We have great success growing tarragon outside in the UK, but so many of you have said you struggle, so here is our tips list!
Tarragon is a hardy perennial, meaning that it will keep growing outside throughout the Winter month’s and be ready for harvesting again each year. However a word of warning will always be when planting from seed. Sow indoors under glass or protected from extremes of temperature.
When you are ready to thin them out transplant them individually to 3cm pots or to the ground where they are to grow. Only take them outside once they are big enough and frosts have well and truly ended though!
The below table is a guide to protecting your lovely little seedlings from the shock of British Summer time.
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Acclimatising Tarragon Seedlings to the Outside
We have started our seedlings in March in a heated propagator. I have only turned it on a few times, when it really dropped in temperature. The perfect temperature is between 15-20 degrees, which we have inside the house.
We just didn’t have enough windowsill space, so I moved the entire propagator to the conservatory, where the night time temperature is much lower. Basically having it heated in the evenings and the lid on overnight allowed a bit more confidence that it was warm enough.
Your seedlings will need plenty of sunshine once they have sprouted. But tarragon is not too fussed with a particular type of manure in the soil. It wont need to have you finely rake the soil first. Tarragon is not a diva when it comes to positioning either.
All it needs is well drained soil. When you plant the tarragon outside make sure to leave space for the young plants to grow. I would advise thinking about large pots and giving these as gifts!
If I grow tarragon outside when should I harvest?
Really the tender leaves are the best tasting. Like all herbs the more sunshine they devour the tastier they are. The aromatic flavour of the mild aniseed in tarragon will only be enhanced by a little ore Summer sunshine. But you can overwinter them and pick fresh leaves as and when they arrive.
Storing the leaves is not hard and you can easily dry them out. Simply cut a few lengths of ‘stalk’ and then string them together. Hang in an area that gets a lot of air, but is not damp. We are lucky to have a wood shed and that comes in very handy for all sorts of drying.
When you are ready to use the dried leaves you can simply chop what you need and then hang the rest back up. Using something like the hanger below would make any kitchen look like a chic country retreat!
Growing in pots vs growing in the ground
When you grow a hardy perennial in pots you will need to repot them the following growing season. So come February / March time there will be your usual garden chores to complete. The tarragon will have died down to the soil if planted in the ground or in pots. However if it is in the ground you may need to cover with a cloche if it is of the French variety. Or you could use a fleece or even straw, just be aware of heavy rainfall.
If you are growing the plants in pots there is the chance to move them to a more sheltered environment. We chose to leave ours around the side of the potting shed as it won’t get too wet or cold there. The Russian type really is much hardier and will take a colder winter.
Neither the French or the Russian like too much rain and you should try to maintain a well drained soil. If planting in pots, simply put around a third of the height as broken pots or stones.
Powdery Mildew On Tarragon
Tarragon is susceptible to powdery mildew, downy mildew and root rot. The risks of these can be reduced by ensuring that you plant in an area with good drainage. For us this means planting in pots. We do have a very clay ridden soil and in certain areas we can dig through some very humus rich compost and this will increase the drainage. We also love using green manures to increase the aeration of soil. However the best way to ensure drainage is to control the environment.
When we use pots we can track the sun as well. Meaning that our long leaves do not get dried out and wilt in the heat of the afternoon sun.
Avoid letting this go on too long before tackling. The leaves look as if they are covered in a white powder that stunts growth and creates a shrunken looking plant. The simple remedy is to allow more water during sunny or windy periods. Pots can be quite hard to keep topped up, but try to avoid watering the leaves of the plant, rather aim for the base.
Final Tips for Growing Tarragon Outside
If you pinch out the flowers you will get better leaf growth. However the flowers are really rather pretty and we love the sight of bees in our garden. So perhaps think about letting one or two plants go the full flower!
Get inspired to grow what you eat!
The lovely gentle aniseed taste goes very well with meats or fish. You can use tarragon in many different dishes but most commonly used as part of fines herbes mix.
We do have a free guide to herb drying times available here. This should help if you want to use tarragon in your cooking all year round.
We find that having a plentiful supply of fresh herbs will allow us to be creative every night of the week. We will always have something new to try and be creative with. So whether you want to perk up a risotto or use it as the star in a chicken and tarragon dish you will have an all year round supply.
Do let us know how you get on and we can all enjoy going on this herby journey together!