Balm (Lemon Balm)

BALM (Lemon Balm) Labiatae Melissa officinalis

HABITAT: Native to Europe, Asia. Zones 3-10.

USES: Leaves for flavoring.

HABIT: Hardy perennial herb to 2' with lemon-scented leaves. The 2' wide plant produces small pale yellow buds opening into tiny white flowers during the summer. The leaves are opposite, toothed, heart-shaped with deep veining and clothe the square stems. Plants mature to usage within 60 days.

SEED GERMINATION AND CULTURE: Sow seed outdoors when soil can be worked, covering lightly and keeping moist during the germination then thin to 8" apart in rows 9" apart. Seed also may be sown indoors in late winter in flats of Park's Grow Mix, do not cover seed, keep moist during the germination period then transplant when large enough to handle to peat pots or sow direct to peat pots or pellets and shift to the garden when the roots emerge from the pot walls and weather permits.

Grow in sun or light shade and in a good garden soil with excellent drainage and humus (compost, leaf mold, peat moss) added. Fertilize in the spring with 5-10-5 fertilizer at the rate of 3 oz. per 10 ft. of row. Divide every 2-3 years. A soil with a pH of 6.0-8.0 is ideal. Balm tolerates dry soil but for best results soil should be kept moderately moist during the growing season.

Pick fresh leaves as needed. To dry: Gather leaves as flowers open and place on stretched cheese cloth in a cool, dimly lighted area.

Small plants may be potted before fall frost and grown on indoors in a sunny window during the winter.

INSECTS: Not generally a problem.

DISEASES: Gray Mold Blight (Botrytis), Leaf Spot; Use an approved fungicide such as Maneb, Zineb.

PROPAGATION: Division, cuttings, seeds.