It’s time to sow out seeds
July is the month to begin sowing seeds in trays or punnets for planting out later on.
Start with the more hardy types this month, with the more tender ones in August.
Once you have mastered the art of germination and growing seedlings on, you will develop a strain of plants that are perfectly suited to your growing conditions. Simply let the best looking plant of a crop – never an inferior one (for obvious reasons) – go to seed.
To promote germinating and growing on success, consider buying a heat pad and making a cold frame.
Available from most garden centres, a heat pad for warming the seedling trays, means quicker germination, and a better strike rate.
A cold frame can be made out of plastic, glass, or an old drawer about 15cm deep or deeper with one or more sheets of glass to cover it.
Reused plastic punnets are ideal for small batches of seeds. Label them to show seed type and date sown.
The best growing medium is a good friable potting mix or compost. Sieve it into fine particles, filling 2⁄ of the punnet.
3 Space the seeds evenly apart. Use a trigger sprayer to mist a solution of Magic Botanic Liquid (MBL) in nonchlorinated water at 20 mls per litre over the exposed seeds.
Lightly sieve a little more mix over the seeds to partly cover and mist again. Most seeds like a little light to germinate so they do not need to be completely covered.
Once sown, place the punnet onto the heat pad and mist twice a day with MBL solution at about 5mls per litre.
When a number of seedlings push up with their first embryo leaves, move the punnet to the cold frame because the germinated seedlings need overhead natural light. The cold frame should be outside in a sunny area during winter, and raised off wet ground. In summer, move it to a partly shaded area where it does not get all day sun and cause the seedlings to dry out and burn.
Once off the heat, cut the watering requirements to a daily misting.
When they reach a suitable size to transplant or prick out into small individual pots or larger seedling trays for growing on, spray with Vapourguard and leave them for a day.
Later, when ready to plant out, spray again with Vaporgard to reduce transplant shock, and wait a day or two.
Mini cloches made from the tops of uncapped 2-litre plastic bottles placed over the seedlings will give them a great start, achieving two to three times the growth of an unprotected seedling.
Seal unused seeds in small labelled plastic bags inside a closed glass container for storage in the fridge.
The cold creates a false winter and will aid future germinations. Some seeds keep better than others, but expect most seeds to be good for at least a year, and in some cases over 20 years.
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 357 0606) Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
Seedlings in cell trays before being planted out. To help separate and prick out the seedlings with minimal root damage, use a small trowel or convert an old teaspoon by flattening it out and grinding it to a blunt point.