Category Archives: Growing herbs

Starting Herbs from Seeds

Herb Seed Packers

Herb Seed Packers

Some perennial herbs can be started from seed. Mints on the other hand usually should be grown from transplants because you don’t know what mint you get from seeds. Listed below is a partial list of perennials that can be grow from seed:

  • Chamomile, Roman (Note: German Chamomile is an annual)
  • Horehound
  • Winter Savory
  • Garden sage
  • Common thyme
  • Hyssop
  • Lemon balm
  • Pennyroyal
  • Wormwood
  • Greek Oregano
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Lovage
  • Rue
  • Fennel
  • Echnicea

Annual Herbs that can be started from seed

  • Calendula
  • Borage
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • German Chamomile
  • Clary sage
  • Coriander/Cilantro
  • Marjoram
  • Summer savory
  • Anise
  • Chervil
  • Parsley (bi-annual)

Starting your herbs from seeds is much cheaper than purchasing the plant and sometimes the variety is better. It is not always easy to fine several kinds of basil, but several variety can usually be found in seeds. There  are some wonderful seed saving companies and organic seed companies you can find if you search the web.

Herbs such as variegated thyme, purple and golden sage, French tarragon are usually not grown from seeds, these are best grown from cuttings or plants.

Four things are needed to start seeds:

  1. Moisture
  2. Air/Soil
  3. Light
  4. Temperature

Moisture: All seeds need moisture to germinate, and if the soil dries out before germination the seeds will  die.

Air/Soil: An organic, peat base soil-less mix made for seed starting is what I like to start with. Seeds need air to grow roots, and the wrong kind of soil will prevent this.

Light: Seeds for the most part need light, especially after they have germinated, don’t plant them to deep. This is one mistake many new to seed starting make, they plant tiny seeds deep in their seed starting pot. Tiny seed should be planted near or on top of the soil. Always check the package, it usually has a ton of information.

Temperature: Most seeds need a warm climate to germinate. I like to place my trays with seeds on top of my refrigerator or on top of crate over a grate. These are warm places and I’ve had pretty good luck with this method. Some seeds growers will buy heat mats just for this purpose and they work as well, just cost more.

Equipment for starting seeds

Equipment for starting seeds

Gather your materials, at this time of year go into any garden center and you will find all kinds of seed starting materials. I like to use trays with plastic covers for most annuals and peat pods for herbs such as parsley which really doesn’t like transplanting.

Place the peat pod trays in a plastic tray and fill with seed starting mix. Moisten well and allow the soil to absorb the water. Plant the seeds in each pod two or three seeds per pod. Cover with plastic wrap and place on top of the frig or anywhere it is warm. Check often and as soon as you see growth, get the plants in light.

Some trays already have soil, just moisten them well before planting seeds. They usually have a plastic cover you place over the seeds until germination. Once you see some green, take off the plastic cover and place it under light.

Place a grow light about 2″ above the top of the plant and as it grows, move the grow light to stay in the 2″ range. The grow light should be on about 12- 14 hours. I like to put in on a timer so it will come on and off automatically. I use an old baker rack where I can chain a light to the underneath of each shelf and change the height of the light as the plants grow. I use a shop light with a cold and warm bulb.

Keep the plants under the grow light until it needs to be transplanted and set outside in a protected area to harden off.

To Harden off: Set the plants under an old window frame on top of bricks or bales of hay. Watch the temperature, it it gets too hot, it will cook the plants. When the sun comes out or if the temperature increases remove the window frame. After a week or two or when the temperature warms, set out perennials. Most annuals need to be set out after frost date, check your seed package.

Basil does not like anything below 40 degrees F. Annuals seeds need about 6 weeks to grow to a size for taking outside. Perennials may need much longer. Echnicea takes forever to get any size.

Some herbs can be planted directly in the garden such as Cilantro and Parsley. Even if you don’t have the area for starting them indoors plant the seeds outside, it may take a while but they usually grow.

Another way is to ask your friends or join an herb club. Most herb lovers will share their plants. In many cases we need to share because herbs can grow in abundance.

Happy Gardening

Relocating Perennials

Early spring when the ground is thawed, is a good time to move your perennials. Before they get too big because this is hard on the plant. This year I plan on not waiting until they get ‘toooo’ big and it stresses the plants. Some times just moving them a few feet can mean the difference in how they will preform in the future. Perhaps they received too much sun or not enough.

Another reason to relocate is too many plants in one area, or we just want to change the garden around. I have a bed the construction of the bed is not working, so I need to move everything and find a new home until the bed can be re done.

Try not to plant too many plants in one location, give them room to grow. I know a fuller bed looks nice but when it comes to herbs they have a tendency to get happy as one of friends like to say of spreading plants.

Plants like to have room and dividing them makes the plant healthy and happy. Not the same kind of happy as the above comment. It may take a year for the plants to bloom, but next year the blooms will be better than ever.

Some plants can have the bloom period extended by cutting back. Try cutting back half of your purple cone flower (Echnicea) and or yarrow, some will boom now and some will bloom later. Zinnias, even through they are annuals work great using this method of cutting half back to bloom at a later time.

