Starting Herbs from Seed
Starting Herbs from Seed
A few important things to consider:
- Buy only quality seed from a reliable herb supplier that labels the seeds correctly.
- Starting herb seeds successfully requires good light, proper timing, and quality growing medium, moisture, the right temperature, air circulation, and lots of patience.
- Some herbs are difficult to start from seeds. They will do better if started from cuttings. How to take herb cuttings.
Ten steps to starting herbs indoors:
1. Find a fun container with good drainage:
- Use yogurt cartons that you cover with paper and decorate, have an adult punch holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Empty juice boxes- adults only cut the BOTTOM of the box off, make sure the straw hole is open and use this side for drainage.
- Egg cartons with a hole punched in the bottom of each section
- Sour cream containers- cover with paper and decorate, have an adult punch holes in the bottom for drainage.
- Small clay pots- decorate with paint
2. Soak or wash your container in a mixture of 10% chlorine bleach and water. Ask an adult for help. Allow the containers to dry.
Find some great herb seeds or seedlings from the nursery.
- Cookie Herbs - lavender, rosemary, lemon balm, lemon thyme, mints
- Pizza herbs - basil, oregano, parsley, thyme Salsa herbs-cilantro, parsley, garlic, chives
- Chocolate Herbs - chocolate mint, chocolate mint scented geraniums
- Butterfly Herbs - marigolds, purple coneflower, butterfly weed, cosmos, lavender, sage, parsley
- Sister Herbs - rosemary, lavender, Melissa (lemon balm), lady's mantle, sweet Annie, violet
3. Fill your container to about one inch from the top with the soil-less medium of your choice
- Check with your local garden center to find out what mix will work best for you.
- Make use of compost for seed starting. What is composting?
- A finer mix is better for smaller seeds.
4. Wet down the soil in the container and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
5. While you are waiting take some popsicle sticks and write down the names of the plants you are planting. Good information to include would be the Latin and common name of the plant, and the date you planted the seed.
- Seeds - Planting seeds at the right depth is extremely important for proper seed germination. In addition, seeds have different light requirements for germination.
- Depth - The amount of growing medium you place on top of your seeds is partially determined by their size. For example, smaller seeds such as lemon balm will need a shallower covering than larger nasturtium seeds. A general rule for planting seeds is to cover them with enough soil for 1-3 times their size.
- Light - The amount of growing medium is also determined by the light requirements for seed germination. Seeds may need to be covered with soil or left uncovered. For instance, the seeds of summer and winter savory need light for germination so no growing medium is placed on top of them while basil seeds will need to be covered with soil.
- For best results, follow the directions on your seed packet or consult a reliable gardening book for seed depth and light requirements.
7. Do not let your newly planted seeds dry out. For best results, bottom water your seeds by placing their containers in a flat tray of water. Leave them on the tray only until the soil at the top is moist. Bottom watering prevents dieback and promotes deep roots.
8. Cover your containers with plastic wrap to help conserve moisture and create humidity. Make a tent or dome out of the plastic to allow for air circulation; bent coat hangers work well for this purpose. To avoid mildew uncover them every other day so they can get some fresh air. Remove the plastic wrap completely once the seedlings begin growing and have developed several more leaves.
9. Herb seeds need as much as 14 to 16 hours of light per day in order to develop properly. The addition of artificial lighting may be needed to insure healthy growth. Check your herbs to make sure that they do not dry out. Your goal is to keep your plants and seeds moist but to not over water them.
Once you have planted your seeds proper care will result in seedlings that will need to be transplanted into new containers. Wait to transplant your seedlings until they have several sets of leaves and until their roots have developed. They should be about 2-3" tall. Transplant the seedlings by carefully taking off their lower leaves. Turn the pot upside down and let the seedling fall into your hand. Do not pull the plant out by the stem or the leaves. Place the seedlings in the soil to a spot just above where you pinched off the lower leaves. Pat the soil around the plant and water it in.
While you are waiting for your herbs to grow find out all about them by doing some research. You can learn about their history, folklore, uses, and care so you can enjoy them for many years to come!
Arbury, Jim, Deni Bown, Martin Rickard, Sue Strickland, and Richard Bird. 2004. The complete book of plant propagation. Mitchell Beazley: London.
DeBaggio, Thomas. 1994. Growing herbs from seed, cutting, and root: an adventure in small miracles. Interweave press: Loveland, Colorado.
Jennings, Karen Park. 2006. Park's Success with seed. Geo. W. Park Seed Company: Greenwood, South Carolina.
Herbs for Indoor Gardens
Perfect Herbs for Indoor Gardens
Chives – Allium schoenoprasum
Chives are a colorful, easy to grow choice for gardening with kids. The flowers and stems are edible and when dried they are great for use in crafts. In addition, they are colorful and funfor children to smell.
