Starting off seedlings

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by sun burn, Oct 21, 2010.

  1. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    I still haven't worked out the easiest way to get vegies off to the best start. I've tried a few different approaches but think i mustn't be doing it right, so now i ask you guys.

    Here's what i have tried.

    1. Plant individual seeds in egg cartons. The seedlings don't get very big.
    2. Sew the whole packet in a seed tray. Again the seedlings don't grow very big and they are thick. And there's too much to deal with and I tend to get a bit of wastage.

    Either way is not very satisfactory. I find it hard transplanting tiny seedlings carefully into a bed. The shallots were a nightmare. So just put them in in clumps in the end. The kangkong went well but probably because i didn't have a lot of seeds sewn in the tray.

    I need some easy way in which the seeds will grow to a good size, maximise plant growth so that i cna plant big seedlings, not have too many to replant into pots and so on.

    Can anyone give me a good method.

    I must say i also find sewing a few of this and a few of that also time consjming. Just getting the right packet and sorting them out ever few weeks seems hard work.

    I must sound very lazy but isn't permaculture supposed to be about doing the least amt of work for maximum result? :)
     
  2. permup

    permup Junior Member

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    Seedlings

    Hi Sun Burn

    I love your last sentence. I have a giggle at that from time to time as I break my back in my garden. I guess it could be a whole lot worse if I didn't have permaculture in play.

    My regime goes like this:

    I have 3-4 shallow polystyrene boxes which I fill with seed raising mix. I use 1/3 dried cow manure, 1/3 sandy soil and 1/3 compost and I seive it to ensure it's a fine consistency. I plant my seeds into these trays, and use little markers to show what I planted where. Water daily, etc until they are about a few centemeters tall.

    I then prepare a whole heap of small punnets, which I recycle each time, with more of the same mix above, but not seived. I then "prick out" each of the good strong seedlings into a punnet of its own. I use a fork to do this, so that you can get down into the roots and scoop the individual seedling up without disturbing it too much. Place it carefully in a hole in the prepared punnet and press down.

    This allows you to select the strongest plants only, and gives them enough growing room and food until they are about 10cm tall and able to be planted into the garden.

    Obviously the sizes I've given you are dependent on the type of plant, but it's a rough estimate.

    I keep my seedlings on a table which has a shade-cloth structure for full summer and a glass door for full winter. Ideally it would be north-facing (which unfortunately mine isn't).

    I have wrapped copper wire around the base of my table legs to stop the slugs from making their way up and fiesting on the poor little suculent plants.

    It all sounds like hard work, but honestly I would spend an hour planting the seeds, a month later 2 hours pricking out, then a month later another hour planting into the garden. To be fair, I plant another batch of seeds at the time I plant out into the garden.

    Still... what else would I be doing?
     
  3. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Seedlings the Purple Pear way.

    Hello Sunburn.
    In "pictures" in Mandala Town I listed a series of photos in the album that shows what we do at Purple Pear.You need to start at the last phots and work back to get the best idea of the process. It is not dissimilar to Paula's approach. Putting the seedlings somewhere in zones 0 to 1 is important because they may need attention several times a day sometimes.
    We do as Paula says with selecting the strongest to pot on and look at the wastage as selection of the best and good for ongoing evolution. We use a cocapeat in the mix along with bluemetal dust and as 1:1 for seed raising then for potting on we use equal quantity of compost. cocapeat and dust but have also used screened cow poo and worm castings instead of compost.
    We have run many workshops on the method and people seem to be able to easily adapt the process to their own situation, going on the feed back we get. We use it to raise about eight hundred seedlings a week here and are happy with the process
    Good luck - it turns a page in the development of your system when you consistently complete the cycle of growing, seed collection and propagation and growing.
     
  4. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    If it makes you feel better, David Holmgren said that this notion of minimal work in permaculture came from Bill Mollisons attitude to it. Bill came from a background of a forrester and fishing, among other things, and was an incredible worker similar to that of a draughthorse, and worked long days at it! So his view of potting up a few plants and turning a compost pile is quite minimal effort in comparison.
    But I believe the systems you find in permaculture are designed for more efficient use of your energy.
    Holmgren works everyday on energy given for output recieved philosophy
     
  5. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Thanks all. I am sure that will be very helpful but one clarifying question paula. Do you sew the whole packet of seeds in one go? And do you plant out the whole lot of at once form your seedlings. Or is that second batch of planting another packet of seeds or some of the same that you held back?
     
  6. tropicalexotics

    tropicalexotics Junior Member

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    I didnt bother getting the vege garden together this year..
    Good luck if you do but it looks like we are already into an early wet season...seedlings and torrential rain dont mix at all and its already too late in the year for most european veges already in the tropics ...
    My best advice this season is to plant some taro,wing beans,snake beans,aibika, sweet potato,cassava,chilli's,maybe wild forms of cherry tomato and save your euro vege seeds for next april -may or whenever the wet actually subsides..

    Scott

    Maybe another tropically located member can add some more wet season plants to that list..?
     
