Friday, May 13, 2011

Celtic Ozark Heather

Celtic Ozark Heather is one of my favorite herbs in the garden. It is also a favorite ingredient for a Scottish brand beer that I brew. Keeping in my garden here helps me to think about the healther and mountain thyme that covers the mountains of far away Scotland.

It is a happy growing plant in nothern Europe and the British Isles because of its ability to handle cold, and thrive in rocky soil. So, you may have to really work at this plant if you are too hot an area. Heather is not real happy in most of the Ozarks.

If you want to take a crack at adding this plant to your Celtic Ozark Garden, you will need to have an acidic soil. The plants grow best in soil with an acidity of pH 4.5 – 5.5 (slightly acidic).
If your soil is pH neutral (6.5 – 7.5), you'll need to raise the acidity with soil additions. Chemicals such as elemental sulfur or gypsum (calcium sulfate) work well.

As a general rule of thumb, this plant needs at least half a day of sunshine. More specifically, plant the heather in a location where it will get at least six hours of sunlight, and up to twelve if planted in a sunny-but-shady area. Afterall, the plant is used to growing on the sides of sunny mountains. If it gets enough light, it will produce more brilliant colors in their flowers and leaves. Too little sunlight will make the plants leggy and dull their colors.

Heather should be planted in either the spring or early autumn. Plant them in open areas that get some airflow. You can plant them from seeds, layerings, or cuttings. If you want to grow one from a cutting, take the cutting from a healthy plant in August. Plant the heather in a space that is two times as large as the root system, so it has some room to grow.

If you use mulch, use an acidic one, like pine straw, peat moss, or leaf mold. If planting in the autumn, evergreen boughs make good winter mulch. Depending on the exact type of heather plant you choose it will flower between late July and November.

Fertilize your heather with a rhododendron acid based fertilizer when you first plant, then just leave them be. This plant can be very sensitive to over fertilizing. Water your heather a couple of times a week for the first couple of months. After that, they should get pretty happy on just the rain they get from Mother Nature. Remember, they thrive on the side of mountains, which can be almost desert like, in terms of water.

Let us know about how your heather does in your Celtic Ozark Garden.

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