Growing Herbs

Parsley has the reputation of being extremely difficult for home gardeners to germinate. Fear not, it really isn't that difficult. By soaking the seeds in warm water (not hot) you will substantially increase your success. It is also important to understand that germination typically takes anywhere from two to four weeks, depending upon temperature and moisture. Sow seeds outdoors in early Spring, 10 to 12 inches apart, and cover with 1/2 inch of soil. Later this the plants to 6 inches apart.

Rosemary, like Parsley, has the reputation of being extremely difficult for home gardeners to germinate. Our seeds were tested in November, 2010 and germinated at a rate of 90%, which is quite high for Rosemary. Direct seeding outdoors is not always successful, so we recommend starting seeds indoors in trays or pots, three seeds per cell, and allow a minimum of 3 weeks for germination. Optimum germination occurs at around 62F, but room temperature is fine.

Basil & Catnip
Basil and catnip can be started indoors or outside. Cover seeds with a light dusting of soil and water well (be sure to keep the soil moist). Plant in a rich soil and keep well-watered throughout the season. Both love a lot of sun and do quite well in containers.

Sorrel is a hardy perennial that can also be grown as an annual. Start indoors in cell-type containers sowing 2-3 seeds/cell covering ¼". Direct Seeding: Sow in fertile soil in mid-spring, seeds 1" apart, ¼" deep. Sorrel needs some light to germinate, so don’t plant more than ¼” deep. For bunching sorrel, thin to 8" apart in rows 12-18" apart. For baby-leaf production sow 12 seeds/ft. and cut entire plants when 3-6" tall. Planting in light shade, and keeping the seed stalks cut increases summer quality, but a good crop will re-grow in fall even if plants bolt. I find that the flavor is best when grown in partial shade when temperatures are in the 60°s. Harvest side leaves until plants become well established; later, plants can be cut completely, right above the crown. Plants spread and can be divided. Optimum germination: 58°F to 65°F

Wild Arugula (Sylvetta)
Arugula prefers a fertile, well-drained soil, with a pH range of 6.0- 6.8 in full sun to part shade. It also prefers cool conditions and is hardy enough to over-winter in many locations from late summer and early fall sowing. It is also well-adapted for growing in cool greenhouses and high tunnels for winter production. Direct seed 1/8" deep from early spring onward @ 30-50 seeds/ft. Germination should take 5-7 days. Seed can also be sprinkled on moist soil. Keep soil moist to slow bolting. For a continual supply, plant every 2-3 weeks until 1 month prior to first avg. frost date. Be sure your soil mix does not dry out before germination!

Plant your Catgrass seeds in pots, or in a well-worked garden bed. Make sure the top 2 inches of soil is loose. Plant seeds directly on the surface of your planting material. Lightly cover with additional planting mix or soil, no thicker than a light dusting, Water with as fine a spray as possible, making sure that the water doesn’t pool (the seeds can float off into clumps). Keep the planting bed moist until you see germination (up to 14 days).  Once the plants have reached 1" in height you can begin to water more liberally.

Plant your catnip seed just under the surface of a compost-filled pot and water well. Keep warm but out of direct sunlight. When the seedlings first appear (in 2 to 3 weeks) either thin out the weakest and only plant the strongest looking ones, or else plant them all into individual pots. Do not do this before the second set of leaves appear (the first 'true' leaves). Catnip plants like a lot of water when growing, so you may have to water them twice a day. When all risk of frost has passed, plant them out in the garden, about 18" apart. They tolerate sun through to semi-shade, but if you live in a warm climate they might be better off in the shadier parts of the garden. They like neutral to slightly alkaline, well-drained soils.

You can start your chamomile seeds indoors for later transplant, about 6 weeks before you are expecting the last frost of the winter. Start them in seed pots but don’t bury the seeds under the soil. They need light to sprout, so just sprinkle a few seeds in each pot right on the surface of your potting soil. Keep them moist, and thin down to one per pot after they start to grow. Your seedlings should be kept in a sunny spot until its time to plant them. For container growing, you can sprout your seeds directly into their final pot if kept indoors until after the frosts are past. You can also direct-seed into the outdoor garden. Work garden soil well, then sprinkle seeds of the surface (do not cover with soil). Lightly water. Keep soil moist.

