Have you thought about planting vegetables from seeds instead of buying seedlings?
I’m sure you want to save yourself some cash just like most of us these days and so, if you compare how much it costs you to buy one seedling as opposed to how many seedlings you would get from one packet of seeds bought for £X, you will find that it’s much cheaper to grow your vegetables from seeds. It’s a no-brainer.
You will also derive much pleasure from “planting your own” and then have the satisfaction of seeing those seeds turn into healthy, vigorous seedlings. How rewarding is that!
The two things you need to consider here is whether you should start the seed directly in the garden or start it indoors. Some vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beetroot and other root crops do not like to be transplanted, so they are prime candidates for the direct method.. On the other hand, vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce and silverbeet should be planted as seedlings.
Starting Your Seed Directly in the Garden
When sowing directly into position in the garden, which you have already prepared for planting, give your seeds the best chance possible to germinate by following these simple guidelines:
1. Never sow seeds deeper than about twice their diameter.
2. Do not forget the birds. They are a joy but when they are hungry, they will go for those seeds. There are many ways to deter them: for example, you could try putting these empty supermarket bags to good use by tying them to the fence or to stakes.
3. Ensure that the temperature of your soil is right before you put seeds in the ground. Some vegetables can handle cooler soil but for most, the soil must be warm enough before planting. Fortunately, nowadays, seed packets carry instructions as to the best time to plant seeds, so just follow these instructions and you should have good results.
Starting Your Seed Indoors
If you start your seeds indoors, of course you want to make sure that they germinate. The process is fairly simple. All you need is seedling trays or some other suitable containers like cut-out milk cartons or cups, a specially formulated germinating mix or light potting mix (I’ll refer to this as soil from now on), water, some kind of lighting system if needed and, obviously, seeds.
Before going further, let me just say I prefer to transplant seedlings directly from their growing medium into the garden. In other words, I don’t first transfer them to a larger container to mature before transplant. You can choose whatever option suits you best. But if you decide to follow my method, you must make sure that the trays or containers you will use to sow the seeds in are deep enough to sustain the growth of the seedlings until they are ready to go in the ground. Personally, I find it easier to accomplish this task by using various boxes, pots and whatever happens to be handy rather than bother with seedling trays.
Ok, let’s start with the seedling trays and containers. Make sure that they have drainage holes and wash them with warm soapy water to sterilize them before use.
Next, fill the tray or containers with soil. Put them in a larger pan or tray and fill with water to about halfway up the sides. Stand overnight to moisten the soil.
Sow your seeds to the depth recommended on the seed packet. You can cover the containers with plastic or glass to ensure there is enough humidity for germination and put them in an evenly warm spot, away from sunlight. Try the top of the refrigerator or laundry room. After that, keep the soil moist but not wet. You can use a misting spray bottle for that purpose.
And, finally, if you don’t have enough adequate sunlight, use a fluorescent light (gro-light) or greenhouse lamp about six inches above the containers and leave it on until the seeds germinate.
Keep checking and look for any sign of germination. As soon as the first seedlings sprout, remove any covering on the containers. and move them to where the seedlings will be exposed to sunlight. Don’t let them dry out. Stick your finger in the soil to check and use the misting spray bottle to keep them moist.
Then, watch for the second set of leaves to appear, at which point you should start feeding the seedlings about once a week with, say, a water soluble organic fertilizer at 1/4 the recommended strength. Now is also the time to give the seedlings more room by thinning them out. Check the recommended spacing on the seed packet.
In about 6-8 weeks from when you started, your seedlings should be ready for ‘hardening off” which simply means toughening them up before exposing them to the elements. Remember, they have never been outside, so for the next 10 days or so leave your seedlings in their containers outside in a shaded spot with indirect light for about 2 hours each day for about 3 days. After that, put them in the sun for about 2 hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure to the sun to around 3 hours the next day, and so on. Remember, this is a general guide. If it’s freezing or there is a storm, for example, bring your seedlings inside immediately.
By the end of the period, the seedlings should be used to sunlight and wind and should be thoroughly thriving, ready to be transplanted. to your garden.
You have now successfully planted seeds either directly into your garden or indoors and produced strong and healthy seedlings. The next stage will be to grow these seedlings into tasty and tender vegetables that you will enjoy cooking and eating every day. Once that happens, you would have accomplished your goal of planting your vegetables from seeds.
Try to sow your seeds at intervals. If you sow your seeds at the same time, your vegetables will all be ready to harvest at roughly the same time. You don’t want that. You want your vegetables to be available throughout the season but not all at once.