Ask the Master Gardeners
Herbs from seeds
Q: I love to cook with fresh herbs, but I have no experience growing them. How can I start growing my own?
A: One way to start learning about herb cultivation is to make a short list of the herbs you use most frequently in your kitchen. For example, basil, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Next, look for the best place in your community to buy high-quality seeds, or ask your friends or acquaintances who have been successful where they got their seeds. Purchase or order your seeds so that you have them ready to plant indoors no more than eight weeks before the last frost in your area.
Get flats at your local garden supply store that are 2 to 3 inches deep or make your own containers. Whatever you decide to use, make sure that it is clean and has excellent drainage. You can use flower pots, foil loaf pans or coffee cans with holes punched in the bottom for drainage.
You can buy one of the commercially available seedling mixes to place in your containers or you can mix you own. One good mixture is made up of shredded sphagnum peat moss and fine grade (No. 4) vermiculite in equal proportions. These mixes are sterile and help you to avoid problems of weed seeds and disease organisms present in garden soils.
Sow the seeds at an even density in rows that are 2 to 3 inches apart and label the rows so that you will be able to identify the seedlings when they emerge. Moisten the soil by placing the container in a pan containing about 2 inches of water, which will be drawn up by capillary action.
When the seeds germinate and produce two true leaves, they are ready to be transplanted in your garden.
And now that June has arrived and the ground should be plenty warm, you can sow most herb seeds directly into your garden now.
â€” Candido Antonio de Leon, Chestnut Ridge, master gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland County