Frugal hacks: Growing herbs from seeds you find in the kitchen | #24CarrotDiet | herbal tea | gardening

Frugal Friday: Growing Herbs and Spices Without Paying for Seeds

Growing herbs is a great way to get into gardening – even if you don’t have much space. You can grow herbs in pots on your kitchen windowsill or out on the patio. If you have very limited space, try a fragrant hanging basket of herb plants for the back porch. A lot of herbs are so pretty that they also look great in your flowerbeds!

When I first started growing herbs, I bought started herb plants at the nursery for several dollars a plant. Later, I bought organic seeds from a seed catalogue that specializes in herbs. The price I paid back in the early 90s for those seeds would be almost $7.50 per packet today, with inflation. Even though prices are closer to $3 a packet today, it can add up. Growing herbs is like planting a garden to grow vegetables. Buying the seeds costs a fair bit of money!

Growing herbs for (almost) free: Use frugal hacks to create an inexpensive DIY herb garden | #24CarrotDiet
Did you know you can grow chamomile from tea bags?

 

If you want to be frugal when you start growing herbs at home, try gathering the seeds from your pantry! You may already have the seeds for a number of herbs in your spice cabinet or tea box. Using a handful of seeds from a spice jar or tea bag can save you a pile of money, compared to buying packets of seeds from a nursery or seed catalogue.

Note: For the purposes of this post, I’m taking a rather wide definition of “herbs.” Scallions and garlic aren’t technically herbs or spices. But we don’t generally eat them on their own, but rather use them as seasoning. We do eat fennel bulb and stalks as a vegetable. But this vegetable also provides seeds and fronds that we use more like herbs.

For the best results, buy organic or shop at your local farmers market. Non-organic grocery store produce may not sprout as well. And it may have been exposed to considerably more chemicals than your local produce.

Growing Herbs from Tea Bags

Herbal teas are a surprising source of seeds for your kitchen herb garden. Of course, you can’t just plant a mint tea bag and expect peppermint to grow in your garden! The tea bag has to contain seeds in order for this to work. Both chamomile and fennel teas are a good source of seeds for growing herbs. Just rip the tea bag open to access the seeds.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile is a flower in the aster family. It’s a pretty flower that looks like a small daisy. The flower is composite, in other words made of two distinct parts. Like a daisy, it is a yellow disk surrounded by white petals. That disk in the center of the flower contains the seeds. It’s also the main component in chamomile tea.

There are a number of different types of chamomile. The two most commonly used are German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Matricaria recutita) and English, or Roman, chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile or Anthemis nobilis.)

 

Unfortunately, a lot of the tea out there is labelled simply as “chamomile,” “chamomile flowers,” or “camomile.” Manufacturers often don’t tell you what kind of chamomile they’ve put in their tea bags. So growing herbs from a chamomile tea bag is going to be a bit of a surprise!

You should be able to figure out what type of chamomile you’re growing once you see them. The Roman chamomile leaves tend to be more grey-green, whereas German chamomile has a more vibrant green to its foliage. If you need help identifying what kind of chamomile you’re growing, check a field guide. If you still can’t figure it out, not to worry! Both Roman and German chamomile have similar properties, and they both make a lovely herbal tea!

A single tea bag can supply enough seeds for a whole bed of chamomile plants. And it only costs you pennies, compared to up to $4 for a packet of chamomile seeds. For the purpose of growing chamomile, be sure that the tea bags contain only pure chamomile. It shouldn’t hurt if you use a blended herbal tea or a chamomile and green tea mix, but you will get fewer chamomile seeds in the tea bag. And depending what’s in the tea, you might end up growing herbs you hadn’t planned on, in addition to the chamomile!

Fennel Tea

Fennel tea is often made with the seeds of the fennel plant. Check the box to see if this is the case with your preferred brand of tea. Or, simply rip the tea bag open and look at its contents. Fennel seeds are pretty easy to spot.

Again, for the purpose of growing herbs, your best option is to use a tea that contains just the fennel seed. But if you can separate out the fennel seeds from other ingredients, that will work just fine too.

