How to raise herbs SOW & GROW
Buy a couple of herbs, then learn how easy it is to raise herbs from seed, and take cuttings and divisions to replenish your garden.
Sow herb seeds in trays or punnets of seed-raising mix for the best results. Seed-raising mix is worth the expense because it’s made from a sterile blend of peat and fine pumice, with fungicide to check potential problems and a wetting agent to evenly distribute moisture through the mix so your seeds don’t drown or die from dehydration. Drainage is essential. Soil that holds too much moisture can lead to a fungal disease called damping off, which is fatal to young seedlings.
Herbs that have long taproots, including coriander, chervil and borage, are best sown directly in the ground or in deep pots. If you mean to transplant them, sow in peat pots or plugs to minimise root disturbance.
The depth of soil you sprinkle on top of the seeds after sowing is important. While a seed has its own food supply, it only has enough for limited growth. If seeds are sown too deeply, especially tiny ones, they will use up all their food supplies and die before they reach the surface.
Most seeds should be covered by the merest sprinkle of soil, just so you can no longer see the seeds. Tiny seeds can be left uncovered and simply pressed into the soil. Check the back of your seed packet for information on sowing requirements. If sowing in trays, sow plants with similar germination rates together. Once your seeds have germinated, expose them to as much light as possible or the seedlings will become weak and leggy.
Seeds need a constant supply of moisture to germinate and grow well, but don’t overwater or they’ll rot. Conversely, if the soil dries out, germination is hampered, or in most cases, ceases altogether. Use a watering can with a fine rose so as not to disturb the seeds.
The first leaves that appear are the seed leaves, called cotyledons. The true leaves develop after these. Once there are one or two pairs of true leaves, pricking out can begin. Prepare individual pots for planting, and fill them with potting mix. Use a sharp stick, pencil or dibber, and prise the roots of your seedlings loose while gently pulling the seedling away by one of the cotyledons. Poke a hole big enough to accommodate the root system in the fresh potting mix. Drop the seedling in the hole and gently firm the potting mix around the roots. Water gently, then place your seedlings in a sheltered spot in bright light – not direct sunlight – to grow on. Once they’re a reasonable size and have hardened off, they can be planted out in the garden.