Isa, Are your seed packages this year's? There should be a date on the package. Seeds can lose some of their germination potential as they get older. If you do have some older seed, the best way to check it is to do a 'test' batch. Put some seeds (count out, say 15) on a damp paper towel, put the towel in a zip lock and when they sprout, count the number of sprouted versus 'duds'. That will give you a pretty good idea of what percentage of 'good' seed you'll have.
My other question would be to ask where you have your seeds - in the garden, or indoors in planting boxes? If your seeds are sprouting and then dying off, look at the bottom of the little stem, right where it goes into ground - does it look rotted? If so, 'damping off' could be the problem; caused by too much water, and not enough ventilation. Or if they haven't been planted to the correct depth in the soil, they can die off easily.
If you've planted outside, where do you live? Here in Jersey, we've had some warm days the past few weeks, but then freezes overnight, which will kill off any tender herbs. The nurseries here haven't even begun to put out the tender herbs like basil and marjoram; probably at the end of the month.
Isa, Which herbs exactly did you have problems with? My thoughts are still that it was 'damping off' maybe caused by too much water on really tender seedlings with 'watery' stems.
I know how disappointing it is when you go to all the work of getting to the garden center, schlepping your 'finds' home, planting, and then the seeds go south on you. Anyone who's done any kind of gardening has had those feelings!
Try another batch and see what happens; maybe start them in the little starter cups instead of a bigger pot, to control the water better, then transplant when they've got nice, established root systems.
Re the 'lot number' - I think the year is included in the lot # sometimes. Depends on the what brand you've bought.
Actually, re the replanting, especially of thyme and rosemary, you may want to just buy plants instead of seed. I remember one year I planted all seed of everything - problem was, it took so long for the plants to grow, and then I felt bad cutting them when they were still little!
I'm buying a lot of my herbs already planted, and just find it gives me a head start on when I can start using them. The only ones I really plant are basil and cilantro, and some parsley, but I also buy parsley so I can harvest sooner.
If you're going to replant, go to the nursery (again!), and get the little starter pots; they're about 2 x 2 square, and about 3 inches deep. Look for a 'starter medium' kind of potting soil to start them in.
Good Luck! And keep asking if you've got more questions. Since I don't have time to do a lot of planting this year, I'm enjoying the 'virtual gardening' I've been doing here!!!
I agree. I tried to sprout rosemary once with no luck in the whole packet. I bought a couple and have been very happy since. If you are in a cooler zone, look for Arp Rosemary as it can overwinter outside down to zone 5. It's a coarser leaf and alleged a slightly lesser flavor, but better than most anything else a cold zone will have available.
Thyme, seeds worked for me there. My favorite varieties aren't easily available in seed or are non-true breeding cultivars. Love that lemon thyme, oregano thyme and more. Just scatter some thyme seed where you want it to end up outside and see if you get lucky. Worked for me.
I usually buy plants at the end of may and leave them out in a flower box all summer long. I bought seeds this year because
I buy herbs every year. I keep them outside in a flower box. They are part of my container garden. At the end of the summer I bring them is for the winter. Transplanting each herb to a pot with new soil. They never survive. I thought if I started them inside and keep them inside they would grow all year.
Seeds can go bad. Seeds can also last hundreds of years and still be viable. It all depends on the environment in which they are stored and what each cultivar prefers for storage. This is somewhat of a tangent which still addresses your question... There are gonvernmental germplasms where scientists and educational facilities preserve seeds which are not commercially grown or sold and are in danger of becoming extinct. Since 1906 we have lost 92% of all the species of plants on our planet already. When I say species, I'm not just talking about something like the "yellow pear" tomato but rather say... all "tomatoes", all of them! It is so important to save them because each cultivar possesses a genetic code and in that code could be a cure for a disease which exhists now or one which hasn't even come up yet. (If you have been handed down any seeds in your family, find out how long it's been in your family.)
The seeds are harvested at the correct time, dried properly, stored in specific environments to maintain maximum germination. The best place to store seeds is in a freezer which does not self defrost so that there is no fluctuation in moisture or temperature. Home seed savers need to keep seeds dry and in a cool dark place. Otherwise, purchase your seeds fresh each season, and know your source. If you order, there are some wonderful consumer sites which rate mail order companies: Garden Watchdog: Gardener's Buying Guide Plants by Mail Catalog Databasehuge
I agree with the others, buying plants won't cost but a dollar more than buying an entire packet of seeds and they'll be ready to use immediately. I assume herb seeds in particular like their climate very warm to germinate. Here is a great source for seed germination info: Tom Clothier: Seed Germination Database
Rosemary is supposed to be particularly difficult to start from seed which is why it is most often started from cuttings.
When you bring them in for the winter, try purchasing a grow light. You can buy just the bulb which will fit into a regular light fixture or you can get the lightfixture and bulb for under $20 on up. Herbs need full direct sun and heat to thrive. For your oregano, in the fall I would take a division and plant it in a pot inside and leave the rest outside as I would with sage, thyme and mints and other perennials. The tops will die but the roots will over winter and come back with new foilage in the spring. My sage, oregano, thyme and mints are doing are all coming back well after the winter and having let them go dormant outside during the winter.
Another factor which may be affecting your plants in winter is over watering. This is the number one cause for death in house plants. The motabalism of plants slows in the winter so they don't need as much water. Herbs in particular like to "dry out" no matter what time of year.
There are so many cultivars of each type of plant. Find out what zone you're in and research what is hardy in your area. This will help tremendously as well. Scroll down here to locate your growing zone.
I usually buy plants, this year I bought seeds for the pleasure of starting from scratch. I never thought it would be problematic.
