When to Buy Herb Seeds versus When to Buy Herb Plants


    This is often a difficult decision for many herbanites and understandably so.  The economical question is why spend as much for an herb plant as one could spend for the seeds to make 20 – 100 plants.


    Let’s address that issue with some practical advice and tips.


    One area where seeds make sense is if the herb is a hot weather annual herb such as cilantro and one uses a great deal of the herb.  It may make sense to seed weekly throughout the growing season so there is a constant supply of cilantro.  However another option here would be Culantro which is much less work for the herbanite gardener.


    Seeds make sense when the herb has a very short life cycle and especially if the herb is “out of it’s natural climactic zone” such as French Tarragon, Dill.  Herbs in a hot, humid climate often go to seed rapidly and produce few leaves so a constant supply of new herb plants is necessary.  When the herb is set on going to seed, then there is a short period of leaf production and the window of opportunity narrows as the season progresses.  It is here that by seeding each week that the herbanite has a continuous supply of fresh leaves for a longer time period.  Herbs that may fall into this classification would be basils, possibly parsley, summer savory, and chervil to name a few.


    For traditional perennial herbs such as rosemary, lavender, oregano, sages, thymes etc. one plant, well established, will last for years so the cost of a plant is literally at most pennies, nickel or dime per year depending on the life of the plant.   Remember herbs require little or no care at all which precludes the use of fertilizers, insecticide sprays etc.  Most herbs are “beneficial weeds” and need to be treated as such.


    Seed growing requires the purchase of many seeds and staggered planting or the herbanite ends up with a lot of herbs, same variety, all becoming available at once.  If there is not a way to preserve the herbs, or use them as an everlasting, then one must consume or share at once before it dies.   Also seeds generally may require the replanting into another container prior to being ready to go outside so there is a handling cost ( read TIME) to get ready to go into the garden.


   Generally speaking there is minimal requirements for equipment to grow from seeds and often this can be done by reusing a container that was being used for something else or reusing one of the trays one received from taking home the herbs from HerbFest.  As long as there is drainage holes in the bottom, fairly shallow depth (reason for this is no reason to spend money on a growing medium by filling up with much more medium than needed) and use something like saran wrap to create a “hot house” environment to encourage sprouting.  


    The above can be done in the home, on a window sill, or area where there is sunlight, but be careful not to overheat if left in sun.  As the heat warms up the growing medium, the Saran wrap contains the moisture and prevents the drying out of the medium which would kill any new plants.


   If one wants to do the propagation outside, and does not have a greenhouse,  then find an old storm window and place on a hinged declining frame.  The reason for the decline is as the plants emerge a simple stick can be put at the lower edge to hold the window up for fresh air to enter and for heat control.  At night the window is lowered and during the day it is left open for better ventilation and heat reduction.

   For most Herbanites the single most important issue is planting too much, too soon inside.  Rather than being able to experiment with 10 varieties of basil the herbanite gardener ends up with 100 plants of one single variety!!   The crush of winter, the anticipation of spring and summer often leads to this natural tendency to forget how many plants, how soon and how many leaves all come upon the herbanite at harvesting time.


    For me, as one who pays someone to grow literally thousands of herbs, I’ve found it far more fun, economical to buy  herb plants at once versus the expense, frustration, and cost of trying to “save money” by buying seeds knowing that severely limits my choices of new and unusual varieties of herbs in my garden.  This coming from one who purchases over 10,000 herb plants over a 7 day period annually to resell.


   Let the pros grow, let me play and have fun.

Parsley – Why Does It Have To Be Replaced Annually?

   Curly Parsley Row - Great For Monarch Butterflies!!lost for most people who use herbs for cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Italian Parsley PlantItalian Parsley  

   Parsley, Italian and Curly, are not annuals which confuses many customers as to why each year they have to replace them.  Parsley is a biennial, a plant that lives for two years, however the second year the plant is not intent on producing leaves but is set on survival and the energy of the plant is directed toward seed production.  Most HerbFest buyers replace it yearly.
Herbanites buy most of their herbs so they can use the leaves either for culinary purposes or possibly for aromatic, decorative everlasting arrangements.   Most herb seeds are for regeneration with some exceptions such as cilantro where the seed becomes the spice, coriander.   Once the plant no longer is producing leaves then the practical use of the plant is

   (Note the flat leaf of garlic chives, unlike round leaf of regulat chives)

How To Harvest Your Chive Herb Plants, Regular Chives and Garlic Chives


      Each year at the annual HerbFest there are many people who replace chives annually, be it regular or garlic chives.  The typical comment will be “I killed my chives last year so I’m back for more”.  My response generally is “yes you must have because they are very hardy here in zone 7”.

