Friday, September 10, 2010

Growing Rosemary from Seed

When we were at Menards this spring to purchase seeds for our first vegetable garden, we used both logic (let's get bush varieties of some vegetables because we don't have any trellises yet) and whim (oh, look at the pretty picture on this seed envelope!) to select our seeds.  When it came to rosemary, I think it was Keith who said something to the effect of "rosemary would be good to have around, for cooking chicken and stuff."  So we bought a packet of rosemary seeds.

The seed packet instruction said to sow the seeds indoors 10-12 weeks before the average last frost date.  Well, it was already May, well past the last frost, but that shouldn't make a difference if I'm sowing seeds indoors, right?  So I sowed my seeds in little cups, and waited for them to germinate.  I waited, waited and then waited some more.

I don't actually remember how long it took before the first sign of life popped up from those seeds, but it took a really long time, at least 3-4 weeks.  And germination was sporadic.  As in, although some seeds started germinating at 3-4 weeks, the other seeds didn't germinate for at least 2 months.  The rest of them just didn't make it.  Later, I learned that even good rosemary seed stocks only have about 30 percent germination rates at best.  My seeds were probably very average, then, instead of very subpar that I accused them of being at the time.

June 25, 2010 (at 6 weeks)

After the seedlings got their second set of leaves, I transplanted them to bigger containers, anticipating that they would need the extra space.  Ha, if only I knew then what I know now.  At the rate that these seedlings have been growing, they probably could have stayed in their baby containers for the first year.

I scoured the internet to see what we were doing wrong with them and why they weren't growing faster.  Then I learned that rosemary is notoriously difficult to germinate and to grow from seed, and most websites talking about growing rosemary recommended growing them from cuttings or nursery plants.  All this just made me and Keith even more determined (read: stubborn) to keep growing our rosemary seedlings. 

August 8, 2010 (at 12 weeks)

As small as these seedlings were, they just gave off the most incredibly strong (and pleasant) rosemary aroma every time I touched their teeny leaves.  It's just pure torture waiting for them to grow big enough to harvest!

August 21, 2010 (at 14 weeks)

It's been almost four months now, and some of the seedlings have finally started putting on some noticeable growth.  I think the largest seedlings have almost doubled their height in the last month.  I say doubled, but it's still not that much when you're talking about seedlings that are only one to two inches tall.  We did learn one thing: water them very little.  When we kept the soil looking visibly moist, the seedlings seemed to be at a standstill.  When we cut back and only watered a little bit once a week or less, to a point where the soil looked very dry on top, the seedlings finally started to grow.

September 5, 2010 (at 16 weeks)

The rosemary seedlings were moved into our indoor grow box after we built it in July, and that's where they have been this whole time.  I meant to take them outside when they grew to a "decent size" but I don't think they are there yet.  At this rate, they will probably spend all winter in the grow box.  Even when these seedlings reach a decent size, I won't plant them in the ground because I don't think they can survive the winters in Indiana.  But hopefully we can transplant them into a good sized container someday, so we can have rosemary year-round.  

You know, for chicken and stuff.

*** Rosemary Update on April 13, 2011***


Dan said...

That is certainly an investment in rosemary! You should have some really nice plants by spring though. I love rosemary on potatoes. Skinned & par boiled whole first. Then baked in a hot oven with rosemary & salt on top, so good! Served with a little gravy doesn't hurt either :-)

Forgot to mention the handles on the coldframe are just to carry it around. It also has a hinged glass top that will go on once it gets chilly.

thyme2garden said...

Dan - I certainly hope you're right about having nice plants by spring. I've had rosemary on roasted potatoes and liked them. Your cooking method sounds great, too!

meemsnyc said...

I am trying to grow Rosemary from seed too. It's incredibly difficult like you mentioned. I'll never do it again! LOL.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that it matter when you sow the seeds if they are grown indoors and it is a perennial. for annuals it would be important.
Your seedlings look perfect!
All herbs are difficult to grow from seed, as far as I know. That is why I do it the easy way - I buy a plant. So far I had 3 rosemary plants and none of them survived the winter. This year I will try to cover it with some hay, so it just might survive.

