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Growing "difficult" medicinal herbs from seed  RSS feed

 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 876
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Sometimes it is cheaper you buy a herb plant, but most of the time it is not available (in Australia). We can import many seeds
for herb plants though, but more often than not I have no luck:
1.) In some instances, I think that seeds sold are simply not viable, some seed companies are better than others.
2.) My suspicion is that often the sow before date is too general and short lived seed expire before that date (angelica)
3.) Some seed need cold stratification, but is my fridge cold enough? Or otherwise if I sow in autumn does it get cold enough with some dips under 0 C or minus five at most? Do I put a bit of ice from the freezer on top of it?
4.) slugs
5.) it is difficult to keep seed moist at all the time if they need a year or more to germinate.
6.) Are there germination enhancers like herb teas which I put in the water?
7.) I bought seeds for example of mountains papaya, which did not come up. Maybe these tropical seeds were not viable when I bought them because tropicals seeds have generally a short viability?
8.) Do acid loving seeds for example need a special seed raising mix? Or is the ph not important for the germination? How doe you mix your acid potting mix?

What are your experiences? Which companies do really sell viable seeds and which don't?
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I order herb seed from Richters and Horizon Herbs and love them both. I think the quality and freshness of their seed is just fine, although some are more difficult to start.
-I do start them in flats in the house...out in the gardens is just to uncertain whether I would ever find them again and too difficult to control temperature and moisture.
-I am having difficulty with andrographis, which needs scarifying with sandpaper...I am not sure if I am sanding too much or not enough but have yet to germinate a seed and then again, it could be the temperature.
-The comfrey had about fifty percent germination....needs constant moisture and warmth.
-The hyssop must have had 100% germination though and also the borage and sage and burdock. I don't usually buy many herb seeds but this year I had an urge to fill in a lot of gaps.....
-Angelica does take really fresh seed to germinate...i grew it for a few years but it did not like our hot summers.
-I finally have some good surviving lovage plants...i found the seed easy to start in a flat...kept moist uncovered on the surface of the soil but again summertime here stressed and sometimes killed the plants.
-I think you are correct in that a lot of times the instructions on the seed packets are incomplete or too generic. I often wish they would give optimal temperatures for germination...although there is usually a lot of information available on line now.

I'm glad you started this topic!
 
Zach Muller
gardener
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Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I also buy seeds from horizon and botanical interest, both are high quality seeds.

I have never been able to germinate feverfew seeds, so I ended up buying a plant. It's super easy to propagate once you have a plant, and now I have three. When I asked the lady at the garden store she said she had never been able to germinate it either and got the plants from another greenhouse.

-Judith loveage is one plant I have been after for two years now. I actually have germinated in once or twice, but it never makes it into a full plant.i am planning to order fresh seeds and get it going this season, but my location is already seeing temps in the 80s. Do you think it will last its lifespan at your location or be scorched out eventually by a heat wave?

one good thing about botanical interests, on the inside of the seed pack there are detailed instructions and facts about the exact variety, which for some seeds is hard to find.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5727
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Zach, I have good luck germinating feverfew...and end up with plants to give away and way more than we can use for such a bitter herb...My seed was from Richters and I grew in a flat where I could baby it.

The problem I have had with Lovage , besides the heat, is a leaf miner...I think the same as a celery leaf miner...that shows up over the summer, does its damage and opens the plant up to some sort of blight. This last summer besides having guineas in the garden eating bugs I was able to 'disguise' the lovage in a bed of mustards and turnips and I think that kept the leaf miner fly confused...maybe....any way three plants are back this spring. I never know anything for sure I like it so well that i am willing to keep trying. I know others here who have huge plants...4-5 feet tall that keep multiplying. You might want to provide shade...I think it does OK in part shade.

good to know about ' Botanical interests'...I will check out their web site.
 
Steven Feil
Posts: 242
Location: South Central Idaho
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I have a method that I use that I learned from a post about doing germination tests.

You need paper towels, zip lock bags, seeds and water.

Cut the towel to fit the bag with the towel folded in half. Lay the towel flat and get one half of the towel wet. Put the seed on the wet half. Fold the dry part over and gently pat. This should seal the seed in the towel. Add a little more water if needed.

Open the bag and insert the seed package into it and seal. You can now temperature stratify anyway needed. Pot in the fridge or freezer in called for. If a seed needs light to germinate the towel is transparent enough to allow this. I am not 100 percent successful, but it sure does help.

It helps if you catch the germination as early as possible before transferring to potting media. The roots do have a tendency to want to grow through the layers of two ply towels. I am trying some single ply to see if it works better.

I have done this successfully with calendula, false unicorn (!!! YEAH !!!), hyssop, elecampane, milk thistle and several others. I have a few first timers in bags right now. Oh, larger seed works better than smaller seed. Not because it does not work, it is just easier to transfer the larger seed to their new homes.

