Don't buy seed packets with mixed herbs. These "Lucky Packets" are more often than not a complete waste of time and money. And in most cases you won't be able to identify the herbs.
Rather invest your money in individual herb seed packets. Reseal the packets after opening and store them in a tightly sealed container in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator.
Use the following general sowing guidelines:
1. Fill your containers with a good seed growing medium and firm lightly. Ask your local nursery to recommend a good seed growing medium. I use Culterra products, but any reputable commercial growing medium will do. Or mix equal parts compost and potting soil.
2. Sprinkle the seeds evenly over the surface of firmed seed growing medium. Space larger seeds by hand. Cover lightly with sieved seed growing medium. Water thoroughly. Label each container or bed.
3. Keep the containers in a well ventilated, warm spot. You can keep them in full shade until they germinate. As soon as they germinate move them to a spot where they will get sun. Seedlings grown in hot, damp conditions are prone to "damping off." The roots of the seedlings rot and the plants collapse.
4. Never let your seed growing medium dry out, but be careful of over-watering. Invest in a good watering can with a fine spray for your seedlings. This will enable you to water slowly and thoroughly without "washing out" any seeds or seedlings.
5. As soon as the seedlings emerge feed them at least once a week with a diluted organic fertilizer. I use Nitrosol at half the recommended rate, but any brand will do. Ask your nursery for advice. Don't be tempted to buy a "special seedling fertilizer." You'll just waste money. Rather buy something that you can use for "normal feeding" as well.
6. Once the seedlings are large enough to handle, tap the container to loosen the compost. Lift the seedlings out, holding them by the leaves, not the stems.7. Plant the seedlings carefully in individual small pots filled with a good potting soil. Grow them on until they are large enough to plant in the garden, or to be moved to their final containers. Don't forget the labels, water and fertilizer.
Hardy annuals and biennials can be sown either in spring to flower the following summer, or in autumn for flowering the following spring. Good examples of annuals are basil, borage, chervil, chilli's, coriander, dill, nasturtium and rocket. Biennials include celery and parsley.
Short-lived, hardy herbs that are used in large quantities such as basil, chervil, parsley and rocket should be sown at intervals of 3-4 weeks from early spring to early autumn for a regular supply of young leaves.
Perennials should be sown in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Popular examples are chives, fennel, garlic chives, sage, salad burnet and sorrel.
If this is your first attempt, start with basil, borage, chives, coriander, nasturtium or rocket. They are quite forgiving and are ideal to gain some experience.
Next try your hand at anise, basil dark opal, chervil, dill, fennel, garlic chives, parsley, rue, sage, salad burnet, summer savory and sorrel.
Some herbs are easier to grow from cuttings than from seed. This doesn't stop seed companies from selling the seed and tempting you into buying them though. Popular examples are lavenders, mints, rosemary and thyme.
Here's a handy seed sowing shopping list:
Bags Seedling growing medium (or compost and potting soil)
Sowing containers (not smaller than 10cm)
Watering can with fine spray (at least 5 litre)
Organic fertilizer (such as Nitrosol)
Herb seed packets (basil, borage, chervil, coriander, nasturtium, rocket, etc.)
This article by Di-Di Hoffman appeared in Timeless Herb Secrets.