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Growing herbs from seed

Growing herbs from seed is a tad more difficult than buying a pot in the grocery store or garden center.

It is not impossible, however, and it is much more rewarding.

Growing herbs is easier than most plants. They're hardy, enjoy lots of sun and are amenable to soil that is too poor for many other plants. Dig up a few inches of earth and place one into the soil and you'll have to do very little else. They require only modest watering and rarely need fertilizer.

If all you want is the end product, there's little labor involved. But you also miss out on some of the fun. Growing from seeds is harder, but more rewarding. There's a real sense of satisfaction that comes from putting a seed into the ground and producing a full sized herb that you can eventually harvest.

Not all herbs will do equally well grown from seed. Basil, Sage, Chives, Dill are good choices for 'starting from scratch'. Others don't produce viable seed or propagate so readily. Thyme is a good example, Peppermint is another. Some are hybrids that don't reproduce from seeds. French Tarragon, for example, doesn't produce viable 'offspring'. Rosemary has a low germination rate, so it can be a difficult undertaking to grow it from seed.

Once you've picked a species, start with quality seeds. Like any living organism, some have a greater potential to thrive than others. Give your herb the best headstart by beginning with good seeds from a reliable brand.

Once you have them, you'll need to decide whether you want to plant them in the garden or a container. Many herbs do well in either environment, but some have a 'preference', they more readily take to one situation over the other. Basil does well in a container, while the Lavender is best left outside.

Two examples...

Sweet basil

To plant Sweet Basil from seed, just sow then cover lightly with compost. Put the pot inside a plastic bag or cover with a plate. Be sure the pot has good drainage, and water by putting a small amount in the drain portion.

Once the seeds have germinated (started to sprout), you can remove the bag or plate. Make sure they get good reflected light. Though planting a dozen seeds is a good idea to see which ones grow, you'll want only a few per pot at the end.


Borage will do well outdoors in most climates that get adequate sun. You can start them in a small pot or seed tray, or go right into the ground. Pick a spot that gets sun and where the ground is fairly dry. Cover the seeds thinly with a bit of your soil mixture and water lightly, just enough to keep the ground moist but not wet.

Once the seeds are established in a pot you can thin them to a few plants and transplant, if desired. Be sure to space them about 12 inches (30.5 cm) apart. The flowers can be used to garnish salads or in a soup where you want a bit of cucumber flavoring.

Herbs require only modest care when grown from seed. But some, like any other plant, will wither and others will thrive. Be prepared for a little experimentation to get your conditions just right.