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Herbs: Thyme and Oregano from seed help please

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desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

May 21, 2012
1:46 PM

Post #9132253

Hello everyone! Am I the only one who has trouble starting those tiny, tiny seeds? I have tried to start creeping thyme and common oregano from seed several times (in pots), and I just can't seem to find the right balance of water once the little things germinate. I live in the High Desert of So Cal and have to start seeds outdoors, as my home has very low light (built as it was in the 1800's- without air conditioning they planned for these hot desert days with deep eaves and shade porches all the way around).(I've been trying to start them in pots because I want to use them as part of my landscape rather than in my kitchen garden. The only way I can get green in my yard is to use highly fragrant things that the many little desert cottontails, chipmunks, kangaroo rats and ground squirrels and jack rabbits-[although I've never actually SEEN one of those long legged beauties nibbling]. I'm about to break down and start them in the garden and then hope I can divide and transplant at some point, but...)Anyway, I simply cannot find the right balance. I always seem to parch them or drown them. Any tips?
(I've been trying to start them in pots because I want to use them as part of my landscape rather than in my kitchen garden. The only way I can get green in my yard is to use highly fragrant things that the many little desert cottontails, chipmunks, kangaroo rats and ground squirrels and jack rabbits-[although I've never actually SEEN one of those long legged beauties nibbling]. I'm about to break down and start them in the garden and then hope I can divide and transplant at some point, but...)
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

May 21, 2012
2:39 PM

Post #9132342

Quoting: I just can't seem to find the right balance of water once the little things germinate.
It sounds like germination is not the issue so I'd say your seeds are viable.

Perhaps it is the time of year you're trying to start them. I start most of mine in Feb and March. I find mine do best by wintersowing in gallon jugs. I leave the top on as a small greenhouse dome and remove the lid for ventilation. It helps to retain the moisture. At this time of year with the heat, it would scald the plants. I would also think at this time of year, the soil would dry too quickly for small seedlings. When the plants are larger enough, I transplant to a large pot.

May I ask, what type of soil are you using?

Perhaps the solution will be to buy or trade for bigger plants. Kristi
Goldenberry
Northeast, IL
(Zone 5b)

May 22, 2012
7:21 AM

Post #9133287

The first time I ever tried to grow thyme from seeds, all the sprouts damped off. I was so devastated that it took years before I attempted it again!

The balance between too much and not enough water can be tricky. I started putting hydrogen peroxide in the water both for misting and bottom-watering, and that helped solve the damping off problem. Those tiny seeds do need to be kept evenly moist for a while after they germinate, and also kept out of strong direct sun until they are well established. Keep them lightly covered in a humid, partly shaded environment.
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

May 22, 2012
11:39 AM

Post #9133652

Podster, You may just have hit the nail on the head with the time of year. And the morning sun here in the desert, even in April (when I started this year) seems to have been a bit much. Since most everything I grow gets transplanted into my soil, (and since I am on such a tight budget), my soil is my own mixture. I use some of my native, sandy soil, composted horse manure and my own organic compost mixed with very fine wood chips. (For seed starting, I sift this mixture twice- once as usual for my garden beds through 1/4" diamond hardware cloth, then again through a kitchen colander). My soil has an average Ph of 7 and plenty of nitrogen from all the organic materials, as well as good drainage from the native sandy soil). I may just have to try the winter sowing, although I hate to wait another year. Perhaps I might plant some in my one raised bed experiment this year. I'm trying strawberries there so the Ph is a bit lower, but I could easily drape shade cloth across one end. Goldenberry, I didn't know about the shade. Will it thrive in full sun once it's established?
If I can't get these going, I may just have to find someone to trade with!
Thank you both!!
Goldenberry
Northeast, IL
(Zone 5b)

May 22, 2012
2:25 PM

Post #9133903

My zone is very different from yours, and I usually start plants indoors under fluorescent lights. I have read that 16 hours a day of fluorescent lights is similar to a partly shaded site outdoors! So leaving tender young plants in full sun all day will likely burn them, especially in hot temps. It would be interesting to experiment with seed starting in different conditions in your yard and see what the herbs like best. Good luck!
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

May 22, 2012
4:42 PM

Post #9134101

And I will agree with Goldenberrys' suggestion to add hydrogen peroxide to the water when you water your seedlings. It keeps the roots from drowning by overwatering as I understand it. It certainly won't hurt the plants. Keep us posted?

