It’s my favorite time of year. The greenhouse at Rutgers Gardens is open! It opened a couple of weeks early this year, so I was able to get in to start some herb seeds earlier than usual.
There’s a little bit of marketing in my seed sowing schedule. If I sowed all of my seeds at the same time, some herbs would be small and others would be larger because different herbs germinate and/or grow at different rates. Customers at the sale want large plants so I sow some seeds much earlier.
A good example are the perennials. Perennials sometimes take a 2 to 3 weeks just to germinate. Then they grow more slowly than annuals. Annual plants are always in a hurry. They only have one growing season to grow to full size, bloom and then make seeds for next year. Perennial plants, which live as long as 7 to 9 years, are in less of a rush. Many of them don’t even bloom until their second year. To make sure the perennials that I grow from seed are a good size, I start them as soon as I can. This year, I sowed catnip and lovage seeds.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that certain basils grow much more slowly than the rest. Basils are tropical perennials which we grow as annuals here in NJ because they cannot survive our winters. The lemon, lime, Thai and especially the Holy basils all grow very slowly like most perennials. That means they are significantly smaller than the rest of the basils at the sale in May. Customers are hesitant to buy them. They think that there is something wrong with the plants because they are so small.
So I start those basil seeds at the same time that I start the perennial seeds. By the time May rolls around, they are more or less the same size as the other basils and customers don’t hesitate to buy them. Spring Flower Fair is Rutgers Gardens largest fundraiser so I want to sell as many herb plants as possible.