Growing Okra from Seed to Harvest Posted on 10 Jun 07:45 , 0 comments

Okra is a beautiful, heat loving plant that is oh-so-easy to grow from seed. Fun fact, Okra belongs to the same plant family as hibiscus. Check out the beautiful bloom on this Burgundy Okra below!

Okra is the seed pod of the Abelmoschus esculentus plant. It's filled with tiny white seeds and is sometimes called lady's fingers due to its long, slender, tubelike shape.

Okra is a fruit, though it is eaten as a vegetable. Okra can be cooked whole or sliced and can be prepared in a number of unique ways including frying, grilling, sautéeing, pan-roasting and even pickled.



Growing Okra from Seed

Prior to planting, soak the okra seeds in water for 12 to 18 hours to soften its hard seed coat. Soaking aids moisture absorption and germination.

Sow Okra seeds in warm soil approx 1/2 to 1 inch deep in coconut coir, seed starting medium or directly in the garden. If planting directly in the garden, space seeds 6-12 inches apart.

Okra seeds can germinate in as few as 2 days and as many as 12 days. Soil should be warm and moist but not soggy.

Plant okra in full sun and water regularly, especially during flowering and pod development.


Harvesting Okra

This heat loving crop is ready to harvest in as few as 60 days. Use scissors to harvest Okra pods from the stem. Pulling them off may damage the plant.

Start harvesting a few days after the okra blooms fade. At that point the seed pods should be soft and two to three inches long.  Harvest daily or every other day to avoid woody/tough pods.

Harvesting Okra Seeds

Okra seeds are very easy to harvest.  Very important: harvest seeds from your healthiest plant and make sure the pod is overripe.

Store harvested seeds in envelopes or jars. Label your storage containers with the variety of seeds and date harvested.



Roasted Okra is probably one of the easiest recipes. Roast them whole or slice.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

Arrange the okra slices in one layer on a foil lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. *Add additional spices to your liking* Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!


Growing Lemon Balm from Seed Posted on 9 Jun 12:30 , 0 comments

A common question I see asked in gardening groups is "what herbs can I plant to deter Mosquitoes?"  We'll have a complete list very soon but for now we're going to talk about Lemon Balm.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb in the mint family and is grown for it's culinary and medicinal properties. It is considered a calming herb.

The lemon scent in Lemon Balm can deter a few different pests including gnats and mosquitos.  As a companion plant, Lemon Balm grows well around Melons, Tomatoes, summer & winter squash, onions, fennel, basil, rosemary and sage.

Growing Lemon Balm from Seed

Sow seeds outdoors when soil is warm and temperature does not drop below 65°F. Can also be started indoors 4-6 weeks before planting out.  Prefers rich well-drained soil.


For shorter growing seasons, seeds can be starting indoors 2 months before your last frost date but will need a light.

Sow Lemon Balm seeds on the surface of your seed starting medium and gently scratch them into the soil. OR, broadcast the seeds over the soil and lightly cover with soil. Lemon Balm needs light to germinate.

Lemon Balm seeds should germinate in 5 to 10 days under optimal conditions, preferably when soil is 65 to 70 degrees F.

It is recommended to plant lemon balm in full sun but it will tolerate shade.

If planting indoors or in containers: Once seedlings have their second set of true leaves, you can thin them to one or two per pot or repot individual seedlings into larger containers. After all danger of frost has passed, seedlings should be set in the garden 12 to 18 inches apart.


Harvesting and Using Lemon Balm

There are so many useful herbs to grow in the garden.  If you've grown Lemon Balm and now you're wondering what to do with it, we can help!

To harvest, cut each stem just above a pair of leaves using a very sharp pair of scissors or pruning shears. You can cut the plant down to within six to eight inches of the soil.

Once you have harvested from your Lemon Balm, you can dry the leaves on the stems or removed the leaves to dry. TIP: stripping the leaves from the stems makes drying a little easier.  Place your Lemon Balm Leaves on a screen or drying rack in a well ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

Store your fully dried leaves in an airtight jar or container.

Using fresh leaves for tea:  chop leaves (2 tablespoons) and boil water. Mix the leaves and water in a mug and allow to stand 10 minutes to steep.

For tinctures and salves, use Lemon Balm fresh or dried depending on the recipe.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Stevia from Seed Posted on 9 Jun 09:49 , 0 comments

Stevia, Stevia rebaudiana, also called sweet leaf, flowering plant in the aster family (Asteraceae), grown for its sweet-tasting leaves. Stevia is native to Paraguay and Brazil, where people have used leaves from the stevia bush to sweeten food for hundreds of years. 

