basil seedlings

Basil seedlings

Hopefully you are soon planning to sow some seeds for your annual herbs (indoors to start with) if you like to grow your own. I’m hoping this article isn’t too basic for you too but there are a wide range of visitors to this website and we all have to start somewhere. If you want a really detailed guide, try Jekka McVicar’s book – Seeds: The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully from Seed

Here are a few tips and some information for you:

Seeds need four things to germinate: moisture, air, light and the correct temperature.

1. Moisture.  The compost or soil surface should not dry out especially with tiny seeds.  To prevent this you can place a piece of glass or clear plastic or even a clear plastic bag over the pot or tray to help keep moisture in.  However, as soon as the seedlings appear you need to remove it to prevent ‘damping off’ which is when the seed/seedling goes mouldy or starts to rot due to excessive moisture.

2.  Air – A young plant needs some air near its roots so make sure that seeds are not sown in compacted or waterlogged soil.

3.  Light – Many seeds need light to germinate.  A general rule of thumb is to cover the seed with compost up to the depth of the seed.  However, very fine seed eg basil, sweet marjoram, poppy, primula, thyme and yarrow need lots of light to germinate so are best left uncovered; just press the seed into the moist compost.

4.  Correct Temperature.  Herbs from hotter climates usually require temperatures of between 15 to 21 degrees centigrade, the exception to this is lavender which germinates best at a lower temperature (4 to 10 degrees centigrade).

Seeds native to colder climates such as northern Europe and north America can germinate at temperatures between 5 to 13 degrees centigrade.  Again there is an exception to this which is parsley which needs a much higher temperature (18 to 21 degrees centigrade).  Rosemary needs an even higher temperature (27 to 32 degrees centigrade) which is why it is simpler to either buy a young plant or grow it from cuttings.

You can re-create this heat by placing containers in a warm spot eg near a heater or on a heating mat in a propagator or in a greenhouse once the weather is warmer.  Apparently, some people even put seed trays on top of their tumble dryer!

Seeds can be sown in trays or pots or direct into the ground; the seed packet will be more precise.  Seed trays are good for starting off seeds because they help to prevent overcrowding of seedlings and excessive moisture around their roots, however if the plants are ones that dislike having their roots disturbed eg basil, coriander and dill then their seeds are best either sown direct into the ground where they are to grow or into root trainers/plug trays/pots to minimise root disturbance when/if replanting.  You can of course recycle some plastic containers as long as you make some drainage holes in the base of them.

So the basic steps are:

1.  If you don’t have your own supplies, buy seed from a reputable supplier (see the list on my blog here for online suppliers) or purchase from your local garden centre.

2.  Fill the container with seed compost leaving a gap of approximately 2 to 3 cm from the rim, firm down gently, water thoroughly, sow the seeds, cover lightly with compost (sieved if necessary) and water lightly with the fine rose of a watering can or use a spray mister. If desired, place some kind of clear cover over the pot.

3.  Check moisture levels daily and remove plastic cover as soon as seedlings appear.

4.  Thin out seedlings as necessary.

5.  Gently transplant seedlings from seed trays into pots once the first set of true leaves appear (pricking out) or leave in root trainer containers until large enough to plant out or transfer into  a larger pot or into the garden once the risk of frost has passed.

If you have any tips of your own, feel free to leave a comment below.


Herb Workshops and Events

January 31, 2011

istock_000006751140xsmallFancy a day out?  Why not try a herb workshop or course?

If you’re feeling a bit blue with all this cold, dark weather, why not book yourself onto a herb workshop so that you have something to look forward to. Following various requests for herb course providers, I thought it might be useful to list a few here.

Here is a roundup of the herb course providers that I am aware of at the moment.  If I’ve missed any or you run herb days/workshops, feel free to leave a comment with your details below.

Penny Ody is a member of NIMH and runs 12 herb days during the year at her lovely home in  Hampshire.  There are a wide variety of topics available including ‘Planning your herb garden’, ‘Identifying, growing and using herbs’, ‘Making a herbal home remedies kit’ and ‘Making creams and ointments’.  More details can be found on her website Herbs at Walnut.

