Starting from seed!
Fresh vegetables from the garden are great, but it's herbs that give the final flavors to our recipes-- and they taste much better fresh from the garden. Growing plants from seed is an especially fun project for this time of the year. If you start your seeds around the end of March, within 8 weeks or less, you'll be able to transplant those seedlings into the garden! May 15 is the last frost date for our area.
SUPPLIES… Available at Pasquesi Home & Gardens
- Seeds: Renee’s Garden, Botanical Interests, Prairie Future Seed Co., Lake Valley & Pagano
- Seed Starting Pots & Cell Packs:
• Jiffy Pots: Easy-to-transplant peat moss pots & 100% biodegradable.
• Peat Pellets: Round pellets are made from Canadian Sphagnum peat moss. Just add water before adding seeds.
• Coco Coir Netted Seed Pellets: made from coconut coir… sustainable & renewable. Just add water. Will biodegrade. Washed for low salt content.
• Botanical Interests Paper Pots: 100% recycled, The food-grade paperboard is a green alternative to plastic or peat pots.
- Seed Starting Trays and/or Domes:
• Jiffy Cell Plant Tray: Plastic tray with a plastic dome cover is divided into cells... in many sizes.
• Haxnicks Bamboo Tray: Made from bamboo and rice. Made with biodegradable and sustainable materials.
- Seedling Mix: Black Gold Natural & Organic Seedling Mix is recommended as a fine, organic mix that is excellent for root growth for newly germinated seeds. Holds in moisture.
- Grow Lights: SunBlaster Propagation & Growth LED bulbs (optional)
- Indoor Watering Can and Mister: Many sizes are available.
- Plant Labels: Wood, copper, waterproof Sharpie marker, etc.
- Heating Pad: SunBlaster Seedling Heat Mat (optional)
CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE HERB SEEDS: Fresh herbs bring zest to everyday recipes. These three leafy herbs, basil, cilantro, and parsley, are incredibly versatile and exceptionally easy for beginners to grow, too. Here are a few more tasty and easily cultivated herbs to grow.
Basil: The most common type of basil is sweet basil. Other types include purple basil (less sweet than common basil), lemon basil (lemon flavor), and Thai basil (licorice flavor). It’s easy to grow, but basil plants only mature outdoors once the soil has warmed up —so move transplants outside around the end of May. Basil only survives until first frost! Keep harvesting leaves and trimming off flowers to keep the leaves from turning bitter! Full sun/part sun.
- To get a jump on the season, start the seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last spring frost.
- To plant outside, wait until the soil has warmed to at least 50°F—preferably around 70ºF for maximum growth. Nighttime temperatures shouldn’t drop below 50°F. You can't rush basil. Without heat, the plant won’t grow well!
- Tip: Basil makes a good companion to tomatoes. Plant close by in the ground or include in a tomato container.
Cilantro: Cilantro grows quickly into an aromatic herb that grows best in the cooler weather of spring and fall. This entire plant is edible, although the leaves and seeds are eaten most often. A common problem with cilantro is its fast-growing cycle so you must reseed every few weeks. So, it's best to try for a spring or fall harvest as it won't grow very well in the heat of the summer. If you do successive plantings, you’ll have leafy cilantro when you want it in salsa or other Mexican recipes.
Parsley: This popular and pretty herb is used in sauces, potato salads, and especially soups, as it lessens the need for salt. Not only is parsley the perfect garnish, it’s also good for you as it's rich in iron and vitamins A and C. The parsley plant is a biennial, but is usually grown as an annual in home gardens. After the first year, the leaves tend to become more bitter and tough, but the plant will gladly reseed itself in more temperate zones. Parsley seeds can be started indoors or sown directly in the garden. However, it has a taproot that is delicate, so take extra care if transplanting.
- For a head start, plant seeds in individual pots indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the May 15, the last frost date.
- Sow seeds outdoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost, as parsley is a slow starter.
- For the best germination, soil should be around 70ºF, although parsley seeds will germinate in temperatures as low as 50ºF (10ºC).
Tip: Plant radish seeds in the gap between parsley seeds. The radishes will sprout and grow before the parsley appears, and the radishes will mark the row.
Here are a few more herbs to try…
Chives: Chives are a perennial member of the onion family and used in the kitchen for its mild onion flavor and also its purple, edible flowers. They are cool-season and cold-tolerant perennials that are best planted in early to mid-spring for an early summer harvest. Plus, a clump of chives will deter pests with its onion-y scent. Plant in full sun.
- For a head start in colder regions, start chive seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Transplants need good growth before being planted in the garden.
- Outdoors, sow seeds as soon as the soil is workable in the spring. Note that they can take a few weeks to germinate, so don’t panic! For the best germination and growth, the temperature of the soil should be between 60º and 70ºF.
