Part I: Starting a Herb Container Garden (from Seed!)

Hello, friends! 

Who wants to start their own herb container garden? Everyone right?!

Container gardens are great because you don’t need any actual LAND for them! Plus, they are mobile. If the weather is unfavorable, you can pull those suckas inside. 

 It’s a win-win-win and I’m here to walk you through it. 

And we’re going to start from the VERY beginning. Yep - that’s right. No short cuts here. We are going to grow our herb garden from tiny little seeds. 

It’s going to be straight MAGIC

 

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Now, you might be thinking, “Why would I go through the trouble of this?! Why not just buy grown plants?!”

Well… touché. However, there are actually a lot of great reasons to invest a little extra time into starting plants from seeds. 

For starters, it’s cheaper and you also experience a HUGE sense of accomplishment. Plus, you can find heirloom or more obscure varieties of seeds online. (PLANT NERDS UNITE!!!) You can also buy organic/non-GMO and you can foster the health of your plant from it’s infancy. Pretty cool, right?

I am starting 4 different herbs from seed this week: 

  • Basil 
  • Thyme 
  • Oregano
  • Sage 

I chose these because; well, because they’re my favorite! 

I will be companion planting them all except for the basil. Basil gets its own container. 

Why companion plant your herbs? Thyme, sage, and oregano are Mediterranean herbs that love the sun and have similar watering requirements. They prefer dryer soil than herbs like basil or parsley. Thus, they will thrive being planted together. And I just want a TON of basil so it get's a big container to itself. 

Starting plants from seed indoors is a great way to grow successful outdoor plants! Starting seeds indoors allows you to better control the variables to increase the likelihood of germination and your seedling's success! 

Also, if you will be transplanting the plants into a raised bed or actual garden, you will have them ready to roll when the weather is favorable! (When the warmer spring weather hits, for example.) This method of starting plants from seeds indoors can be applied to all variety of plants- from herbs to veggies to fruit plants!

So let’s get rolling. 

BUT, before I proceed, I want to break down the timeline for you: 

SEEDS ==> Germination ==> SEEDLINGS ==> Hardening off ==> Transplant into containers

Germination is the budding of a seed after it has been planted into soil. 

Seedlings are the baby plants.

Hardening off is the process of toughening up your plants for the great outdoors.  

Step 1: Gather supplies

  1. Organic seed starting mix. Seed starting mix is a lighter texture than regular garden mix. You can get this in stores or online. I ordered this one from amazon
  2. A sunny, south facing window -or- a grow light with a timer if you do not have a sunny window. (Most seedlings require a lot of light!) I have an East facing window that gets the morning sun, but I got a grow light for the afternoon.
  3. Cow pots , egg cartons, or other seed starting containers. You can get these in stores or on amazon. The cow pots are amazing because they are truly bio degradable. (Some of the other “degradable” ones don’t truly break down and therefore, can hinder the growth of your plant.) 
  4. Spray bottle for watering. (or the sink spray function works fine as well) 
  5. Plastic tub or bucket. (just to dampen the soil)
  6. SEEDS OF CHOICE! 
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Step 2: Acquaint yourself with the seeds by checking the seed directions on the back of the packet

  • How many days do they take to germinate? So you know when to start looking for them! If this is not on the packet, you can always look online! 
  • Do they require light to germinate? (most will!) 
  • What temperature do they need to germinate? (If your seed packet does not indicated- no worries. For most herbs, a germination temperature of 70 degrees F is optimal. This will probably be the temp of your home. If you keep your home cooler the majority of the time or if you live in a cold area, you might want to invest in a heat mat to start your seeds.)
  • At what depth of soil do the seeds need to be sowed. (Note some herb seed don’t even need to be buried) 
  • Keep your packets for reference.
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Step 3: Prepare the soil and plant the seeds

  • Dampen soil mix in your bucket or tub. (you want moist- but not soaking wet!)

  • Fill cells or small containers with soil - about 1/3 an inch from the top. 
  • Apply 2 seeds per cell. (the extra in case one does not germinate)
  • Cover the seeds with soil per the specifications on the back of the seed packets. (for basil, it is 1/4th an inch)
  • Mist the seeds with water.
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Step 4: Tend to the seeds

  • Adjust lighting to reach 15 hrs of exposure a day via sun and/or timed light. If you are using a timed light, set it for 15 hours a day. If you have some sun light, subtract the amount of time you have from 15 hrs and set your timer to that when they do not have the sun light. For example, I have 4 hours of sun light from my window. I will set my grow lights to be on for 10 hrs/day after that.
  • Water them with the squeeze bottle as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. (To prevent your seeds from rotting! You don't want to overwater.)
  • Keep an eye on them and watch them emerge! Once the seeds sprout into seedlings, rotate them once a day to keep them from leaning to the window / light.
  • If you are using a grow light, position your plant about 2-3 inches below your light. Adjust the lighting as your seedlings grow. 
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Step 4: Harden off

  • You don’t want to take your seedlings directly from the protected indoors to the harsh climate! 
  • Once your seeds are about ready to be transplanted outdoors, place seedling trays in a protected outdoor spot (partially shaded, out of the wind).
  • Bring them in at night.
  • Do this every day for 7 - 10 days- increasing the outdoor exposure time each time. 

    Now it's time to transplant into your containers!! In my next post, I'll discuss this as well as how to care for you herb plants to maximize their growing potential.

    *****

    PS, if you follow me and my work at Nourishing Minds Nutrition, then you may know that we are about to launch a membership community!! We will be diving in deep on all things hormones, digestion, and intuitive eating. Click here to learn more.