Ribbit said...

Congratulations in even getting that far! I think you're beating the odds as it is. Don't give up.

GrafixMuse said...

Wow! No wonder I have never succeeded in growing rosemary. I usually purchase a plant and try to bring it inside in the winter. Your seedlings look good! Keep going:)

Kaytee said...

Wow. I give you credit, you have more patience than me! I would have thrown those things out long ago! Good luck. Hopefully you'll be able to harvest some springs next year.

Tiny Gardener said...

Its great that your rosemary from seed is actually growing! Last year, I anticipated the growth to be much quicker as well, and yeah.. It just didnt grow. Then I figured, well, it seems like a hardy sort of herb, and let it over winter outside along with a well established plant that was given to me as a gift. Not good. Make sure you keep those babies inside in the winter. I ended up buying a new plant this year and plan on bringing it inside into a sunny window this winter.

Greenearth said...

Love seeing seedlings grow.

thyme2garden said...

meemsnyc - one big incentive for me to do this is because I don't have to do it again if I'm successful this time. If rosemary weren't perennial, I definitely would not put up with this fuss!

* * * * *
vrtlarica - thank you! Actually, I found most herbs to be fairly easy and low-maintenance to grow from seed, with the exception of rosemary. The ones I've grown so far that I would put in the easy category are basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, sage, oregano and thyme. The perennials like oregano and thyme grow kind of slow the first year, but once established, they just grow and spread like weeds. I think sage and chives (I have garlic chives) are also perennials, but since this is my first year growing them, I don't know how they will be next year.

I hope your rosemary plant survive the winter with the hay cover!

* * * * *
Ribbit - thank you, and no, I will not give up!

* * * * *
GrafixMuse - thank you for the encouragement! It's too bad that we can keep these alive over winter in our areas.

* * * * *
Kaytee - thanks! I would've done the same, except that I know that rosemary is a perennial and if I can keep it alive over winter, I'll never (hopefully) have to jump through these hoops again.

* * * * *
Tiny Gardener - looks are definitely deceiving when it comes to rosemary. They look like they woule be easy to grow and be hardy, but they are neither! I will definitely keep these babies inside until next spring.

* * * * *
Greenearth - thanks! I also generally love to watch seeds germinate and seedlings grow. After four months, though, I'm now ready for some growth action!

Annie's Granny said...

You have a lot of guts, or you're a glutton for punishment. I haven't quite decided which, LOL! I bought my rosemary in a 4" pot, for $1.98. I sure hope it survives this, its second winter. Like vrtlarica, I'm going to snuggle mine in some straw or leaves, and keep my fingers crossed.

upinak said...

Oh Thyme.. Rosemerry is probably the slowest growing herb known on the face of the earth.

Bring your babies in during the winter. I know I will be doing it soon.

thyme2garden said...

Granny - it's probably my first time gardener's stubbornness. :) I hope your and vrtlarica's rosemary bushes survive this winter. Me, I'm going to be coddling my rosemary babes indoor this winter.

* * * * *
upinak - I know that now! :)

Stefaneener said...

You're so patient. I can't really say much because rosemary is something of a weed here. I'm thinking of offing mine, actually. It's too big, and it grows everywhere around here. I could fit another tree in that space instead. . .

thyme2garden said...

Stefaneener - I think rosemary grows really easily in CA. It does seem a bit (or a lot) ridiculous how much effort I'm putting into growing this darn thing, when it's so abundant in other places.

ducks4you said...

Wow-congratulations! I've never tried it from seed, but they recently talked about it on "Illinois Gardener." They said it's one of those that is best scarified--don't know haven't tried it. Since you live fairly close--about 3 hours due east of me--please remember to bring some inside, because every rosemary I left outside died during the winter. =(

Anna said...

Just found your blog, searching for some tips on how to grow rosemary from seeds.

I was also thinking it was all wrong (only got 3 out of 8-10 seeds, in almost 2 months of growing) and compared to all other herbs I'm growing from seed, the rosemary was quite disappoting :(

Now I'm happy to see it's not my fault! Just need to be patient :)

Thanks a lot, your blog is great!

Cheers from Germany!

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