to the top.
  5. Follow the instructions written on the label of the hydroponic nutrient solution. Carefully mix enough hydroponic nutrient solution to fill the 2 liter bottle that the cup now sits in. Fill the bottle with enough of solution mixture so that the mixture is touching the lowering roots of the seedling within the cup. Ensure the solution does not cover all of the roots of the plant because the seedling’s roots also need access to oxygen in order to grow.
  6. Preferably, lovage does well with a relative humidity and at least six hours per day of light. This is the optimum conditions for the seedling to grow. If this cannot be adequately supplied to the seedling by natural means, grow lights and timers are also available from grow shops. These allow direct control over the amount of light the plant receives.