Detailed Growing Information for Less Common Herbs
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Marian Lane
Posted on: February 9, 2002

I have a whole list of herbs I would like to attempt to start from seed in my zone 4 garden. We almost always have a nice blanket of snow to insulate things for perennials, but our typical last frost date is June 1, first frost Sept 1. I don’t see any information on germination, maturation, harvest time, etc. on the website or in this catalog. Is it somewhere I’m just not looking or do I have to buy a book in addition to the seed? I have several herbal books, but not one that specifically addresses this issue.

The seeds I would like are: Alkanet, Clary sage, Coltsfoot, Hops, Hyssop, Jobs tears Madder, Common Mallow, Marshmallow (Efurter), Mugwort, Patchouli, St. Johnswort (Elixir), Soapwort, Woad (chinese).

Unfortunately there is no single compendium of detailed growing information for all of the herbs you list. Certainly for the more commercially important herbs there are manuals that give much of what you are looking for, but for herbs such as soapwort, chinese woad, and madder, there is not much available.

You will have to consult several sources. You can start with our website at In the "ProGrowers" and "Resources for Growers" sections you will find information on St. Johnswort and hops. Most basic data such as hardiness, sun and moisture requirements, and seed counts per gram, can be found in the "Richters InfoCentre" in the Richters Herb Growing Infobase. Offline, you can consult Deni Bown’s excellent resource book, "Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses", the "Herb and Spice Production Manual" and "Herbal Harvest," and for an excellent general guide to progating herbs is Tom Debaggio’s "Growing Herbs from Seed, Cutting and Root" (all available from Richters). But even with all of these, you will not find all of the information you are looking for. Inevitably, it comes down to trial and error in some cases where there is little no information available.

At Richters we are slowly building a database of cultural data for all of our herbs. This project was begun three years ago by our horticulturist, Inge Poot. A small part of it is publicly available as the "Richters Herb Growing Infobase" mentioned earlier, but we plan to add much more data in the future, including much of what you are looking for.

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