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How to Grow and Harvest Cilantro in the Home Garden

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Do you love cilantro? Have you ever thought about growing and harvesting this flavorful herb in your own garden? Look no further, because this comprehensive guide will take you through the step-by-step process of cultivating and harvesting cilantro, coriandrum sativum, in your home garden.

cilantro growing in a pot

From preparing the soil to harvesting at the right time, this guide is perfect for any level of experience. So get ready to enhance your cooking game and taste buds with fresh and homegrown cilantro. Let’s dive in!

Why grow cilantro at home

Growing cilantro at home can be a rewarding experience for several reasons besides saving money at the grocery store. First, having fresh herbs at your fingertips can elevate the flavor of many dishes to a whole new level. Cilantro is a versatile annual herb that can be used in a wide range of cuisines, such as Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisine.

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Secondly, growing cilantro at home guarantees you have access to organic produce that is free from harmful pesticides and chemicals. This not only benefits your health but also the environment.

Lastly, growing your own cilantro can be a cost-effective way to have a never-ending supply of this herb throughout the year or at least in its multiple growing seasons depending on where you live.

The best time to grow cilantro

Cilantro is a cool weather herb, so it’s best planted after the last frost in early spring for those in warmer climates and late spring in cooler zones. The best way to get a consistent harvest is to plant cilantro during the right season.

Both spring and fall are optimal times to grow cilantro, as the temperature is mild and ideal for its growth. If you live in a hot climate, winter can be a suitable season for cilantro cultivation as well. Cilantro tends to bolt in hot weather, which affects the flavor of the cilantro leaves, so just be aware if you’re wanting to plant in hotter months to try this herb in a location with light shade and not full sun.

Preparing Your Soil for Cilantro Seeds

To ensure a successful cilantro harvest, it’s a good idea to prepare your garden soil properly before planting your seeds. As old timers around here say, you want a “five dollar hole for a fifty cent plant.”

Cilantro thrives in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.2 and 6.8, so start by testing the acidity levels of your soil. I always recommend gardeners test their soil every few years, just so you now exactly what your plants will need to thrive. (See my full guide to testing garden soil.)

If your soil is too acidic, add lime to increase its pH, or if it’s too alkaline, add a soil acidifier to lower it. (Jobe’s has a great organic garden lime and soil acidifier.) and Once you’ve adjusted the pH, work in a layer of organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to improve soil fertility and texture. 

Sow cilantro seeds in soil that’s rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Incorporating a balanced fertilizer into the soil before planting can help provide these essential nutrients. I like Espoma’s granular organic fertilizer, but use whatever good quality organic fertilizer you prefer.

Finally, ensure that the soil is loose and free from rocks and debris, as cilantro seeds need a loose soil texture to properly germinate. Once your soil is prepped, you’re ready to move on to planting your cilantro seeds and watching them grow into a bountiful herb garden. These same guidelines are also true if you are using cilantro plants purchased from a local nursery.

Planting Cilantro Seeds

To start growing cilantro, it’s important to first prepare the soil. As mentioned earlier, cilantro prefers a nutrient-rich soil that’s loose and free from rocks and debris. Once you have the ideal soil, it’s time to plant your cilantro seeds. 

Begin by scattering the coriander seeds evenly across the soil surface, then gently press the seeds into the soil to ensure they’re in good contact. Many seed packets will tell you that for best results plant cilantro seeds 6-8 inches apart, but since you’ll likely be harvesting the whole plant, stem and leaves, I like to plant them more densely, so I harvest by cutting at the base in handfuls.

After sowing the seeds, cover them with a thin layer of soil and give them a gentle watering. Be sure not to saturate the soil, as too much water can cause the seeds to rot. 

With the seeds planted, it’s time to move on to caring for your cilantro plants. By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to a successful cilantro harvest.

young cilantro seedlings

Caring for Your Cilantro Plants

One of the most important aspects of caring for cilantro plants is ensuring that they receive adequate water. Be sure to water them regularly, especially during hot and dry weather, about an inch of water per week. However, be cautious not to overwater them, as excess moisture can cause the roots to rot. Use the finger test, inserting your finger about an inch down into to see if there is moist soil. If so, no need to water. If your finger comes out dry, it’s time for a good water.

Another way to promote healthy cilantro plants is by feeding them with a balanced fertilizer. You can do this once a month throughout the growing season. Additionally, removing any weeds or dead leaves from the plants will help prevent disease and pests.

Finally, to ensure that your cilantro plants reach their full potential, you may want to use succession planting. This simply means to plant some seeds one week, and more the following week and so on. Since cilantro is an annual herb, it’s easily harvested stem and all, and you’ll need more plants to have a continuous supply.

Try to avoid allowing mature plants to develop flowers. These cilantro flowers are what produce seed heads, which is wonderful for harvesting seeds for replanting or cooking, but not so great if you’re planning to use the entire plant in a recipe.

Harvesting Cilantro at the Right Time

As with most herbs, the key to harvesting cilantro is timing. If you wait too long, the leaves will begin to yellow and lose their flavor. Harvest too early, and the plant will not have developed enough flavor.

The perfect time to harvest cilantro is when the plants are mature and have developed robust foliage. You can identify this stage by looking for the appearance of the leaves.

To harvest cilantro, all you need to do is cut the stems with a sharp pair of clean scissors, leaving at least an inch of stem behind. Try to avoid cutting the stems too close to the ground, as this can damage the plant and make it harder for new growth to appear.

cilantro ready for harvest

Once you have harvested your cilantro, it is best to use it immediately. Fresh cilantro has the most robust flavor, and you will want to take advantage of that flavor as soon as possible.

Store cilantro in the fridge in a glass filled with an inch or two of water and covered with a plastic bag.

Growing and harvesting cilantro in your home garden is an excellent way to enhance your cooking and enjoy fresh herbs all season long. With our step-by-step guide, even first-time gardeners can cultivate a bountiful crop of this flavorful annual.

Remember to prepare your soil, plant your seeds at the right time, and provide attentive care to your plants. And when it’s time to harvest, don’t wait too long! With a little patience and practice, you’ll be a cilantro-growing pro in no time. So go ahead and give it a try – your taste buds will thank you. Happy gardening!