Before you grab the scissors and start snipping herbs for tonight's Hamburger Helper, pay attention to these important tips.
Protect Your Tender Herb Seedlings
- Seed starts need to be introduced to the outdoors gradually. Start them outside in their starter pots on a sunny morning for a couple of hours. Repeat the process every day, lengthening the time outdoors over the course of a week to ten days.
- Never plant your new herbs in the garden until after the threat of frost for your area has passed for the season. If you're not sure when that will be, call your local Cooperative Extension Office for free advice and guidance. There's a link on the left pane of this blog. It's down a ways, so keep scrolling.
- Use a good identification method for labeling your seedlings. This sounds really simple, but it's not. Paper labels get wet and the ink runs, leaving you wondering which plant is parsley (that needs a deep hole) and which one is tarragon. Writing the herb ID on a disposable knife, in permanent ink, works well. It's my first year doing it, and I'm impressed. I always have knives left over from those plastic picnic silverware combo packs anyway.
- Don't cover seedlings with a protective plastic lid if you're going to put them out in the sun. If it starts to warm up, you'll cook them -- trust me. Take off any protective cover, and keep an eye on your tender plants for signs of drooping and stress. If they look droopy, take them indoors or put them in the shade.
- Keep starts uniformly moist, but don't water them from the top if you're putting them outside. Sunlight can burn the leaves, and you could be inviting mildew.
- When you install plants in the garden, be aware of their potential size and height. Give them plenty of room and try planting taller plants behind shorter ones. Light requirements are important, so peruse the garden ahead of time to find the spots that get the best light -- and use those for the appropriate herbs.
- If you live in an area that gets pretty hot, consider mulching your herbs to help the soil retain moisture. The same goes for potted herbs on your patio or deck.
- Dig a big enough hole for your herbs to allow the roots to spread out. If your soil is poor (you know who you are), a bigger hole will also allow for better drainage or water retention via amendments, whatever your garden extreme happens to need.
- When you set your plants in place, tamp the earth around the roots well. Roots exposed to pockets of air in the soil will die. A few good pats with your palm should do it.