Monday, October 11, 2010

Starting your own Herb Garden Part 3: Seed Starting and Growing from Cuttings

Missed Parts 1 & 2? Read them here: Starting your own Herb Garden: Part 1 and here: Starting your own Herb Garden Part 2: Planning and Layout

This week we'll learn how to start your seeds indoors for later planting outside, and how to start a new plant from a cutting.

Indoor Seed Starting
Hack #1: Make your own "peat" pots for free
The point of starting your seeds in peat pots rather than in plastic containers is that you can put them straight in the ground, pot and all, and not have to worry about ripping roots. But you don't have to go out and buy these guys, you can make them yourself with household items.

For the pots:
  • a newspaper (B&W pages only)
  • several toilet paper/paper towel rolls
  • scrap paper
  • masking tape or string

For the tray
  • a plastic grocery bag
  • duct or masking tape
  • a cardboard box

If you're using paper towel or toilet paper rolls:
  1. For toilet paper rolls, cut in half. For paper towel rolls, cut in four.
  2. Wrap a piece of masking tape around the middle of each roll. This is so that after a few days of watering, the rolls don't start to come apart and unravel (like they are in my picture).
  3. Cut your scrap paper into roughly 4" x 4" squares.
  4. Stuff a square of paper into each roll and shape it to form the bottom of the pot.

If you're using newspaper:
  1. Find a cup, jar, or can with roughly the circumference you want for your pots (about as big around as a toilet paper roll).
  2. Take a sheet of newspaper and wrap in around the jar several times. Then fold the remaining length on the bottom to cover the bottom of the cup/jar/can.
  3. To make the bottom stay put, wet it just a little. I use my ironing spray bottle. Then smash it down hard.
  4. Slide your new pot off the jar/can/cup and fold the remaining length on the top down inside the pot to strengthen the walls. Spray with a bit of water if necessary.
  5. Let dry.
  6. Repeat process for each pot.
toilet paper starter pots with paper bottoms and potting soil

For a tray to put them in:
  1. Cut down the sides of your cardboard box to about the height of the pots.
  2. Cut your plastic grocery bag down the sides, and cut off the handles. Use it to line the inside of the box. Tape in place.
  3. If you're going to plant more than one type of seed in the tray or you're making more than one tray, you might want to label the outside of the tray/box with a marker, so you don't forget what you've planted where.

Planting Your Seeds
Hack #2: Instant Greenhouse

  • Starter pots and trays
  • potting soil OR regular soil plus liquid fertilizer (e.g., Miracle Gro)
  • plastic wrap or other clear plastic

Now that you've got your starter pots ready, it's time to plant.
  1. First, fill your pots with soil. If you're using regular soil, spray each filled pots generously with the liquid fertilizer and then wait until tomorrow to plant your seeds.
  2. Check your seeds packs for any special instructions, such as soaking the seeds in water. Then, using a chopstick or a pencil (eraser end), poke a hole about an inch deep in each pot (or less, depending on the type of seed) and drop in a seed.
  3. Spray the seed with water and gently push the soil back over it. Do not press down. The soil should be loose, not packed.
  4. Cut the clear plastic to fit and lay it over the pots.
  5. Set the tray in a sunny window, under a lamp with an incandescent light bulb, or in some other warm location.
Messily taped but fully functional seed tray with starter pots and "greenhouse" (AKA clear plastic)

Keep your seeds warm and moist and they'll germinate in no time. Once germinated, they'll need sun as well as warmth, so clear some windowsill room. Leave the plastic on top only until the seedling get about an inch high.

Starting a New Plant from a Cutting
  • old soda or water bottle with a narrow mouth, clear plastic is best so you can see the roots growing
  • a plant that propagates from cuttings
  • liquid plant food (e.g., Miracle Gro) optional

  1. Choose a stem with at least four leaves and cut it off on the diagonal, preferably just above a lower set of leaves. The cutting should be at least four inches long.
  2. Fill your old bottle with water and gently set the cutting in it. Pour out excess water until only the bottom 2-3 inches of the stem is immersed.
  3. Change the water every few days, adding a tiny bit of liquid plant food if desired.

Several mint cuttings, after about 2 weeks in water

Next week, Planting in Pots and Outdoors: Learn how to make a variety of beautiful recycled herb pots and planters and get some ideas for creating your own unique herb garden. It's time to get creative.

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