Monday, March 14, 2016

Growing English Lavender From Seeds


I'm attempting to grow English Lavender from seed, because I would like to plant a lot of them around our house - approximately 170 - and the seedlings are relatively expensive.  Also, as my friend Jason R. pointed out, I'm Mark Watney'ing - I'm inspired by the book The Martian that I read over the summer.

The main instructions came from the "growing information" section on the Burpee catalog page for Lavender, English:  http://www.burpee.com/herbs/lavender/lavender-english-prod000476.html but I also read through several other web pages, see references below.

Components / Equipment:
  • 1 packet of English lavender seeds from Burpee (1000 seeds)
  • 3 seed starter kits from Burpee (like these) each containing
    • 2 plant trays with 36 seed cells each (72 total)
    • 1 pellet super growing cube per seed cell
    • watering tray that holds both plant trays
    • watering mat
    • transparent plastic greenhouse cover
  • 2 seed heating mats
  • 2 fluorescent lamps
Following the directions on the seed starter kit, I soaked the watering mats in warm water (I used our bath tub):
watering mats from 3 Burpee seed starter kits
I placed them in the watering trays, and then brought in 2 plant trays, placing them in one of the watering trays.  I added ~2 ounces of warm water to each seed cell, and watched the super growing cube literally grow in 1-3 seconds to fill the cell:

The finished tray:
2 seed trays with their super grow cubes expanded to fill the cells
I repeated this for the additional trays, had a slight mishap with the second, but didn't lose too much material.  When each was done I put it on top of the seed heating mats:
6 seed trays in 3 watering trays on 2 seed mats (216 cells total)
I poured out a small amount of the lavender seed from the packet and was surprised at how small each seed is:
two English Lavender seeds next to a penny for context/scale
I couldn't really pick them up using my fingers directly, so I used a pair of tweezers to transfer them into the seed cells.  Given that it was actually hard to get them in to the cells - they would sometimes stick to the tweezers etc. - I decided to put 2 seeds in each cell.  I couldn't find a recommendation online for how many should go in each cell, but I felt that 1 per cell was likely to have a lot fail due to me not getting a seed into the cell properly.  If multiple ones sprout in a cell and they crowd each other, I might transfer to other cells that don't have a sprout or elsewhere entirely.  The various instructions called for them to be buried 1/8" to 1/4" in material, but I was concerned that trying to do that I would just lose the seed - accidentally transfer it to an adjacent cell or lose it entirely, so I didn't try to do that.  After filling a tray with seed, I put the greenhouse cover on, when I was done it looked like:
greenhouse covers on, condensation already forming
Condensation started to form on the covers almost immediately, I take that to be a good sign that
  • heat is permeating the watering tray
  • moisture is not escaping
I setup fluorescent lights over the trays, with a timer to have them come on 16 hours per day (3 AM to 7 PM).

I'll update here for progress on the seedlings, and then write additional posts for the next major stages (e.g. transferring to pots if needed, conditioning & planting outside etc.)

additional references

growing from seed

general about growing lavender

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