Herbs have been used for ages to flavor food, to scent the air and clothing and for their medicinal value. Knowledge of herbs and plants and how to use them was passed down through the generations. Herbs are now growing more popular than ever for cooking. With the availability of foods from other cultures and areas of the world, people are interested in trying new seasonings and new foods.
Today, most herbs are available to purchase in the grocery store, but much like other foods, you can’t know how it was grown and what chemicals were used. Growing an herb garden is a very good alternative.
Herb gardens used to be in every family’s yard and many gardeners are adding herbs to their plantings. While some gardeners have herbs scattered throughout their vegetable garden, others have made the herb garden a feature garden in their yard. Many herbs are worth growing just for the beauty of the plant.
Herbs are fun to grow and many are very easy to grow from seed. Consider using organic herb seeds whenever possible and continue growing your herbs organically. Herbs like good soil that drains well. If your garden soil is clay or very compacted, you may want to grow your herbs in containers or raised beds. When starting your seeds, light is the critical factor. You will have much better success and healthier plants if you use grow lights. Keep the lights only an inch or two above the seedlings and use a timer to run your lights about 16 hours each day. Cover your planted seeds with a dome or clear plastic wrap. This will help to maintain an even humidity. As soon as you see the herb seeds are germinating, remove the covering. This is very important to prevent damping off, a fungal disease that attacks the plant at the base. You can lose every plant overnight from this disease. Many gardeners also take the added precaution of running a small fan on their seedlings once they germinate.
Let’s look at some of the most popular herbs.
- Parsley. Whether you prefer the curly parsley or the flat-leaf varieties, parsley is easy to start from seeds. These herb seeds take a little longer to germinate, but you can help by soaking the seeds overnight before you plant them.
- Basil. Basil is one of the most popular herbs for cooking. There are many different varieties of basil, each having its own unique flavor. Plant several varieties to determine your favorite. Start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost in your planting zone. Basil is not able to tolerate the cold, so don’t be in a hurry to move your basil to the outdoor garden. Basil seeds are going to germinate in five to 10 days.
- Thyme. Thyme is a perennial and will come back for years once planted in your garden. It is recommended that you replace the thyme with a new plant about every five years as the plant will start to lose its flavor with age. Thyme is easy to grow, but it does take patience. Thyme seeds take a month to germinate, so make sure you start them early.
- Mint. Mint is a little more difficult to start, but if you use a dome or plastic wrap, you will be more likely to have success. Bottom heat also will help. The seeds germinate in one to two weeks. Begin the seeds about six weeks before your last frost. The one thing to remember about mint is it can be very invasive. It is recommended that you confine it in a container garden.
- Cilantro. If you like salsa, you will want to grow cilantro. This is a fast-germinating and fast-growing herb. You can direct sow in the garden, but if you want an early start, plant it indoors. You can start harvesting the leaves only a month after planting!
These are only a very few of the herbs you can start indoors. Think about what herbs you like to cook with the most and give it a try in your garden. Many of these herbs are great companion plants. Some are so attractive that you could easily grow them in your flower garden. Best yet is that they are easy to dry and then use throughout the year.