If you've seen the "zero calorie sweeteners" in the grocery store then you have probably already heard of Stevia.  Spoiler alert: homegrown Stevia is much different than store bought. Most stevia products you’ll find in the grocery store are heavily refined powders.

Stevia can be grown as a houseplant as well as a garden plant, which means you can plant seeds anytime for houseplant use.


Growing Stevia from Seed

Before planting your stevia seeds or transplanting, choose the right spot for your Stevia plant.  Stevia does not like to be disturbed once planted.

Stevia can be challenging to grow from seed. Stevia Seeds are tiny and germination can be inconsistent but usually take 10-21 days under optimal conditions.

Sow stevia seeds ¼ inches deep in coconut coir or seed starting medium.

Stevia likes to stay evenly moist, not too dry and not too wet. Make sure the soil drainage is excellent. Stevia likes full sun and does not require fertilizer if planted in fertile soil.  If you are unsure, a single watering of diluted liquid fertilizer after transplanting should be enough.

During the first 2 months of the growing season, pinch the tips of the plant every 3 weeks. This will result in a bushier, better-branched plant. If possible, pinch in the early morning.


Harvesting and Preserving Stevia

It is best to harvest Stevia before the plant starts to flower.  This can be around 40 days after transplanting. Harvest in the morning, when the plant's sugar content is highest. Hang branches in a cool, dry spot with plenty of ventilation and away from direct sunlight.

Make sure your stevia is completely dry before storing.  You can grind or blend the dried leaves to make your own powder or just use them whole.

A general rule of thumb is that 2 tablespoons of stevia powder equals 1 cup of sugar.

For tea: add 1 fresh leaf can be added to sweetener your herbal tea

Stevia Syrup Recipe:

2 cups of warm water

half a cup of dried stevia leaves

Put the mixture in a glass jar and let it steep for 24 hours. Strain the leaves from the mixture.

Cook the strained mixture on low heat, reducing it to a concentrated syrup. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Catnip from Seed Posted on 5 Jun 07:22 , 0 comments

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a common perennial herb plant. Native to the United States, and thriving in USDA zones 3-9. Catnip is pollinator friendly and said to repel deer.

Catnip grows to a height of 3 to 4 feet and has featherlike, light green foliage and small clusters of lavender flowers that grow on spikes.

A member of the mint family, catnip is also used in food and herbal remedies. For example, tea made from the leaves and flowers of Nepeta cataria is said to relieve coughs. The oil extracted from catnip plants is even used in natural mosquito repellents. And of course, our cats LOVE Catnip!

If you don't want this perennial plant to spread in your garden, it is best to plant in containers. Catnip can easily re-seed and take over a small garden plot.

Growing Catnip from Seed

For optimal germination, stratification is recommended for Catnip seeds. We have an in depth explanation of Cold Stratification in our article The Wonder of Seeds and Germination.

For catnip, seed sowing should occur after the seeds about been placed in a freezer overnight. After this period, allow the seeds to soak in water for a period of 24 hours. This will allow for easier and more uniform germination rates.

Once the stratification process is complete, sow in seed starting trays approx 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep.  Keep soil warm and moist.  Seeds should germinate in 5 to 10 days.

When your plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden, it is best to harden them off for a few days prior to transplanting.

Catnip plants do best in full sun to partial shade and are drought tolerant. Catnip can be watered regularly but does not do well in soggy soil. It's a pretty low maintenance plant and does not need to plant food/fertilizer.

Harvesting Catnip

Are you harvesting for your feisty feline? The best time for picking catnip leaves is when the plants are flowering, around mid-summer. This is when the compounds that cats love most are at peak levels in the leaves. Catnip leaves should be dry when you harvest so you minimize the risks of the harvest getting moldy.

Harvest stems instead of individual leaves. Catnip will continue to produce throughout the season.  Once you have harvested from your catnip plant, you can dry catnip leaves on the stems or removed the leaves to dry.  Place your Catnip Leaves on a screen or drying rack in a well ventilated area away from direct sunlight.

Store your fully dried leaves in an airtight jar or container.

