Have you ever thought about how many punnets you have brought lately and thrown away the containers, just to go and buy more seedlings when needed?
Most of us have a selection of seeds we have gotten from various sources but are still in the packet stored somewhere in the garden shed. Possibly from over thinking on how hard it is to grow and maintain a seedling, well…It’s time to show you just how easy it is to GROW YOUR OWN from SEED. Follow SUBURBAN FARMER’S tips to get your seeds sprouting and your next crop ready for sowing.
- Seeds from a reputable supplier (open pollinated / traditional)
- Seed raising mix
- Pots and Punnets (always keep your old stock to reuse)
- Labels to identify seedlings, Pop Sticks are great and also old wood pegs
Step 1. Buying and selecting the right seeds.
How often are we shown seed packs in all shops, discounted, specials, classic gondola full of seeds etc only to find out it’s either out of season or somewhat incorrect for your garden/location. Whether it be flowers, veg, ornamentals, medicinals, herbals, edibles or anything in between. It is of the utmost importance to have a look and consider a few things first. Seasonal preference, location, variety, traditional (heirloom), open pollinated, non hybrid – no GMO just to name a few. But, what do they all mean, and how do they apply to me and my garden?
Seasonal Preference / Location – what season are they grown in. The importance of this is huge as you do not want to place seeds out of season in the garden as they will bolt to seed and ultimately not produce to their fullest. Check for growing seasons – some packets have little maps showing you areas and seasons to plant, this is General Information and Generally does not fit your bespoke needs. Suburban Farmer has a PERTH BASED planting guide available.
Variety – is this an HEIRLOOM (old traditional Open Pollinated) variety or a HYBRID (updated version/non-true to type)? There are many reasons for the different types of seeds around, from growth habits to flavours to pest and disease resistance to size/colour/taste in fact loads of differences. But to keep it simple, SUBURBAN FARMER only uses OPEN POLLINATED, TRADITIONAL varieties in order to preserve the truest nature of the plant and its health properties. What I have found over the many years, is that newer versions of plants (HYBRID’s and such) are great in their own right, but often come with a balance issue. Let me explain. Some of the older varieties mightn’t be the most colourful, biggest, greenest plant around but rest assured the taste is no match for updated versions. As we hybridize, we can increase certain attributes of said variety but in that we can often lose something in the balance scale, namely taste and nutrient levels. So, it is very important to make the right informed decision when selecting seeds. But the choice is up to you.
Open Pollinated – This simply means that the seeds from the parent plant will produce seed that is “true to type”. True to type means that the plant you are sowing will in fact be genetically the same as the parent plant to which the seeds came from. Stabilized.
Hybrids – Hybrid seeds can often give a genetic throw back after the first generation (F1) seeds and do not have the same genetics as the parent. This produces a lot of different colours and flavours, nutritional density and bioavailability, flower and fruit production etc but requires a lot of interbreeding and crossbreeding of Genotypes and Phenotypes specific to get close to a stabilized seed. Often not undertaken as it is time and costly.
Step 2. Selecting the right potting mix.
Once you have made the informed decision and selected the right seeds for YOUR garden, just as important is the right type of seed raising mix to use. There are many types out there and not all are suited for the particular seeds you want to GERMINATE.
There are two main types of SEED RAISING MIX used with many variations in them both. The first being cheap potting mix. Most of the time you will see, that where the seeds are located there will be some seed mix available. Unfortunately, sometimes the level of quality does not match the seeds or perhaps is less than optimal. Whilst good quality potting mix can be ok for seeds, the particle size and make up of the mix is not suited to most seeds. Most store bought POTTING MIX has a larger proportion of organic material and much much larger particle sizes as opposed to a quality SEED RAISING MIX which has substantially smaller, finer particles which allow the seed a beautiful bed to rest on while they germinate, hold moisture more evenly and allow the roots to grab hold and develop. If you have no choice but to buy potting mix, you can simply sieve out the larger parts and use that, however most POTTING MIX’s have fertilisers in them, and as a seedling, all the important necessities are contained within the seed itself. If absolutely no other option, grab a bag of the premium Compost from your local store and fine sieve it, removing all large unbroken particulates and collecting a uniform, softer, even particle sized seed raising soil to mix up your perfect batch for seed germination.