Plants in garden centre will not be available for a few more weeks. However the grocery sells herbs in little container that can be kept fresh for a week or two. I'll see if they have thyme and rosemary plants.
I water my indorr plants about once a week, more often in summer. The outside plants get watered daily, and twice a day during heat wave.
You can grow just about anything in containers if your container is big enough to keep the roots happy.
I would request catalogs. Often times they may indicate which are good for growing in containers and you can always inquire at the Vegetable Gardening forum to see if someone has personal experience growing a particular variety. I highly recommend the following heirloom vegetable sources:
Here is a list of varieties which are particularly good for (though not necessarily heirloom) growing in containers:
Beans: Bush Romano, Bush Blue Lake, Tender Crop, Royal Burgundy, Henderson Bush, Jackson, Wonder Bush, Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Bush Romano, Bush Blue Lake, Tender Crop, Lima:[/b] Henderson Bush, Jackson, Wonder Bush
Beets: Little Egypt, Early Red Ball, Asgrow Wonder,’ ‘Detroit Dark Red,’ ‘Greentop Bunching,’ ‘Monoking Burgundy, Red Ace, Little Egypt, Early Red Ball, Early Wonder, Detroit Dark Red, Boltardy, Burpee Golden
Broccoli: Green Comet, DeCicco, Green Comet, DeCicco, Spartan, Italian Green Sprouting
Brussels Sprouts: Jade Cross, Long Island Improved
Cabbage: Dwarf Morden, Red Ace, Early Jersey Wakefield, Dwarf Modern, Red Ace, Early Jersey Wakefield, Little Leaguer, Earliana, Copenhagen Market, Ruby Ball Hybrid, Red Head Hybrid
Carrots: Short & Sweet, Danvers Half Long, Tiny Sweet, Royal Chantenay,’ ‘Red Cored Chantenay,’ ‘Long Type Chantenay,’ ‘Danvers 126’ and ‘Orlando Gold, Baby Finger Nantes, Goldenhart, Little Finger, Royal or Red Cored Chantenay, Ox Hart, Baby Finger
Chinese Cabbage: Michihili, Burpee Hybrid, Michihili, Burpee Hybrid
Cucumbers:Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty, Patio Pik, Spacemaster, Pot Luck, Bush Whopper, Bush Champion, Burpee Hybrid, Salad Bush, Parks Burpless Bush, Burpless Early Pik, Patio Pik, Spacemaster, Pot Luck
Garlic Most Varieties
Green Onions:Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching
Lettuce:Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb, Green Ice, Red Sails, Lolla Rosa, Buttercrunch, Nevada, Bibb, Parris Island Cos, Salad Bowl, Slobolt, Tendercrisp, Black-Seeded Simpson and Oakleaf, mustard cress, Salad Bowl, Ruby, Grand Rapids, Oak Leaf, Buttercrunch, Dark Green Boston, Little Gem, Bibb
Peppers:Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, (Hot) Red Cherry, Jalapeno
Eggplant:[/b]Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom, Slim Jim, Ichiban, Slim Jim, Ichiban, Black Beauty, Modern Midget, Mission Bell, Small Ruffled Red, Thai Green, Bambino, Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Long Red Cayenne, Sweet Banana, Valencia (Hybrid), Jackpot (Hybrid), Camelot, Jalapeno, Red Chili, Giant Thai, Super Cayenne II, Sweet Banana, Yolo Wonder, Long Red Cayenne, Bell Boy, Keystone Resistant, California Wonder, New Ace, Red Cherry, Long Red Cayenne, Jalapeno, Thai Hot
Sorry, I didn't see your last post until now. Tomatoes and peppers take the longest so it may be best to purchase plants.
Otherwise, go for it! Check the #days to harvest against your average frost dates. There are so many varieties out there, some are shorter than others. I'd ask someone at your local nursery. They're always happy to help and they'll have what grows well in your location.
Also, if you have access to foodtv.com, try to catch Martha Stewart's special called "Spring From Martha's Garden" at 4pm central time. She'll have segments on heirloom vegetables you may find extremely interesting.
I put about 20 thyme seeds between two layers of paper towel in a poastic bag, it's been 4 days and so far about 4 seeds have shown signs of life. I put them in a pot with soil hoping they will grow. I covered the container with saran wrap and make sure there is humidity. I was told it would help.
I did the same thing with about 25 rosemary seeds and there is nothing. No sign of life at all. After reading everyone's advice I knew it would be hard but this is ridiculous.
Meanwhile, the sage I planted a few days ago is growing so fast, you can see them move. Same with chives. Oregano seems a bit more problematic, they grow very slowly but there are sign of life.
Cchiu, I found a local supplier of heirloom seeds, I should be able to get a selection in about 2 weeks. I can't wait to get started! Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it.
Isa, - Patience, Grasshopper!!! Different seeds germinate at different times; I've waited sometimes two weeks before cilantro (coriander) seeds have sprouted; same with carrots. My feeling is that rosemary takes a long time, because it's a 'woody' plant. Also, some of the herbs are really more warm weather oriented; they're just beginning to wake up! And four days is a pretty short time for thyme seeds (no pun intended!!).
I'd never grow rosemary from seed; I use so much, I just don't have the patience to wait for it to get big enough to use. Honestly, about the only seeds I plant anymore are basil, coriander, and sometimes parsley, although I'm even getting lazy at that.
When you have that plastic over the sprouts, watch it; if there's a lot of water condensing on top of the plastic, take it off and let the pot 'air out'. Remember, too much water can cause damping off.
Don't you ever wonder how anything lives in nature, if they're this picky when we try to control their growth!!!! I bet weed seeds don't have all these problems - although I never tried to plant dandelions!!!!
Keep on keepin on, Isa - it really is a learn as you go experience!