HOW DO YOU GET THE BEST POSSIBLE START FOR YOUR SEEDLINGS?
Right now, it's still too cold at night and the days are too short for most seeds to germinate with any amount of enthusiasm, conditions are simply not ideal. By late August though (for northern and coastal regions) and in September (for southern and inland areas), conditions will be more in your favour for the sowing of those first early crops.
To ensure the best results, you must consider a wide range of things:
What do you want to grow?
Which should be sown first?
Which would prefer to be sown later?
Do you have the right amount of propagation space?
Do you have the best ingredients for sowing seed?
Making your decisions can often be the hardest part, but there are loads of seed options to choose from and here's a few helpful ideas to increase your seeding success:
- If you haven’t already got one, invest in a heat pad. You don’t have to pay a fortune for one, and they’ll make all the difference for getting seed like cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes started.
- Begin a seed sowing notebook and record what you have sown and how many, the date and any other useful bits of information that you might refer to later on.
- Designate a seed raising area that’s accessible to power and water, is in full sun and out of harm's way from pets, children, slugs and snails. Full sun is very important to avoid stretched seedlings.
- Get a nighttime cover for your pots and trays. Seedlings prefer a constant warmth, not a warm day and a cold night. Even a sheet of newspaper over the tray at night can help insulate emerging seedlings.
- Clean your propagation area and make it a special place.
- Use the best ingredients and practices you can when raising seedlings - clean water, good light, fresh seed raising mix and regular routines will make all the difference.
- Don’t sow seed any deeper than twice their diameter, the smaller the seed the less cover it needs.
The Cucurbit family all have differing germination temperatures - sow your Cucumbers first, wait a couple of weeks for it to get warmer then sow your Zucchini. Wait a few more weeks until it's just about Labour Weekend, then sow your Melons, Pumpkins and Watermelons. They’ll grow more vigorously with the additional day length and warmer nights.
If you don’t have a heat pad, germinate your Peppers, Tomatoes and Eggplants in the hot water cupboard - they need heat but not necessarily light to sprout.
Sow in a pot or tray as you normally would, water to moisten the mix, wrap it fully in cling fill or in a sealed large plastic bag to stop moisture escaping and leave it in the warm cupboard for a week to a fortnight for the seedlings to emerge. Once they do, bring it out and expose them to the light. Don’t leave them in there too long to avoid stretching.
Water seedlings in the morning rather than in the evening and you’ll find you have fewer problems with mildew and mould settling on your tray surface overnight. Sprinkle with cinnamon if fungus starts to form.
As a general rule the size of the seedling above the ground will indicate how much root growth has gone on underground so never transplant seedlings too early as the roots might not be quite ready to take it to the next transplant stage.
It's not a good idea to make your own seed raising mix. Blending compost and garden soil together will expose your delicate seedlings to all sorts of harmful bacteria and pathogens associated with decomposition.
Many things can be directly sown into the garden like peas and beans, but the majority of seed has better success when sown in a more sterile mix.
There are many good brands of seed raising mix on the market, but Daltons is our pick. It has a well-thought-out blend of ingredients and is of consistently high quality at a reasonable price.
Check out their product range at www.daltons.co.nz
Trish says ...
Hi, on looking after Tomato seedlings....I found out by accident that if i let them get leggy, when it came time to plant them out, I nipped off all the lower leaves and any branches and planted them deeper than normal so there was just the tops above ground.
My soil is very free draining, so by planting deeper the original roots were helped by those that formed on the stems and the plants didnt seem to stress when it got hot and dry.
I fill the holes up with home made compost and leave a shallow 'dish' around the stems that I water directly into watering the roots, rather than water the whole area around them.