Adventures in Urban Herbalism: Gardening – A Seedy Plot!

Posted on May 13, 2012. Filed under: Herbal Gardening, Urban Herbalism |

It’s been a while since I posted about my medicinal herbal gardening.   Sadly, I’ve gotten a late start since the yard I’m working with is shared with others in the building and this being the first year we had access to the yard we had to divvy up things.   I didn’t find out what my space was going to be until about four weeks ago.  But at last here it is,

Front View:

Plotting (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbals)

Side View:

Plotting (side view) (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbals)

It’s about 7 feet wide by 9 feet long and gets plenty of sun.

I spent a little time Earthing and connecting to the soil.

Connecting with the Soil (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbals)

Which disturbed the neighbors for some reason, but scaring the neighbors can be good for the soul.  😉

Once I knew what the space was like I decided what I wanted to plant where by looking at the recommended planting distances and estimated heights.  Taken from the book Homegrown Herbs: A Complete Guide to Growing, Using, and Enjoying More than 100 Herbs by Tammi Hartung (which is a great reference book!)

Give the space and conditions, here’s what I decided to try growing:

  • Calendula
  • California Poppy
  • Feverfew
  • Lemon Balm
  • Motherwort
  • Mugwort
  • Skullcap

I figured I’d do the Lemon Balm, Motherwort and Mugwort in containers partly because they tend to run a muck pretty easily and partly due to the heights of the last two so I can easily place them where they won’t block the sun of the other plants.  While the rest would go into the plot itself.

According to much of what I read, most of the seeds needed some cold to prep them (cold stratification) for two weeks.  Between the different books and sources there was a certain lack of agreement of the best way to do it (other than putting them in the fridge.)  In the end when I couldn’t decide which thing was best, I went with whichever seemed closest to what they’d find in nature.

I began channeling a little OCD and was putting one seed in each seedling cup as several sources recommended, but then as the seeds grew smaller I surrendered to it and if several fell in, then so be it.   🙂  Besides that is way more like nature.  (I did, just in case, set up 30 seedling cups when in the end I’m aiming for 15 plants.)

Everything thing I read warned you must label the seeds because you won’t remember what was where – with much talk about sticks, toothpicks, labels, etc.   All of which seemed quite excessive to me.  A seedling tray is a grid, just like a spreadsheet. So I just marked what was the front and entered it all in a spreadsheet.

Calendula Calendula
Lemon Balm
Lemon Balm
Mugwort Mugwort
California Poppy
California Poppy
California Poppy
California Poppy
California Poppy
California Poppy

See much easier!

While the seeds did their thing, I ordered some nice soil made by Vermont Compost Company.   So I could add another layer to the plot when the time comes and fill the containers for the three going there.  And these great Smart bags for the containers.

Two weeks ago, I took put the seedling tray on their warming mat, underneath their grow light and humidity dome and started waiting for the magic.    Within a couple of days a couple of California Poppies emerged gingerly and gently into the light.  Then a Skullcap and  by the end of the week the rest of the Skullcap.  Then a few more days and a Motherwort appeared and then nothing since…so I began to go into back up thinking, fretting and worrying.

Do I have to order seedlings?  I had lined up a back up place to order (Crimson Sage Nursery) seedlings from which carried all the ones I wanted.  I could probably harvest a few from around the neighborhood, etc.

I hadn’t written off the other seeds yet.  And more importantly,  I had to let go of a couple of things.

First was my attachment to what the books said.  I had become too caught up in the timetables offered by the seductive charts and tables, and my orderly notions that they would all be ready at the same time and all go outside together.  That’s human folly.  The seeds will grow when they chose (or not.)  Some will want to go in May and others in June.

And more importantly,  I may have wanted to plant certain ones, but some may be drawn more powerfully to come out than others.   The Skullcaps were amazingly venturesome, not only were the six you see, but since the seeds were so small I ended up with several seeds in each cup.  And I’ve been busily thinning them because each one seemed to emerge!   (Gee, I can’t image why  nervines would be so needed by someone who makes spreadsheets of a seedling tray….)

Seedlings Go! – (Image by Michael Blackmore – Mad Crow Herbals)

So maybe I’ll just end up planting what arrives into the world, when it arrives, because that it the way it should be.  🙂

One of the many reasons I chose this route instead of just buying seedlings.  There are so many learning opportunities at so many levels when you work with the plants rather than let someone else do it and buy their product.

More in the coming weeks as they develop.   🙂


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4 Responses to “Adventures in Urban Herbalism: Gardening – A Seedy Plot!”

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Your new garden looks great – I love planning what to grow in a new patch. Good luck with the seeds, they won’t have read the same books as you, so give them a chance to grow in their own time. Looking forward to reading more!

Thanks! It is promising to be an adventure.


This is exciting! I look forward to seeing all the plants in the bed. And your list has reminded me of some herbs I want to add to my herb garden.

Good luck with your new adventures in growing. Nice plant list…but more will be added…..

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