  7. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Scott i've been a bit inspired by Leonis Norrington's book so I'm trying to have a wet season vegie garden. and some of the things you mention i am getting around too. But don't capsicum's also grow in the wet season. Mine seedlings are just starting to grow i noticed. I've got a tomato called Thai Pink Egg which i hoped would be suitable for this climate. But there must be some problem in my soil becuase i am getting that wilt in a few of them. I am also spraying my pumpkins with milk so i am interested to see how they will last. I do rather expect my water cress and everlasting shallots to fail at some point but thought i'd have a go.

    I've got new guinea bean in and have a few other tropical beans to grow. I've got sweet potato all over hte place, a couple of cassave plants. I love the varigated one its very ornamanetla. I think i will start putting that around the garden as an ornamental. I need to get on to the chillies. I'll have to look into aibika - i haven't heard of htat. I've got kang kong growing next to my pond where its easy to water on a hot day. - I get in teh pond and splash everything. As yet our hose to the garden isn't the best. I"ve also got a lot of basil in. And rosellas. Also a freiend gave me some taro which i put in the pond. I am not sure its that happy yet. But its all such fun and its great having a pond in the vegie garden.

    You are wetter in Tully than where i am so i guess it would be worse there. What do you do for food during the wet season?
     
  8. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Hi PurplePear,
    I was just reading about vermicast... do you put the vermicast through a thermophillic compost or are you not worried about pasteurising. I guess you can trust your ingredients. Is it a worry with nitrogen drawdown or have you let the vermicast mature?
    Have you found an increase in root growth using your techniques?
     
  9. SueUSA

    SueUSA Junior Member

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    Doing the least amount of work for the maximum result isn't quite the same as not doing much work at all.

    Egg cartons are useless, they don't hold enough nutrients to keep the plants growing.

    Scounge some containers that are 8-10 cm deep and 30-60 cm square or rectangular (plastic --not too flimsy-- metal or wood), or make some out of scrap wood (not treated). Add drainage holes to the bottom (drill or burn). Fill almost to the top with a mix of good soil and compost, or sand and compost. Water gently but thoroughly and let drain.

    Sow AT LEAST 2 or 3 cm apart. For small seeds, mix the approximate number that will fit in your container at the proper spacing, and mix them with some dry sand, then pinch/sow the mix over the container, first one direction and then the other.

    Most large seeds can be sown directly into the soil (peas, beans, melons, squash, etc) where you want them to grow. Soak peas overnight to give them a head start, but don't soak beans (there's a reason which currently escapes me -- they swell too fast or something).

    Veggies are more or less divided into three groups: the first are those that grow fairly fast and go to seed rather quickly, so you would need to make several sowings so you will have a constant supply, or are cut-and-come-again, or are harvested by the leaf instead of the entire plant: lettuce, kale, spinach, chard/silverbeet, etc.

    The second is those that take a fair amount or long time to grow (months) so you plant them all at the same time: squashes/marrow, tomatoes, potatoes, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnips, peppers, melons, cucumbers, corn, cabbage, peas, beans, carrots, etc.

    The third would be the perennials: rhubarb, artichoke, asparagus, cassava, taro, etc.

    How much you sow depends which group it's in, and how much of it you want. If you sowed an entire package of lettuce all at once, you wouldn't be able to eat it fast enough; figure out how many heads of lettuce you would eat in a week, and sow that many every week, or twice as many every two weeks.

    Zucchini: one plant per person is probably more than enough.

    For the others, there are charts on how much to plant for the number of people you're planning on feeding (here's one, there are many: https://gardening.about.com/od/vegetable1/a/How-Much-Plant_2.htm). If you only want to plant enough to eat fresh, you'll sow less than if you're drying/canning/freezing for the entire year.

    Produce like winter squash/marrows, potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions can be kept over quite a period of time, if you give them the proper conditions.

    Sit down and figure out what you want, how much of it you will need, how you intend to preserve it, and how many people you want to feed, and put it on paper, and save it. When you're new to this sort of thing, start rather small and do a good job, rather than planning a huge garden and failing to keep up with it. After the first year, bring out your original list and write down what you did right, what you did wrong, what to plant sooner/later, too much/too little, etc. Keep your lists where you can find them. Plan in winter when you can take your time, not in spring when you're in a rush to get going.

    Sue
     
  10. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day sun burn

    Ever wondered what to do with your spent dunny rolls (the cardboard cylinder at the centre of toilet rolls)? Arrange them in a tray, tie a piece of twine around the lot (to prevent them from 'spreading'), fill the lot with seed raising mix (we use pure sieved compost and sand at a ratio of about 80:20), then individually plant each seed. The principle is the same as the egg carton scenario, except that you are allowing for much greater growth (depth) of roots. Plants such as picking greens come away very nicely using this method, and when the time comes to plant out into gardens beds, the whole cylinder goes in (to later decompose).

