For those of you who have had enough of winter- it’s time to start the herb seeds. There are many practical reasons to sow and grow your own. You can grow unusual herbs rarely available at nurseries. You’ll save money as well. A packet of 20 to 80 seeds cost less than one 3 inch herb plant.
Seeds need more than plain garden soil. When starting seeds indoors always use a soilless mix, seed starter mix or peat pellets. These are soild discs that expand with water. Either way, fill up small plastic pots or shallow trays with the soil, moisten the soil and plant 2 or 3 seeds in each pot.
Always consult the packet, it will tell you when to start the seeds inside. Typically 4 to 8 weeks before final frost. Once you’re ready to move the seedlings outside, the packet will provide information on sun requirements, spacing, days to maturity and more. Pay close attention to the expiration date on the packet. If the seeds are beyond expiration, they may fail to germinate.
Seedlings like the same temperatures we do: between 65 and 73. Young plants require 10 to 12 hours of sun or light each day in order to grow and produce dark green leaves and sturdy stems. An inexpensive fluorescent shop light will provide them with these requirements. Hang the light four to six inches above the plants. As they grow, raise the lamp by adjusting the chain’s links.
Moisture is vital to growing seedlings. Use a pitcher to moisten the soil and don’t allow the leaves to get wet. This causes all kinds of problems with wilting and leaf rot. Water from the bottom of the pots or trays if possible. Don’t drench the soil, only keep it barely moist.
As winter comes to a close and the days become warmer, begin to acclimate your plants to the outside. This is a method called “hardening off.” Once the day time temperatures are above 50 degrees, place the trays and pots outside for a few hours each day .Bring them back in at night, slowly increasing the amount of time the plants stay out.
Once it’s time to plant the little herb seedlings, refer back to the packet for instructions on sun preferences, how deep to plant and how far apart. Gently remove each seedling from the pot, careful not to break or bend the stem. Plant them in prepared soil, or larger containers.
Easy to grow herbs – basil, chives, mint, calendula, cilantro, dill
More difficult to grow: tarragon, rosemary, lavender, parsley, sage, thyme
~ Meadow Walker