For tea, mix 2 teaspoons of dried catnip leaves or flowers with 1 cup of boiling water. You can make your own teabags or use a tea ball strainer. "Brew" for several minutes. Optional: Add lemon juice and honey then stir and enjoy.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Broadleaf Sage from Seed Posted on 30 May 10:40 , 0 comments

Broadleaf Sage, Salvia officinalis, Adds flavor to many meats, stuffing, vinegars and more! Also Called Culinary Sage, Broadleaf Sage produces aromatic, green foliage that is used in for it's culinary and medicinal properties


Depending on your zone and growing methods, Broadleaf Sage is a perennial and can be divided every 3 years. Sage thrives in hot weather.

Sage seeds can take 3 weeks (or more) to germinate even under optimal conditions. Patience is a must! Plant seeds shallow (approx 1/8 inch deep) and keep soil warm and moist.


Sage prefers full sun and well-drained soil.  Avoid overhead watering once seedlings emerge. sage can be grown in ground or in containers.

Companion plants for Sage include Tomatoes, Thyme, Brassicas, carrots and strawberries.


Harvesting Sage

Prune the heavier, woody stems every spring. For optimal growth/production, remove flowers as they appear.

Sage’s flavor is best when fresh, but it can be stored frozen or dried.  Simply snip or pinch off leaves to harvest. Sage leaves can be harvested and used fresh, stored in the freezer or dried for future use.

Some cooks blend the leaves with oil, pack the ground mixture into ice cube trays to freeze, and then transfer the cubes to a container.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Sweet Marjoram from Seed Posted on 30 May 09:48 , 0 comments

Marjoram is an easy herb to grow and grows well in containers as long as the containers are at least 6 inches wide and have a drainage hole at the bottom. Marjoram can be used in many different culinary dishes such as salads and mixed in with vegetables. This versatile herb combines well with garlic, onions, thyme, basil, and bay leaves.

Sweet Marjoram seeds are tiny!

Plant seeds shallow (about 1/8 inch). Keep soil moist but not soggy. Germination can take 14 to 21 days under optimal conditions.

Sow seeds outside after your last frost date.  To get a head start, plant indoors under lights 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date.

Whether you direct sow or transplant, Sweet Marjoram enjoys fertile, well drained soil and direct sunlight.

Harvesting Sweet Marjoram

Harvest marjoram when ball-like tips appear at the ends of the stems.  When the plant starts to bloom, cut plants back close to the ground to stimulate a new flush of growth

Leaves can be easily air-dried for later use, but this herb is at its most delicious when freshly harvested.


If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Caraway from Seed Posted on 30 May 08:56 , 0 comments

Are you ready to expand your herb garden?

Caraway Seeds are a popular "spice" added to soups, stews, roasted potatoes and even cheese dips. Besides the seeds, caraway leaves are sometimes used as an herb, both fresh and dried, adding them to salads, soups and stews much like parsley. Caraway roots can be eaten similar to parsnips.

From Mary's Heirloom Seeds:

Caraway grows best in full sun, in a well-drained soil which is high in organic matter with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Seed can be sown in spring or early autumn. Caraway should always be direct seeded as seedlings do not transplant well.

Carum carvi  (Apiaceae —carrot family)

Caraway is a biennial herd that grows well in Zones 3 to 11. Caraway can tolerate both hot and cold weather and usually produces seeds in it's second year.  Caraway flowers in spring and early summer of the second year on 2-foot stems.


Growing Caraway from seed

Caraway can be planted in full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Caraway seeds germinate in 5 to 14 days under optimal conditions.  Sow caraway outdoors in spring or autumn. For an early start, sow caraway in spring as early as the soil can be worked, about the date of the average last frost.

Sow seeds 1/4 deep and keep soil moist.

Caraway does not transplant well so it is best to sow outdoors if possible.


Companion planting with Caraway

Once in bloom, the plants will attract many species of predatory insects to control pest species. Plant near any crop that suffers from caterpillars (such as Brassicas) or aphids (such as peas).

If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Calendula from Seed Posted on 25 May 18:09 , 0 comments

Calendula (Calendula Officinalis) flowers are daisy-like and come in colors of orange or yellow with single or double rows of petals. The genus name comes from the Latin word “calendae”, which means “the first day of the month” as it flowers all year round.

Also called Pot Marigold, Calendula grows quickly from wild flower seed, blooms heavily, and then dies with the first heavy frost. It will grow in all regions of North America. Calendula is very easy to grow from seed.

Calendula is grown to attract pollinators and for it's medicinal uses.


Direct sow Calendula flower seed into prepared seed beds after all danger of frost has passed in the spring. Lightly cover the flower seeds with peat moss, and sow 6 seeds per foot. Thin to 8 - 12 inches apart.

Seeds can germinate in as few as 7 days and plants blossom 6 to 8 weeks later.

