Germinating Seeds for Your Herb Garden

Growing your own herb garden from seeds is a very rewarding experience and allows you to grow herb varieties that may otherwise be un available at herb plant growers. When you decide to cultivate your own herb garden at home, you must be mindful that many garden herbs must be started by germinating the herb seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before spring thaws out frost. If you live in a warmer climate then you don\’t have to worry about this.

Note: Refer to the table at the end of this article for some useful information on the germination conditions for some common herbs.

When choosing the herbs that you want, make sure that you choose the correct species that you want. There are many different sub-species and cultivars of the many different herbs available, such as Basil (holy basil, lemon basil, and cinnamon basil to name a few) and Chives (Allium schoenoprasum and Allium tuberosum). Make sure that you buy quality seed from a reliable herb seed supplier of the herb you want to grow.

Each different sub-species will have different hardiness, taste, and aroma and can give very different taste than what you want. The best way to ensure you\’ve got the right type is to notice the genus and species listed on the seed pack. If possible choose seeds sold in laminated foil packets instead of paper packets as they are ensured of dry storage.

Starting Herb Seeds for your Herb Garden

Seeds should be planted anytime between four to ten weeks before that the thawing of frost. This is to ensure that you have a strong robust seedling to transplant into your herb garden once the outdoor weather condition is right.

Seed Starting Media

The growing medium for starting the seed must be sterile. You do not, and should not have to use garden soil. The media preferred should be loose, well drained and fine-textured. Some of the media are:

  • Vermiculite – Do not sterilization so long as it is not contaminated during handling. It you decide to use a different herb seed starting seeding mix, you can use vermiculite to cover the seeds as it allows the seedlings to emerge easily and helps protect them against damping-off.
  • Synthetic soil free mixtures
    this mixture, which can be purchased ready-mixed, is a combination of finely ground peat moss and vermiculite or peat moss and perlite.
  • Milled sphagnum peat moss – Has an ability to inhibit the seedling disease “damping off.” Must be well moistened before use.
  • Home-mixed Seed Starting Medium – if you want to really start from scratch, then you can mix your own seed starting medium with the following ingredients: 4 qts. of vermiculite, 4 qts. finely ground Sphagnum peat moss, 1 tbsp. super phosphate and 2 tsp. pulverized limestone.

Sterilizing Your Seed Starting Mixes

Make sure that your seed starting containers (plastic flats or pots) and any other materials used are sterilized. Sterilization kills disease organisms as well as weed seeds. You can sterilize seed starting mixes as well which will be later transferred into the plastic seed starting flats or pots.

  1. Cover the seed starting medium with aluminum foil, and then place it on a metal baking dish. Make sure that you seal the edges.
  2. Poke a hole in the foil and insert a cooking thermometer into the soil with the bulb at the center of the seed germination mix.
  3. Warm in an oven at 200 to 250 degrees F. DO NOT go higher than 250 degrees.
  4. Warm the soil until the thermometer shows a temperature of 160 to 180 degrees F.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Once cooled, move the cooled seed starting mixes to plastic flats or pots.

Warning: Do not put plastic seed starting flats or pots in the oven!

Containers for Germinating Seeds

You need to clean and sterilize the containers that you will be starting your seeds on. There are a few types of seed germination container that can help seedlings get off to a good start and will make it easier for you when you need to transplant the seedlings later. These include:

  • Seed Starting/Flat Plastic/fiber trays: Recommended for plants that require transplant to individual pots or wider spacing in flats. They save space initially in comparison to seeding directly into individual pots. Unless you\’re short on space, direct seeding in pots is better.
  • Clay and plastic pots: Reusable and are best for transplants. Seeds can be planted directly into them, thus eliminating the need to transplant the herb seedlings from a tray to a pot, then into your herb garden gain.
  • Peat pots: Made from peat or paper waste fibers. They are porous, allow good drainage and air movement. However they tend to disintegrate if left too long and can become too soft to handle. You can actually plant the entire pot into the herb garden.

How to Sterilize Containers

Soak or wash the containers/trays in a 10% solution of chlorine bleach and water. Then allow to dry before filling with soil.

Table: Herb Culture and Germination

(from gardenmedicinals.com)

Key:

Seasonal Growth Cycle: A= annual, B= biennial, P= perennial. (the number in brackets denote the hardiness of plant under USDA zone recommendation); example: B4-10 means biennial in zones 4 through 10.

Light Requirement: Dk = Dark required for germination. Cover with soil, or use black plastic; Lt = Light required for germination. Cover lightly with soil or leave exposed on the soil surface; LtDk = No specific light requirement.

Sun or Shade Requirement: sun = Needs full sun for best result; shade = Tolerates or requires shade.

How And When To Plant: ds = direct-sow, tp = transplant; Sp = Spring, Su = Summer, Fall = Fall; ALF = after last frost, BLF = before last frost.

Type of herb

Seasonal Growth Cycle (zone)

Temperature (°F)

Light Requirement

Days To Germinate

How/When to Plant

Sun Or Shade Requirement

Height (inches)

Spacing

(inches)

Basil

A

70

Dk

7-14

Tp, ds, ALF

sun

9-48″

18″/4″-8″; 16″ for larger plants

Chives

P (3-9)

60-70

Dk

-

Tp, ds

Sun, part shade

12″

6-8″

Coriander

A (6-10)

60

Dk

7-21

Ds

Sun

18-24″

4″

Cumin

A

70

-

-

Tp, ds

Sun

12″

4-6″

Dill

A

70

LtDk

7-21

Ds

Sun

36″-48″

4-6″

Fennel

B (2-5); P (6-10)

70

Dk

7-14

Ds

Sun

24″

12-18″

Fenugreek

A

55-70

Dk

5-14

Ds, tp

Sun

24″

12-18″

Sweet marjoram

P (5-9)

60

LtDk

14-21

Tp

Sun

12-20″

8″

Oregano

P (5-9)

60

Dk

14-21

Tp

Sun

9-18″

12″

Rosemary

P (6-9)

55

Lt

14-30

Tp

Sun

24-36″

12-36″

Saffron

P (5-8)

-

-

-

-

Sun

4-7″

4″

Sage

P (4-8)

70

LtDk

7-21

Tp, ds

Sun/light shade

16-30″

12-24″

Thyme

P (4-8)

55-60

LtDk

14-30

Ds

-

4-8″

4-12″

More Reading:

Germinating Herb Seeds:

http://www.growing-herbs.com/germinating_seeds.htm

Raising Herbs From Seeds Indoors:

http://www.allotment.org.uk/articles2/Raising_Herbs_From_Seed_Indoors.php

Herb Culture Key And Germination Notes:

https://www.gardenmedicinals.com/pages/herb_seed_a-b.html