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
  11. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Hey Matto
    the only thermophillic I have concerns about is when I make a cheese and then not often as I usually use mesophillic culture.
    We usually prefer to use compost in the potting mix as I said. Worm castings seem to leave the mix sticky and not as free draining.
    We get good root development in our process but also use seaweed extract on the seedlings for that purpose. The idea of the blue metal dust is as an injection in the soil with each seedling for future as well as present mineralization of the soil
    The worm castings are mostly used as a soil feed via a tea which is put through the flow forms and sometimes if required as a foliar feed or to spread predatory fungi in the orchard.
    I have not observed nitrogen draw down - how does that work in this instance?
     
  12. matto

    matto Junior Member

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    Ok.. I do like the sound of rock dust in potting mixes, mineralising the soil over time, where it is needed. And i have heard that fungi really cling to the dust as well.
    I assume that the nitrogen drawdown comes from immature vermicast continuing its decomposition, but im not sure. The article didn't go in to it much. It claimed phytotoxicity could also be a problem with immature vermicast.
    It also observed your problem too, and recommended smaller amounts of vermicast for potting mixes to ensure enough oxygen in the media.
     
  13. tropicalexotics

    tropicalexotics Junior Member

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    Its a good little book I think..not too technical and you can feel the passion Leonie has for everything she does.
    Our climate is different than Darwins though in that while they have a distinct wet and dry season our wet is not quite as defined and we can get heavy rain almost any time... its can be a pain in the arse when mangos are flowering or when your lovely corn plants are dropping their pollen to fertilize the cobs..I hate that.

    Horny cucumbers (the fat ones that have spikes on them can grow year round mostly..you can get some at markets occassionlly....
    and dont forget passionfruit,granadilla and chokoes

    You can get a perrenial capsicum which has a smaller longer fruit which can survive the wet..we may have bought them through eden seeds in the past...and with tomatoes we only bother with the smaller cherries ..both tomatoes and capsicums and eggplant(same family) are all prone to wilt..though with a simple whip and tongue graft we have used the devils apple as a rootstock to propogate year round eggplants....though I have none going now as my wife was starting to add it to too many dishs and I was sick of the evil stuff...lol

    We dont bother too much with summer vege gardening ..plenty of nice veg available at weekend markets...

    If you are starting off punnets its an idea to put some plastic or glass over the top so they dont get hammered by heavy rain until they are a bit bigger...you can also do this around late march or april in the hope that you will have a start on getting the winter vege garden going once the wet season lets up..

    All this talk of vege gardens has got me inspired...I just put a higher fence around our derelict garden to keep the chickens out and must make a start on planting some taro.

    Scott
     
  14. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    That's all good tips for me thanks scott. I don't think we get as much rain as you would in Tully. No one can have as much rain as you as you know. I live in a slightly dry pocket here. Its drier than cairns and mossman.

    I must especially follow your tip about covering seedling trays and punnets!!
     
  15. Ronnoco

    Ronnoco Junior Member

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    What a lovely idea re the spent dunny rolls...and re the planting them straight in the ground. Reading what you wrote here inspired me to join the Permaculture Forum...so thank you ecodharmamark. :) Rasili
     
  16. sindhooram

    sindhooram Junior Member

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    why dont you direct seed things out of interest? What is the need to plant in pots first in a warm climate? just wondering as that is what we do most of the time and is less work.....what is abika by the way?
     
  17. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    we like to use the space efficiently and get the plants happening from the start. Direct sowing in the past has left us with gaps in production when seeds fail to grow and when pests stop the growth of seedlings but planting out seedlings seems to avoid this.
     
  18. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    When you use the Linda Woodrow rotational chook garden system you only have a short time to get things to harvest before the chooks are due back again, so you need to plant more mature plants. It also help to get better seed to fruit output as you can moly coddle your seedlings better when they are in your nursery area, than out in the elements.
     
  19. sindhooram

    sindhooram Junior Member

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    I have generally found things seem to grow faster and hardier planted directly but maybe it depends on climate or what you are growing? Tomatoes that come up automatically from compost seem to directly seem to fruit earlier and get less diseases than ones I seed in pots and pay a lot of attention too.....
     
  20. Marta

    Marta Junior Member

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    Hi everyone

    We moved up to Monbulk (Dandenongs, Melbourne) last year, are just now planning a new permaculture veggie garden setup, based on Linda Woodrow's system. I'm wondering whether anyone has a local source for the river sand that she advises using? I've spoken to a number of local garden suppliers, and they tell me the quarries that used to sell it no longer produce it. Do I just go find a river somewhere and dig it up?? That could be rather time intensive, if we want year long production of seeds, and I'm guessing not every river will have appropriate pebbly sand, either. I've seen other people discussing something called cocopeat and something called perlite which is apparently volcanic rock, but I don't know if these are good things or where to get that either. An earlier post in this thread suggested using "sandy soil". The soil here in Monbulk is definitely not that :) It's red and rich. If I added some other kind of sand to it, would that work?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!!

    Thanks

    Marta
     

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