If you have a garden tour plan for late summer, cutting back will give you booms that might not otherwise be present. Be sure and do this before they bloom for the summer. Most perennials will only bloom once a year. Now their are exceptions to every rule and Stella De Ora will sometimes bloom both in the early spring and throughout the summer if it is not too dry.

To relocate a plant, dip it up carefully, try not to disturbed the roots too much. Some can take it more than others. Dig a hole slightly larger than the clump. Water the hole before planting and allow to drain completely, and fill again to make sure the hole is thoroughly watered. This will help the ground from wicking the water away from the plant. Carefully place the roots the same way there were growing and at the same depth as before.

Now an exception to the above rule about not disturbing the roots. Purple cone flower can have the dirt mostly removed and replanted. In fact I usually cut off some of the roots if the plant is at least three years old, and use the roots in a tincture. Be sure the plant is old enough because you can loose the plant if not careful. I usually don’t take all the dirt off the plant unless I want it for a tincture.

Some herbs are hard to kill as I mentioned in a previous post, I just want to restate be sure you plant it where you want it, because even a small root can spread.

Happy Gardening SK



Herbs to replace the Lawn

Have you ever had a patch of grass too hard to mow? Well consider using herbs to fill in those tough spots. Creeping thyme, wooly thyme, perennial chamomile also known as Roman chamomile or pennyroyal can take some traffic without damage.These are great herbs to replace the lawn.

Just think of the fragrance released with every step. Pennyroyal is a form of mint and will also repel most insects. Creeping varieties of herbs have a wonderful feel and fragrance as you walk on them. These herbs are not hard to maintain or get started.

Herbs can be mixed with cool season grasses, such as rye, bluegrass, or fescues. They add a touch of color in cold winter regions. Roman chamomile has small white daisy like flowers.           Both have a wonderful fragrance especially when step on.

How to Grow:

Sprinkle the seeds on loosened soil (where grass is not growing) or plant seedlings in bare spots. Water well and keep soil moist until plants become established.Once established they take very little care, especially thyme. Every few years they may need to be replaced as they may get a woody center. Take cuttings or divide plants.

In the lawn where you have mixed herbs with grasses you may need to mow every other week. But in the areas with just herbs, mow only a few times a year or leave completely alone.

A Quilt for your yard:

How about creating a show piece in the yard by planting creeping thyme in quilt like pattern with creeping variety of golden marjoram. Marjoram is lime green where the thyme is dark green. Add a statue or other garden art and you will have an area everyone will notice.

Stepping Stones:

These same herbs work great around stepping stones. Other plants might include low forming sediums. Set the plants about six inches apart between the stepping stones. These herbs should fill in by the end of summer. Next year, you may need to cut back the plants to keep the area looking good.

Two thymes for these projects include low-growing English thyme and Mother of thyme. These work in sunny location or part shade. Especially after noon shade. Creeping forms of thyme will provide a dense mat as well as being durable for walking.

Roman chamomile grows best in full sun to part shade. Grows 5-6 inches tall and works in zones 4-8. Tolerates light foot traffic. Have fun with your new herbal lawn.



Spring Cleanup and Perennials

Don’t you just love all the gardens catalogs that come in the mail. All those gorgeous pictures of perennials and annuals.  Most are offering a special deal if you order by a certain date. As soon as I see them, I just want to get out in the garden and start planting. I want to order everything in the catalogs even if I have never heard of the plant and have no idea where I would place it in my garden.

How many times have we bought a plant before we knew where to plant it. So it lives in it’s pot until we can figure out where it will fit. What we should do, is plan what we want to plant and then purchase. I know I don’t always do it either.

When the catalogs first arrive we still have a lot of winter ahead of us especially if we are planting vegetables and annual herbs. When you have 65 degrees F in February or early March, don’t be too eager to set out new plants if your area is known for late frosts. . Now is a great time to clean up the garden and get rid of leaves and last years clutter.

If you live in the Midwest, don’t get too eager to remove any coverings in our gardens. Those late frost can do more damage than the winter months. Plants do not care for having one day in the 70 degrees F. and the next day below freezing.

As soon as you see the beginnings of new growth coming around the base of perennials, it is time to start the cleanup. This may be at the end of March or the beginning of April.

Start with removing any of last year’s annuals, I usually leave them in the fall for the animals to use as cover and possible food. At least it is what I tell myself when I don’t find the time for fall cleanup.

Once I have all my old basil plants in the compost pile, I start by cleaning up the perennial beds. I like to remove any sticks or old growth. I also take the time to relocate plants into new homes. This is a great way to share your plants and extend your garden. Last fall I dug up some Dutch Iris from just three clumps, I had about 15 new plants and gave some away and move some to new beds.

When sharing plants be sure to pass along any information about the plant so the new owner know where to plant, the name of the plant and any growing conditions. Don’t forget to warn someone if your are sharing mint and how it likes to spread.

After it has rain is a great time to dig up plants and to weed. If fact one of my favorite times to weed is when it is just starting to rain, just be aware if it is thundering and lightening. That is the time to head inside.

Happy Gardening

Sharon K