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Growing Seed

Growing seed is the cheapest method of getting herb plants - or indeed, plants of any type.


Annuals - such as basil - are always sown from seed or bought as a growing plant from seed sown that year.


You can sow biennials - growing parsley seed - and perennials - growing thyme seed for example.

There are drawbacks to growing seed - often, there will be hundreds of seeds in a packet and you will get so many plants from it, that you won't have enough room for the pots when they're transplanted – pots over every available surface in the house and a nightmare keeping them all watered:-)

You could either set out to sell the surplus – see Growing Herbs for Profit – and organise yourself for that - or just sow a few seeds from the packet. Reseal the packet and put the seeds in a poly box in the fridge – there is a ‘best before date’ on the packet and most will germinate after that time.

I grow basil like this – a pinch of seed into a pot every month or so gives me a constant supply of basil plants and I keep the seed packet in the fridge.

The best time to sow seed will be on the packet – they assume you will be sowing for the plants to go outside – you can sow seed for growing herbs indoors any time of year.


Growing Seed Indoors

This is probably the most reliable method of starting seeds.

You will need:-

  • seeds
  • Potting compost
  • Seed tray or plant pot
  • Colander, sieve or similar shaker
  • Plant water spray
  • Poly bag or sheet of Perspex/glass

Fill the tray or pot with compost and give it a shake and tap so that the soil settles. Then ‘firm’ the soil by lightly pressing a board on it.

Dampen the soil and leave it for a day – the soil should be moist, not wet when you sow the seeds – this waiting time also allows the soil to warm in the atmosphere a little – this will help the seeds to germinate quickly.

Scatter the seed as thinly as you can and then cover the seed with fine compost – sieve it if you can – then firm again.

Either cover the tray with a poly bag or pane of glass/Perspex and leave it in a warm, shady place – seedlings don’t like bright sun.

Check every day and when the seeds begin to come through, remove the cover – still shield from direct sun, but give the pot more light.

You can move the tray to a windowsill that doesn't get direct sun - turn the tray daily so that they don't all grow towards the light :-)

Using a plant spray, you can gently moisten the compost in the tray whilst the seedlings are growing – this won’t disturb the soil and the delicate roots.

The first leaves you see are called ‘seedling leaves’ and they are closely followed by another set of leaves – ‘true leaves’

When the first ‘true leaves’ come through, your seedlings are ready for transplanting.

An alternative method of growing seed

You can germinate your seeds on damp paper – this will speed up the process a little.

Just dampen some blotting paper and scatter the seeds on it – keep in the warm and shade and mist the seeds daily – a plant spray set on fine is great for this.

You then mix the sprouted seeds with some fungicide free mixed wallpaper paste – half strength, ie double the amount of water.

This mixture is put into a squeezy bottle or icing bag and you squeeze rows of it onto the compost – then cover with a fine layer of compost and grow on as normal.

It’s a great way of getting fine seeds sown thinly and neatly rather than scattering them haphazardly everywhere.

Instructions for ‘growing on’ are here:- Growing From Seed - Part 2

› Growing Seed

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