I was lucky to inherit lots of mature lavender plants from the previous owners of my house. Due to frost damage and in an effort to thwart Horse-Tail weeds, I've removed a bed of lavender. I'm replacing the old plants with new, home-grown seedlings, which I'm starting today.
I'm also starting a few herbs just to see if I can do it. My herb garden is ready and waiting for new soil and transplants.
Growing lavender seeds
by Alice Formiga, originally posted on Renees Garden
Start lavender seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. Space them ½" to 1" apart in a flat of well-drained sterile seed starting mix, and cover them only about 1/8", since light aids germination. Keep the flats in a warm place, about 70 degrees, and moist but not soggy-water in the morning so that the flats aren't too wet in cooler nighttime temperatures, causing the seedlings to damp off. Be patient; seeds can sometimes take a month to germinate, but I have often been pleasantly surprised to have seedlings germinate within the first two weeks. Although I haven't found it to be worth the trouble, some gardeners recommend cold-stratifying lavender seeds to improve the germination rate. The simplest way to do this is to place lavender seeds into a ziplock bag of moistened seed starting mix and leave it in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. Then sow as above. When seedlings emerge, provide strong lights so that they don't grow weak and leggy.
When the seedlings have several sets of true leaves, gently loosen the soil around the plants and transfer them into a 2" pot or 2" apart in deeper flats of well-drained planting mix. Since nutrients quickly leach out of containers, add some granular slow-release fertilizer to the soil. Snip off the growing tip to encourage branching. When the plants have grown about 3 inches tall, the weather is warm, and all danger of frost is past, gradually expose the plants to outdoor conditions over the course of a week, being careful not to leave them in full sun right away. Finally, plant them outdoors 12-24" apart into well-drained garden soil. In particularly moist, humid areas, plant them at the wider spacing recommendation, so that air circulates freely around the plants.
I bought a Burpee seed starting kit that had two dehydrated dirt pellets in each cell. Since it was raining sideways, I put the kit together in the kitchen after watching this video. Per the instructions, I used warm tap water to rehydrate the dirt. It didn't really work. The water just kind of drained through the cell to the tray underneath. I ended up using waaay more water than I assumed it would take and had to agitate the dirt pellets which was um, dirty.
Finally, I triumphantly plopped the seeds into the spongy dirt and then set to work arranging the grow lights.
I put the seeds under two grow lights in the garage. Then the washing machine breaker kept turning off, so I assume the grow lights were too much for the circuit.
I relocated the plants indoors, where I think they will be much more comfortable. I rearranged the guest room and rigged a table lamp base to accomodate the grow light clamps.
Currently, my eyes are having trouble focusing after having looked directly at the 40 watt flourescent bulb, which is equivalent to a 150 watt typical bulb.
I put the lights about a foot from the seedlings and I'm planning to leave the lights on for 12 hours a day.
I think this is the end of the beginning.
UPDATE~ April 2nd
For the last five days or so, since I planted my herb seedlings, I've checked on my little buddies every 20 minutes or so, to see if they germinated. It's been exhausting!
The thyme popped up quickly and has been steadily growing.
The sage has progressed at about 40% the rate of the thyme.
The basil was a little stubborn, but it finally peeked out a little today.
Half of my dirt pallet is lavender and that side, almost immediately, got fuzzy, grey mold. Internet research said that it was either good mold, or bad mold caused by "damping off." Today, I removed the lid to see what would happen and it seemed to clear up. According to some gardening forums, Lavender takes 14-90 days to germinate and often might not grow at all. That's okay with me. I'll just grab some from the nursery in a couple months if Plan A fails.
UPDATE~ April 14th
The herb seedlings looked like they could use better soil, so into pots they went. The thyme and sage will stay outside. Half the basil will go into the south-facing kitchen window and the other half will go back under the grow lights. The lavender, which is reportedly very hard to grow from seed, will stay in the seedling pots for now.
While I was in the herb garden, I put some chamomile, cilantro and dill seeds into pots and to my surprise, the chamomile is already popping up (two weeks later). I'm also excited that my cilantro and parsley are coming up like gangbusters. I'm more surprised when things grow, than when they utterly fail.
I'm excited to till up the ground, amend it and put some more herbs in. I'm thinking about mint. The fact that it self-soes is a conundrum.
More photos of the progress will follow.
*** May 24th 2012 ***
In an effort not to kill all my basil at the same time, I put some of it outside and kept some inside. We have had some "warmer" weather, in the 50's and 60's which burned the fragile leaves. Turns out the basil likes to be shaded, but in a warm environment. We've also had a lot of rain, so the plants have been kept moist and they like that as well.
I've picked some of the burnt leaves off and new ones are starting to grow. I think that the plants will do well this summer and I'm looking forward to giving at least one of the pots to a friend.
One thing I didn't do well, was give the plants more space. I really packed the seedlings into the pots and now they are choking each other out. I don't know if I should try to divide them again, or just leave them alone. I may experiment with one of these three pots and see how it goes.
Since I'm a newbie at planting from seeds, I'm just "googling" for "how to" instructions.
The instructions below were taken from the Vegetable Gardener blog.
Hot water helps seeds to sprout
About the only aspect of growing parsley that can cause trouble is starting the seeds. Parsley has a reputation for being difficult to start, and many herb books include an adage about parsley going to the devil seven times before it sprouts. To help them along, I pour hot water over the seeds and let them soak for 24 to 36 hours. The water softens parsley’s tough seed coat to make germination easier. I start my seeds the first week of March, and it takes two or three weeks for them to germinate.
After they’ve soaked, I pour off the water and briefly drain the seeds on a paper towel to make them easier to handle. I fill 1-1/2-in. plastic cell packs with a seed-starting mix and while the seeds are still moist, I spread five to ten of them on the surface of each cell. Because it’s imperative that the soil remain moist, I loosely cover the planted seeds with a clear plastic bag, leaving the end open for air.
When the seeds have sprouted, I remove the plastic and put them under fluorescent lights. After the plants have sent up their first true leaves, I thin each cell to the strongest plant by snipping its cellmates with scissors. Snipping prevents soil and root disturbance that could result if I pulled out the other plants.
For the rest of the instructions, check out Vegetable Gardener blog.
(Post update from a few days later...)
So, I kinda skipped the part of the instructions above about putting the seeds in soil. They're still sitting in the wet paper towel. It's funny how confused I am and how complicated growing parsley is for me. I'm distracted by the mid-March snow that keeps surprising me. I can't seem to get outside to get the potting soil because I have so many questions.
Do I use potting soil or some other type of non-amended soil?
Do I really need a grow light, or can I just stick them in the kitchen window?
If I need a grow light, what bulb do I buy?
I've been asking the Internet, but every answer seems dependent on a list of variables. It's such a simple task I guess I don't want to screw it up by being impatient and doing it wrong.
I finally googled "is it worth starting herbs from seed?" and the internet said "No" and the internet said "definitely!"
I have oodles of seed packets and buckets of stubbornness and determination. This is going to happen.
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