Gardener’s Corner

Frequently asked questions

My seeds did not sprout….

Two factors are essential for germination to occur—consistent temperature and moisture.  Most seeds require a consistent temperature between 70 and 80 degrees.  (Generally, soil temperature is about 5 degrees cooler that the room’s temperature).  In addition, seeds must remain moist in order to sprout.  Using a spray bottle is great way  to keep soil moist; however,  be careful not to water too much or the seeds will rot.  At the same time, a lack of  moisture will cause the seeds to dry out and prevent germination.  One way to help ensure these conditions is to cover your pot with clear plastic wrap and place in a sunny windowsill.  You can remove the wrap and spray to moisten as necessary.  Remove the wrap once your seedlings emerge.  Under proper germination conditions, most seeds will sprout in about 14-21 days.  However, some seeds may take up to 30 days.  Refer  to the Product page or Growing Instructions page here on this website for specific germination rates of your plant. 

 

How often should I water my plants?

Over watering can kill a plant just as easily as under watering.  The soil should be moist but never soggy.  The finger test is one of the most reliable methods to check if you need to water.  Stick your finger into the soil; if it is dry, then water.  Never allow water to sit in the pot, simply pour off excess water if you add too much. 

 

My plants do not look good.  What should I do?

It is important to feed your plants or they will begin to look weak or unhealthy.  Once your seedlings reach 2″-3″ in height,  you should use a standard plant fertilizer and follow the instructions on the fertilizer packaging.  

 

My plants are tall and spindly…

Most  likely, your plants are not getting enough light.  They are growing tall (and subsequently weak) in an effort to reach the light.  Try moving them to another location where they will receive more sunlight.  Also, be sure to rotate your pot regularly so that all sides of the plant receive an equal amount of sunlight.

 

Do I need to transplant my seedlings?

Many of our products are starter kits, which means that your seedlings will need to be transplanted.  When they need to be transplanted depends upon the size of pot you started with.  Please refer to the Instructions page of this website for specific recommendations for your product.  If you started with one of our mini grow pots, then it should be transplanted once the seedlings reach 2″-3″ in height.  For larger containers, you will need to transplant once your seedlings reach 5″-6″ in height.  Some of our  products will not require transplanting–again refer to the specific recommendations for your product on the Instructions page.   Roots coming out the bottom of the pot is always a tell-tale sign that is it time to transplant.

How do I  transplant my seedlings?

Transplanting to the outdoors can be a little tricky.  Moving from indoors to outdoors in one day, can cause shock to your seedlings and your chances of successful transplanting greatly diminishes.  Instead you should “harden off” your seedlings.  To do this leave them in their original pots and  place them outside for few hours at a time, gradually increasing the time outside in direct sunlight.  Keep in mind that plants may need little more water during this time than when they were indoors.  After about a week, your plants should be ready to be transplanted outdoors.

When transplanting, whether to a bigger pot or outdoors,  take special care not to damage plants or root systems.  Moisten the soil, and gently separate the plant taking as much root as possible—a dinner fork is actually a great tool to transplant seedlings.  Be sure to prepare the soil that you are transplanting to.  Prepare hole (pay careful attention to the depth of hole depending upon the requirements of your plant) that is at least twice the size of your seedling.  Water the hole well and place your seedling in hole and gently pat soil around the plant.

 

Harvesting and Preserving Herbs

Basil

You can begin harvesting basil, once the seedlings have 3 to 5 sets of leaves.  Pinch or snip off leaves at the stem just above the second set of paired leaves. Basil leaves need to be harvested to promote growth; the more you pick, the more you will get.   Rule of thumb:  Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  The flavor of basil leaves strengthen as the plant grows and matures.  The top  leaves are most tender and have milder flavor–great for salads.  The bottom leaves have stronger flavor–use for stovetop recipes.  Remove any flowers as they develop by cutting off at ground level.  This will prevent the plant from forming seed and keep it more productive.

Storing/preserving Basil:  The best method for storing basil is freezing. To quick-freeze basil, dry whole sprigs of basil and package them in airtight plastic bags.   Another method is put basil  into a food processor and add just enough olive oil to cover it. Pulse it a few quick times until blended, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze. When you need basil for pesto or dressings, just take out the number of cubes you need. You can dry basil by tying stalks together into bunches (ideally, a bunch should contain no more than 5 – 10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hanging in dry, warm (not humid),well-ventilated spot away from direct sun.  Ideal temperature for drying is around 68 F.   If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing air holes in the bag.  Dry herbs for 1-3 weeks.  If they crumble when rubbed between fingers, they are ready to be taken down.  Store dried basil leaves in an airtight jar for up to one year.