- Or, plant transplants outdoors once the threat of frost has passed.
Sage is a hardy perennial with fuzzy, gray-green leaves that have as good texture in a perennial border as they do in a vegetable garden. It grows spikes of spring flowers in different colors, including purple, blue, white, and pink. Sage is used to flavor meat …and especially Thanksgiving stuffing! Plant sage in full sun and in a well-draining soil as it won’t tolerate sitting in wet soil.
- The easiest and best way to start sage is from a small plant from your local garden store. Set the plants 2 feet apart.
- You can also sow seeds in the garden one to two weeks before the last spring frost.
- For best growth, the soil should be between 60º and 70ºF.
- Plants should grow to be between 12 and 30 inches in height.
Rosemary is a perennial evergreen shrub with blue flowers. It's a very aromatic herb with a sweet, resinous flavor. This herb can only be grown outdoors as a perennial shrub in zones 7 and warmer. In colder areas, it should be kept in a pot and brought indoors for the winter. When cooking, rosemary is often used for seasoning poultry, lamb, stews, and soups. It’s beautiful scent is also used in candles, hand wash and lotions. Plant in full sun for the best results. As a plant native to the Mediterranean area, rosemary thrives with well-draining soil, and a bit of humidity.
- Sow seeds or plant cuttings in well-drained soil. Keep it moist while seeds germinate and roots develop. Seeds can take a long time to germinate (2 to 3 weeks), so don’t give up right away!
- For the best growth, the soil temperature should be around 70ºF.
Thyme: This pungent herb in the mint family is known for its aroma and flavor of its dried leaves and flowering tops. It’s a low-growing hardy perennial that is grown for its ornamental or culinary use. It’s hard to grow Thyme from seed because of its slow germination. You’re better off buying the plants from a garden center or taking cuttings from a friend.
Thyme comes in over 50 varieties with different fragrances and flavors. Fresh or English thyme are used most often in cooking. Originally from the Mediterranean area, this herb is drought-friendly so it doesn’t have high watering needs. It is also pollinator-friendly! As they flower, bees drop by to pollinate this plant and others in the neighborhood.
- Thyme thrives in full sun and loves heat. If you are growing it in a pot indoors, plant near a sunny window.
- Soil needs to drain well so there aren’t “wet feet.” In the garden, plant with other drought-tolerant perennials.
- In early spring, you may fertilize with organic matter, like compost, but not much soil amendment is necessary.
- It's difficult to grow thyme from seed, so it's best o buy new plants or propagate from your own cuttings.
- For a head start, plant the cuttings indoors 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost
Mint: Mint is a perennial herb with very fragrant, toothed leaves and tiny purple, pink, or white flowers. Among the many varieties of mint such as spearmint, peppermint, chocolate & orange, all mints have fragrant leaves... whether shiny or fuzzy, smooth or crinkled, bright green or variegated. And, you can always tell a member of the mint family by its square stem. Rolling it between your fingers, you’ll notice a pungent scent that reminds us of candy, teas, or mint juleps. Thriving in sun and shade all over North America, it's a vigorous spreader so you have to be careful where you plant it. A container with premium potting soil works best for both indoors and outdoors.
- Sew seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before the last frost in your area. (May 15)
- Sow seeds 1/4 inch deep and cover seeds lightly with soil.
- Keep the soil moist with an ideal temperature of 70 degrees.
- Mint seeds germinate in 7-14 days.
- Transplant into pots indoors or outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Oregano belongs to the mint family and is a woody perennial plant. It’s a strong-tasting herb with a peppery bite and a minty aroma. Oregano adds savory flavor to pizza, tomato sauce, and really anything with tomatoes or cooked summer vegetables such as zucchini and eggplant. Oregano loves the sun, so ensure that its growing area has enough sun to produce a strong flavor.
- Plant anytime in the spring, once you’re well past chance of frost. Some gardeners plant later in the season for assured warm weather. The soil should be around 70ºF.
- For a head start, plant the seeds/cuttings 6 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost.
- Oregano can easily be started from seeds, though you can also use cuttings from an established plant.
- Before planting, mix in several inches of organic matter such as compost. If you’re growing in containers, use a premium potting mix.
- Plant 8 to 10 inches apart. The plants will grow 1 to 2 feet tall and spread about 18 inches.
TIP when introducing indoor plants or seedlings outside: If you have germinated seedlings indoors to transplant outdoors, make sure you harden them off first with increasingly longer time outdoors over a period of about 10 days.
Look for more seed planting supplies such as grow lights, peat pots, peat pellets and Botanical Interests Recycled Paper Pots in our Seed Section.