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 22, 2012
8:37 PM

Post #9134510

Wood chips - reduce for seed starting, but I would add a bit more of the horse manure if well composted- it's mostly grass anyway and very low nutrient and turns ' fluffy ', if it isn't freezing try starting some of your pots outside from the start- or even try the method used for wildflower seeds- roll em in a mudball and put them in a pot instead of a seed tray, and tuck them into a morning sun and partial shade by 9 am, and the hydrogen peroxide is good, all agreed. -If you have the time to try them that way.
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

May 23, 2012
10:24 AM

Post #9135139

Thank you all!! I will try starting some more seeds taking your suggestions into consideration. In the meantime, I've posted a trade wish! I shall keep you posted.
Oh! kitt, the woodchips are indeed reduced for seed starting due to the much smaller sifting matrix. I'd say 1/4 at least get sifted out. I use them in the main here in our desert to keep the soil loose and aerated. Finer soil mixtures- (even with lots of organic materials) tend to dry out and compress so quickly...)

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

May 23, 2012
12:52 PM

Post #9135365

I know they do, but decomposing wood CAN short something in the medium, sorry I am tired and away from references ATM, I've always had better luck with seeds that are tiny by starting them in deeper levels of dirt- or by doing as they suggest starting cactus- with hi tops and stretch wrap making a (ugh here goes the brain loss) an enclosed environment until they are of a greater age? I'll try later when my drive is over to find my planting brain if I've added confusion- sorry
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

May 24, 2012
4:13 PM

Post #9137121

Hehehe, Kitt- you sound like me. No worries and I get your drift. I started some more in pots and I have a few seeds left so I think I'll try the mudball method, as well as scatter a few at the corner of a bed and let nature take her course and see what happens. Thank you again, all!
LouC
Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 2, 2012
1:51 PM

Post #9149341

As with any and all plants, I planted the herbs like feeding chickens. Amend wherever, scratch the surface with a light weight rake, then pitch seed. I, too, am in zone 8a. In the beginning I tried all kinds of seed starting instructions and spent way too much money. My grandmother never started a seed inside in her entire life and she had a fantastic garden (born 1902-died 1971). At the present, the oregano I planted some 4 years ago is taking over a very large flower bed. The thyme is better behaved but still a nice size. I have found that most all of the herbs reseed themselves. Have been gardening with a vengeance the last 7 years and I didn't have to "plant" anything this year and my yard is a wonderland of blooms. Spend most of my time now pulling up plants that are too vigorous and try to smoother others. Must back up. I did plant 3 pepper PLANTS and 3 tomato PLANTS. They are doing great. Tried many times to start tomato from seed and they would always die before I could put them in the ground. Waaay too much trouble when I can purchase plants for little to nothing.

I admire everyone who is successful with starting seed inside. I usually pitch seed (notice, I did not say plant) in October. They don't germinate until the next spring. Many need the cold weather in order to germinate. If you notice, Mother Nature does not gather seed and hold it in the garage for several months. The plant flower, goes to seed, drops the seed on the ground and the cycle starts over.

Sure hope I haven't offended anyone because it was certainly not my intent.
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

June 3, 2012
1:05 PM

Post #9150421

Lou, far from offended I LOVE your method! As for my herb starting issues, the only reason I'm trying to start seed outside of my garden is that I want them as lansdcape plants. The good news for me is that once herbs are established here they do well, and the "stinkier" the better as far as discouraging the many critters from eating them. That said, if I try to start them in place they don't have enough scent when seedlings to prevent the voracious ground squirrels and cottontails from scarfing them up. I'm taking some of the advice here AND scattering some seed in my well fenced garden this year. I'll take sections and move them out to the yards after they are established.

The only things I like to start early in pots (Sorta indoors- I use homemade little soil heater/greenhouses on my kitchen porch) are tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. If I direct seed them they are so late I hardly get enough goodies before the October frosts...

My little microclimate (or ecoregion) is actually 7a. I am a little lazy so I hate trying to deal with the late frosts we tend to have (up to Mother's Day), and Mama Nature takes care of business without help from me in most ways, but she doesn't seem to mind when everything sprouts in our beautiful early Spring and then freezes in May! I've been gardening here for nearly 10 years, and I learned my lesson early on. No matter HOW beautiful the weather is I don't plant out until Mid May.
LouC
Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 3, 2012
2:35 PM

Post #9150528

Glad you didn't think I was being a know-it-all because I certainly know very little. In North Central Texas we also have undependable weather. Our biggest problem the last several years is drought...and the fact that the population exploded and the more houses and people the bigger the demand for water and it drains the lakes. Water rationing is on the table as a permanent solution. We are slowly eliminating our St. Augustine lawn. Enlarge the beds a little every year.

