Herb Gardening Tips For Beginners: The Best Herbs to Grow From Seeds

Plant these herbs and watch them grow from a seedling to a plant...

| February/March 2002

Starting with seeds  

Seeds can be started in any container at least 2 inches deep with adequate drainage holes. I prefer to use flats and a commercial soil-less mix made especially for seeds. Some commercial potting soils are too heavy and often of poor quality. Some gardeners prepare their own mixes using a combination of peat, perlite, and vermiculite. Before planting, soak your containers in a bathtub of hot water with a cupful of bleach for about an hour to kill any bacteria and fungus left over from last year. After cleaning the containers, fill them with the potting mix and dampen the mix with warm water.

I prefer gently broadcasting the seeds, trying to space them evenly but not heavily over the surface. The seed packet will indicate how deeply to sow the seeds or if they need light to germinate, in which case they, should not be covered. I cover my seeds by gently spreading dry potting mix over them in the flat. Identify the seeds in the flat with markers. (You can purchase marking labels or cut them from empty yogurt containers.) Then dampen the top layer of potting soil by misting or sprinkling, cover the flat with plastic wrap to keep the moisture in, and place it under inexpensive shop lights. The heat from the bulb also helps them germinate faster.

Keep in mind that there are many variables that affect seed germination. In his book Growing Herbs From Seed, Cutting and Root, Thomas DeBaggio suggests soil temperatures remain between 55° and 75°F for seed germination. If the temperature is too low, seeds may rot before they sprout. But another variable for some herbs requires just the opposite. Seeds such as echinacea and angelica need to experience a cold season before they will germinate. DeBaggio says that simple refrigeration of seeds in moist peat moss will encourage fruitful sowing.

Watch the flats carefully. At the first sign of germination, remove the plastic wrap. As the seeds grow, gradually raise the lights so they are a couple of inches away from the plants. Check the flats daily to make sure they are not drying out. Use a fine nozzle on a watering can to prevent damage to the young plants and always use warm water, not cold—no one enjoys the shock of a cold shower.

Herbs to grow from seeds  

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