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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How and Why to Start Perennial Herbs Indoors (In Pictures)

Gardening is more than a hobby and a bit less than away of life. It is a heart felt choice to live and engage life at its most basic roots... in the earth.

That being said, it is time to get your perennial seeds started. I will be blogging quite a bit this year and I hope to write some motivational blogs (so to speak) to get the new gardeners more dirty or the procrastinating gardener (me!) to task. The task today, or to be fair, this month, is to start those perennial herbs.

You want to start these herbs now in January because they take a long time to germinate and  a good amount of time to grow to size for transplanting outdoors. Plus it gives you something to do now.

You can see you will need the basic supplies of seed trays and starter mix. I mentioned in a Vegetable Garden Tip, to pre-moisten your starter mix. You also have to wash you seed trays and cells if your are recycling last year's models. It is recommended you wash them with a 10% bleach solution. I thoroughly washed mine with soap and water.

Seed Starting some Perennial Herbs: Gary Pilarchik

Wash Your Seed Trays and Cells (10% Bleach Solution): Gary Pilarchik

I will be planting 144 cells and I over crowd my cells. After division, I will have about 300 herbs. The total cost of all the materials if I bought them new would be about $28. Since I am recycling the trays and cells the cost for seeds and starter mix is about $14. That is pretty good considering 1 herb plant can cost you 3-5$.

You will need a place for the cells to sit once planted. If you have a sunny location that will work well or if you wife doesn't like the dirt, well a grow closet is perfect. 

A Grow Closet for Starting Seeds: Gary Pilarchik

Set the cells up in the trays and fill them with the seed starting mix. It is important to make sure you press the starter mix into the cell with you thumb and then refill them. The starter mix is very loose. You want to pack it in moderately. Loose starter mix will encourage your seeds to fall to the bottom of the tray. The seeds should be planted on a firm base.

Set Up Your Vegetable Seed Cells and Trays: Gary Pilarchik
Fill Them Once, Pack the Cell, Fill Again: Gary Pilarchik
Seed Trays Ready for Planting: Gary Pilarchik

The Popsicle sticks have a lot of functions. I use them to mix the seeds into the starter mix, firming the cell down gently with my thumb, and to label each square of cells with the seed names and date.

For herbs that are perennials, I over plant. They are hardy plants and can withstand being torn in clumps. The lavender and rosemary need to be separated into single plants (maybe two) when transplanting to cups. But the other herbs can be over planted - in both the cells and transplant cups.

The example is oregano. The seeds are very small. You do NOT need to plant one seed and wait for that plant to mature. It will painfully take forever. Over plant. The dominate seedlings will take off and others will die back but in the end you will establish a great transplant.

I simply pinch the oregano seeds in my fingers and gently rub 10 to 20 seeds per cell. I used the Popsicle stick to mix the starter mix and seeds to about 1/4 of an inch depth and gently pressed down the mix. Don't get to caught up in 1/4 or 1/8 for planting depth. Let nature work.

Perennial Seeds Planted and Labelled: Gary Pilarchik

The best trick I learned a long time ago was to bottom water. If you try and water new seeds from the top, you will wash them away.

Bottom Water  You Seed Cells: Gary Pilarchik
Seed Trays in a Grow Closet: Gary Pilarchik

The seeds don't need light for the first 5 days and probably longer but you don't want to risk leggy seedlings. The perennial herbs can take up to 3-4 weeks to germinate, so be patient. The beauty of a grow closet is I can set a light timer, check the water every few days and just close the door. You want your plants to get 10-12 hours of grow light - light. The plants should sit 1-3 inches beneath the bulbs.

The Hidden Grow Closet: Gary Pilarchik

Get started! It is fun and relaxing.

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