It’s time to sow out seeds

The Tribune (NZ) - - GARDENING - WALLY RICHARDS

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 wal­lyjr@gar­de­news.co.nz Web site www.gar­de­news.co.nz

PHOTO: FAIR­FAX 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.

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