Herbs For Northern Italy
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Susan von Arx
Posted on: May 04, 2004

We already ordered 6 plug trays with more than 120 plants/each some years ago. Now we moved to Northern Italy (Piemonte) and we are trying to build up a new future. On the one hand we will rent some houses to guests during summer time. On the other hand we also have to work with 12’000 square meters of ground. Half of this we will use for fruit trees, that we have already ordered. As we like herbs very much, we have the intention to plant those on the other 6,000 square meters. As we do not have that much practice and we do not have that much time to spend for the plants, we would like to have some advice from you. Could you recommend some plants which are easy to handle in this area?

You did not say whether you want the plants for your own and your guests’ fresh consumption, or for sale as fresh herbs, or to dry for the dried herb market.

I would suggest sweet basil, (with heat it is easy to germinate and grow) as long as you make sure you plant the right variety for your area- every town in Italy has its own variety and their taste buds are so well honed that they can tell the difference!

Oregano would be another obvious choice in the home of pasta, as it too is easy to grow and even the choicest varieties of oregano should be winter hardy in your area. It is of course possible that the maket is flooded with these herbs, but local inquiries will have to yield this sort of information.

Can we work with plug trays again, as we do not want to spend a fortune for all the plants?

Plugs are possible but they have to be grown on a medium specially approved for export to Italy. This process can take a few months for both the approval and the growing time. We cannot do this for small orders, but for larger orders of at least 10 trays, it is a possibility. If you are interested in pursuing this, please contact our commercial department for a quote. But before that you should contact your agricultural authorities for an importation permit which we will need to see before we can quote. You should specify on your application for the importation permit that the plants will be grown in a soilless medium.

How many plants would we need for the 6,000 square metres?

Most plants should be planted on 30 centimeter centers. You will therefore need about 65,000 plants, less if you put in walkways to weed and harvest.

Is there also a possibility with seeds?

I would strongly recommend it because of the cost. But your season may be so far advanced this year, that you will have to plant the seeds in nursery beds and plant out when they are good sturdy plantlets. The other advantage of nursery beds over direct seeding is that you need one fifth to one tenths the amount of seed required in direct seeding. Consult our web-site (www.richters.com) under "Commercial Growers" for tips on seeding rates and other great helpful suggestions.

Would it be a good possibility to choose lavender, sage, thyme, rosemary.... or are there better solutions?

Your choices are easy to grow from started plants, but lavender seed needs chilling to germinate well and rosemary needs 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) to germinate best -and it never germinates all that well. The other two are easy, even though some lots of sage germinate a lot more reluctantly than sweet basil or Greek oregano.

Is it recommended to work with some plastic in order to prevent weeds or other herbs from growing (those not seeded or planted)?

For your large area and hot summers, I think a heavy mulch would be better. Use hay or well-rotted manure -- the latter also fertilizes your soil. If you do use plastic as a mulch, make sure you cover it with a layer of organic mulch, to stop the sun from heating the soil so much you kill the adjacent herbs as well.

How much time does it take from the day we order to the day the plants will arrive here in Italy?

For plugs it takes at least three months as explained above. If you are ordering larger potted plants, then these can be shipped sooner, but they must be bare-rooted. Again, you will have to supply us with a copy of your importation permit, but in the case of the larger potted plants, you would specify bare-rooted plants on your application.

It also depends on the season. Now, in early May we have to ship out all the back orders of plants that accumulated during the winter, before we can ship new orders. We are usually caught up in early June. From then on, two to three weeks would be the time it takes to process, get an inspection from the Department of Agriculture and ship it to you by the fastest available means.

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