German Chamomile, Scented Mayweed
Though chamomile is one of the best-known herbs for tea. There are two species commonly referred to as chamomile German chamomile and Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). While they may be used interchangeably when making tea, the two plants are very different when it comes to how you grow them.
German chamomile is an annual, and it grows in a bushy shrub up to 3 feet tall. Roman chamomile is a perennial that only gets about a foot high and tends to be grown as a groundcover. Both produce very similar aromatic blossoms, but it is German chamomile that we grow in the Rochedale Community Garden as it is more commonly grown for its blossoms. The information in this article will focus on how to grow the German variety in your garden.
Chamomile bushes have blooms with small white flowers with large yellow centers (like small daisies), and it has a distinctive apple-like aroma when in bloom. Though it can be grown in a flower bed, the blooms are very small compared to the large and rather wild-looking bush.
If you have hayfever or allergies to ragweed, you may find that chamomile has the same effect on you because they are closely related. That includes the plants growing outdoors, but also the tea you brew as well.
Chamomile is usually grown for its flowers which are used to make tea. Chamomile tea is enjoyed for its taste, and as a home-remedy for stomach upset. It also can help you fall asleep in the evenings.
Toothaches can also be treated by grinding the chamomile and mixing with a little water to form a paste. Apply to the irritated tooth for relief.
Start chamomile seeds in seed pots but don’t bury the seeds under the soil. They need light to sprout, just sprinkle a few seeds in each pot right on the surface of your potting mix.
Keep them moist, and thin them down to one per pot after they start to grow. Your seedlings should be kept in a sunny spot until its time to plant them out. For container growing, you can sprout your seeds directly into their final pot if kept indoors until after the frosts are past.
Seeds take 7 to 14 days to germinate and will be ready to plant out in about 30 days.
Chamomile prefers full sun or light shade, occasional watering and light sandy soil with good drainage. It will grow in a wide range of soils, anything with 5.6 – 7.5 pH.
Care and Feeding
Chamomile isn’t a very heavy feeder, and you should only need to add a bit of good compost when planting. Unless you have very poor soil, you don’t need to fertilize through the season.
Your plants will likely thrive without additional watering though they can use more water once they start to bloom, or during any prolonged spell of hot dry weather.
Not very many insects will bother your chamomile plants, and they even repel cucumber beetles (so plant near the veggie garden).
You do sometimes find clusters of tiny aphids on chamomile but they are generally not much of a threat.
Your plants can bloom all through the summer, so there isn’t any one specific harvest time. Most plants will start to put out flowers about a month after planting.
Harvesting your chamomile flowers can be a tedious task. You only want the blossoms, not their stems which means you have to pick them quite carefully. Of course, you can always go through your chamomile after picking to remove any extra bits of stem later. You can use fresh flowers for tea, but it’s more typical to dry them before use.
Spread them out somewhere warm and well-ventilated to thoroughly dry. Direct sunlight can harm the chamomile oils, so don’t just leave them out in the sun to dry. Indoors is usually best. Once dry, you can store chamomile flowers in a sealed container for a year.
When making tea, you’ll need approximately 1 teaspoon of dried flowers per up. For brewing with fresh chamomile blossoms, use almost twice that. Add a little honey for sweetness.
There are no significant levels of nutrients in chamomile tea.
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