Remember, the point of growing herbs this way is to save money. A few surprises may pop up in your herb garden – or some seeds may not germinate as well as you had hoped – but if you get at least a few of the desired plants you’ll have succeeded!

 

 

Growing Herbs from Seeds in Your Spice Cabinet

If you aren’t finding seeds in your herbal tea bags, check the jars in your spice cabinet. Dill, fennel, anise, cumin, coriander, caraway, and others are available in seed form. And yes, they are exactly the same seeds you get in the fancy packets from your seed supplier.

If you can find a $1 jar of dill seed at the dollar store, go for it! When I last grew dill, I started with seeds from a spice shop. They were probably close to ten years old, having been tucked away in a forgotten corner of the kitchen. I just broadcast a few handfuls of them onto prepared soil in the yard, figuring I wasn’t going to lose anything if they didn’t come up. I ended up with a whole border of lush, healthy dill plants within just a few weeks!

So if you have a lot of seeds in your spice cupboard and you want to try your hand at growing herbs, take a chance! It just takes a handful or two. And if they don’t germinate, no loss. But the chances are pretty good they will, unless the seeds were irradiated to prevent them sprouting.

 

 

Other Options for Growing Herbs

  • Growing herbs from cuttings: Many herbs from the mint family can be rooted in water. This method works for basil, thyme, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and savory. You could start a whole herb garden from just a few stems of grocery store herbs!
  • Planting sprouted foods: If you have an onion or some garlic that sprouts before you can eat it, don’t throw it away! This is not food waste. In fact, some folks sprout these foods intentionally. They even grow ginger by sprouting.
  • Growing herbs from extracted seeds: You may have tried seed saving with melons and squash, tomatoes, or even strawberries. There are a few herbs that you can grow the same way. If you like to make teas from juniper berries or rose hips, you can save the seeds and plant them as you would any other vegetable or herb. These plants aren’t likely to grow true to type (meaning the resulting plant will differ somewhat from the parent plant.) But it’s still fun growing herbs like this anyway, because they’ll turn into lovely shrubs for your yard.
  • Regrowing herbs from kitchen scraps: You may have seen cool videos in which vegetables like celery or lettuce are regrown from the root end you’d normally throw away. You can do the same thing with herbs! Try this method with a thick slice from the bottom of a fennel bulb. Or if you have chives or scallions (green onions) with the bulb end intact, when you cut the onions, leave a little extra length to the root end. A piece a few inches long can be regrown and planted in your kitchen garden.

Growing Herbs for “Free”: The Bottom Line

Growing herbs using seeds purchased from a reputable seed catalogue comes with a better guarantee than growing herbs from seeds in a spice jar or tea bag. But it can be fun to hunt through your pantry to find “free” seeds! A great many herbs will also grow from cuttings or foods that sprout while in storage. You can plant them to grow onions, garlic, fennel, chamomile, and many other herbs for your cooking.

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Original content © 2018 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
Public domain images by Pixabay users congerdesign, Yulya98, Public Domain Pictures, PDPics, Kapa65, and stevepb

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

Summary
Growing Herbs and Spices: Check Your Kitchen Before Planting a Garden
Article Name
Growing Herbs and Spices: Check Your Kitchen Before Planting a Garden
Description
Growing herbs and spices doesn't have to be expensive. You don't have to pay for a packet of seeds if you have herbal tea and jars of spices in your kitchen. Learn where to look, and which herbs to grow in your garden.
Kyla Matton Osborne
24 Carrot Diet
24 Carrot Diet
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56 thoughts on “Frugal Friday: Growing Herbs and Spices Without Paying for Seeds”

  1. I never thought of teabags as a source of seeds before. Unfortunately I have dill weed instead of dill seed. I’m almost afraid to grow dill because there’s so much poison hemlock around here and I’m afraid they might cross-breed. I’ve never found an answer to whether that could turn my dill to poisonous if I collect my own seed.