Lavender – Lavandula sp.
Lavender is a great pick for kids because of its fragrant leaves and flowers. Many varieties also adapt well for use in containers. In addition, the colorful flowers can be used for crafts and cooking. Lavender is durable and will endure some neglect and abuse which makes it a great choice for young children learning to garden. Good picks: Lavandula angustifolia, L.angustifolia ‘Munstead’
Scented geraniums – Pelargonium sp.
Scented geraniums are grown mainly for their foliage because of the wonderful scents they emit when the leaves are rubbed or brushed. They come in peppermint, nutmeg, apple,strawberry, and rose-scented varieties to name a few. They work well in containers and small spaces, and can be grown successfully indoors and out. Children will enjoy the great sensory benefits that these plants provide. Good picks: Pelargonium odoratissimum (apple geranium), P. tomentosum (peppermint geranium), P. graveolens (rose-scented geranium)
Mints – Mentha sp.
Mints offer many great choices for a children’s garden. Their fragrance delights gardeners of all ages. They are prolific growers and it is recommended that they be planted in containers to keep them in check. Good picks:Mentha x piperita (peppermint), M. spicata (spearmint), M. suaveolens (pineapple or apple mint)
Chamomile is an evergreen perennial that is easy to grow in containers. The plant has a slight apple scent when the foliage is brushed. This herb produces wonderful white and yellow flowers in the summer. Good picks: Chamaemelum nobile/Roman chamomile, Matricaria chamomila 'Bodegold'/German (zone 7a)
Thyme – Thymus sp.
Thyme plants are easy to grow and they come in several varieties that work well for planting in pots. They grow well in full sun and many varieties emit wonderful fragrances when their leaves are brushed. The plants bloom out with a multitude of tiny flowers in the spring and summer. Good picks: Thymus vulgaris, Thymus x citriodorus, T. serpyllum
Rosemary – Rosmarinus sp.
Rosemary is a tender perennial that is well known for sometimes being difficult to grow indoors. However, this herb is well worth the efforts put forth. Rosemary does well if placed in a south facing window area where the temperature s are cooler at night. This herb has a wonderful fragrance and texture which makes it a great choice for container gardening. Good picks: Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Blue Boy,’ R. officinalis ‘Prostrata,’ R. officinalis ‘Collingwood Ingram,’ R. officinalis ‘Golden Rain,’ R. officinalis ‘Logee Blue’
Lemon Balm – Melissa officinalis
Lemon Balm is easy to grow and maintain. In fact, take care with this plant because it is a prolific grower and can easily get out of control in the garden. It is recommended that this herb be planted in a container. If you intend to put Lemon Balm in your garden be sure to remove the flower heads before they set seed. Children will enjoy the lemony fragrance of this plant as well as the texture of the leaves. Lemon Balm is easy to start from seed, making it an ideal pick for seed starting projects with your children.
How to fit a children's garden into a school year
IDEAS FOR USING YOUR INDOOR GARDEN TO MEET CURRICULUM STANDARDS
Measure the growth rate of plants or roots
Chart and compare the growth rates of plants or roots
Figure out fertilizer application rates are for your indoor garden -Use math to figure out how many plants can be grown in a certain size area
Learn fractions by using herbs for cooking
Grow plants from seed and identify the parts of a seed
Use your garden to talk about plant life cycles
Use the plants from your indoor garden to identify plant parts
Compare living and non-living things
Use your plants to talk about the food chain
Set up a science experiment using your indoor plants
Learn about plant reproduction by propagating your plants
Research the plants in your indoor garden
Write a detailed description of the plants in your garden
Give an oral report on one of your indoor plants
Art and Music
Decorate pots for your plants
Determine the affects of music on plants
Make up songs that teach plant information and perform them for your school
Design plant labels for a school plant sale
Determine the role of plants in various cultures
Determine which plants are of economic importance to various countries
Study the role of plants in ancient civilizations
Discuss the role plants play in healthy eating
Have a health fair and taste test edible plants from your indoor garden
Find ways to spice up vegetables using herbs
Learn about harvesting and preserving foods
Discuss the importance of healthy plants in the food pyramid
Sources for Building Your Own Light Cart
Build Your Own Countertop Herb Garden http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/446059/build_your_own_counter_top_herb_gar den.html?cat=6
Indoor Light Garden Construction Plan http://extension.usu.edu/saltlake/htm/horticulture/indoor
Horizontal Hydroponic Unit Plans http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/growflow/index.html
Low Cost Grow-Light Frame Plans http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/growlite/index.html
Walter Reeves.com – includes instructions for building a propagation soil warmer and a portable PVC light stand.
Sources for Buying a Ready-Made Light Carts or Light Garden Supplies
Home Harvest Garden Supply - www.homeharvest.com