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How To Plant Your Herb Garden From Seed Packets

What You Need To Know - Starting An Herb Garden From Scratch

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Why Start Your Herb Garden From Seeds?

For many of us, the idea of starting an herb garden, means buying a preplanted pot or tray of single plants and putting them in the ground when we get home. Although this is certainly a fast way to get started, if you want to kick your gardening up a notch, try planting your herb garden from your own seeds!

Starting your own seeds, puts all the control in your hand. You can decide on the number of plants you really want to have, allowing your budget to go much further than if you had to buy seedlings. Starting all your own seeds also means you control the health of the herb seedlings. Many times, the stores that buy in flats of plants, have no idea how to care for them properly. They rely on the visible wilting or withering to tell the employees how to water or care for the baby plants. Even if you do buy an herb that looks healthy, there is no guarantee that that herb hasn't been stressed to the point of being stunted at some point. Grow your own, and know that they have received optimal care from seed to garden.

What equipment Do I Need For Starting Herb Seeds

As with anything, when first starting to grow your herb garden from seeds, start simply. You can certainly go overboard, and buy far too much equipment. If you become discouraged with all the things you think have to be purchased before starting, chances are you will never get going.

To start with, you will need a growing medium, seeds and pots to grow in. Your pots can be as simple as milk cartons, drink cups, reclaimed plant pots, or even simple pots made from newspaper. These items are the bare minimum, but certainly enough to get started. You will have to water your potted seeds, but this can be as simple as a reclaimed spray bottle. I like to use a washed out dish washing bottle. The little squeeze spout, directs the water right where I need it.

Special Things Some Herb Seeds Need

Some herbs germinate better, after having a little bit of special treatment. You may find some of these terms on packets of seeds, or in catalogs that tell you to DO it, but not what the technique actually means. Let's take a look:

    Stratification - This means to expose the seeds to cold and moist periods of time-sort of like copying what would happen in nature, if the seed were to be exposed to the fall/winter/spring cycle. I like to place my seeds in a little bit of potting soil, in a bag. Then after dampening it a bit, seal the bag and place in the fridge for 2 months. Then, I use this seeded mixture to plant my herbs.
  • Presprouting - Although this is not a technical must, presprouting helps identify the strongest seedlings, and also checks for viability. Do this by moistening paper toweling, and placing some seeds on it. Fold over the paper towel to enclose the seed layer, and put the whole thing into a plastic bag. Keep this plastic bag in a warm place for a few days (I use the top of the fridge), to see how many seeds sprout. Use these tiny seedlings to get your herb plants started, ensuring almost 100% will germinate. This is the way that we treat seeds that are very rare or the last ones of the bunch. I feel that it tips the scales in my favor to have the most germinate possible.
  • Scarifying-This refers to scratching or roughing up the seedcoat, in order to allow the seed to germinate. We use a fine sandpaper for this, although I have heard of some people working their seeds to be scarified, through rough sand, before planting.

Your Seedlings Have Sprouted, Now What?

Now that you have successfully sprouted your little herb seedlings, what next? Caring for your seedlings means keeping them watered, thinning them and transplanting at the proper time. While you are watering your seedlings, watch closely to see which ones are growing the best. These are the ones you will be keeping. The rest need to be plucked or snipped off with a pair of manicure scissors. It might be painful now, but your seedlings need room to grow properly, and only the biggest should be allowed the space.

How and When To Transplant

Your seedlings are strong and healthy, and your last frost date has passed. It is now time to transplant your seedlings into the garden. Before you can actually move them, your herb seedlings have to be hardened off. This refers to the period of time when you carefully move them in and out of the outdoor weather, getting them used to the outdoor environment - both wind and sun.

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