    You did motivate me to collect some cuttings of herbs I have at the Templeton house, primarily thyme and lavender. I’ll try to root them in water and see what happens. I got a forest of rosemary that way.
    Barbara Radisavljevic recently posted…Photo Journal of an Atypical Day of Art, Nature, Dogs, and an Accident SceneMy Profile

  2. My mom is a certified frugal lady. She can grow herbs, spices and veggies in our garden with limited space, well even in a basil with water.
    And having a little gardening at home is good in a home environment.

    1. Many herbs are perennial, Jennifer. That means they will come back year after year for you, as long as they are healthy and the winters aren’t too cold where you live. Chamomile doesn’t tend to come back reliably in Canada. So it’s one herb that might need to be replaced yearly. I’ve also had issues with lavender and rosemary that didn’t make it through the winters here.

    1. It’s pretty chilly here in BC, too! We got snow again overnight. So it’s still too early to be gardening outdoors. If you have a sunny window, I definitely recommend growing herbs indoors. Whether you’re planning to plant them out in the garden later, or whether you want to keep a few small pots of herbs in the kitchen for cooking, it’s a great idea!

  3. These are great tips! I’m interested in growing basil and thyme, but I wondered if I needed to cover them with some type of screening or something to keep the critters away. We live in the city and there are too many cats and other animals roaming around. I love the idea of having fresh chamomile on hand!

    1. It is cool, isn’t it Tiffany? There aren’t necessarily seeds in all herbal teas. It just happens that with teas made from composite flowers like chamomile or calendula, the seeds make up a large part of the flower. So there are seeds in the tea bag! With herbs like mint and lavender, and with spices like ginger, there wouldn’t probably be seeds for those plants in your tea bag.

    1. There are so many awesome ways to stretch your food dollar! If growing chamomile from tea bags saves you buying seeds, you have more money for something else, right? I hope your sister likes the idea, Apolline 🙂

  4. I hate paying for seeds because even though they’re cheap, sometimes they never bloom and I definitely lose them somehow! I’ll try your ideas this year and see how it goes! Thanks!

    1. Ah, sometimes buying the cheap seeds is the problem! When I pay for seeds, I buy from reputable seed suppliers or their distributors. I look at the quality of information on the packet, and I look for things like germination rate or an indication of the expected shelf life of the seeds. If you’re buying inexpensive seeds from an unknown distributor, it may be that they’re overstock from previous years that never sold. older seeds will have a lower germination rate, or may not grow at all.

  5. These are great tips, thank you! We just planted our kitchen herb garden yesterday and we always buy seeds but i’m going to start using some of your ideas instead.

  6. What a great thing to know how to do! I never realized that this was possible but you made it look so easy. I just started gardening again and I would love to try this out!

  7. This is an utterly amazing idea! I had no idea the herb seeds in my teas and spice bottles might sprout, but I am sure going to give it a try because at 3.75 a plant, it is VERY expensive to have an herb garden.
    Thanks for the ideas.
    🙂 gwingal
    Nikki Gwin recently posted…OVER THE MOON 112My Profile

    1. Cool, Laura! I hope you’ll pass on a link to the post, so she can read all about it. I’ll bet she has some teas and spice jars in her kitchen right now that would get her growing herbs for more tea 😀

    1. Herbs like oregano, basil, and mint are a great place to begin an herb garden because they are quite easy to grow. And when you need them for a recipe, you just snip off a little from the plant. In my experience, dill is super easy to grow from the seeds in your spice cupboard. Chamomile is another wonderful herb to grow, especially if you like chamomile tea. In colder climates, it’s not as hardy as the others I’ve mentioned. And you don’t always get a lot of flowers on any one plant. But with the tea bags, you can start a lot of it! I recommend planting quite a bit, so you’ll have a good harvest 🙂

      I do plan to post more about herb gardening in the near future, Lisa. So keep coming back and watch for more info! Also, if you have any specific questions about herbs that you’d like answered, comment here or send me a message on one of the social media accounts linked in the sidebar. I’ll do my best to answer them, or to find the answers 🙂

  8. great tips. I always put the end of my green onions in a glass of water on the kitchen window sill and have onions on demand all the time. they don’t take long to regrow. I do sprout my potatoes for growing and also the end of carrots. I have also used seeds from tomatoes. pretty much most veggies and fruits you can pull the seeds for regrowth. I have grown many of my own veggies I love it.
    Tina Grant recently posted…Interview and Review DJ Park Author – The Mystery of the Weeping FriarMy Profile

    1. That’s awesome, Tina! Seed saving is a wonderful way to preserve food diversity. Though not all foods grow true to type from seed,though anything labelled as heirloom or open pollinated is a fairly safe bet!

