August 24th, 2020Glen about the house
The price we pay buying our plants from supermarket and chain store outlets is that mass production equals less and less varieties and all based on the demands of high volume city-based outlets. This can often mean that not all plants on offer are necessarily suited to our local soil and climatic conditions. Limited choices will no doubt satisfy those who merely wish to produce a useful vegetable crop or a bright floral display. For those of us who strive for something different or individual the only way out is to seek out a specialist nursery, or raise our own plants from seed. Even then the selection may be limited.
Fortunately for us the advent of online trading and its multitude of suppliers offers myriad options, and seeds being featherweight, cost little to mail. If, like me, you relish the thought of producing old tried and true varieties we remember from your childhood there are now a great many seed growers Australia-wide who also specialise in heritage or heirloom flower and vegetable seeds.
You will find literally pages of them on Google, or, as in my case, the less commercially-invasive Duck Duck Go.
Raise your own
Growing plants from seed is both interesting and rewarding – especially for children – and a definite cost-cutting exercise. provided a few simple rules are followed.
Keys to success include good quality seeds and correct soil mixtures, careful sowing and after care. Seed freshness is essential. Be sure to look for the safe sowing periods and used-by date on the back of the packet. Most seeds can be safely sown for some time after that date but the success rate does drop dramatically over time.
Large seeds such peas, beans, sweetcorn, lupins and sweet peas can be sown directly into a shallow drill or trench in their permanent position. Seedlings that transplant easily, such as chives and onions, cabbages, silverbeet or chard, pansies, marigolds and zinnias, should be sown into pots or a seed box in the garden. A place under glass is safer for more tender species such as petunias, asters and primula.
Prepare your seed beds by digging over the existing soil and then add compost, leaf mould or peat moss, and a dusting of lime. Finally, bring the surface soil to a fine tilth by careful raking and levelling, then firm it by patting gently with the back of the spade.
If you plan to pre-sow into a seed box, use either a shallow plastic or foam vegetable box, making sure the box is suitably drained with at least six holes of 10mm diameter. Cover the bottom with 2-3cm of coarse screenings or bark chips and top up to within 20-30cm of the rim with a good potting mix. An ideal growing mix is two parts sandy loam, one part each of peat moss or compost, and coarse sand. Add 30gm of superphosphate and 20gm of garden lime to every bucketful of the soil mix. Make sure the soil is flattened and firmed down, especially at the corners. The seeds can be scattered over the surface or sown into shallow farrows.
Cover the seeds with a layer of sieved sand or soil to a depth equal to the thickness of the seeds and place the box on bricks to assist air circulation, in a light, warm spot sheltered from wind.
Water the seeds with a fine mist spray to prevent wash-away of the surface. Until the seeds germinate and the first shoots appear it is essential that the soil is not allowed to dry out, even if it means several waterings each day.
Next week: The seedlings. Once large enough, like these healthy chives, they can be planted out into the garden beds.
Got a gardening question? Ask Glen. Email email@example.com