Sunday, 4 November 2007


There's a bit of a knack to seed-raising; I've read and tried lots of different things and wasted heaps of seed, but finally have come up with a good method that's fairly consistent. I'm glad I persisted as growing your own from seed gives you far more variety than the seedlings available from nurseries and hardware stores, and they're usually alot healthier and disease & pest-resistant too.
The method I now use, is to make up my own seed raising mix from 50:50 river sand and coir (coconut fibre) mix. Place this into clean seed tray. Stand seed tray in a bowl or sink of water until whole mix is moist. This will only take a second or two if you've just made the coir brick up and its already moist. Press the top of the mix down slightly. Sprinkle seed on top. Sieve or sprinkle a light layer of compost/seed raising mix on top of this depending on size of seed. Refer to packet - usually depth for planting is 3 times width of seed. ie. larger seed needs planting deeper than very fine seed. I then label all the seed trays and place them in a single tray that has a piece of newspaper and old carpet lining in it, which I dampen. As most seeds germinate best in the dark (lettuce is an exception) - I cover the tray with a few layers of newspaper, placed carefully over the tray so the plant markers stay in place, then cover newspaper with a layer of plastic that was left over from a roll when we renovated the back verandah and made pull-down blinds. You can buy it by the metre from spotlight, otherwise another really good idea (if you don't have a greenhouse or prefer to keep the seeds near the door so you don't forget about them) is to get one of those plastic suit/clothes protectors from the $2 shop, with a zipper down the middle. Leave the seeds alone for a few days, then check to see if any have germinated. Some take a couple of days - some can take up to a couple of weeks or more. If you keep the humidity in though with the plastic cover and keep them in the shade, they won't require any more watering until they germinate. This is how I managed to kill most of my seeds off previously - by over-watering; using bought seed-raising mix, and not covering them so the soil dried out in between watering. I discovered this all accidentally after sowing some seeds then going on holiday and forgetting about them for a week. I came back to find that they had all germinated - due to following all the conditions above (again, more by accident).

I then 'prick out' the seeds when they get their 2nd set of leaves, using various implements I've found just for this job; and transplant them into my home-made potting mix. This is mostly compost with a handful of river sand, coir and some blood & bone. Worm castings are good if you have them too. Linda Woodrow suggests getting a shallow polystyrene box, placing about 12 - 2L plastic milk containers in with the top & bottoms cut out, filling with the potting mix, pushing a hole in and carefully transplanting the seedling in to this, pushing the soil back around the stem. These then get hardened off, before planting into the garden with the plastic container still around them to protect the plant. This is what I'm working towards, although you have to be fairly consistent with sowing seed, transplanting and planting out - and sometimes its easier just to throw a few seeds into the garden and see what happens....

I just find the whole process of growing a plant that can yield possibly several kilo's of vegetables from a tiny little seed so fascinating - no wonder the story of 'jack and the beanstalk' has fascinated children for so long.

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