  9. What an awesome idea! I knew about things like garlic and even growing potatoes from old sprouting ones, but had never thought about tea bags. We are just waiting for the last of the frost to go away and will start our spring planting. Thanks for the idea! Love it.

    Deb

    http://www.bookinspiredplay.com

    1. We’re waiting for warm weather here too, Deb! hopefully, our growing season will start on time this summer. Last year it was several weeks late, which threw everything off. Between that and our hot, dry weather, my garden was a huge flop. All my lettuces bolted, and my other greens died off. About the only thing we harvested was a few tomatoes 🙁

    1. Drying herbs is one of the best ways to preserve them for teas and use in seasoning foods throughout the year. And it’s so easy to do! Anyone who is growing herbs should be able to dry some of them for winter, given just a little space and materials you’d have around the house 🙂

  10. When I read your title, I was like… there is NO way that’s possible. XD I loved learning about this, it is so ingenious!

    1. It’s amazing how many food plants (herbs, vegetables, and fruit) you can grow from seeds or cuttings. Not all will grow true to type, especially fruit trees. But something like an organic heirloom tomato or melon is fairly reliable. Seed saving is a great way to save money when it comes to growing annual vegetables from one year to the next. And I love that even commercially produced teas and packaged spices can help us to establish an herb garden at very low cost 🙂

  11. I am so excited to plant seeds using the tea this year. We have a huge herb garden each year and I am always looking for inexpensive ways to seed it each year. Thank you so much for the info!

    1. Remember that a lot of herbs can be divided from cuttings, too Sarah! If you already have some healthy perennials started and just want a larger amount of those same herb plants in your garden, rooting the cuttings in a glass of water is a great way to propagate the herbs 🙂

    1. I had originally figured pretty much the same: either the seeds were processed or too old/dry to germinate. But it turns out they do quite well! I loved the dill I grew from the seeds in the spice jar.

  12. This is such an interesting article!
    I had no idea you can grow herb out of tea bags. Got to try it.
    I’m growing basil right now and I can’t wait for it to grow bigger so I can actually start using it.

    1. Basil has always been one of my favourite herbs to use fresh! Years ago, I grew a large-leaf basil variety that was so lush and lovely! It unfortunately didn’t survive the winter, and I never found that variety again.

      Last summer, we had the most amazing basil from our CSA farm. I’m not sure if it was the specific variety that Nigel and Laura chose to grow, or if it has something to do with all their focus on soil analysis and amendments each year, but this basil is like nothing else you’ve even encountered! It was so fragrant that I could smell a tiny bundle of it through the closed delivery bag, from the next room, when Nigel would drop off our farm share!

    1. I haven’t tried growing chamomile from tea bags yet, though I plan to this summer! When I first grew chamomile, I bought a started plant at the nursery. I paid what would be about $10 per plant today, and I had a small budget. So I only grew the one plant.

      It was sure pretty, but I’d bought Roman chamomile and it didn’t get very many flowers on it. It also didn’t spread like the mint, sage, and some other herbs I started at the same time. And sadly, although it’s supposed to be a perennial, it often dies off during the winter here in Canada.

      So I got a few rather leggy stems with just a handful of pretty flowers on them for that $10. That’s it! Not a great return on my investment. You can bet I’d rather grow chamomile from seed, especially if that seed only costs a few pennies 🙂

    1. It’s pretty surprising, isn’t it Jennifer? I discovered this some years ago when I decided to take a chance on planting the dill seeds I’d had in the kitchen forever. We almost never use the seeds themselves in our recipes, so they were old. I didn’t really expect any of them to germinate. But I had so many dill plants come up in the garden! And in a few weeks, they were tall and bushy, and scenting that corner of the yard all day long 🙂

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