It's best to sow seeds directly into the garden in May or after the danger of frost has passed. You can also replant in early fall. Just remember that cilantro is a cool weather plant, once temperatures reach 75°F, it will start to bolt (go to seed). This isn't a bad thing necessarily; once the seeds are completely formed you'll have a supply of fresh coriander! Starting cilantro indoors and transplanting can cause it to bolt or worse yet, flop over and die. Some people like to soak the seeds for 24 hours prior to planting to increase germination, though we have found this to be unnecessary. Cilantro doesn't require many nutrients, we usually mix a bit of compost/manure into the soil- no fertilizer normally is needed. Once you bed is prepared, make a 1/4" depression into the soil and plant your seeds 1" apart. After your seeds are planted, cover them with a layer of fine soil, gently pat your soil, and you're ready to water! With most plants, we like to use soaker hoses as they will not wash your tiny seeds away, though a watering wand on the lightest setting works as well. Regardless, give them a good soaking and you should be well on your way to growing cilantro!

Native to the Mediterranean region, the bulbous base and stalk is popular eaten raw like celery. It can also be grilled or boiled. Closely related to Parsley, Fennel is popular in Italian and other Mediterranean recipes. Also called Florence Fennel or Finuccio, it is easy to grow and very hardy, lasting well after the first frost. With bright green, fern-like leaves and aromatic yellow flowers, this plant will grow three to four feet tall. Plant it in the back of the herb garden or in your vegetable garden. Fennel is grown from seed. Directly sow seeds into your garden as early in the season as the ground can be worked. Sow seeds early in the season and cover with 1/4" of soil. Space seedlings or thin plants to 10-12" apart in rows 18-24" apart.  Start a new planting in mid-Summer to harvest in the fall. They prefer full sun and a well-drained, rich soil. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Add a general purpose fertilizer once or twice a season. Harvest leaves as at any time. Harvest flower heads after seeds have formed and the flower head has died. Extract seeds and dry them in a cool, dry location. Harvest bulbs when they reach tennis ball size or bigger. Pull every other one out as needed to allow those remaining to grow even bigger. Do not pull these plants up in advance of the first frost. They are very hardy and should continue to thrive and grow, even after a number of hard frosts.

Start the seeds early and place the seed tray on a heat mat or in a warm location. Rather than a traditional potting mix, use a very light mix or fine vermiculite that drains very quickly. The seedlings will germinate in about two weeks. Make sure that the seedlings get sufficient water, but do not let them stay damp, and place them in full sunlight for maximum health. When your seedlings have several sets of leaves on them, plant them into their final location, but check them regularly to make sure they have not been knocked over by animals, or dislodged by rain. Once the lavender plants are settled in the ground they will grow slowly the first year, but most of them will bloom. By the next year you will have a splendid supply of lavender to plant into a hedge or use as a border for your perennial bed.

To sow the seeds indoors, place them on top of the Bio Sponge in your Bio Dome, or on top of the medium in your seed flat. Do not cover the seeds; they need light to germinate. They should sprout within 10 to 15 days at room temperature or slightly warmer (68° to 75°F). Transplant into the garden or container when they have at least 2 sets of true leaves. To sow the seeds outdoors, place them on top of well-worked soil, then sprinkle a fine layer of vermiculite on top of them. If you are sowing directly into the garden, consider placing a row cover over the seeds until they sprout. Mint thrives best in partial shade and rich, moist soil. However, it is famously unfussy, so chances are it will not only survive but flourish in any light from full sun to deep shade, and any quality of soil provided the drainage is decent. Many gardeners deliberately plant it in less favorable conditions to slow down its spread!

Rosemary, like Parsley, has the reputation of being extremely difficult for home gardeners to germinate. Our seeds were tested in November, 2015 and germinated at a rate of 50%, which is quite high for Rosemary. Direct seeding outdoors is not always successful, so we recommend starting seeds indoors in trays or pots, three seeds per cell, and allow a minimum of 3 weeks for germination. Optimum germination occurs at around 62°F, but room temperature is fine.

Tarragon seeds should be started indoors around April or before your area’s last expected frost. It’s usually easier to sow about 4-6 seeds per pot using moist, composted potting soil. Cover the seeds lightly and keep them in low light at room temperature. Once seedlings begin to sprout, or reach a couple inches tall, they can be thinned down to one plant per pot, preferably the healthiest or strongest looking.

Thinly sow the seed either indoors into plug trays from mid-April, or outdoors into a prepared and well drained, seed bed from the end of May onwards. When growing indoor, try to avoid standard seed trays as oregano has a long tap root system which is far better suited to the depth that a plug tray can provide. Secondly, experience has shown that oregano tend to be more prone to damping off when seed trays are used. When sowing indoors, start about 6 weeks before the threat of late frosts are over. You may need to provide basal heat as oregano will need a roughly constant temperature of about 15° Celsius. Once the newly germinated seedlings have started emerging through the compost, reduce their watering - again, to help prevent fungal infections. After another week or two, thin out the weakest seedlings allowing just one strong plant per plug. Then, once the seedlings have produced at least two sets of ‘true’ leaves they will be ready for transplanting. Pot them on into a free draining compost such as John Innes ‘Seed’ or use a good quality multi-purpose compost mixed 50:50 with perlite or horticultural grit. Once they have been grown on for 3-4 weeks, they can then be planted outside in their permanent position.

