SERIES 26 | Episode 26
Tino’s tips for getting the best vegies from seeds
Growing your own seedlings from seed is dead easy. It’s also cheap, fun and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to different plant varieties. Now that the spring days are warming up and getting longer, it’s the perfect time to give it a go.
The easiest place to start is with ‘leafies’ like brassicas because they’re quick and easy to germinate and fast growing. This makes them a great way to get the hang of growing your own seedlings from seed.
I’m filling up some old punnets with a good quality seed raising mix. Now these mixes are usually made up of a composted bark with washed river sand. They have good moisture holding qualities, but they also drain rather freely. Just grab your punnet, fill it up and use your hand to level it off. Now you can tamp this down, but make sure that you don’t compact the mix – you want it to be light and airy so you get good root development. The best method is just to put it down and give it a couple of good taps. That’ll give you a nice, level surface to plant your seed into.
I’m surface sowing because as a rule, tiny seeds like these broccoli, don’t like being buried, so just sprinkle them over the top. With bigger seeds, go a bit deeper.
I like to finish off with a light dusting of vermiculite. This is a super heated expand clay. It’s light enough for the young seedlings to break through it, but its greatest quality is it holds onto moisture. Now you just have to put your punnet in a nice sunny position and the most important thing is, is to keep it well-watered.
Now once you’ve got germination, how do you know when your plants are ready to go out into the garden? Well, I’ve got some brassicas here which is a group of plants that includes broccoli, cauliflower and in this case, cabbages. Now the growth process of these is pretty much the same for all plants grown by seed.
The first stage are just after germination and these plants have their cotyledons or ‘seedling leaves.’ These are too young to do anything with, so just keep them growing on. Another great thing about brassicas is they’re so easy to identify. If you look at their cotyledons – shaped like a ‘B’…’B’ is for Brassica!
The second stage is a couple of weeks on. They’ve still got their cotyledons, but they’ve formed their first true leaves. At this stage you can thin out the punnet which is removing the weaker plants, leaving enough room for the stronger plants.
Finally, after around six weeks you should have strong and vigorous plants that can go straight into the garden.
Now not everyone is lucky enough to be raising their seedlings in a beautiful hothouse like here at the Botanical Gardens, but a few smaller scale ideas are simply to get yourself a clear plastic storage container. Put your seedlings inside and what this will do is it will create a warmer, more humid environment. But on an even smaller scale, you can get yourself a soft drink bottle – cut it in half, put some soil in and put your plant in and then just cup over the top and to control the atmosphere, you just take the lid off or put it back on.
At this time of the year, I’ll water my seedlings every single day and fertilise once a week with half strength fish emulsion to keep them growing flat out. Now this is vital because if they want for anything – water nutrients or light, they can fail to thrive.
These are some kale seedlings that were sown about 6 weeks ago. If you look at the bottom, you’ll see they’ve got roots coming out which means that they’re ready and raring to go, straight in The Patch.
When your seedlings are mature enough to go into the garden bed, a good rule of thumb is to plant them at the depth that they are in the punnet, but every so often, the seedlings can get a little bit stretched or etiolated. This isn’t so much of a problem. You just need to plant them a tad deeper.
So get out there and enjoy this beautiful spring weather and have a go at growing your own seedlings from seed. You’ll save money, you’ll have a ball along the way and you’ll be picking your own delicious produce from your garden in no time.