Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Getting started - How to sow seeds

Congratulations to those who put their hands up for the seed giveaway. You should have all received them by now. Here is a little ‘how to’, to get you started.

Sowing seeds is easy and much more economical than buying seedlings. I think gardening gives us so much more than just food, but it does not make any sense to me to spend $4.00 on a punnet of carrot seedlings which after watering and nurturing for months, will result in 8 carrots, when you can go to your local supermarket and buy a whole bag of organic ones for $4.50. As much as I enjoy gardening for gardening sake, it has to be logical.

I remember seeing potted garlic for sale at my local hardware store for $9.00, and it only had two plants in it. I guess for people who don’t know how garlic grows and imagining that these will grow into ‘garlic bushes’ that end up being festooned in garlic bulbs, this may seem like a good deal. In reality it was probably the most expensive garlic in the world at $4.50 a bulb as each plant only grows one bulb.

There are a few seeds that require a bit more time and patience to grow, but for the most part my journey so far has taught me that when you plant a seed in the right season and water it, (and don’t let it dry out), it will grow!!! Sounds simple and self-explanatory, but it amazes me, and you don’t need to be an expert you just need to try.

So what do you need to start.

·         soil

·         compost or manure

·         seed raising tray

·         seeds

·         sea weed solution (Seasol)

Seed raising mix. You buy the stuff because you think you are doing the right thing, right? I mean, if only it would do what it was supposed to do.

I don’t use commercial potting mixes/seed raising mixes because I never had great success with them. My seeds would sprout and then would really struggle and look weedy. If you have tried and failed with growing seeds, this may be the reason. The thing I noticed with commercial seed raising mixes is they would often seem to repel water and become really dry despite watering and they seem to lack the nutritional requirements for growing a plant beyond the two leaf stage.

Search around your garden for some decent soil. If its clay it’s not decent, you may have to buy some. It should be easy to dig, be relatively fine (not have too many rocks/sticks) and, you know…look like nice dark dirt. If you really don’t have any soil, then just buy a bag. Put a spade full into a bucket. I mix mine with mushroom compost, or the compost from my chicken pens (which is well rotted straw and manure). If you don’t have either of these in your yard you need to buy a bag of compost/composted manure from a nursery or visit a friend who has some. I mix two parts soil to one part compost/manure.

Compost or composted manure contains organic matter which will hold water and supply nutrients to your seedlings so they can grow.

1.       So, mix the soil with the compost in the bucket. Make sure to break up any lumps. Add a little water and mix through, enough to make it damp, not mud.

2.       Spread the mix into your seed tray and lightly press into each cell.

3.       Give it another water to soak it through and settle the soil in.

4.       Find a small stick, and use it to push a hole about 1 cm deep in the middle of each cell. The required depth may vary depending on what you are planting, but for pak choy, 1cm is fine.
5.       Drop a seed in each hole and cover over with dirt.

Place your seed trays in a sunny position. In summer I put mine in a place that will get full sun for a small part of the day but not the full day as there is always the risk that you come home from work on a hot day and find your seedlings fried. During winter it's ok to leave them in full sun. Make sure any excess water can drain out, in other words, make sure the tray isn’t sitting in a pool of water as this will rot the seeds/plants. At the same time, if you let them dry out while the seed is germinating or sprouting, they will die, so they do need to be watered every day at the beginning.

I give them a water with the sea weed solution once or twice a week, and that’s all. I know there is more than one way to skin a cat, but I'm just sharing my method.

Come on, commit to starting a garden by sowing some seeds, then you will be forced to find somewhere to plant them out.

I’m going to do a tutorial soon on how to make a simple garden, so simple anyone can do it, and I will transplant my own seedlings into it! I hope you will join me.

Good luck and happy gardening.





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