A good raising mix should include the following four items as a minimum:
- Quality Compost
- Coconut Coir (pH stabilized and sodium free – HYDROPONIC GRADE works best)
- Perlite or Vermiculite and
- Course Sand.
And the mix ratio should be 2,2,1,1 parts. Now you have your seeds, and SEED RAISING MIX sorted now what to do with the seeds?
Step 3. Sowing the seeds.
This can sometimes be the worst part of the whole GROWING YOUR OWN experience, as quite often the seeds are all treated the same, well in my experience anyways with major issues I’ve come across in seeding. Here are some simple tips to get you on the right path and into some SOWING ACTION!
So, now we have the correct seeds, the correct soil, how do we sow the seeds?
A simple yet effective technique is to plant the seed twice the depth of the seed size (diameter). Refer to the seed packet for specific instructions and additional information.
So if a seed is 1cm, you sow it at a depth of 2cm, 2cm seed – 4cm deep and so forth. This is general in nature for most veg, fruiting and flowering seeds (for example a bean seed) but with the exception of smaller fine seeds and micro seeds (for example carrot seeds). These can be sprinkled over the top layer with no back filling/covering of the seeds (maybe some vermiculite as a fine layer to help absorb water). Be careful to not OVER SOW, so spacing is important, just as is planting out spacing, seedlings compete for space, nutrients and light. One trick I like to use is to place some seed in a mix of yellow sand or river sand and mix up in a container. With the lid, cut a small section out allowing you to pour the seed mix out. This allows for better distribution of seeds, over hand sprinkling and clumping.
Step 4. Labels and Watering In.
It’s often the case, well for me, that once I’ve seeded there is always a few rows of an USO, no not a UFO but close, still an UNIDENTIFIED SOWN OBJECT 😊 😊 Which usually takes a few weeks to a month to I.D properly. So, to make this a less of a MYSTERY SEED to more of a defined, articulated seed, lets get labelling. Using old pop sticks or clothes pegs or anything that can be REPURPOSED, and start making labels. Ensure to include, VARIETY and DATE or any additional info you may need. What I normally do is as I am preparing the soil and seeds, I will write out my label for that type of seed and go logical format. One at a time. This helps with not being confused when you have heaps of labels and seedlings piling up.
Watering in is simple, now we understand that no fertilisers are needed just yet (the seed holds all it needs to germinate itself, how awesome and upful is that!!) we can apply the water, maybe add a little fish emulsion at a heavily diluted mix towards the end of week 2 via a mist spray bottle, but for now a fine misting of water is all it needs. Be very careful not to use heavy pressure water or to flood/splash the seeds as they will get disturbed and possibly washed out of the media entirely. Also mucking up all the hard work you have put into it so far. Water up to 3 times a day gently, do not allow the mixture to dry out at all. Place in a semi sunny area away from direct sun light and wind. Another way is with a Dome and Tray seedling set. Water from the bottom using capillary action and the dome keeps the moisture in. Be careful in both options to not over water. This will cause downy mildews and rot. Spoiling the whole lot of seed and raising mix. After a few days, open the vents at the top to allow breathing and o2 and co2 exchange. Now, the waiting game begins….
In around 10-14 days most varieties of common grown veg/herbs/flowers should have started to appear by now, given that you have followed these simple instructions mentioned above to a T. After week 2 a light liquid fertiliser can be applied, and then around week 4 you will be ready to plant out your very own seedlings you have raised yourself! Happy Days indeed – Now get GROWING 😊
Ras Mark SUBURBAN FARMER