Growing Herbs From Seed
Herbs provide tasty additions to all types of foods from salads to cooked other culinary delights. What could be better than edible landscaping? The plants are beautiful as ornamental and some even produce attractive flowers. Herbs can be grown in a designated herb plot in the garden or among your other vegetables. Intermingled in your flowerbed, or even in containers, the blooms are beautiful and attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to the garden.
Herbs from Seed
First of all, everyone knows you can purchase herb plants and seeds from your local garden center or on-line. Furthermore, you can start many herbs from seed indoors in the spring. If you are growing lots of plants, starting with seed is inexpensive and gives you a wider selection of herb varieties to grow.
There are some basic needs for any herb you are growing from seed. For optimum success, use a grow light. Also, being grown under artificial lights will ensure short, stocky plants that are better adapted to outdoor growing. Furthermore, set the lights on a timer for 14 hours a day. In addition, keep the lights 2 to 4 inches away from the tops of the herbs.
Above all, use a seed starting potting mix when growing herb seeds. It is lighter than regular potting soil and therefore makes it much easier for germinating seeds to sprout..
Trays and Pots
Growing in clay pots will work, but plastic trays with small cells work best to start your herbs. The small cells make it easy to start many herbs at one time. You can sow herbs near each other when they have similar growth requirements. They can be transplanted into larger pots as they grow. However, keep in mind that there are exceptions. Parsley, for one, does not like being transplanted. Start parsley (and other exceptions) in larger pots to reduce the number of times they are transplanted.
Place the tray or pots out of direct sunlight, in a warm room. Applying heat to the bottom of the plants (with a heating pad), will speed up germination. Cover the cells with clear plastic to keep the soil moist. Once they germinate, remove the plastic and place the trays under lights.
Fertilizer and Transplanting
Liquid organic fertilizer will help keep your herb seedlings growing strong when applied in a light spray. Apply a diluted solution weekly starting a week after germination.
Finally, when the herbs are too large for their pots they should be transplanted. If you planted in single cell trays, separate the herbs and put them into individual pots. Harden plants off before planting them outdoors or moving the pots outside.
Hardening off is the process of moving plants outdoors for a portion of the day because you need to gradually introduce them to the direct sunlight, dry air, and cold nights. Above all, you should harden off gradually, so that seedlings become accustomed to strong sunlight, cool nights and less-frequent watering over a 7-10 day period.
How to Grow These Herbs from Seed
Basil – One of the easiest herbs to grow from seed. Sow two seeds per cell and thin to the strongest one after germination. Basil germinates as fast as 4 days from seeding in warm soil. Basil seedlings don’t like too much water. Let them almost dry out between watering. Once seedlings have grown their leaves, transplant into 2-inch diameter pots.
Chives – Because it’s an easy herb to grow and seeds self sow in the garden, it’s a quick germinator. Keep the soil evenly moist and the seeds will germinate 10 days from sowing.
Cilantro – Cilantro hates being transplanted. Sow seeds in pots that can be moved directly into the garden or in a larger pot outside. Soak seeds overnight in warm water, and sow 1/4 inch deep. Cilantro seeds should germinate in 7 to 10 days.
Dill – Dill is a great herb to grow from seed. It is easy to handle because it has large seeds. It grows quickly, germinating within 1 to 2 weeks of sowing the seeds.
Parsley – Parsley seed is slow to germinate. It can take up to 4 weeks. To speed it along, soak the seeds overnight in warm water and sow 1/4 inch deep. Parsley doesn’t like to be transplanted, so grow seeds in pots large enough to move outside into the garden.
Oregano – This small-seeded herb can take weeks to germinate. Gently press the tiny seeds into the soil and keep evenly moist. Oregano and thyme can be prone to damping off disease if the soil is kept too moist.
Sage – Like parsley, sage is slow to germinate, sometimes taking up to 21 days. Keep the soil evenly moist.
Thyme – Thyme seed is so small, it’s easy to mistakenly sow a bunch in a little pot. Some growers mix sand with this small seed to avoid planting too much. Gently place a few seeds in each cell or pot, and lightly press them into the soil. It may take 2 to 3 weeks for seedlings to appear.
It is noteworthy that once the herb plants are established, they require very little maintenance. They produce a generous supply for harvesting as needed and also to dry for your spice jars.
Fresh herbs have a superior flavor to the dried variety in grocery stores. Fresh herbs have mild, delightful flavor and add fragrance to foods. Finally, there is nothing better than being able to snip leaves from your own homegrown plants for your most delicious recipes.