Christina Stapley, a medical herbalist runs many herb related workshops during the year at various locations including Wiltshire, West Sussex, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Dorset, Buckinghamshire and now U.S.A and has recently launched an ‘Aging Successfully Email Course’ which looks fascinating.  Workshops usually include an element of hands-on activities and are great fun.  The full range of courses can be seen at either of Chirstina’s websites:  Heartease Herb Books or Heartsease Herbal Practice.

Judith Hann runs herb cookery days at her home, currently on offer are dates in May and June 2011 but due to her herb garden being featured on BBC Gardeners World the interest in her courses is very high, so be sure to book soon if you’re interested.  You can find out more on the website: Hann’s Herbs

Sue Taunton has been growing herbs for over 20 years and runs herb cookery course and other herb related courses from her home on the Surrey/West Sussex border.  You can find out more about dates at the Southernwoods website.

If you fancy an evening herb walk and live near Cheltenham, Anne Mcintyre, a medical herbalist offers them at her beautiful herb garden during late June to early August – more details are on the website: Anne McIntyre.

Jekka McVicar holds open days at her herb farm. You can also book yourself onto a herb workshop on the Open Day. You’ll find more details here or on Jekka’s website together with dates for where Jekka will be doing herb lectures this year.

Herbs for Healing based in Barnsley, near Cirencester, Gloustershire is run by Davina Wynne-Jones. They have a wonderful range of workshops including soap making with herbs and a children’s easter holiday workshop, more details on the website Herbs For Healing

I know that there are quite a few other people that will be running herb related courses later in the year but at the time of writing, details are not available so I will post another summary later on.  If it’s you though,  I’m happy for you to add a comment with details below.

If you can’t take a day out, maybe you could join your local herb group instead – some of these are listed on the Herb Society’s Group page.   They all seem to have some fabulous topics lined up and most groups welcome visitors so do check out the individual group pages for more information.

The Hertfordshire Herb Group will have reached its 15th anniversary in March and is holding this meeting at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City.  Caroline Holmes the garden designer, will be talking about the deadly plants growing in the Poison Garden, which forms part of the Alnwick Garden in Northumberland.  More information on the Hertfordshire Herb Group’s website here.

Maybe I’ll see you at one of the events!

If you found this useful, please feel free to share it using the links below. Thank you.


Spice Girl

In case you’re looking for some inspiration for gifts to make with or without your children or are just feeling in the mood to create something special, I’ve compiled a few links that may help.

To start with there are a few links to some christmas craft activities that I created for the website a couple of years ago which you might enjoy making. They are very simple so suitable for doing together with children:

Spiced christmas biscuits

Lavender or rose petal bath bag

How to make an orange pomander

Here are a few more links to other websites with good craft ideas:

For the men – Make Your Own Bay Rum Aftershave

Other Links:

Lots of inspiring ideas here - Gifts In A Jar

Lots of great ideas here:

Quick, Easy Gifts & Crafts to Make From Your Garden

Ideas for using Lavender

Cinnamon ornaments, Pomanders and a Spicy Simmering Blend

Pomanders and Herb Balls!

How To Make a Herb Wreath Using Rosemary

Sara Elliott who creates the fantastic blog The Herb Gardener has created detailed step by step instructions on How To Make A Herb Wreath including a useful photo slideshow!

Debs Cook of Herbal Haven and the Herb Society has a wide variety of gift ideas here:

Sarah Head has some lovely skincare recipes amongst other ideas here:

Plush Folly’s Christmas Advent Calendar reveals a new recipe or idea each day, visit and click here to join in the fun.

I’m sure there’s plenty of other links; if there’s any that you know about, feel free to add them in a comment below.

Want to know where to get your ingredients?
If you don’t have your own supplies, here are just a few UK suppliers that I’ve used in the past and been happy with – feel free to let me know your favourites too, there are masses out there!



Plush Folly

Steenbergs – for cooking herbs and spices