Parsley

You can begin to harvest parsley when it reaches about 6″ tall.  Harvest outer sprigs first after plant starts to look bushy.  Rule of thumb:  Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  Snip stems at ground level.  Parsley will flower and produce seed in the second year; its production is very limited in the second year.

Storing/preserving Parsley:  The best method for storing parsley is freezing:   wash, dry, place in plastic bags, freeze.  You can dry parsley by tying stalks together into bunches (ideally, a bunch should contain no more than 5 – 10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hanging in dry, warm (not humid),well-ventilated spot away from direct sun.  Ideal temperature for drying is around 68 F.   If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing air holes in the bag.  Dry herbs for 1-3 weeks.  If they crumble when rubbed between fingers, they are ready to be taken down.  Store dried parsley leaves in an airtight jar for up to one year.

Chives

You can begin harvesting chives after about 6 weeks or when they reach about 6″ tall.  Chives should be harvested to promote further growth and to prevent leaves from becoming  tough.  Rule of thumb:  Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  Snip leaves with scissors leaving about 2″ from ground to promote regrowth.  Do not cut all the leaves of a clump of plants at one time.  This allows that same clump of plants to be cut over and over again throughout the growing season.  Remove any flowers as they develop by cutting off at ground level.  This will prevent the plant from forming seed and keep it more productive.

Storing/preserving Chives:  Chives can be frozen by chopping up washed and dried leaves into small pieces and freezing them in plastic containers.  To freeze-dry chives, place chopped chives on a cookie sheet and place them uncovered in the freezer. When the moisture has evaporated and they are dry and brittle, transfer to a glass spice jar and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.  It is not recommended to dry chives by hanging upside down in bunches.

Cilantro

You can begin harvesting cilantro once the plants have reached about 6″ tall.  Use sharp scissors to snip off stems from the outside of the plant leaving the inner most stems intact.  This will allow for future growth.   Snip about 1/3 of the stem at a time.  Rule of thumb: Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  Cilantro prefers cool weather and will likely go to seed as the summer heats up.   Harvesting weekly will delay the plant from flowering a bit allowing you to gather as much cilantro as possible.

Storing/preserving Cilantro:  Mix finely chopped cilantro with just enough olive oil to bind them together, and freeze mixture in ice cube trays.  You can dry cilantro by tying stalks together into bunches (ideally, a bunch should contain no more than 5 – 10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hanging in dry, warm (not humid),well-ventilated spot away from direct sun.  Ideal temperature for drying is around 68 F.   If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing air holes in the bag.  Dry herbs for 1-3 weeks.  If they crumble when rubbed between fingers, they are ready to be taken down.  Store dried cilantro leaves in an airtight jar for up to one year.

Oregano

You can begin harvesting oregano once the  plants have reached about 6 ” tall.  Cutting stems all the way back to the ground will encourage more stems and a fuller plant.  Rule of thumb:  Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  Oregano leaves taste best just before the plant flowers.  Use only the leaves, discard the stems.  Remove any flowers as they develop by cutting off at ground level.  This will prevent the plant from forming seed and keep it more productive.

Storing/preserving Oregano:  Freeze branches on cookie sheets; strip off the leaves; put them into plastic containers; freeze.  Or mix finely chopped oregano with just enough olive oil to bind them together, and freeze mixture in ice cube trays. You can also dry oregano by tying stalks together into bunches (ideally, a bunch should contain no more than 5 – 10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hanging in dry, warm (not humid),well-ventilated spot away from direct sun.  Ideal temperature for drying is around 68 F.   If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing air holes in the bag.  Dry herbs for 1-3 weeks.  If they crumble when rubbed between fingers, they are ready to be taken down.  Store dried oregano leaves in an airtight jar for up to one year.

Thyme

Thyme grows slowly from seed and should be allowed a few months of growth, before harvesting.  Rule of thumb:  Do not harvest more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time.  Gather small clusters of stems and cut them with pruning shears or kitchen scissors. Try not to cut into the leafless portions of stems, as these are not as likely to regrow. Rinse and pat dry.  Strip off the small leaves. Use them whole, or chop them into smaller pieces.  The flowers on the thyme plant are edible.  You may remove the flowers if desired, but is not necessary.

Storing/preserving Thyme:  Freeze branches on cookie sheets; strip off the leaves; put them into plastic containers; freeze.  Or mix finely chopped thyme with just enough olive oil to bind them together, and freeze mixture in ice cube trays.  You can dry thyme by tying stalks together into bunches (ideally, a bunch should contain no more than 5 – 10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hanging in dry, warm (not humid),well-ventilated spot away from direct sun.  Ideal temperature for drying is around 68 F.   If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing air holes in the bag.  Dry herbs for 1-3 weeks.  If they crumble when rubbed between fingers, they are ready to be taken down.  Store dried thyme leaves in an airtight jar for up to one year.