Starting Herbs with the Help of a Gro-Mat – Anise Hyssop

The Gro-Mat®™, a germination heat mat, insures your success in starting herb seeds indoors.

To germinate, most seeds need gentle heat from below.  The Gro-Mat®™ heating pad provides the gentle bottom heat that your seeds require.  There are so many factors impacting your successfully growing herbs from seed.  It is therefore a relief that one of those factors, the necessary bottom heat, can be provided by the safe and effective Gro-Mat®™.

One of the herbs that I have successfully grown from seed indoors using the Gro-Mat®™ is Anise Hyssop.

Anise Hyssop is a licorice scented, perennial herb which has medicinal and culinary uses.  Its purple flower spikes also make it a beautiful ornamental plant in your garden.  Anise Hyssop is in my garden and I have used its flowers to add the color purple and  natural, licorice fragrance to Potpourri.

Before you sow herb seeds, there are some gardening terms with which you should be familiar.

•    “Cold treat” see definition of “stratification” below.

•    “Damping” means a soil disease caused by a number of different organisms.  It will cause herb seeds to rot or herb seedlings to collapse.  To prevent this from occurring, you must plant your herb seeds in a sterile medium and avoid over-watering your seedlings.

•    “Germination” means the process in which a plant emerges from a seed and begins growth.

•    “Medium” means an environment in which something may function or flourish.  In starting  herb seeds, it means that you sow your seed in material that will help the seed to germinate.  The medium must be clean, that is, without organisms that would prevent germination or the healthy growth of the seedling.

•    “Plant starter cells” are plastic, box-like inserts that fit inside a propagation tray.

•    “Prick out” means carefully removing small seedlings from your growing medium into another container to continue growth.

•    “Propagation tray” is a plastic, boxlike structure for holding packs of plant starter cells.  It is also called a seed flat.

•    “Seed” means the grains or ripened ovules of plants used for sowing, containing an embryo and capable of germination to produce a new plant.

•    “Seed flat” or “flat” is another name for a propagation tray.

•    “Seedling” means a plant, especially one grown from seed.

•    “Stratification” means the process used for making seeds with a very hard shell ready for germination.  It generally requires keeping the seeds cold and moist for periods of time.

•    “Thinning” means clipping off weaker or crowded seedlings, giving the remaining seedlings enough room to grow.  

•    “True leaves” are the second set of leaves that emerge from the seedling.  

Some herb seeds need the whole cycle of the cold of the winter to the warmth of the spring to take place in order to germinate.  In those cases, your “cold treatment” of the seeds, which mimic natural conditions, is necessary. Anise Hyssop seeds must be “cold treated” first.  This can be done in your refrigerator.

I use cut sphagnum moss as my “medium” although you can use other commercial seed starting mixes.  I use “plant starter cells” inside a “propagation tray,” and if more than one seed has germinated inside the cell, I “thin.”  You can also use the “flat” itself and when seedlings appear, “prick out” the strongest seedlings.

I start the Anise Hyssop seeds six weeks (42 days) prior to the anticipated last frost date, putting the propagation tray on top of the Gro- Mat®™.

The seeds germinate quickly.  I then put the seedlings under lights and as soon as the Anise Hyssop seedlings have their “true leaves,” I transplant them into peat pots with soil, still keeping them indoors.

About 40 days later, the Anise Hyssop seedlings, then having 2 inches of growth, go outside to harden off and several days thereafter, are planted in the ground or in containers.  My records show an excellent germination rate which I attribute to using the Gro-Mat®™ as my herb heating mat.

The Gro-Mat®™ is designed with the heating coils inside a rubber mat with metal bars above the mat.  Therefore, your propagation tray is not placed directly on a contained heating element.  The Gro-Mat®™ does not directly heat the plastic of the propagation tray, but heats the air sandwiched between the mat and the bottom of the tray.

The Gro-Mat®™ is a very effective way to warm the medium holding your seeds and emerging seedlings.  It is available in two sizes to accommodate your available indoor space, the 14 by 21 inch Gro-Mat®™ or the 18 by 36 inch Gro-Mat®™.

The best part of owning a Gro-Mat®™ is your knowing that you have the proper and effective tool to start seeds indoors.  The Gro-Mat®™ is a tool that allows you to enjoy herb gardening close to six weeks before you would otherwise be able to enjoy your herb garden.  And, coaxing herb seeds into herb seedlings and nurturing herb seedlings while it’s cold outside sure is an antidote to lingering late winters in the North Country.