Wanted to grow your own food but found the seedlings were out of stock? Claire Bickle shares about how you can grow from seed for a crop all year round.
The Environmental benefits of growing from seed
Gardening and growing your own edibles can be a fantastic way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Add in activities such as composting, recycling, saving your own seed and mulching, and you’re really hitting the jackpot.
Growing your own food reduces your food miles (less fuel) and landfill waste. And the food you grow is living cell food, equating to you eating more healthily, all whilst consuming seasonal, organic, homegrown produce.
Another great reason to grow from seed is the fact that you often have a far greater choice of varieties to choose from to grow compared with already growing seedling punnets instore.
Food security has recently come to the forefront of people’s minds and the growing of vegetables, herbs and fruiting plants has become extremely popular.
But one thing that surprised many gardening companies was the interest in growing edibles from seed. Starting out with seed is a very rewarding and economical way to grow vegetables and herbs, and knowing how to grow plants from seed is a valuable lifelong skill to have.
The number of seeds in a packet compared with a punnet of seedlings is far better value. The average packet of seeds maybe around $3-4 compared to $4 for a punnet of seedlings but you will get only 6-8 plants in a punnet for that amount compared to 50-1000 in the packet of seed depending on variety.
So, how to get started……
Growing from Seed 101
Seed trays or appropriate containers that will hold mix
Seed raising mix
Seeds (check date and season)
Plant labels – paddle pop sticks and a marker pen
- Have your good quality seed raising on hand.
- Your container of choice – punnets, peat pots, recycled containers, seed raising trays.
If using recycled containers, ensure it is washed before use.
- Fill the container with seed raising mix, tap down gently and press firmly.
- Gently water the seed raising mix.
- Sow seeds to a depth of 2-3 times their diameter. No deeper.
For fine seeds, sprinkle them over the mix and then cover with a small amount of mix.
- Water in gently with a liquid seaweed solution.
- Label – plant name and date.
- Keep warm, moist (not wet) and in a semi-shaded location until germination. (a mini greenhouse maybe beneficial)
- Thin and prick out seedlings once they have germinated and grown a set of adult leaves.
Transplant the stronger seedlings to a larger container or planting them in ground.
This needs to be done carefully as to not damage the new roots. Keep the strongest of the seedlings and discard the weaker ones when thinning out.
There a multitude of containers and packaging that can recycled and used as a container to sow seeds into.
Egg cartons, toilet rolls, teabag boxes, plastic packaging with holes (fruit and biscuit packaging, newspaper pots, roast chicken tubs used mini greenhouses, biodegradable fast food packing).
There’s all sorts of things that can be used once you start looking.
Grow what’s in season
Know what’s in season. Sowing seeds out of season will mean generally poor and probably no germination at all because the temperatures and day lengths are wrong for that particular plant. Most gardeners do an autumn sowing and then a spring sowing but there are some edibles that can be sown all year round such as radish and lettuce.
Direct sowing vs Container sowing
Some edibles are best sown directly into the garden. Edibles such as, all your root crops; carrot, beetroot, radish, parsnip, turnip and swede. This because they detest their roots being disturbed via pricking out after producing adult leaves and then being transplanted into the garden.
Other vegetables that do best sown directly are the legumes; beans, snow peas and peas and the larger seeds such as zucchini, squash and pumpkin.
Fine seeds such as lettuce and the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale) are best sown into punnets/containers and then transplanted once more established.
This is the process where you continue to sow seeds of a particular edible every few weeks to ensure a continual harvest. Choices such as lettuce, coriander, rocket, radishes and a lot of leafy greens are great choices to successively sow because they are fast growing and a have a long growing season. Having regular sowings and plantings means you avoid the feast and then famine cycle of growing particular edibles.
Saving your seed
This is really closing the loop. Here you are not only harvesting seeds for next season’s crop, but you are harvesting seeds that have acclimatised to your specific region over the course of a season or two (or longer).
Saving seed each season means you never have to buy seed again.
Note: You can only save seed from open pollinated non hybrid varieties. Seed saved from F1 hybrids will not produce plants that are true to type.
Some seeds last for decades even thousands of years and remain viable whilst others only a season goes by before their viability drops in large percentages.
Storage of seed is vitally important in preserving its viability and seed health.
Cool, dark and dry locations. Whether it is seed packets you bought or seed you have saved yourself, the seeds can be kept in a container that stops moisture getting in and insects or vermin getting to them. The location must be dark and consistently cool.