Caraway (Carum carvi) is a biennial plant cultivated for its anise-like flavored seeds. It is a fairly easy herb to grow with very few caraway issues. Closely related to both carrots and parsley, problems with pests and diseases of caraway tend to be of the same ilk.
Caraway Plant Problems
Caraway takes two growing seasons to produce seed, although there are a few varieties that when planted in the fall will produce seed the following summer. Caraway is easy to grow and is hardy to USDA zone 3. In the first year, caraway plant leaves may be harvested and the roots eaten much like parsnip. The plant will grow to around 8 inches (20 cm.) in height with a long taproot and will overwinter to produce blooms in May to August on 1 to 2 foot (31-61 cm.) stalks. One month after flowering, the seeds darken and can be harvested to flavor desserts, breads, and casseroles. While problems with caraway are few, those they do have tend to be from pests of caraway or disease.
Diseases and Pests of Caraway
Caraway is rarely bothered by pests but on occasion the carrot root fly, also known as the carrot rust fly, may attack the plant. Also, since caraway is a member of the parsley family, parsley worms may also be found munching on the plant. These parsley caterpillars are easily removed by hand picking. Grasshoppers are also an occasional pest as are leafhoppers. Leafhoppers are a more serious problem, however, as they may act as vectors to transmitting aster yellows disease. There are no pesticides for insect control but caraway is rarely affected by insects. Caraway plants do attract beneficial parasitic wasps, which can help to control aphid populations in the garden. Caraway is most susceptible to foliar diseases, but again, this is a rare occurrence. To control disease, be sure to water the plants at the base and avoid wetting the leaves for any length of time. This can be done by watering early in the day or by using drip irrigation.
Additional Caraway Plant Problems
Again, caraway is an easy-to-grow plant with few issues. Weeds should be managed during the plants’ infancy. As the plants grow, they will crowd out any weeds. In fact, caraway itself can become more of a problem weed if left to reseed, but when the plants are young, care should be taken to gently remove weeds. Thin out unwanted caraway plants and mulch heavily to reduce unwanted seed germination and pinch off unwanted seed heads. This will not only prevent a plethora of unwanted plants but may also allow the plants to grow an extra season. In general, to reduce the incidence of pests and diseases, rotate the caraway crop to different parts of the field or garden and destroy plant detritus after harvesting.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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