Coriander can be frustrating to grow. It can easily ‘bolt’ to seed and discourage the best intentions of any veggie grower.
There are many reasons they bolt. Some of them are because:
- the stress of transplanting seedlings
- they dried out at some stage
- they have not been fed properly
- the pot they came in has been too warm
- the plants you bought were too old, or
- a combination of the above
They can be fussy! But do not despair, they are well worth the effort. So be persistent is my advice. Coriander is one of my favorite herbs. We use it all year round and I will be in serious trouble if I don’t have a steady supply of fresh coriander growing in the garden.
Ideal conditions: best times to grow are in spring, summer and autumn. Coriander likes a sunny spot, well-drained soil and a steady supply of both water and fertiliser. In summer, I grow it under shade and it does ok. To have a continuous supply sow a batch every 4-5 weeks from Nov-Mar and every 6 weeks for other months. Rows that are 50-75 cm in length should be enough if you are as keen on coriander as I am.
Sowing seed: the single most important thing you can do is to sow fresh seed. It will always give the best results. Sow seed 5 mm deep in rows which are spaced at 20 cm. I sow the seed rather thickly, around 5-10 mm apart. They tend to be quite crowded when they come up, so when the seedlings have 1 – 2 leaves I pull excess plants out until they are spaced about 5-10 cm apart. Don’t waste these seedlings; use the ones you pull out on your salad. For the best germination results, keep the surface moist but not too wet. It will take around 10-14 days before you see the tender green shoots emerge.
Planting seedlings: if you want to grow seedlings bought from your local garden centre, carefully separate the little seedlings from each other and transplant 10 cm apart. Try to buy the smallest and healthiest looking seedlings rather than big ones. The big ones are more likely to bolt to seed.
Fertilising/watering: plant coriander in good quality soil with plenty of organic matter and keep the soil lightly moist. Fertilise monthly with a liquid or soluble plant food and you will be richly rewarded.
Harvesting/cooking: you can snip off as many leaves as you need, and more will grow back, but you can also pull up the whole plant if you like. I tend to start using the plants when they are quite young by pulling out every second plant in the row. If using the whole plant, use it all – the leaves, stems and roots. Stems and roots have the strongest flavour and, if crushed, chopped and cooked, add a lot of flavour to dishes. I store cut coriander stems in the freezer for stir-fry cooking but the best way to keep it is by making curry paste. Check out what I did a couple of weeks ago making curry paste.
If you want to grow coriander for the seed, to use as a spice in cooking, or to keep for sowing, I’ll write about that soon.
Good luck and get sowing!