Indoor or containers:

Sow Calendula seeds seeds in cell packs or coconut coir pellets, press into soil and lightly cover. Kept at 70F, germination averages 7 - 14 days. 

Calendula prefers full sun, moderate water, and almost any soil with good drainage will work. Calendula flowers are long-lasting cut, and they attract bees and butterflies.

Once harvested, Calendula petals can be used to make your self-care products. I make Calendula Infused Oil.


Harvesting & Drying Calendula

You can harvest just the petals to use or the entire flower. The petals can be used in your homemade products and seeds can be saved for your next planting.

The best time to harvest Calendula is in the morning when the flower is fully open and dry. Snip off the flower head at the top of the stalk with scissors is the easiest way to harvest calendula. Once you harvest Calendula, lay out on a drying rack or screen in a well ventilated area and away from direct sunlight.

Make sure your Calendula is completely dry before storing. Store dried calendula in glass jars with airtight seals.


Recipe: DIY Calendula Infused Oil


VIDEO: Making Calendula Infused Oil




If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Yarrow from Seed Posted on 25 May 17:38 , 0 comments

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Is a perennial herb often grown for it's medicinal properties.  Some consider it a weed.  Some gardeners grow Yarrow to attract pollinators.

From Mary's Heirloom Seeds:

Grows 2 to 4 feet tall. Beautiful when used as a dried flower. When young and tender, the fresh early spring leaves of Yarrow can be finely chopped and added to salads, soups, meat dishes, stir-fry and cooked beans. 
Also popular as an herb; used for colds, fevers, and for healing wounds

Yarrow is drought tolerant and can grow in both hot and humid climates.


From seed, Yarrow usually germinates in 14 to 21 days. Sow in containers or 6 cell germination trays for best results.  Lightly cover seeds and keep soil warm.  You can speed up germination by covering seed trays with a clear lid to maintain heat and moisture.

Tor transplant:

Plant in spring, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. (compost is optional with yarrow)

Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

Yarrow grows until freezing conditions set in. Plant hardiness zones 3-9.

The leaves, flowers and root can be used for medicinal recipes.  Yarrow is a fantastic addition to any herb garden!

If you have additional questions, please feel free to ask!

Growing Basil from Seed to Harvest Posted on 3 Jul 14:22 , 1 comment

Basil is a favorite for most home gardeners and homesteaders.  It's easy to grow and usually prolific.  At Mary's Heirloom Seeds, we offer quite a few unique varieties such as Dark Purple Opal Basil, Thai Holy Basil and even Lemon Basil.

Seed Starting Basics

Sow Basil seeds indoors 2-4 weeks before your last frost day OR sow seeds outside when soil is warm and temperatures do not drop below 65 F during the day.  Seeds should be sown less than 1/4 inch deep in moist, well-drained soil.

Basil seeds usually germinate in as few as 5-7 days.  Make successive sowings of basil seeds for continuous summer harvests.

Licorice Basil


Caring for Basil

From seed to harvest, Basil is ready in as few as 45 days.  Basil can grow in full sun as as little as 6 hours of sun. Space Basil plants about 12 inches apart or interplant basil between larger plants such as Tomatoes and Peppers.

Water basil when soil is dry to the touch and try to water soil and not leaves.  In warmer months, Basil will need more water.

Basil is pretty pest tolerant but you might see the occasional flea beetle marks or leaf miners.  Aphids can usually be sprayed of with a water hose.


Dark Purple Opal Basil grown in a container


Companion Planting with Basil

Plant with tomatoes, peppers, squash, oregano, asparagus and other herbs.  Basil can be planted with just about every veggie.

Basil is said to repel thrips, flies and mosquitoes.

Thai Holy Basil


One healthy, well pruned Basil plant can produce around 1/2 cup of leaves every week.  If you're limited on space, there are even dwarf varieties such as Dwarf Greek Basil.

Once mature, harvest basil leaves regularly to promote healthy growth.  It is usually recommended to harvest from the top of the plant, using scissors or fingernails.  Try to cut as close to the stem as possible.

Pinching off flowers is recommended to keep a continuous harvest all summer long.  Flowering is also called "bolting" and the plant will put forth more energy for flower production.  If you wish to save the seeds, allow your plants to bolt.


Ready for Recipes?

BASIL LEMONADE (text version




Homegrown Basil Walnut Pesto

Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Basil


If you have specific garden or seed related questions, please contact us via email at MARY@MARYSHEIRLOOMSEEDS.COM
Happy Planting!

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