Loads of plants for less money
10 easy tips to get the most from your little ones..
With the bright days of summer finally upon us, I started paying serious attention to my neglected veggie patch. This year rather than hitting the nurseries for stock I decided to do some of my own seed raising.
People have collected and grown plant seeds for thousands of years and I can understand why, there are great benefits to seed raising.
Most seed packets have way more seeds than you could ever want , which aside from letting you plant out the strongest of seedlings from each batch, you can also get into the world of seed swapping (but more about that later).
Seed raising it’s a great way to save money and increase the number of plants in your garden.
Baby lettuce already reaching for the sun after a few days
For a hour’s worth of work I have a whole veggie patch in the making
10 seed raising tips
- Don’t skimp on getting good quality seed raising mix. It gives your plant a great start. Seed raising mixes are usually lighter than other potting mixes, it supports the seed while allowing the seedling to easily break through the surface.
- Make sure you are planting the seeds in its optimum growing season, the plant won’t be able to grow well out of season so check the packet.
- The depth you plant your seeds is in relation to the size of the seed. For instance a bean needs to go down one length of itself whereas tiny lettuce seeds can be sprinkled ontop of the seed raising mix. If a seed is planted too deep the embryonic plant will not have enough stored energy from inside the seed to make the journey above the soil. Check the packet for planting instructions.
- To help space seeds more evenly you can use the technique of folding a piece of stiff paper in two, then pouring the seeds down the crevice and onto the mix.
- Try not to overcrowd each pot with seeds (this can be difficult with tiny seeds). An overabundance of seedlings can mean weaker plans. Holding back on the seeds allows you to stagger the growing season. I do this with my favourite veggies and seed raise in five week intervals so that as the first set of plants are finishing off I have the next set coming on. That way I can have an almost continuous crop over the warmer months.
- Don’t overwater the seed raising mix. The combination of moist soil and gentle sun will be enough to stimulate the seed. Overwater and you risk drowning the seedling or encouraging fungal infection (known as ‘damping off’).
- Chose the space for seed raising carefully. A sunny position with a firm table is good. However, in Australia the sunlight can be harsh so be mindful of this.
- Keep the pots away from curious little fingers or paws who find them irresistible.
- Remember to label your pots as you go otherwise once you have finished you can quickly forget what you have.
- Some seedlings put on a lot of vigorous growth and need to be moved into a bigger pot to prevent overcrowding. Carefully pick them out with a stick, make a small hole in the new pot that can take the roots and cover with the mix. When the plants have put on their second lot of leaves and are looking stronger they can be planted out.
Seed Swapping – It’s the ultimate time travel, environmental game that you can play with others, I just adore seed swapping.
The way it works is gardeners bring along their zip lock bags and packets and talk about what they’ve got, entertaining everyone with fantastic descriptions of the plants to come. You can almost see it, those gorgeous red sun ripened tomatoes, those snap fresh snow peas. It’s like Christmas is around the corner and you hold the present in your hand.
Then the negotiations start, it’s always a bit messy, how many blue lake beans for some carrot seeds? How many pumpkin seeds for zucchinis? In the end everyone’s chatting and handing over all sorts of seeds until most of the time you come back home with the ultimate mixed show bag and vague ideas about what you got.
Home gardeners are some of the most generous people I know, always giving away seeds, plants, growing tips and stories. When a bunch of enthusiastic gardeners get together you can’t help but get excited about plants.
Through seed swaps something even more important is going on – biodiversity. Spreading the seeds from organic, heritage varieties means that they are not only surviving but thriving through each humble garden veggie patch. So next time one of your veggies go to seed think about sharing the benefits.
Find out more about seed swaps near your place.
Information for this article was from:
Stowar J, 1998 Revised Edition The Garden Advisor, Bookman Press, Melbourne.
McHoy Peter, 2004, Practical Gardening, Hermes House, London