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How To Grow Tarragon


Tarragon (Antemisia dracunulus) is a beautiful herb that thrives in less desirable areas of the garden space.  It thrives in dry, rocky, sandy soil that typically will not support other plant material.  It grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet in height and spreads throughout the garden space through runners.  The True French Tarragon rarely blooms but the Russian variety does and produces blooms that are round in shape with a yellow hue and black heads.

The Russian Tarragon is not as flavorful as the True French Tarragon but it can be started by seed.  This seed can be planted indoors or out.  If planting indoors, count back 6 weeks from the local frost-free date.  This date is when the seeds need to be planted.  To plant the seeds, simply fill a flat or container with an all-purpose potting soil.  Sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface and very lightly cover with soil.  Mist the soil surface and keep evenly moist until the seeds germinate.  The seeds will germinate in about 10 to 14 days.

When the weather warms, slowly expose the tarragon seedlings to their new environment through the process called hardening off.  This process is done by moving the plants outdoors under a tree or shady area and leaving them for a few hours.  Then bring indoors and repeat until they are left out all day and night.  This process will reduce sunburn and plant stress.

True French Tarragon, on the other hand, does not produce seed and propagated solely by stem cuttings and root divisions.  To start True French Tarragon through stem cuttings begins by preparing the container for the starts.  This entails washing the container with soapy water and rinsing a solution of water and one capful of bleach.  Let air dry in the bright sunlight if possible.  Once the container has dried, fill it with a pre-moistened, all-purpose potting soil.  In the early morning, go out and take several 6-inch cuttings from the tarragon.  Bring them in and remove all the leaves from the bottom 2 inches.  Place the cuttings in the soil and place in a warm room that receives lots of sun.  Keep the soil evenly moist and monitor the rooting progress of the cuttings.

Once the cuttings have rooted and the soil has warmed, move the starts to the garden space.  Plant these rooted cuttings 1 ½ to 2 feet apart.

If the tarragon is started through division, simply dig up the plant and cut or pull apart the root mass.  Replant the divisions back into the garden soil.

Both of these forms of propagation can be done either during the spring or autumn.  While tarragon does not require fertilization, it can use a boost of compost in the spring.  This needs to be in the form a side dressing that consists of 1 inch spaded into the garden soil.

Tarragon can be moved from the garden and planted into containers for winter use.  Another approach is to just plant tarragon in a container from the beginning.  When planting in a container, keep in mind that the roots of the tarragon are very shallow, so do not overdue the depth of the container.

When it is time to move the tarragon indoors, make sure to give the plant a good spraying with the watering hose.  These pests include leafhopper, thrips, whiteflies, aphids, and red and/or black flat mites. 

When dealing with these pests only use organic means of dealing with them and under no circumstances should the gardener apply a chemical insecticide.

If the gardener lives in a cold region and does not want to bring the tarragon indoors, mulch heavily in the fall to protect the plant from the winter temperatures.


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