Starting Herbs From Seeds Indoors - Knowledgebase Question

Joliet, IL
Question by hmbergquist
March 3, 2001
I recently began trying to grow herbs indoors from seeds. I choose :Chives, Cilantro, Basil and Oregano. I choose a 6x3x4 in. glazed clay pot to fit on my East facing kitchen window. I planted the seeds according to the direction's, though I planted more seeds than I had space for in case some didnt make it. The seeds germinated well and I had watered them with a mister until they were better established.I have not fertilized them at all. The problem is this..The oregano has grown it's second set of leaves, but they are very fine , pale stems that are not growing high at all. The packages for the cilantro, basil and oregano said to pinch back to promote growth, but when am I supposed to do or later? I have experimented on them - pinching secondary leaves on all four herbs and thinning out the less established of the four but am confused as to what I should be doing differently..should I seperate the oregano from the rest because it might be getting too much water..should I only have one of each seedling in the pot..and when can I begin cutting for cooking? I would greatly apprecite any help you could give me. Thanking you in advance, Heather M. Bergquist

Answer from NGA
March 3, 2001


Unfortunately, your plants will probably quickly become too crowded in that pot, even if you only grow one of each kind. These herbs are also sunlovers, and need as much light as possible when grown indoors. Finally, your pot will hold moisture longer than an ordinary unglazed pot would, so take care not to overwater the plants. If the pot does not have a drainage hole in the bottom, you might consider instead using it as a cachepot -- plant the herbs in a terra cotta pot and set that inside the decorative pot. This method allows you to rotate the herbs in addition to helping avoid overwatering.

Chives should grow to form a clump, with new growth starting from the base. You may trim the leaves whenever you like, some gardeners prefer to give the clump an occasional crew cut, others will trim a leaf here and a leaf there. Trimming it helps it gorw into a thicker clump faaster.

Cilantro is a cool weather grower, and should grow quickly because it is an annual and consequently tried to grow and make seed fast. You may trim it, but do not expect too many cuttings from one plant.

Oregano should be allowed to grow to about four inches, then pinched or trimmed lightly to encourage it to branch. Each trimming will cause it to branch again, so frequent use for cooking is fine. This plant tends to grow leggy indoors, and trimming will help counter that.

Since your plant is not growing much, I suspect it may be too crowded or it may need more light or it may need less water. This plant does not need as much water as the other three plants enjoy and it really prefers a lot of sun, outdoors it is planted in full sun all day.

Basil usually does well in a sunny window and will grow erect unless pinched to encourage bushiness. You may pinch and trim as needed to use it, beginning at about the third leaves. This is not a long lived plant (it is also an annual) so you may find the plant becomes exhausted and needs to be replaced every few months.

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