Saturday, May 31, 2014

Growing Herbs

 Basic techniques for propagating herbs at home: 

Cluster Sowing (Indoors) - Cluster sowing indoors permits herbs to grow in a fairly thick stand. Cluster sow by evenly spreading 15-25 seeds across the surface of a four-inch clay pot filled with moistened potting mix. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of sand and place the pot in natural light but out of full direct sunlight. In the home, pots may be placed on the top of the refrigerator to provide bottom heat, hastening germination. Cover with a plastic bag to retain moisture or mist daily until germination. The following herbs are best propagated by cluster sowing indoors:
Catnip, Nepeta cataria
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
Marjoram, Origanum majorana
Roman Camomile, Anthemis nobilis
Thyme, Thymus vulgare
Spot Sowing (Indoors) - The spot sowing technique is identical to cluster sowing except that only three to five seeds are sown per pot. When seedlings are between one and two inches tall, remove all but the hardiest and nurture the remaining seedlings to maturity. Spot sow the following herbs:
Basil, Ocimum basilicum
Borage, Borago officinalis
Burnet, Sanguisorba minor
Caraway, Carum carvi
Chervil, Anthriscus cerefolium
Coriander, Coriander sativum
Cumin, Cuminum cyminum
Horehound, Marrubium vulgare
Hyssop, Hyssopus officinalis
Lavender, Lavendula sp.
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis
Lovage, Levisticum officinale
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus
Poppy, Papaver rhoeas
Rue, Ruta graveolens
Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina
Direct Sowing (Outdoors) - A few herbs do not transplant well and should be sown directly into the garden. Be certain to wait after all the danger of frost has passed. Propagate these herbs by cluster sowing outdoors:
Anise, Pimpinella anisum
Dill, Anethum graveolens
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus
Parsley, Petroselinum crispum
Pennyroyal, Mentha puleguim
Mustard, Brassica juncea
Stem Cuttings - To make stem tip cuttings, use a razor blade to take a three-to four-inch tip cutting just below a growing node on the parent plant. Strip the leaves on the bottom of the cutting leaving a 3/4” - 1” bare stem. Insert the stem into a small clay or plastic pot filled with one part sand and one part perlite. Water the rooting medium thoroughly and do not allow it to dry out. Mist daily until roots form. If desired, a rooting hormone may be applied to the stripped end of the stem cutting to timulate new root formation. Take stem cuttings from the following herbs:
Artemisia, Artemisia sp.
Bay, Laurus nobilis
Santolina, Santolina sp.
Sage, Salvia officinalis
Woodruff, Galium odoratum
Lavender, Lavendula sp.
Lemon Verbena, Aloysia triphylla
Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium sp.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
Root Division - The best time to take root divisions of your perennial herbs is approximately four to six weeks before the spring frost date. To obtain a root division, dig up the parent plant and cut or pull apart into pieces. Transplant your new root division and water in thoroughly. Perennial herbs that are
propagated by division include:
Artemisia, Artemisia sp.
Bee Balm, Monarda sp.
Catmint, Nepeta mussinii
Catnip, Nepeta cataria
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale
Garlic Chives, Allium tuberosum
Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis
Lamb’s Ear, Stachys lanata
Mint, Mentha sp.
Oregano, Origanum vulgare
Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare
Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus
Yarrow, Achillea filipendulina

Growing herbs in the garden
Most herbs require a minimum of six to eight hours of full sunlight each day.  Herbs that will tolerate partial shade include Bay (Laurus nobilis), Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium),  Sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata),  Comfrey (Symphytum officinale), Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis),  Lovage (Levisticum officinale), Mints (Mentha sp.),  Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), Winter savory (Saturja montana), Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla),  and Woodruff (Galium odoratum). To improve the drainage, incorporate several bushels of organic matter such as compost or peat moss to each 100 square feet of garden area. Poorly drained sites may also be improved with underground drainage tiles or a raised bed. A soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0 will produce the best herbs.  Herbs require much less fertilizer than heavier feeding vegetables. Overfertilizing will promote excessive leaf growth and diminish the manufacture of the essential oils that give herbs their distinct aroma and flavor. Herbs that require a bit of extra fertilization to maximize their output, include basil, parsley, and dill, will benefit from supplemental side dressings with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion or a balanced general purpose, water-soluble fertilizer (such as 12-12-12), every 2-3 weeks.
Growing herbs indoors
Plant herbs in clay pots as they are more porous than plastic pots, allowing for better soil drainage. A potting mix of equal parts sand, commercial potting mix, peat moss and perlite will provide an excellent medium for growing herbs indoors. Indoors, herbs do best when grown in a very sunny window that receives between six and eight hours of direct sunlight each day, typically a southern or southwestern exposure.  Rotate the pot every three to four days to insure uniform growth of the plant. If the most convenient window location does not attract enough sunlight, you can supplement natural lighting with two hours of fluorescent light, for every hour of sunlight. Place herb plants no closer than five or six inches, and no farther than 15 inches from the light source.  If the air is dry where you live, place the herb pots in a tray of stones and keep the tray filled with water just up to the bottom of the pot. Providing ample humidity will promote good herbal growth while keeping the foliage succulent and tasty. When grown in containers, most herbs will benefit from a feeding every 2 weeks with a liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion, seaweed or a general purpose, water-soluble fertilizer (such as 12-12- 12).

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