Oh, one last thing: Horizon Herbs is OFF of my seed purchasing list. I have had marginal customer service from them. I recently complained about seed I was doing the above with and noticed that ALL the seed was EMPTY. No germ what so ever. When I complained, Richo took offense since I had complained previously about some of the items I had gotten. I am not sure what part of CUSTOMER SERVICE they do not understand.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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I've only done this sort of thing with really precious seed and when I am short on potting soil and want to make sure every seed that goes into a container (something I need to transplant in my climate) is viable.

I take a pie pan full of sand. I soak the sand in water. I put the seeds on the sand. I place a moist paper towel over the seeds/pan. I use a heating pad under the pie pan (which is necessary for the seeds I am germinating). I check this set up two or three times a day and water 4 ounces or so whenever it looks like it needs it. I peek under the paper towel and when I see a seed (or seeds) sprouting I take a spoon and I scope out the seed and sand and put it into a pot. So far I've had very good results with this method.
 
Steven Feil
Posts: 242
Location: South Central Idaho
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That is a GREAT idea, Landon. Unfortunately I cannot rely on my wife to keep an eye on things that closely. The paper towel thing I do keeps things going.

I did just get an idea that might help me get better results and that is to make some sort of BROOD BOX device for keeping the seeds warm. Hmmmmmm, that may be the key missing in my failures.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 876
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I had problems with andrographis too. Then I sowed some seeds and feverfew was one of them, discarded the mix to find them later in the garden. I cannot tell if it was from the seeds. There are conflicting information about cold stratifying and no one tells you at what degree. I also found that some herbs cannot be started in a seedbed, they don't take to be transplanted but this is never mentioned on the packet. I also has problems with tomorrow leaf, I planted (twice) a lot of healthy seedlings in the garden, but they disappeared in no time at all without a sign of slug damage. I did not have luck with pawpaw, schizandra , american ginseng and ginkgo.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5727
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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The flats I use are made from 1"X4" pine with a piece of what is called hardware cloth on the bottom...I line with paper before adding soil. I make them to fit whatever tray I have that will hold water in order to water from the bottom. I use a couple old heating pads for bottom heat and a piece of glass across the top to hold in moisture until the seed sprouts...then I use a fan for air circulation to prevent damping off and usually have them in the warm room in our house with a shop light and some window light. This does work great for most things. The flats are deep enough that the plants can stay a while until I transplant. You are right though, some don't like transplanting, but I find even with a long tap root I can move them carefully with a lot of soil and they survive.
My potting soil is always homemade....some variety of sifted compost, leaf mold and sand...this year I splurged and bought a big bag of perlite, though to try to lighten it up a bit...first time ever for that
I love starting things from seed...and I know that I wouldn't have a lot of the herbs that I do without using the methods that I have....I don't really like using the extra electric stuff...It is for a relatively short period of time compared to the life of the herbs in the garden though.
I am trying andrographis for the third time, were you able to get any to sprout?...and astragalus is next. They both should grow here if I can ever get the plants to maturity. Astragalus is a perennial and I think I can start it outside when it warms up here,,,even then I think I will start in a flat so I don't lose it in the garden.
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 876
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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My seed trays are the Styrofoam boxes from the greengrocer, I seed directly into them. Looks horrible but is so handy. I think astragalus is autumn sown. I have to look into my garden, I am not good at keeping track, I wonder weather this herb does like transplanting at all.
No luck list:
akebia,
goumi
aralia (various)
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
ephedra (died maybe it is too wet here)
Filipendula ulmaria
mahonia
Passiflora caerulea
Sambucus
Some prefer to stratify in the fridge ( I get mold very easily) and some outside.
 
Steven Feil
Posts: 242
Location: South Central Idaho
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andrographis

What is your purpose for growing this plant? My quick wiki look leaves me to believe that there may be easier plants to grow or wildcraft.
A new thread about this propably would be in order.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5727
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Steven Feil wrote:andrographis

What is your purpose for growing this plant? My quick wiki look leaves me to believe that there may be easier plants to grow or wildcraft.
A new thread about this propably would be in order.


The herb was recommended for a treatment for Rocky Mountain Tick Fever along with astragalus and a few others. The first two were ones that I thought I could grow easily here...I have a lot of other herbs growing but none (even echinacea) that would, I think, work as well for tick fever. Now, though, it is becoming stubbornness and the challenge that makes me keep trying to grow them


EDIT...to add a link to herbal remedies for tick diseases
andrographis was recommended in the book that i mention in my first post.
 
Chris Badgett
pollinator
Posts: 289
Location: Whitefish, Montana
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This is a perfect question for Michael Pilarski.

He's quite the herbalist ... both wild and cultivated.

You could contact him through his website http://www.friendsofthetrees.net/
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5727
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Thanks, Chris...I have been meaning to read more of Michael P.'s work...wonderful information.

...at the same time I finally looked at Richter's online site and found more information about growing from their seeds. I had only looked at their paper catalog and seed packets until now. RICHTERS
 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 876
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I think many people included me simply want to have rare plants in their garden. Only then you look how you could use them!
I read about a method to bag the seeds like for the fridge, but then instead of putting them into the fridge putting them into a vermin proof container and wintering them, I will have a try. The advantage is that there are fluctuations in temperate which some seeds need and that you still can put your mild in the fridge.
 
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