    Who says can't teach an old mutt a new trick or two????   Let me tell you about my recent experience at HerbFest 2010.

      At the HerbFest we sell organic, heirloom variety vegetables, tomatoes, and peppers that were grown from organic seeds, ie. plants grown organically that produced the seeds.  Well honestly one of the problems I've always had with heirloom variety veggies is they generally do not look very appetizing, to protect them from pests and maintain the organic standard is somewhat more work, but most importantly is the shelf life is generally not very long so you better pick and eat or can quickly.

     One of our HerbFest customers revealed to me a new interesting fact that is often forgotten on heirloom variety vegetables - they're reproducible!!!  Yes many of the veggies etc. you buy in the store now have been genetically altered so all the grower gets is one production cycle from the original seed.  The seeds are altered so no one can eat the veggie, say tomato, and then save the seeds to grow their own plants the following year.

    I'm not hitting on Monsanto and the other seed companies as they worked hard to come up with plants that produce more fruit, often have some added vitamins/minerals, and may look better with longer shelf life so they are entitled to reap the benefits of their work product, but for the home gardener that wants non-genetic engineered plants the heirloom now has another selling point.
     Would be fun to hear from you on any concerns or cares you may have on the standardization of the genetic material and whether that is good or not in your opinion. 
     Did want to share with you this as many of our customers pointed out to me the produce found in large retailers is no longer usable for future plantings from the seeds. 

  Eucalyptus, the Vick's Vapor Rub herb,  starts in our Zone 7 early spring as a 3 - 6 inch runt of a  herb plant.  First time purchasers have no idea how large and how fast Eucalyptus will grow over the summer/fall season.   In zone 7 eucalyptus is a year round tender perennial that can stay outside constantly.  More later on how it eventually dies.  In zone 7 and above the tree rarely ever reaches it's full magnitude due to our cold spells and freezes, but that does not mean it can not be enjoyed year round.

   It 's difficult when planting eucalyptus to appreciate the rapidity of it's growth and the herbal characteristics of this plant.   In one summer it can easily reach over 12 feet in height with a 12 foot diameter.  The branches become long and spindly with beautiful, gray glistening round button leaves.  The branches are sporadically positioned, trunk and bark exposed with the uneven bark colors and hues of gray/chalky white.   The top grey color of the leaves and chalky white of the bark and branches make it a perfect member of the "moonlight herbs" category which will affect it's placement in the landscape.   Moonlight refers to the ability of the plant to reflect light and illustrates to the gardener to place the plant in a full moon lite area to take advantage of the reflected moon light.  Often this is a placement outside where folks walk, or have to come cross during darkness.  The additional refelected light makes it much easier to naviagte.  Often Eucalyptus would be planted beside the "outhouse" as the "target" when one ambled between the lamb's ears pathway to the outhouse.  Of couse we know what the Lamb's Ear also would be used for.

   Once the plant is estalished owners often cut the branches, roll into a wreath structure, and hand in their home or office for the delightful fragrance and unique everlasting wall hanging it can be.  Eucalyptus makes the room smell better and adds a seasonal aroma to the air.   When possible Eucalyptus prefers full sun, or at minimum morning sun with afternoon sun being ideal.

   The main culprit to the continuing life of eucalyptus is icy cold weather where the ice sticks to the branches and trunk.  This once every 3-4 year weather in zone 7 usuallly means the water freezes on the branches, weighs them down and off, resulting in broken branches and often a brokern tree trunk.  When this happens the tree's appearance is permanently altered and rather than prune it's often best to cut down and plant new.  Once again the rapid growth becomes a main feature of Eucalyptus and the misfigured broken tree is replace in almost one year to it's original grandeur.  Of course now we wait for the next bad ice storm and hope for the best!!