Valerian helps with inner restlessness and sleep disorders. It’s easy to grow in your own garden – we’ll show you how. There are many myths and stories about the real medicinal valerian ( Valeriana officinalis). He is said to have helped soulful executioners to become bloodthirsty and the Pied Piper of Hamelin is said to have lured rats out of their holes with valerian. In any case, due to the substances, it contains, it acts as an aphrodisiac on cats.
As a medicinal plant, it is very popular for restlessness and sleep disorders. It can be used as a tablet, tea, capsule, or tincture. The young spring herb that sprouts can also be used in a salad in the kitchen – for example with the closely related lamb’s lettuce ( Valerianella ). In order to be able to harvest successfully from self-grown valerian, a few small things must be observed. We will guide you step by step to the successful cultivation of the popular medicinal herb in your own garden.
Valerian feels most comfortable in a sunny location. But even in the partial shade, it thrives splendidly if necessary. In contrast to Mediterranean herbs, valerian, which is native to Europe and West Asia, prefers a moist location to a stony and dry location. In the wild, it can therefore often be found near water. Soils that are too heavy, such as clay soils, also affect valerian. Because these soils prevent it from developing its roots and its coveted rhizome. Instead of fully developing its vigor of more than a meter, the stunted growth shines and, as a result, with lower yields.
The easiest way to multiply the valerian is by sowing. In March or early April, sowing takes place, initially best in a seed tray in the house. When sowing outdoors, the tender seedlings would be endangered by frost at this time. In the bed, however, the seeds can be spread without any problems as early as May. Since valerian is a light germ, the seed must not be covered with the substrate. Otherwise, the germination process of the seed would be hindered. Therefore, it must be checked regularly that the seed is sufficiently moist. In order to achieve the best possible results for the four to six weeks of germination of valerian, only fresh seeds from the previous year should be used if possible. Valerian seeds lose their ability to germinate very quickly so that soon no more small plants grow out of the seed if it has been lying around for a few years.
3. Watering and fertilizing
The valerian prefers a moist location, but it doesn’t like waterlogging either. Therefore it should be watered regularly, but not in a way that threatens to completely water its location. However, it does not cope with longer dry periods as well as its Mediterranean counterparts. More extreme drought can even lead to death for valerian relatively quickly. So it has to be watered occasionally when the valerian is planted in the bed. When cultivating in a pot, watering has to be carried out much more frequently. Therefore, the pot should not be chosen too small from the start.
When growing in beds, a good, humus-rich subsoil is usually sufficient for an adequate supply of nutrients. This can be achieved, for example, by incorporating organic materials such as compost or dung or organic commercial fertilizers such as horn shavings or bone meal in the spring.
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With regard to fertilization, the same applies as with watering: Here, too, more manual help is required than with cultivation outdoors. If you use predominantly organic fertilizer, it is sufficient to apply fertilizer at the beginning of the growth phase in spring.
Actually, when growing valerian in your own garden, there is no need for any major care measures. The classic problem of overwintering is also eliminated because the above-ground parts of the valerian plant die in autumn. The underground rhizomes that survive the winter are hardy. However, the valerian can occasionally be attacked by harmful organisms. If aphids appear, they can be best and most gently brushed off. With powdery mildew, a white patch of mold forms on the leaf surfaces. In this case, the fertilization should be stopped immediately and the plants should be spread further apart if the stand is too dense.
When growing valerian, the rhizome, in particular, should be harvested. That is why harvesting is only done in the second year of cultivation, once the plant has overwintered. Then she had more time to properly train the underground system. This then ensures a rich valerian harvest. The plant parts are then carefully dug up in autumn and can be stored. However, you can also use the mature seeds of the plant (these have the same effect as the rhizome). As soon as the inflorescences with the seeds turn brown in autumn, they can be harvested.
Both subterranean parts of the plant and the seeds are dried for some time after the harvest. The seeds can be easily removed and the rhizomes can be grated. Both can then be further processed in various forms. Used as a tea, nothing needs to be edited. However, if you want to make ointments or tinctures from the valerian, seeds, and rhizome parts have to be pulverized.
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So you don’t need any extraordinary horticultural skills to grow valerian successfully in your own garden. However, the herb that has a calming effect should not be neglected and is recognizable for a regular water supply with a plentiful harvest.