Drying Herbs

In my post in 2009 about drying herbs I mentioned you could quickly dry herbs with fans, and in fact air movement is important to prevent mold, but that slow drying often brings out the full flavor.  I want to expand on this, due to an E-mail I got from a reader.  He suggested that the slower the herbs dry, the better for the flavor.  He recommended putting the herbs in a Tupperware container after 2-3 days with the lid on but NOT sealed.  Open the lid in a couple hours, if the herbs seem wetter, keep the lid off.  After a day or two, put the Tupperware lid on tight on one corner (always make sure the herbs feel dry when doing this, if they feel wet, you will have mold).  Open the lid a couple times a day and feel the herbs.  When they are completely dry (I keep a stem in with them and when it snaps easily, and does not bend, the herbs are dry) seal the lid and store the herbs
Read my post on Herb Storage
 I concur with this slow drying.  In fact, even though plants are technically dead when you cut them, there are physiological reactions for many hours, and chemical reactions for days.  Once the water content becomes very low, most chemical reactions and all biological ones will stop.  By slow drying, you allow for the molecules in the plant cells to interact completely.  Now, the fun thing for me about biology is that there are always exceptions.  So, some plants you might want to dry quicker than others.  The best way to test this is with a scientific experiment.  Have two or more types of drying techniques with not just the same herb, but the same plant.  
Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


Create an Environment For Fast Germination and Maximum Seedling Growth.

Now that fall is upon us, and for most of us the outdoor growing season is done, or will be done soon, it is time to concentrate on our indoor garden.   I always encourage my readers, and students to try new things in a scientific manner.  This can be done if you are growing multiple plants in multiple containers, simply treat a group of pots one way, and compare them to the group(s) that you treated differently.  Hydroponic systems that share a reservoir do not lend themselves to this type of experiment.  However, with careful notes and measurements, you could compare one growing season to another where you tried something new.

With seed germination, you want to create a warm, moist environment.  I’ve hear many a gardener say to put germinating seeds on top of the refrigerator because this is a warm spot in the house.  That is free, and ok, but the AgroMax Heat Mats sold by HTGSupply.com are perfect for increasing germination.  You do not want hot, that can actually kill your tender young seedlings, so never use an electric heating pad, or put the seedlings in an area above 90F.  The heat mat heat raises the temperature a few degrees above room temperature.  You can use any medium for your seedlings, but as I’ve said, I really like the starter plugs.  You can also put seeds on a moist paper towel in a baggie and put the baggie on the heat mat
    With the heat mat, you should see seed germination in a few days.  If you are using the starter plugs, or if you put your seeds in soil etc. to germinate them, you have a week or two before you need to do anything.   I would keep the light on 24/7 for the first few weeks to maximize growth.  After a month, I switch to 18 on 6 off until I induce flowering.  If you are doing your germination on a paper towel you need to get the plant into the medium asap as soon as you see the root coming out of the seed.  There are no nutrients on the paper towel, and I have found you get mold if you do use fertilizers on the paper towel.  Moreover, the small roots are delicate, and if you break off the root tip when you plant your seedling, you just killed you plant, or at best set it back a week or two in growth.
   You will want to keep the light a bit higher (1 foot or so) for seedlings than mature or flowering plants.  Too much light can stress out a young tender seedling.  After a week, you should see growth and you can lower the light and start to use fertilizer (I usually recommend ½ strength for the first 1-2 watering’s.)  You are well on your way to a successful growing season indoors…
Good Growing,
 Dr. E.R. Myers