Starting herbs from seed.

Subject: Re: Herb Seed Starting
From: Joyce Schillen <
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 1996 22:54:34 -48000

> OK, today I went crazy at the garden center. I partially blame it on this list as I bought lots of herb seeds! : ) Thus, my questions. The following is my list of seeds that I just purchased for my herb garden-to-be. How long should I start them before our last frost date (about May 7 here in Zone 6)? SHOULD I start them indoors? Any special requirements. Thanks in advance!
> Here's the list:
> Common Thyme
> Sweet Basil
> Basil, Purple Ruffles
> Garlic Chives
> Oregano
> Common Chives
> Common Sage

The perennials I would start around the first of March and then set them out after the weather has settled, assuming they're large enough by then to handle.

The basil should be started 6 to 8 weeks before ALL risk of frost is passed. I don't plant mine outdoors until Memorial Day.

From: Deborah Kirwan <

> The basil should be started 6 to 8 weeks

I want to plant my basil from seed this year, but I've heard so many tales of woe about growing basil indoors (and read about some kind of wilt that affects basil). What are my chances of accomplishing this successfully? Any hints about techniques or varieties that are resistant?

From: Kathy Kennedy <

> I want to plant my basil from seed this year,


In my experience, in mid-Missouri, with no greenhouse or especially great set-up, basil is very easy to start from seed indoors. Go for it. It is very tender, however, and will be killed by cold several degrees above what most other plants can survive. I see this factor as the most dangerous to the basil.

Just start it using the techniques that work for you with your other plants.

But if you don't start everything at once, let the basil be the plant you start last! Wait to put it out until the temp can be expected to stay above, say, 40 degrees F. If, whoops, an unexpected cold night is forcast to come along after you plant it outside, cover it with a pot (or a bucket, or a small wastebasket, or whatever) stuffed with crumpled newspaper for insulation.

This works for me.

I find just the common sweet basil to hold up well. I've seen people have trouble with some of the more exotic basil, but I'm sorry to say I can't remember now exactly which variety that was. Licorice?

Several people have said they have luck with their basil volunteerng to come up the following year, but this doesn't always work for me, and I don't like to leave it to chance: I want my basil! The seed is easy to gather, so let a plant or two bloom away and go to seed. Then you'll never have to buy basil seed again. Nor will your lucky friends, because one plant gives a lot of seed.


>How long should I start them before our last frost date

I start all of the herbs on your list (Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Chives, Garlic Chives, Basil) indoors. I'm in zone 5, but I figure on a last frost around May 10 (I live in a holler; we have frost up to 2 weeks later than folks up on the ridge).

You can start your chives and garlic chives right away. I sow mine liberally in 6-paks; by planting time I have nice clumps of chives to set out. My garlic chives don't germinate as quickly or as well as the regular chives, so I plant them thicker (I use home-grown seed for both varieties).

I have already started sage and oregano in 6-paks. I usually transplant them to 3 ½ " pots when they're big enough and have big, robust plants to set out in May. (I also sell herb plants. This year I'm keeping careful records on planting, germinating, and transplanting times so I can time my market production better in the future.) I may be a bit early with the sage, but I've been planting some every couple of weeks, so I'll be sure to have some that's in its prime when it's time to plant.

Basil shouldn't be started until about 5-6 weeks before your last frost. I plant several kinds and start them all in the greenhouse. The only exception is holy basil, which I start about 2 weeks earlier than the others, because it seems to grow slower. If you start basil earlier than 5-6 weeks before frost, you'll probably have to transplant to larger pots, or it'll become rootbound and won't do as well in the garden. (I speak from experience here!)

I'm trying about a dozen new (for me) culinary and medicinal herbs this year; most of them don't have indoor planting instructions, so I'll start them about 4-6 weeks out and see how they do. NEXT year I should have a wealth of information on seed starting dates...

Good luck!