Well, good luck with the herbs...one thing that seems to thrive here.

Christi

desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

June 4, 2012
3:15 PM

Post #9152159

More beds is good. I have no lawn here, unless you count the Bermuda grass that is trying to take over my garden! :-)
LouC
Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 4, 2012
6:00 PM

Post #9152466

Used to have a wonderful veggie garden. Once the Bermuda Grass got into it...that was the end. It is on the Texas list of invasive plants. People still plant it and encourage it as a lawn. yuck
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

June 5, 2012
9:35 AM

Post #9153177

I can fully agree with the invasive nature of Bermuda Grass. When the invasion began I thought I might keep up with it. By the first year I dug up all my soaker hose from the infested beds, hoping that if I didn't water it, it might die. No such luck. I left those beds fallow and didn't water there for 3 years. We dug them up this year, sifted out the roots, began watering and they are already overcome. I am barely keeping it out of one end of the garden. Luckily there were areas in which I had no beds within the 1000 sq foot or so garden, so I am digging new beds this year there, and also adding a raised bed as an experiment. We'll just have to see if the Bermuda grass manages to fight its way up to the top of a 2' high raised beg with new soil.
I can see how folks would want to use it as a lawn, especially in places where drought is an issue, since it takes so little water to keep it growing. I've considered putting a small patch out in my front yard where I have a small sitting area. I am generally anti- lawn in desert/drought areas, but now that I have a small grandbaby I'd like a place for her to play a little that's not all sand. The good news here is that wherever the Devil grass has escaped the garden fence the bunnies keep it well cropped. It would be nice not to have to mow a lawn!. LOL
LouC
Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 5, 2012
11:03 AM

Post #9153275

One more caveat to Bermuda grass. In our part of the world it harbors chiggers. One of the reasons for St. Augustine to become the lawn of choice. Everyone, everywhere had BG when I was growing up and the first part of my married life. Used to put the laundry basket on a stool when I hung out or brought in the laundry off the line. Chiggers would get in the clothes and then on any human handy. Had to Sulphur powder around your ankles to go outside and heaven forbid anyone sitting down on it.
desert_witch
Lucerne Valley, CA
(Zone 8a)

June 5, 2012
1:45 PM

Post #9153453

Oh yuk. I'd better check into that for our area. *shudder

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 5, 2012
10:17 PM

Post #9154138

Seems like the ticks and chiggers were worse if there was dead wood around, and there were times they weren't as bad as others thru the summer, it was always the main reason I kept fingernail polish with me, paint that itch and bug died. But it wasn't so much Bermuda grass as it was coastal Bermuda and it took so long in the summer to green up, and died fast when water was scarce, but, other grasses to hold the dirt on the ground had other problems too. I do so much prefer my dirt under my feet and not flying thru the air at me!
podster
Deep East Texas, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 6, 2012
4:06 AM

Post #9154216

Fingernail polish fan here too. It is the only thing I use it for but it does work on chigger bites!

Christy, I have those bugs that get in the laundry when it is hung out but always thought those were no-see-um bugs. In the springtime, I wouldn't hang clothes out because it seems those critters are airborn ~ Itch from above... lol

Desert_witch ~ have you had any luck tracking down plants for oregano or thyme yet or are you waiting for spring to reseed? If you want to try seed again, I believe I have plenty of common oregano seed I will share. Have never done much with thyme here. Kristi
LouC
Desoto, TX
(Zone 8a)

June 6, 2012
7:27 AM

Post #9154412

"no-see-ums!" The bane of my existence. I look like I have infantigo. In my old age I have become allergic to almost any inset bite and poison ivy and all of that ilk. Mosquitos wait at the back door for me. Most of these I can control to some extent but the "no-see-ums" are the worst terror of all. Have been considering spraying neems over my yard but it is 5,000 sq ft and would pretty expensive. Cannot find any really good information about them. All I have is the "itch" (which I scratch until they become sores) to see the evidence they are here. Anyone with suggestions to rid them I am all ears.


Sorry, as always I have hijacked the thread.

kittriana

kittriana
Magnolia, TX
(Zone 8b)

June 6, 2012
1:30 PM

Post #9154802

No see um- ceratopogonidae, aka sand flea, aka midges, chuckl, grrrrr.

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