Herb Gardens for Beginners

Herb Gardens for Beginners


Herb Gardens for Beginners tracks beginning gardener Audrey Leon’s trials and tribulations of growing indoor/outdoor container herb gardens.

Back in June, I participated in the make-and-take project workshop at the Houston Texas Home & Garden Summer show at NRG Center. Master Gardener Janice Brown, of On the Grow, demonstrated how to get your own herb garden started.

I am not an avid gardener. My dad is the one with a green thumb in the family. When I moved into my current apartment, I seemed to kill everything that I placed on my balcony. I’m hoping to reverse that troubling trend with my new herb “babies” this time around.

I’ve been growing my herbs* (Oregano, Rosemary, and Sage) from seeds for almost five weeks. According to Janice, the Oregano can take weeks to germinate. She recommends letting the soil dry before moistening because the oregano can be prone to damping off disease. The Sage, she says is also slow to germinate, taking up to 21 days. The Rosemary, she adds, takes 15-25 days under ideal conditions. Basil germinates as fast as four days from seeding in warm soil. Basil seedlings don’t like excess water, so Janice urges to let the pots almost dry out between watering.

*Editor’s Note: Janice Brown has advised me that my “Rosemary” and “Oregano” actually look more like Basil, so we’ve revised the post to reflect that.

Here is my progress.

Week 1: Taking the Seedlings Home

When I left NRG with my freshly planted seeds we were told to cover them with plastic wrap to allow the seeds to germinate. I left the seeds inside, positioned by my patio window, rather than placing them directly outside in the hot (bit of an understatement) Houston heat.

I left the seedlings alone for the first four days, without adding any water into the mix. When I examined the planters, I noticed sprouts. I quickly took the plastic wrap off, and discovered the Rosemary and Oregano Basil had sprouted nicely.

Herb Garden

Herb Gardens, Week 1

The Sage hadn’t sprouted yet. However, I also noticed some white-furry mold-like substance starting to grow on top of the dirt. I Googled what to do in that situation and found an article that told me to try sprinkling cinnamon on top as a natural fungus repellent. Janice also recommends using cinnamon for this purpose. It’s been four weeks and I haven’t seen a recurrence since.

Week 2: Monitoring Growth

I decided to shake things up for Week 2. I started leaving the plants out, in a somewhat shady, though still quite sunny spot, on my balcony so that the seedlings could get some warmth as well as more sunlight.

Herb Garden Week 2

Herb Gardens, Week 2

This seemed to give the seedlings a shot in the arm. The Sage sprouted, although it is not as plentiful as the Rosemary and Oregano Basil sprouts. The Rosemary Basil looks as if its singing in the sun.

Week 3: Charting Progress

Herb Gardens, Week 3

The Basil seedlings in the pot labeled “Rosemary” are numerous and seem to be growing strong. The Basil in the pot labeled “Oregano,” which had a lot of tiny sprouts, has one seedling that has emerged victorious over the others. The Sage is doing well, there are several heads on two sprouts, the leaves are looking more Sage-like. There are also additional sprouts coming up.

Week 4: A bit of a SNAFU

Oregano and Rosemary Basil, Week 4 Sage, Week 4

In week three, I began leaving the seedlings outside more, hoping that the heat/humidity and sunlight would help the seedlings develop more. However, I started to leave them out all day and not bring them in at night as I was doing for the last few weeks. While the Sage began doing beautifully, it also seemed to get weaker as more leaves sprouted. Eventually I had to cut some of it off when the stem knocked over. This was a wakeup call to go back to leaving the plants indoors most of the day, as Houston has returned to near-100F heat.

Last Thoughts

Clear Winner: Oregano Basil

I’m pondering transplanting a few of the seedling plants. The Basil in the pot labeled “Rosemary” seems really strong, and the Basil in the pot labeled “Oregano” looks like it needs to be separated from all the tiny seedlings that haven’t done as well. I reached out to Janice who gave me this advice: “To thin them, just pull out most of the seedlings, leaving one or two in the pot. You can transplant some of the others in more pots… Try to separate them now before the roots get tangled.”

She also helpfully suggested eating the other sprouts because they are packed with nutrients. I might have to give that a try.

About the Author

Audrey Leon is the communications manager for the Texas Home & Garden Show series. She is a Houston native, dog lover and a big fan of taking annoying photos of her meals. She’s been writer and editor for over 10 years.

DON'T MISS OUT! Get Texas Home and Garden email updates. SIGN UP