Thyme is easy to grow from seed though germination is slow, taking from 14 to 28 days. Seeding best started indoors in a flat where temperature can be kept around 70°. Thyme seeds are very small, 170,000 to the ounce. Keep your seeds moist during the germination period, but make sure you don’t add too much water at any time. It is best to use a spray bottle to mist the growing medium as pouring water can cause the seeds to float out of your medium. Sow thyme seed in sterilized growing medium either in shallow rows or scatter on top, with little or no covering. After they take root, have been transplanted to 2-1/4" peat pots and reach a height of 2-3 inches, they may be moved outside to cooler weather. For small gardens, space plants about 9 inches apart, for field production space plants 12-18 inches apart in rows 3 feet apart. Thyme prefers a sandy, dry soil. Avoid planting in heavy, wet soils. Nutrient requirements for Thyme are not heavy, so soil should only receive a moderate amount of fertilizer. Diluted fish emulsion may be used in the early summertime. It is important to control weeds as they compete for nutrients with the slow-developing young thyme plants. Once established the plants would benefit from mulch to help discourage weeds. This also keeps the lower branches clean, whereas open cultivation exposes the lower branches to rain’s action on bare soil.

Microgreens are very easy to grow. You can grow them outside, in a garden bed or in containers, or inside on a sunny windowsill. You can also grow them under lights in the basement. If you are planting microgreens in a garden bed, loosen the soil and rake it smooth. Scatter your seed mix (or individual seed varieties) so that the seeds are about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart -- remember, we're harvesting them very young, so they don't need a lot of room. Once the seed is scattered over the area, cover it with about 1/8 of an inch of soil and water gently but thoroughly. If you're planting in a container, the first step is to choose a container that is at least two inches deep and as large in diameter as you want. Fill it with a good quality organic potting mix, and smooth the soil. Scatter the seeds so that they are about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart, and cover with 1/8 inch of soil. Water gently but thoroughly, an place your container in a spot where it will get at least four hours of sunlight. If you're growing them indoors, growing under lights is the preferred method, but under a south-facing window is the best alternative if you don't have lights. In either case, do not let the soil dry out, and be sure to remove any weeds so that the tiny greens don't have to compete with them for water and nutrients. Because you'll be harvesting the greens so young, you don't really need to fertilize them while they're growing. If you've got plenty of organic matter in your garden bed, that will be perfect. For containers, mixing in a bit of granular organic fertilizer to the soil before you plant will work fine, especially if you plan on using the same soil for several plantings of greens (more on this below.) Microgreens grow for such a short period of time that they are rarely bothered by pests and diseases. However, if you are growing brassicas in your mix (mustard, kale, etc.) and cabbage worms are a problem, you may want to cover your microgreens with a floating row cover to protect them.

Harvesting Microgreens
The best time to harvest microgreens is when they've developed their first set of true leaves (the first ones are seed leaves, and don't look anything like the actual leaves of the plant), which is generally about ten days to two weeks after planting. To harvest, simply snip the microgreens just above soil level. Unlike mesclun or baby greens, you won't be able to get additional harvests from one planting of microgreens. Because the plants haven't had much time to develop, and you're snipping off everything except the very bottom of the stem, the plant has no way to generate new growth. You can plant another crop after harvest by simply scattering fresh seed and covering it with soil. You don't need to remove the old roots; they are good sources of organic matter. As you can see, microgreens are simple to grow, and provide you with a quick harvest for not much work. You can add them to salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries, and it's much cheaper to grow your own than it is to purchase them. Experiment with different mixes, adding the varieties you like best. They're definitely deserving of a spot in your garden.

Sage can be direct-sown into the warm spring soil after all danger of frost, but most gardeners find it easier to start the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last anticipated frost. If you direct-sow, press the seeds into your prepared garden soil about 1/8" deep. Water thoroughly. Keep the area well-watered and weed-free until the plants have established themselves. Germination will take approximately 7 days if your soil temperature is over 80°F, 15 days at 70°F, and 21 days at 60°F. Sow seeds indoors using pots or flats filled with a light soil mix, or seed starter mix. Press seeds 1/2" deep into your starter mix. Water immediately and keep soil moist. Seeds will germinate in 10-21 days. Seedlings can be transplanted to the garden when they reach 2" in height. Sage prefers full sun and needs little water once established.